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Music Media

AAC vs. OGG vs. MP3 843

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the let-the-battle-begin dept.
asv108 writes "Yesterday, Apple unveiled their new music service claiming that the AAC format "combines sound quality that rivals CD." Here is a little comparison of lossy music codecs, comparing an Apple ripped AAC file with the commonly used MP3 codec and the increasingly popular OGG codec. Spectrum analysis was used to see which format did the best job of maintaining the shape of the original waveform." Wish they had WMAs in there too. And for the spoilage, it looks like OGG comes out on top.
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AAC vs. OGG vs. MP3

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @07:57AM (#5833043)
    Really, these codecs are supposed to change the waveform and spectral content. They are lossy!

    The only thing that counts is if they remove the right stuff and keep the stuff we like to hear. Only listening tests are valid to judge a lossy audio codec!
  • Lossless (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @07:59AM (#5833052)
    I wish lossless compression was at a point that it would be practical for this. That would settle all the debates on which audio codec to use. Unfortunately the best lossless compressors can only achieve a maximum of like 50% compression, and on 50-90MB files, that's not really practical for a solution yet.
  • by borgdows (599861) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @08:00AM (#5833063)
    "the increasingly popular OGG codec."

    sadly, I don't think OGG is *currently* known to anybody except nerds or IT pros.
  • Ogg (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 91degrees (207121) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @08:02AM (#5833078) Journal
    Most people who use ogg do not use it for it's quality. All that matters in that respect is that Ogg is comaprable to other formats at similar bitrates.

    The important aspect of it is that it's free. There are no patents (at least as far as we know of) preventing anyone from using it, and it's made quite clear that the code can be included in open and closed source software without royalty payments.
  • pretty lame! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by bromoseltzer (23292) * on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @08:07AM (#5833109) Homepage Journal
    This is not much of a comparison. Spectrum analysis is not enough to tell you what a musical track sounds like. Kinds of distortion that sp. analysis may not pick up: harmonic (e.g., from clipping of high levels or quantization of low levels), transient (percussion, attack), intermodulation (tones "beating" against each other), dynamic range (noise at low levels vs maximum loudness), phase (relationship of pure signals at different frequencies), and on and on.

    So it's interesting to compare the Apple codec with all the others, but this review doesn't do it.

    -mse

  • by tgd (2822) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @08:09AM (#5833116)
    I spent some time last night playing around with the new Music Store feature in iTunes 4. Besides the fact that iTunes crashed on me twice, and 3 never crashed on me, it seems like a very well put together feature.

    What kept me from buying the dozen or so tracks I found that I thought were worth a buck a pop was the fact that my Rio Receivers need MP3 or, via "upgraded" software, FLAC, etc... Although the AAC->CD->MP3 route is possible, and I intended to buy a track and see how the quality comes out, has anyone seen anything about how the DRM works on the Apple files?

    I'm wondering if there are any libraries out there for decoding them, even within the confines of the DRM... just so I can get them into either a raw data stream or something so I can play them on my Rio Receivers... I'd probably switch to buying all my music (where possible) from them, if thats the case... but if I can't get them into a format I can play using my existing equipment, I'll have to pay the five buck "CD"-tax to get them in a format I can rip to high-bitrate MP3.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @08:09AM (#5833117)
    A $10,000 stereo set up in a listening room at your local audiophile shop sounds better than a $500 Sony in your living room, while we're at it. I don't know many people who'd pay for the $10,000 setup just to listen to some music though.

    Ogg may not sound as good as MP3 Pro[1] but so what? Open Source is better overall simply because it is both Free and free. On top of that you even point out yourself that MP3 Pro is only sometimes better than Ogg. So why pay for something that will only sometimes be better if you can get as damn near with a Free format anyway?

    [1]: Sometimes.
  • by velouria (34439) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @08:09AM (#5833123) Homepage
    I don't think graphs are all that useful for comparing lossy sound compression.

    Microsoft likes to show how their wma looks better than the other compression methods... it does look beautiful in graphs, but it sounds all tinny and horrible.

    I don't care if the compressed frequency response graph looks nothing like the original frequency graph, as long as my ears are unable to tell the difference between the two.
  • by gpinzone (531794) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @08:10AM (#5833128) Homepage Journal
    "It's too tough to figure out which one is best, so let's back OGG blindly." That's a pretty weak argument. Looks like you are the one trolling.
  • Arggghh! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @08:12AM (#5833142)

    Will people please stop talking about Ogg as though it were an audio compression scheme. It is not - it is a wrapper format.

    I don't care what kind of tests were done, but anything comparing Ogg to a lossy compression scheme is bound to be unfair, as the Ogg family includes a lossless encoding scheme [sf.net]. Not only does Ogg include FLAC and Vorbis, but it also includes Speex, targetted at voice, and Theora, a video codec.

    So please, stop trying to compare Ogg to MP3. It's like comparing AVI or Quicktime to MP3.

  • by Thanatiel (445743) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @08:13AM (#5833145)
    I do it the other way.

    I do not buy a portable player which does not supports Ogg.
  • Re:To be fair... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @08:16AM (#5833154)
    remastered from WHAT? A DAT with 48KHz 16-bit PCM data on it? A ADAT with said PCM data? I don't get why this is different from an AIFF????
  • by blixel (158224) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @08:20AM (#5833184)
    To do a true test, you need to encode the files, decode them to PCM wav format, then burn to an audio CD. Then, you have to do a blind test with all of them. You also need to use a variety of source material, because different genres of music compress better under some encoders.

    If you have to do all that to tell the difference, doesn't that kinda tell you something?
  • by Vann_v2 (213760) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @08:23AM (#5833205) Homepage
    That's there value in ruling out variables when trying to objectively compare things?
  • Re:Arggghh! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @08:28AM (#5833232)
    Don't be a twat. Especially, don't be a pedantic twat. You know full well that when someone refers to "Ogg" they are usually refering to the Vorbis coded. When they want to talk about FLAC, Speex or Theora they say FLAC, Speex or Theora. So the names have become confused. Tough noogies.
  • bleat (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Gropo (445879) <groopo&yahoo,com> on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @08:31AM (#5833254) Homepage Journal
    Well then that bolsters my original reaction, which is that regardless of the original source of these 'test samples', you'll be hard-pressed to lease the master and rip directly to .ogg or .mp3 like Apple has done with the AAC's available off their service.
  • by ultrabot (200914) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @08:31AM (#5833258)
    "It's too tough to figure out which one is best, so let's back OGG blindly." That's a pretty weak argument. Looks like you are the one trolling.

    I don't think so. With all the other things being equal, free, open standard wins.
  • by grolim13 (110441) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @08:42AM (#5833340) Homepage
    I'm guessing there's something wrong with your software set-up, as my poor 800MHz Duron can rip+encode at around 4x real-time.

    As for not needing larger hard drives... well, I have a 60 gig which is about half full; it feels rather constraining at times - capturing video in full PAL resolution sucks up close to 1GB/min, and my CPU is nowhere near fast enough to encode that in real time.

  • Re:Two Words (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lxy (80823) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @08:43AM (#5833357) Journal
    Yes, until someone gets sue happy and starts suing MP3 and AAC users. Maybe it will happen, maybe it won't.

    Look at GIF, JPEG, and PNG. GIF is used for its quality, JPEG is used for its size, PNG is used by geeks. Unisys started suing webmasters, now the patent holder for JPEG is ruffling feathers, PNG is slowly becoming the accepted format. All it takes is some greedy SOB to make Ogg an attractive format.
  • Re:Ogg (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Agent Green (231202) * on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @08:45AM (#5833376)
    Well, I switched because of it's better quality, particularly in the low bitrate arena for lectures...and for all my CDs. Yes...I re-ripped everything I owned once I got a taste for the format.

    Using a Winamp vorbis encoder plugin, I was able to achieve significant crunches on classroom lectures, that were close enough to the original to be useful. Bear in mind too, that this was before Speex became part of the project.

    MP3 on the otherhand was totally useless at anything less than 64k. The loss drove me nuts.

    Let's not consider only that Vorbis is free...but it's also further extensible. Last I knew, none of the "new" audio formats being touted could support up to 255 discreet audio channels...which could be a very big hit with multispeaker surround systems well into the future. Bitrate peeling promises to be very exciting...once the details of that are all worked out. The Ogg multimedia foundation will be a true thing of beauty.

    And it's free not just from the licensing and patents...but also from that DRM BS that all of us hate so much. Probably another reason Apple decided to go with ACC was to get the DRM support from the record labels.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @08:50AM (#5833423)
    Ogg is a stupid name, Vorbis is a stupid name. Xiphophorus mercifully seems to have changed their name to xiph.org - but that's still a fairly stupid name.

    Luckily the stupid name issue is irrelevant, since Ogg/Vorbis is unlikely to ever work 'out of the box' on Windows and so is doomed to be unavailable to 99% of the population who have never even heard the word 'codec' let alone know what it means. Sad but true.
  • by hesiod (111176) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @08:54AM (#5833456)
    > Is it that difficult to grasp! Ogg is a container file! Vorbis is the audio codec!

    IT DOESN'T F'ING MATTER!

    Just like Linux isn't an OS, (it's a kernel) no one aside from you and some other geeks (not meant as an insult, I am a geek too, obviously) will ever convince others of the truth.
    More importantly it doesn't even matter. The details are subtle and by continuing the geeky "I'm better than the stupid lusers" all you are doing is keeping Vorbis from becoming more popular -- people will become pissed off that they get hassled every time they mention it, and then ignore it in the future.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @08:59AM (#5833504)
    This is the worst flaming war discussion I ever seen in this place for a long time.

    Bose guy: I have original 901 Series I speakers. They are great. Bose lost a lot of their touch by trying to please everyone. Oh well... But you got nice headphones.

    Sennheiser Guy: I have HD 590 by Sennheisers. They were the CHEAPEST I could find that didn't had any kind of problems by Sennheiser. 80$ Senns will buy you good cans but that's it. Not the end of the world.

    Ogg people: I used to be on the vorbis mailing list. Ppl saying Ogg a wrapper are right. But ppl know the files by their extension. Only pros know this, as was previously stated. And only inside ppl know that Vorbis is what drives Ogg inside. This is so much off-topic I don't care. For all ANYONE should know, Ogg is a really great format. Mp3 is a great format. WMV is a great format. AAC is a great format. And I don`t care on any inside technicalities, subtleties or anything. I just want to encode. I only want to download. I only want to listen.

    K... my bag is empty. :P Next...

    I don't care wether WMV is a better format than AAC. WMV takes up a lot of processor power to reach its goal. It also contains that ever bad licensing limitation. I find this totally impratical and ... well ... lame. It's like the so-called HDTV video demo they did. Yeah, take the best computer in the world with the best video card and put 4x the bandwidth of 1x CD... Of course you will have a good format. *sheesh* powder in eyes.

    MP3 is a great format. It still has potential. It is mainstream and Lame v0 q0 will give good enough quality for everyone except for mastering. Easy. Works. Good quality. +-220Kbps . Twice as high as AAC. Oh well.

    I don't need to know of patents and free software. Quicktime can decode my file. I can burn them. I can rip them. I can do whatever I want with them. If I want to lose some quality, I can transcode them to MP3 and play them everywhere after. 99c a pop and you have the song to do whatever you want for your private use. That's a first by a big company for me.

    As far as audio quality goes, I do see a slight difference in AAC between an original and this file. This makes me believe it's not for audiophiles. But audiophiles usually buy their CDs with XRCD or HDCD or SACD or other high quality encoding so any download would be unacceptable anyways. So why bother with that. 128 is great for anyone and it's streamable so you can play them instantly with broadband. I find this very nice indeed.

    Anonymous Coward
  • by croddy (659025) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @09:00AM (#5833514)
    No, sorry there Mr. A.C. -- Bose speakers are mediocre.

    First, the subwoofer + satellite model is fundamentally flawed. 20Hz is directional. Bass doesn't "fill the room like fog" -- when a train's coming, you can hear the direction, right?

    If you bought Bose, you overpaid for consumer grade stuff and the Circuit City man swindled you out of your money. Big 3-way cabinets produce a flat signal, but, granted, they take up space. Those tiny cubes sound like fluorescent lights -- almost white noise, not quite, but in a cheaper package. Sticking a subwoofer under the table doesn't make up for it.

    If you want to listen to music, you should be prepared to make space for the equipment it takes to do it.

  • Re:Two Words (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Knobby (71829) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @09:07AM (#5833560)

    Can you point out one player? Because I've never seen them.

    Yep. The 5GB iPod I bought over a year ago plays AAC encoded files (after installing the v1.3 Firmware Update), as do the other 700,000 iPods out there. Combine that with the new Apple music store, and overnight you've got a whole lot of AAC encoded music out there with hardware support.

  • Useless Comparison (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nathanh (1214) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @09:09AM (#5833574) Homepage
    AAC/MP3/OGG are all based on psychoacoustic models. Comparing their decoded spectrums is pointless. The spectrum isn't supposed to be faithfully reproduced. Frequencies that your brain wouldn't fully hear aren't fully stored.

    The only value I can see in a spectrum comparison would be to find obvious errors in the encoder or decoder. Like the 16kHz spike in the Xing encoder. But how likely is that going to be these days?

    The only proper comparison involves a good hi-fi, a sensibly furnished room, and a comfortable chair. It is called "golden ear" testing and it's the ONLY way to compare psychoacoustic models.

    Or at least it's the only way until the research scientists work out how the human brain works.
  • Re:Two Words (Score:2, Insightful)

    by MtViewGuy (197597) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @09:12AM (#5833597)
    Looking at your comments, I think the Ogg format is going to have to fight an uphill battle for acceptance for the reasons you mentioned.

    Sure, the MP3 format may be disliked by the RIAA, but the very fact almost EVERY hardware manufacturer supports the format bodes well for its future. I mean, when you have portable CD players, automotive CD players and even DVD console players supporting MP3 format audio burned onto a recordable CD, that says a lot about the MP3 format acceptance.

    The AAC format will survive because of Apple's sheer marketing influence, even though Apple has such a small share of the overall computer market. The very high popularity of iPod will at least guarantee that the AAC format can survive, since AAC is one of the native storage formats for iPod players. I wouldn't be surprised that AAC gets a good amount of third-party hardware support, since AAC does have Digital Rights Management (DRM) support, something the RIAA really likes.

    As for the Ogg format, you can forget about its success except among the very serious geek crowd. The fact that you can't play Ogg-formatted files on portable and automotive CD players out of the box bodes poorly for widespread acceptance of the format.
  • by feldsteins (313201) <`ten.nietsdlefttocs' `ta' `ttocs'> on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @09:15AM (#5833621) Homepage
    My favorite part of this discussion is where slashdotters believe that they, the open source community and Ogg in particular are foremost in the minds of people like Steve Jobs as he unveils his new music service.

    Get a clue already. Apple went with AAC because it's great quality, supports the (fairly mild and necessary to get the RIAA onboard) DRM restrictions for the service, and is a subset of the excellent MPEG4 video codec.

    Even if Ogg is better quality at lower bitrate (a point that I am not convinced of, "waveform comparisons" notwithstanding), Apple has legitimate reasons for going AAC that have nothing to do with The Man trying to keep you and the open source community down. Jesus, it's not always about you, mkay?
  • by Compact Dick (518888) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @09:16AM (#5833640) Homepage
    Learn why you shouldn't use spectral analysis to determine lossy codecs' quality [hydrogenaudio.org].

    The most respected technique is double-blind testing using an ABX tool such as PC ABX [pcabx.com], WinABX [arrakis.es] or ABC/HR [ff123.net].

    More info on conducting blind tests can be found at the PC ABX site [pcabx.com].
  • OGG who? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Frobozz0 (247160) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @09:17AM (#5833650)
    "and the increasingly popular OGG codec."

    Amongst who? Slashdot readers? It's certainly not consumers. Everyone uses mp3 (mpeg 2 layer 3). Apple's AAC (mpeg 4) does sound amazing. I've bought several songs already in that format.

    OGG may sound good, but I wouldn't know. It's going to be relegated to the nerd community (which I am a proud member), but I just don't see it breaking through.

  • by autopr0n (534291) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @09:19AM (#5833675) Homepage Journal
    Modern compressions schemes are supposed to make sound that sounds as much like the original as possible, not looks like the original on an FFT.

    The only way to test this is to use double-blind listening tests. The spectral analysis stuff is absolutely useless for finding out how good the music actually sounds.
  • by BrokenHalo (565198) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @09:22AM (#5833704)
    You would probably notice the difference if you try the test with certain kinds of classical music...

    Even then you would probably have to be selective. Rich orchestral works (say, Janacek, Mahler, Sibelius) won't show an obvious difference, but something more spare (e.g. Debussy string quartet or a good recording of baroque strings) will show a big difference that should be evident even on poorer quality equipment.

  • by nxs212 (303580) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @09:22AM (#5833707)
    CDs have flat sound to begin with when compared to analog masters. So in order to get "better than CD" quality you would have to rip from the master tape. Also, file size would have to be less than 60mb per song. (size of a 5 minute uncompressed song from a CD)
    While most master-to-CD transfers sound fine, classical music tends to lose its "warmth." I am no audiophile but I noticed a big difference when I listened to Crux Shadows live and on CD. Speaking of audiophiles, by the time they can afford to buy their must-have equipment, they've already lost their hearing. Give them 128kps mp3 file stamped on vinyl and will swear it sounds better than your original CD :)
  • A decent, but simplistic article. Unless you're a fussy audiophile, this analysis should be sufficient for you.

    [rant] I wish the author would present his graphs in a more readable way. A screen dump of Photoshop in WinXP is not a professional way to show data. It's ironic that while reviewing lossy audio formats he opts to use a lossy image format (JPEG) for the graphs. I had to double their size on my screen just to make some sense out of them. [/rant]

    It's not difficult to gain better-than-CD quality. CDs have been around since the early 1980s, and their main drawback is that they have a low sample rate, 44.1KHz. This is why many sound engineers prefer vinyl. because it's an analogue format, vinyl has a potentially infinite sample frequency range (although it's obviously limited by the recording and playback equipment, and by the physics of the media itself). Apple has used original masters (not CDs) to create much of its song library, so all they have to do is encode at a higher frequency than 44.1KHz. At a guess, they're probably using 48KHz, which is on par with DAT and MiniDisc.

    I'm not surprised that Apple is using AAC. For one thing, it is clearly better than the decade-old MP3 format in all respects, and the licensing costs are probably the same or better. Technically, it may not be as good as Ogg, but most people don't even know what Ogg is so it doesn't matter. As long as Apple can say "our format is better than MP3 and CD audio" (the two prevailing formats), they will have the attention of consumers. AAC is a more mature format than Ogg (Ogg isn't bad, but AAC is more tried-and-proven), and is probably more compatible with existing DRM technologies. DRM is important to keep the recording companies happy and to ensure that the files will only play on devices that Apple specifies (like on Macs and iPods).

    A major stumbling block for Ogg is that until fairly recently it was necessary to use a floating point processor to play the format. In the arena of portable devices, only PDAs have floating point capability, which is why you can play Ogg files on your Zaurus and not on your iPod. AAC is already supported by many devices, so Apple has a larger potential market (although at present only iPods can play the files).
  • Ogg vs. AAC (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Zebra_X (13249) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @09:43AM (#5833900)
    They simply can't be compared. The reason for this statement is that AAC "supports" or "is encumberd by" (depending on what camp you are in) digital rights management. While they are all formats for redistributing music, OGG is not an option when trying to negotiate with record companies who need some assurance that their music won't be redistributed.

    A better comparison would be WMA vs. AAC and OGG vs. MP3.
  • PNG (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Ender Ryan (79406) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @09:53AM (#5834006) Journal
    Yeah but, people aren't really switching to PNG because IE doesn't support it. The same is true of Ogg, no hardware support.

    So, instead of people doing the intelligent thing and switching to something that is unencumbered by patent liability, people stand around with their pants down and get bent over.

    It sure is painful to watch...

  • by norton_I (64015) <hobbes@utrek.dhs.org> on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @09:55AM (#5834023)
    If the musicians like it that way, they should record it that way. Sound reproduction equipment should do just that -- reproduce as accurately as possible the sound on the CD (or other source)

    If people deliberately want to alter the sound, that should be done by effect processing that can be turned off, but not built in by inherent limitations in the reproduction equipment.

    Now, if you are interested in sound production, that is another matter entirely. The sound of a (say) guitar amplifier is as much a part of the musician's instrument as the guitar, though it would still be nice if a lot of that load could be taken off of unreliable power amplifiers and placed on reproducable, removable low level effects processing.
  • Re:Arggghh! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bigpat (158134) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @09:58AM (#5834056)
    Ogg is easier to say than Ogg Vorbis. Ogg is easier to write than Ogg Vorbis. Ogg is a lot catchier a name than Ogg Vorbis. It is very natural that Ogg Vorbis would be known as Ogg and that files would be known as ogg files.

    No problem here, nothing to see, please move along.

  • The quality of an AAC file very much depends on the encoder (it's the same with mpeg4 video or mp3 audio). The test you are refering to only shows that the encoder they used (the one present in Quicktime at that time) was quite bad. It doesn't mean that AAC in itself is bad.
  • by Reverberant (303566) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @10:21AM (#5834270) Homepage
    First, the subwoofer + satellite model is fundamentally flawed. 20Hz is directional. Bass doesn't "fill the room like fog" -- when a train's coming, you can hear the direction, right?

    Umm while I would agree that Bose's implementation of satellites+bass module (to Bose's credit, they don't call it a "subwoofer") has flaws, the subwoofer + satellite principle is not necessarily flawed. If your satellites go low enough (80 Hz is the common figure), a sub/sat system is perfectly workable. See NHT.

    Also, it's been pretty well established that frequencies below 80 Hz are non-directional. When you look at the wavelengths of those frequencies when compared with the typical human interaural spacing you can begin to see why. The reason you can hear the direction of a train is due to the high-frequency cues you get from the wheel/rail noise (disclaimer: I spent 7 years working as a noise consultant specializing in rail noise).
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @10:41AM (#5834506)
    It's an easy install which the average Windows user would perform if so directed.

    Why is everyone so determined to miss the point? Yes, there are a dozen ways of adding Ogg/Vorbis support to Windows. They vary in complexity.

    Support is not available by default, therefore your average non-technical Windows user will get a window popup asking them which application they want to use to open the .ogg file that they've somehow come across and double-clicked on. At this point they will be out of their depth, they'll click on cancel and get on with their lives - ignoring .ogg files from now on, because 'they don't work on my PC'.
  • by jmv (93421) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @10:44AM (#5834551) Homepage
    Spectrum analysis was used to see which format did the best job of maintaining the shape of the original waveform

    Will people ever stop doing that. It's complete bullshit and certainly not the way to evaluate a codec. These codecs use perceptual weighting of the noise. That means that the idea is to distort the signal as much as possible in any region of the spectrum where it won't be heard at a certain time. That means that you see a big distortion in the spectrum and think the codec is worse than the others when in fact it's better because it realized that it doesn't matter.

    The only way to correctly evaluate a codec is to listen to it. I write codecs (see sig), so I know a bit what I'm talking about. I use spectral analysis sometimes, but only to identify problems which I've already heard before, not to say that my codec is good.

    As a aside, I'd say it probably wouldn't be hard to write a codec that does better than any other on those spectrum analysis. They would sound like crap because their psycho-acoustic model would be all wrong.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @10:45AM (#5834555)
    You are so right. To me, classical and jazz almost always sound better live while rock almost always sounds better in a studio recording - very few rock bands (e.g., The Who, The Doors) are better live. As a musician, you are inside the space of the music - in an orchestra, quite literally and quite loud. If I'm playing Chopin and listen to a playback, I use it to identify how I have to change the playing to make up for the translation from what I hear at the bench to what comes out of a speaker. It's never the same and I've only heard a few jazz records and a couple of ancient live piano records (from the teens) that actually capture a musician's sense of the music as though it were truly being played at that moment.

    I use relatively inaccurate speakers for the same reason that I listen to old, mono recordings of Count Basie or Louis Armstrong's Hot Seven. The most accurate speakers remove the coloring and I find it harder to add that back in my head than to hear the notes through what to an engineer must be a fog.

    Non-players don't realize that the music up close is actually less clear - more on acoustic instruments. And that it's full of imperfections - from the player and instrument. My daughter is a violinist and I have to put my head right next to her instrument to hear her complaints about buzzing and that annoying (to her) string ring.

    At the bench, I'm surrounded by bass and the sounds definitely separate as they move just a few feet away. I was listening to a friend run through a few "big" tunes for his next CD. At one foot distance, they blew right through me, with an incredible life. But I also know that the song will be produced and so much distance added that the song won't be as competitive a release as the song deserves. In many ways, I believe major record companies (producers, artists) need constantly to find a new hook or edge for their sound because they can't put music onto a disk so it sounds lifelike.
  • by Wakko Warner (324) * on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @11:10AM (#5834864) Homepage Journal
    speaking of "sound quality" a 5$ headphone is on par with a $100 headphone.

    Your $5 crack clearly isn't on par with $100 crack.

    I can't believe how wrong people on slashdot can be sometimes.

    - A.P.
  • by firewood (41230) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @01:10PM (#5836124)
    A major stumbling block for Ogg is that until fairly recently it was necessary to use a floating point processor to play the format. In the arena of portable devices, only PDAs have floating point capability, which is why you can play Ogg files on your Zaurus and not on your iPod.

    Palm OS 5 PDAs (Zire 71, Tungsten T) only have integer ARM CPU's, and they play Ogg files just fine (running AeroPlayer [aerodromesoftware.com] or PocketTunes). And the Apple iPod uses a very similar ARM CPU core.

  • by AlphaOne (209575) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @01:45PM (#5836498)
    We compared all the lossy formats to a wav ripped straight from the CD.

    It doesn't matter!

    Spectrum analysis of a perceptual coding system is useless. The whole idea behind perceptual coding is that certain types of sounds mask others, so therefore you can avoid encoding the masked sounds.

    The waveforms will always be different... the better the psycoacoustic model the more the waveform will differ for the same PERCEIVED quality.

    But that's not the point... does it SOUND the same to the average listener? Does the perceived quality diminish? Does the audio suffer NOTICABLE artifacts that irritate the listener?

    No matter what scheme you use, the answer to all of these questions will be "yes" to some people. But how many people say "yes?"

    Each person's interpretation of audio is different... some people are tone deaf, others have a very high sensitivity to artifacts, and yet others are somewhere in the middle.

    Spectrum analysis tells you nothing about how well a codec encodes for the human ear because the analyzer is FAR more sensitive.
  • by Azghoul (25786) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @03:43PM (#5837631) Homepage
    You're right. We should just give up, and use whatever the "winning" format is. We should all by Toyota Camrys and Honda Accords, we should all just vote for one of the two major parties, etc. etc. etc. Heck, those Newtonion physics were pretty much good enough and the average user didn't need anything better...

    What does "the average user" matter? Innovation seeks to push the boundaries, not cater to the masses.
  • by pod (1103) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @04:29PM (#5837991) Homepage
    That only 41% chose the WAV as the best says to me one of two things:
    - the listeners don't know what the hell they're doing
    - all the formats are pretty damn good
    If the compressed formats are able to fool or confuse over 50% of the testers, then we're probably just splitting hairs here.
  • by evilviper (135110) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @07:08PM (#5839133) Journal
    So what exactly is your argument?


    First of all, this claim is refuted by every test ever done:
    In every case, across genres, on these low end speakers, 320Kbps mp3's were the only ones that fooled our ears. Low bit rate ogg and mp3 recordings were different, but we didn't take time to notice which was better... they were both unquestionably inferior to the source material. Ogg's 350Kbps encoding was good, but inferior to the smaller 320Kbps mp3 files of the same work.

    If you honestly believe it, it's either because you simply like the sound of MP3 distortion, or you really wanted to like MP3, so you've conviced yourself that you do. Personally, I just assumed you were trolling because of your following comments:
    I ripped about 30 of my CDs to 320Kbps mp3's and noticed another benefit to CD quality rips: I could listen to the music longer without my ears feeling fatigued.

    That is just plain bullshit. No audio codec is going to relieve fatigue. Even if you do believe it.

    Working with people, I have discovered that people convince themselves of many things. When something happens to their computer that they don't understand, they grasp onto the last thing that they did understand. This is very clear when you see cases of people claiming a change they made to the BIOS make their computer stop booting, when it was actually just a computer virus infection. People who are convinced that moving their computer to another room made it run much slower, but they moved it around the same time that they upgraded from Windows 95 to 98. Etc. If really feel less fatigue, I can only assure you it has nothing to do with the lossy codec you are using.
  • Re:Ogg, not OGG (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Ziviyr (95582) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @12:53AM (#5840692) Homepage
    Ogg is the container, Vorbis in the main Xiph audio codec. If you're evil enough you can make Ogg-MP3 or Ogg-WMA. Ogg only implies Vorbis due to common association.

    Tremor isn't a codec at all, its a Vorbis playback engine.

    You made more nits than you picked. :-)

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