Forums > Queen - Serious Discussion > This is why we should use FLAC

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Richy Mercury user not visiting Queenzone.com

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Posted: 04 Jun 07, 12:01 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

FROM: http://playlistmag.com/features/2007/05/itunesplusfl/index.php?lsrc=mwweek


The sound
As I mentioned, non-protected tracks are encoded at 256kbps—that’s twice the 128kbps bit-rate that protected songs are encoded at. Using iTunes I burned both protected and the new unprotected versions of The Stones’ Jump Back and Brahms’ Requiem to CD to see how they sounded through the Denon amplifier, Sony CD player, and B&W speakers in my living room. I wish I could say that the difference between the two versions was like night and day, but it wasn’t. Bearing in mind that everyone’s hearing is different and therefore my conclusions are purely subjective, in comparison to the protected versions, the DRM-free versions of the recordings sounded like a thin layer of film was washed away from them.

In the Requiem, for example, you could more easily hear the bows’ rosin and the distinct overtones of the timpani rather than their less-distinct thump in the protected version. And passages where the choir and orchestra are going at full force, the unprotected version sounds less confused—you can more easily pick out voices and instruments rather than being overwhelmed with waves of sound.

Given that the Stones produce some of the dirtiest recordings in the business, I understand that using their music—some of it recorded decades ago—is an odd way to test the quality of a recording. Yet comparing the two versions of “Angie,” I could more distinctly hear the tap on the cymbal’s bell and closed high-hat and the 12-string guitar rings a bit more clearly. And, as with the Requiem, the various parts are a touch easier to discern.

Will you hear a difference, and is that difference worth an extra 30-cents-per-track? It depends on the gear you use to listen to your music and the keenness of your hearing. Given that the earbuds bundled with the iPod are hardly audiophile quality, you’re unlikely to get your money’s worth listening to unprotected tracks with this kind of setup. On higher-end gear—good headphones or quality stereo speakers—you might find these tracks more to your liking.


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Posted: 05 Jun 07, 00:58 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Sorry, but THAT'S not exactly the reason. I doubt that I (and a lot of others) would hear any difference between 128 kB/s and 256 kB/s encoded MP3. And still many people – including me – don't bother a lot about the obvious difference between MP3 and FLAC encoded sound in "everyday listening", especially if it's a hissy, distorted mono audience bootleg from the 70s.

No, the real reason why we should share sound files in a lossless format is that MP3 files lose a lot of their remaining quality if they are decoded and reencoded. It's comparable to the generations of a tape. And sometimes lossy files are reencoded to FLAC and labelled as lossless (sometimes accidently, sometimes on purpose), which can cause a lot of trouble.

I have a lot of Queen shows both in MP3 and in FLAC format and mostly there's a huge difference in sound quality. So I made the test and encoded a file from FLAC to WAV and then MP3 (iTunes Standard, 128 kB/s). The result has still an excellent sound, and I'm not able to tell on first impression which version is FLAC and which MP3. But the version I previously downloaded in MP3 sounds flat, muffled and somehow artificial, much worse than my generated MP3. My guess is that the reason for that are several encoding cycles, given that both versions stem from the same original lossless source.


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Posted: 05 Jun 07, 07:06 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

For some audience bootlegs there's no need in encoding in Flac.


As far as I know MP3 removes the top high frequencies, (>20 kHz) and the sub low (< 20 Hz) because you can't hear them, to save space. But tape recorders (especially the old ones) can't record high frequencies. So if there's nothing recorded in the first place, there's also nothing you can lose.

Also the speakers most of us have at home don't even play anything below 20 Hz or above 20 kHz


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Posted: 05 Jun 07, 07:06 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

And I seriously doubt if someone can hear from an old tape recording, the difference between a 320 mp3 and a flac


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Posted: 05 Jun 07, 07:09 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Edit: Double post


"On the first day Pim & Niek created a heavenly occupation. Pim & Niek blessed it and named it 'Loosch'."



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Cwazy little thing user not visiting Queenzone.com

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Posted: 05 Jun 07, 07:10 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

In the context of this site, and indeed any older recordings such as the traded bootlegs, then yes, loss of quality with copying is absolutely the point, but I think the first point is also correct - music should not be sold/traded/distributed at 128kbps, because as soon as you burn that to cd there is a nociceable difference when it comes to listening on anything like a good system.
I dont consider myself an audiophile quite, but theres an obvious difference in the dynamics of a recording at 128kbps even for a casual listener. At 256kbps and above theres a noticeably clearer sound, and punchier sound to genres like rock.
This is also why the file-sharing culture is damaging music in terms of kazaa and suchlike, because people who wont spend a penny on music are sharing low quality copies of tracks.

I think people with slower connections have a valid reason to ask for MP3 versions of tracks - I was in the same situation not long ago, and a large amount of my Queen boots are MP3 (something I must alter soon I think), but Id never dream of offering them here. Only if someone specifically asks for something in MP3 should it be uploaded; for distributing something among this community as a whole it should always be FLAC.

S'what I think anyway! :)


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Posted: 05 Jun 07, 17:04 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

FriedChicken<br><font size=1>The Almighty</font> wrote:

But tape recorders (especially the old ones) can't record high frequencies. So if there's nothing recorded in the first place, there's also nothing you can lose.


That's still debatable.

Also, keep in mind that most mp3 encoders add digital noise to any recording, regardless of its quality.



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Posted: 06 Jun 07, 07:18 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

No thats not debatable, old tape recorders don't record those top frequencies. Thats why they use stuff like Expanders


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Posted: 06 Jun 07, 09:17 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Old tape recorders, PA equipment, microphones, the tape itself, even the filters settings of a soundboard have an effect on the frequency range of a recording, in most cases they lower the ultra-high frequencies. But they don't cut them off completely! And even a slight remainder of an almost ultrasonic sound has an effect on the sound of a recording. Acoustics is a very complex matter, and I'm not an expert at all, but from what I have read numerous times, it does matter if the high frequencies are left unaltered or not.

And as I said before, it's not for better listening (at least not in my case), but for quality preservation.


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Posted: 06 Jun 07, 11:23 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

FriedChicken<br><font size=1>The Almighty</font> wrote:

For some audience bootlegs there's no need in encoding in Flac.


Great. I've thought I was the only one who loves listening to live shows with clicks on each track transition and a nice lossy slur.

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Posted: 06 Jun 07, 11:57 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

That's the only reason you shouldn't encode to mp3. But I was talking about the Frequency loss.


"On the first day Pim & Niek created a heavenly occupation. Pim & Niek blessed it and named it 'Loosch'."



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Posted: 06 Jun 07, 11:58 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

But as Bob also said, encoding adds digital noise, so thats also a reason


"On the first day Pim & Niek created a heavenly occupation. Pim & Niek blessed it and named it 'Loosch'."



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Posted: 06 Jun 07, 11:59 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

But Flac is not something like the holy grail. There is no quality loss, but it has other disadvantages. You can't play it on mp3 players or ipods or iTunes or in cars or whatever


"On the first day Pim & Niek created a heavenly occupation. Pim & Niek blessed it and named it 'Loosch'."



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Posted: 06 Jun 07, 13:33 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

FriedChicken<br><font size=1>The Almighty</font> wrote:

But Flac is not something like the holy grail. There is no quality loss, but it has other disadvantages. You can't play it on mp3 players or ipods or iTunes or in cars or whatever


Huh? Does anybody stop you from encoding FLAC to mp3 for your personal use? I don't think so. For mass distribution lossless formats must be used to ensure that the quality is preserved. For personal use people can do whatever they want with their FLAC files, as long as it doesn't get circulated further.

Seems logical to me, but what do I know?

Your "frequency argument" is not true by the way, there are plenty of cassette decks that have full range frequency response from 20 - 22000 Hz. "Old tape decks" is a useless generalization.

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Posted: 08 Jun 07, 00:10 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

MP3s depend on the quality of the encoders and the settings too. I once saw a test online of the best MP3 encoders/decoders. Some encoder/decoder combinations are near perfect, some are terrible...some are so bad that they only encode one channel!

And the myriad of settings in MP3 encoders are usually probably wrong when the average user does it...usually when you get the software the default settings are a mix between medium audio quality and medium encoding speed. Even if someone does bother to adjust the settings, there are so many settings in the CDex encoding program for instance that I doubt anyone really knows what are best.

Not saying FLAC is good or bad, just saying all MP3s are far from equal.


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Posted: 08 Jun 07, 13:39 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Honestly, I can't believe we're still having this debate. This is the bottom line:

Lossless is better for quality preservation reasons, while lossy is good for personal use if you choose. I don't see what more there is to discuss!



"The more generous you are with your music, the more it comes back to you." -- Dan Lampinski



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Posted: 09 Jun 07, 22:17 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

I'd like to throw a wrench in here if I may.

This may be a problem elsewhere, but on the Queen Hub there is this terrible problem with people taking something in 64kbps quality and re-encoding it at 320, just to make their file bigger (and therefore a different "fingerprint"), so you're fooled into trying to download it, only to find that it's utter crap.

With FLAC, even if the audio is terrible, I can accept that, because more often than not, it's taken a little bit of attention and dedication to get it there. This means that lazy bastards won't simply re-encode crappy RealAudio to FLAC, but instead the FLAC is likely CD sourced, at the very least. And in that case, there's enough depth in the samples that manipulation won't completely stretch the sound into tinny oblivion.

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Posted: 10 Jun 07, 06:16 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

I'm going to try and explain this, just ONCE and ONLY ONCE more:

The spectrum of human hearing ranges from roughly 20Hz to 20 000 Hz. However: when a sound is produced, especially so in music, the frequency of the note itself (let's say 880Hz, an A) is not the only part that matters, as 'overtones', harmonics, are present a long way up in the audio-spectrum. They are not discernible by themselves, but they DO add greatly to the overall timbre of what is played. By cutting off these frequencies, the remaining sound will sound more synthetic and even fake. That is why lossless audio is necessary. 44Khz is the standard maximum audio-equipment can play back, so that's all you need (unless you have very good equipment and very decent analogue record (novelty records up to 128KHz were made)).


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Posted: 11 Jun 07, 05:48 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Thats true, BUT.... If the overtones weren't recorded in the first place...




And I know that this doesn't stop me from encoding flac to mp3, although I rarely download Queen bootlegs. But I hate it when people get slagged for asking for mp3 shows, because FLAC is 3 times as big and an inconvenient format.


"On the first day Pim & Niek created a heavenly occupation. Pim & Niek blessed it and named it 'Loosch'."



(Genesis 1:1)