A Few Questions for Music Gurus

Discussion in 'other software & services' started by Brandonn2010, Aug 29, 2012.

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  1. Brandonn2010

    Brandonn2010 Registered Member

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    1. What is a good alternative to iTunes? I have read about WinAmp, Songbird, and some others. I would like one that:
    - Can sync with an iPod
    - Is light on resources (iTunes has too many junk processes and services)
    - Actively developed
    - Stable on Windows, and possibly has a Linux version

    2. I have been curious about lossless music formats. Does music in a lossless format sound noticeably better than MP3? If so, which lossless format is best in quality and compatibility with music players? It would seem FLAC is but I'm not sure, which is why I'm asking.

    3. Where would I be able to download music in FLAC (or best lossless format)? I wouldn't mind torrents or whatnot since I would only download music I already own, just in the better format.

    Thank you!
     
  2. moontan

    moontan Registered Member

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    1. i have no iPod so i'll let someone else answer.

    2. it depends on the quality of the mp3.
    of course, a mp3 @ 128 kbps will probably sound like crap compared to one encoded @ 320 kbps.
    'CD quality' is 256 kbps and that's a very good compromise between quality and file size.

    FLAC is the best option if you can find them...

    3. ...unfortunately, there are very few sites where you can buy FLAC and the ones you find are quite limited in their choices.
     
  3. ComputerSaysNo

    ComputerSaysNo Registered Member

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    1. foobar maybe? Not sure it syncs with itunes
    2.Yes FLAC is better sounding by far
    3. There are a few torrent sites that are dedicated to FLAC but they are almost impossible to get into without paying a hefty sum.
     
  4. CloneRanger

    CloneRanger Registered Member

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    If you paying for downloads in lossy formats, like itunes/mp3, i would suggest buying the CD's as cheap as possible, then ripping them into WAV files, then converting to, for eg FLAC, as has been mentioned.

    Whatever you do, let us know how it goes :thumb:

    *************

    For those that aren't aware, converting already lossy formats into lossless ones, like Flac/WAV, is a pointless exercise, as nothing will be gained. You will just use up a lot more space !
     
  5. Seer

    Seer Registered Member

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    Lossless formats (FLAC, APE, WV, ALAC, etc...), as the word itslef implies, do not lose quality when compared to the original source. Thus IMO it is pointless to discuss the quality difference between different formats - they're all lossless. Two things that could be compared are compression levels (file size needed to provide the lossless standard) and compatibility (I believe FLAC wins here hands down).

    The difference from lossy formats can be significant, but it depends on many factors. For example, most of the retail popular music CDs these days are already destroyed in the process of post-production by beefing up the dynamic range (adding additional dBs, going by the wrong assumption that louder is better), thus making the music signal to clip. Clipping means losing frequencies. If you rip such a recording to both lossy and lossless formats, chances are you won't notice a difference between the two as the source itself was already crippled in a way lossy formats are crippled (missing extreme highs and lows). So first you need a good source to compare lossy to lossless. Assuming that you have such a source then the next factor to consider would be the digital part. An average run-of-the-mill audio card would have a high signal-to-noise ratio that will interfere with bottom low and top high frequencies (those already missing in lossy formats) and cripple your lossless making it sound more or less (depending on the noise ratio) the same as a lossy. So second, you need a serious audio hardware to get the most out of a lossless source. Third and final, you need to consider the analog part of the chain - a stereo hi-fi system (amplifier/speakers) or a pair of headphones capable of delivering at least 20-20000Hz range to your ears. Without a good retail CD, a much better-than-average sound card and a serious hi-fi, you are just deluding yourself that you can possibly hear the difference between lossy and lossless. But to each his own.
    That was a bit of a rant, but in short, if you're using mostly ipod for music, do not bother with lossless.

    Music in various lossless formats is all around public trackers, you can download it to your heart's content. I won't go into morals of it. You have to be carefull though, as there are some people out there converting lossy to lossless and thinking they gained on something other than file size...

    It sure is, but you yourself recommended that in the previous paragraph of your post -

    o_O

    I would also argue that asking to pay for lossy music is a very bad practice.
     
  6. CloneRanger

    CloneRanger Registered Member

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    Actually they Don't increase the dynamic range at all, just the opposite ! They use compressor/limiters etc which reduces the DR, then crank up the level to Max.

    You mean a lower SNR than a high quality soundcard, which should actually have a high SNR.

    When i said "suggest buying the CD's" i meant CD's as in CDR format 16 Bit 44.1kHz you buy in shops etc. Not lossy mp3 etc tracks that have been burned to CD disc. So my statement still stands ;)
     
  7. moontan

    moontan Registered Member

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    that's correct.

    the DR is the ratio from the softest part of the music to the loudest.

    Pink Floyd or classical music are good example of music whit a wide DR.
    soft parts you can barely hear sometimes, all the way to high volume.

    Rhianna or Eminem are good examples of music with a low DR.
    in modern pop/dance music for example, there's only 2 levels of DR, loud and louder. ;)
     
  8. Brandonn2010

    Brandonn2010 Registered Member

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    Well rather than pay for music I already have, I would probably download WAV versions of my songs on uTorrent maybe? Normally I would have a problem with that but I have legally purchased the music already.

    What is the size ratio of WAV to FLAC, and FLAC to MP3? A typical 4 minute song in MP3 is like 4MB.
     
  9. moontan

    moontan Registered Member

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    a FLAC is roughly half the size of a WAV file.

    a mp3 encoded @ 128 kbps is about 1/10 the size of a wave
    one encoded @ 320 kbps is about 1/4

    i'm quoting from memory so someone correct me if i'm wrong.
     
  10. SirDrexl

    SirDrexl Registered Member

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    FLAC files are about 60% of the size of the original PCM, but this varies based on the music. In a special case such as mono audio (like the mono Beatles discs), it can be much less because the codec recognizes the redundancy and encodes it as if it's one channel. And if you have silent passages, those parts take up almost no space because there's nothing to store.

    As for whether you'll hear a difference or not, I can't say. A lot of that depends on the bitrate of the compressed files and your equipment. I know that I "feel" better about having them stored as lossless, that I'm not sacrificing anything in the encoding.

    I don't recommend lossless for portable devices, unless you have a lot of space and wouldn't mind using it. I use variable-bitrate MP3 for my phone and FLAC for home. BTW, another benefit to storing your music losslessly is that you can convert to any lossless format you may need in an optimal way, without having to pull out the discs and rip them again. If you had to go from MP3 to AAC or vice-versa, that would be worse than starting with the lossless source.
     
  11. jnthn

    jnthn Registered Member

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  12. Seer

    Seer Registered Member

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    Yes, you are right. On the other point too.
    Thanks for correction.

    Cheers.
     
  13. Sully

    Sully Registered Member

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    I know a guy who has an ipod nano. He wanted something to manage his files, but did not want itunes. I found a few different freeware tools that would do this. Some would sync, some just let him manage files.

    Sorry I don't remember what the names were. But, they were easy to find. I recall an option to choose which product, and it seemed there were options for all apple products. This was early this year.

    HTH.

    Sul.
     
  14. Yakuman

    Yakuman Registered Member

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    Placebo and internet misinfo are strong factors that can inhibit one's perception. I found the best way to determine whether there is any audible difference between lossless and lossy formats to my ears is to perform ABX testing. I play with foobar2000 and the ABX Comparator (http://www.foobar2000.org/components/view/foo_abx) plugin.

    I was surprised that I couldn't differentiate between VBR v2 (~190 Kbps) MP3 files to FLAC after many trials with different songs. I've even "cheated" by continuously comparing the same couple of seconds in certain parts of the song (those with distinct nuances), but the results have been consistently an utter failure.

    Great info about the varying MP3 bitrates and their relative audio quality: http://wiki.hydrogenaudio.org/index.php?title=LAME#Recommended_encoder_settings
     
  15. NGRhodes

    NGRhodes Registered Member

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    Yakuman, yes - blind testing has shown music experts could not tell the difference between 160kbps mp3 and uncompressed, been documented a many a time, just do a google search.

    Unless I've been lucky with my IBM and HP PCs and laptops they output as clean a signal as my old SBlive cards, which adds a completely unmeasurable amount to the sound output from even high end hifi speakers.
     
  16. CloneRanger

    CloneRanger Registered Member

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    @ Seer

    Hi, i appreciate your comments :thumb:
     
  17. whitedragon551

    whitedragon551 Registered Member

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    Media Monkey is a great alternative however its not free for the best package available.

    Lossless format is a marketting gimick. It all depends on where you get your music and how it was converted. Many say they can hear the difference between FLAC and 200kbps MP3. That is true. The human ear however can not tell a difference in a properly encoded MP3 224kbps+ and FLAC. I always get MP3 320kbps or V0 encodes.
     
  18. moontan

    moontan Registered Member

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    lossless is good to have because you are not locked in a lossy format.

    you can make mp3 out of FLAC further down the line if you want.

    with a mp3, you are stuck.
    there's nothing you can do with a mp3 but making the sound quality worse.
     
  19. whitedragon551

    whitedragon551 Registered Member

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    Still useless. Human ear cant hear any difference in properly encoded 234kbps+ MP3. 320kbps MP3 takes up less space than FLAC and you cant hear a difference. You may be locked into a "lossless" format, but what does it matter if your human limitations cant tell the difference?
     
  20. moontan

    moontan Registered Member

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    it's got nothing to do with being able to tell a difference.
    for me anyway.

    it's about being able down the line to burn a CD, make a mp3 or whatever format will be popular 10 years from now.
     
  21. whitedragon551

    whitedragon551 Registered Member

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    You can burn a CD from MP3. :rolleyes:
     
  22. moontan

    moontan Registered Member

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    of course you can.

    but try to transcode to another lossy format and get back to me on that one.

    it's like making a JPEG from a JPEG, pretty soon it turns into a mess.
     
  23. whitedragon551

    whitedragon551 Registered Member

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    It doesnt make a mess as long as you decrease quality. You can never up convert, but always down convert.

    Making a CD from MP3's doesnt change format. :rolleyes:
     
  24. moontan

    moontan Registered Member

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    if you're fine with decreased quality go for it. lol
     
  25. whitedragon551

    whitedragon551 Registered Member

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    Creating a CD from 320kbps doesnt decrease any quality. The music is still 320kbps MP3. You clearly arent doing it right.
     
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