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most difficult genre of music to mp3 encode?

I realize there's lots of variables involved, but I keep seeing the meme around the interwebs that 'complex' music like a classical symphony, is tougher to encode 'transparently' than , say, three-chord pop. Audiophiles who disdain mp3s generally, seem to promote this idea -- e.g., mp3 might be good enough for 'the masses' and the junk they listen to but it fails when 'serious' music is involved.

I personally haven't found this to be the case at all (I've tried ABXing LAME 3.97 192VBR classical pieces against source, and failed); and my perusal of 'killer' sample lists , used for codec tweaking
and listening tests, suggests that it's not the case.  Many 'killer' samples are derived from harmonically/rhythmically/melodically simple electronic or rock music, for example.  And the 'classical' samples tend to be things like just solo harpsichord.  But this could be selection bias on the part of the developers, who perhaps simply own more 'pop' than 'classical' recordings. 

I was under the impression that what makes a 'killer' sample is more its spectral characteristics than anything else -- e.g. lots of high-frequency energy.  But I'd rather be right than guess.  Can anyone here
describe what tends to make a track a 'killer' for mp3 encoding? Are any genres notably 'tougher' on lossy codecs than others?

most difficult genre of music to mp3 encode?

Reply #1
Harpsichord music is amongst the hardest to encode As you found out correctly it is due to its high content of white-noise-like signal (uncorrelated).

most difficult genre of music to mp3 encode?

Reply #2
I haven't ABX'ed this or anything, but I have noticed that when using a VBR with target bitrate of 210 or so, rock bands like The Donnas, Nashville Pussy, Backstreet Girls, Rose Tattoo and that kind of music always lands on a much higher bitrate. It may well be transparent at that bitrate for all I know, but it seems like the codec "struggles" more to get it right, since target is 210 and the result usually is in the range of 230-250.

The common denominator for those bands are very distorted guitars (using no other effects than what guitar and amp can produce) and very tight rhythm.
/Agitator

most difficult genre of music to mp3 encode?

Reply #3
Tracks that contains sharp metallic sounds, eg. hi-hat or steels strings, sharply picked, are difficult to encode, to my experience.

most difficult genre of music to mp3 encode?

Reply #4
Electronic impulse music, artificial - doof , doof ,d-dam ,d-dam - [florida seq, eig, harpsicord samples]. (pre echo).. harpsicord, solo instruments & solo vocals (ringing / pre echo). Basicaly sharp attacks by single instruments can be smeared. The other one is ringing which becomes louder as you lower the quality or raise the volume. Examples are guitar / vocal intros and lower volume music.
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most difficult genre of music to mp3 encode?

Reply #5
Weirdly produced music with odd sound spatialization qualities can also be good. There was a clip from a few years ago that I successfully ABX'd at --alt-preset-standard due to a stereo collapse problem.

That sort of thing requires tight spatialization of individual instruments. Orchestras have virtually no tightness of spatialization - unless you can tell apart individual members of a chorus or a string section (and few records are produced to allow that), each section is going to sound like an indeterminate blur of sound from one direction. So I'd actually rank symphonies as being pretty easy to encode.

So my guess is that besides harpsichords and electronic music, small jazz groups might be a good idea to try too.

most difficult genre of music to mp3 encode?

Reply #6
Weirdly produced music with odd sound spatialization qualities can also be good. There was a clip from a few years ago that I successfully ABX'd at --alt-preset-standard due to a stereo collapse problem.

That sort of thing requires tight spatialization of individual instruments. Orchestras have virtually no tightness of spatialization - unless you can tell apart individual members of a chorus or a string section (and few records are produced to allow that), each section is going to sound like an indeterminate blur of sound from one direction. So I'd actually rank symphonies as being pretty easy to encode.

So my guess is that besides harpsichords and electronic music, small jazz groups might be a good idea to try too.



I'm not looking to do experiments...I thought perhaps this had already been worked out, as part of the psymodel for LAME, for example (should I ask over on the MP3 subforum?). My main question was whether being a 'killer' sample correlated with musical genre, particularly 'symphonic classical'; that, at least, doesn't appear to be the case, though maybe there is a correlation with 'electronica' .

From what's been written, I wonder if Q-sound or 'holophonic' tracks (e.g., Madonna 'Immaculate Collection', Pink Floyd 'Final Cut', Roger Waters 'Amused to Death')  suffer some 'spatial' defects (imaging, soundstage) when converted to mp3.

most difficult genre of music to mp3 encode?

Reply #7
Harpsichord music is amongst the hardest to encode As you found out correctly it is due to its high content of white-noise-like signal (uncorrelated).


Harpsichord music is indeed really tough, but it's precisely because the high content is not noise-like. Harpsichord actually has clear harmonics that go all the way to 20 kHz. That's tough because tones are less effective at masking coding noise. And of course, you can't use any form of noise substitution.

I was under the impression that what makes a 'killer' sample is more its spectral characteristics than anything else -- e.g. lots of high-frequency energy.  But I'd rather be right than guess.  Can anyone here
describe what tends to make a track a 'killer' for mp3 encoding? Are any genres notably 'tougher' on lossy codecs than others?


Turns out that "complex music" tends to be easier to encode because the more instruments there are, the more its characteristics become "noise-like". What's tough to encode is music that has lots of tones (e.g. harpsichord) or lots of time-domain impulses (e.g. castanets). I've never tried, but I'm sure castanets (or similar percussion) play over harpsichord would be any audio codec cry for its mother (if it uses short blocks, it screws up the harpsichord and if it uses long blocks, it screws up the castanets).

most difficult genre of music to mp3 encode?

Reply #8
I find Industrial Metal, sometimes can be hard to encode and can produce bloated 240kbps V2 encodes that are not even transparent.

Examples:

Linchpin

Warbling and smear on LAME V2. Also Nero AAC (Feb 12 2007) struggles at the start of track at 0.50 and 0.53 does not make any difference, but transparent at 0.55.


Replica

Sounds really bad at 130 VBR. I have done a personal test with this track on other mp3 encoders and almost all of them choked on it at 130 VBR.
"I never thought I'd see this much candy in one mission!"

most difficult genre of music to mp3 encode?

Reply #9
I suddenly have a strong urge to form a vibraphone/harpsichord/castanet trio.

most difficult genre of music to mp3 encode?

Reply #10
more or less out of time but reading the post:

From what's been written, I wonder if Q-sound or 'holophonic' tracks (e.g., Madonna 'Immaculate Collection', Pink Floyd 'Final Cut', Roger Waters 'Amused to Death')  suffer some 'spatial' defects (imaging, soundstage) when converted to mp3.

not "Psychic TV - Dreams Less Sweet" ABX against V2
but you probably know that, if you check the artists you mention

most difficult genre of music to mp3 encode?

Reply #11
Noisey electronical stuff like

Industrial / Noise / Power Electronics:
Merzbow, S.P.K., Genocide Organ, NON, Throbbing Gristle, Whitehouse, Test Dept., Nurse With Wound, Esplendor Geometrico, Sielwolf

Dark Ambient:
Deutsch Nepal, Raison d'Etre, Stahlwerk 9, Rasthof Dachau, Shadows & Dust

Glitch:
Autechre, Mr. Oizo

Rythm'n Noise:
Winterkälte, Feindflug, Grendel, Soman, Fabrik C, Shnarph!, Sonar, S.I.N.A., Xotox, Noisuf-X, X-Fusion, KIEw, Mono No Aware, P·A·L, Proyecto Mirage, Stahlfrequenz

to a lesser degree also:

Neofolk / Apocalyptic Folk:
Death In June, Current 93, Rome, Sol Invictus, Forsetti, Darkwood, Orplid, Of The Wand And The Moon

Martial Industrial:
Puissance, Arditi, Triarii, Der Blutharsch, Karjalan Sissit, Blood Axis, Toroidh, Dernière Volonté

Electronic Body Music:
Front242, Frontline Assembly, Nitzer Ebb, Skinny Puppy, Vomito Negro, Insect


I'm a sparetime Power Electronics / Dark Ambient / Neofolk musician and I prefer for my tracks lossless or -V0 -Y. Plain -V0 sounds worse to me than -V0 -Y with this type of music.
WavPack 4.50.1 -hhx6 | LAME 3.98.2 -V 0

most difficult genre of music to mp3 encode?

Reply #12
I seem to remember a thread right here on HA a while ago that concluded that MPC and Vorbis were better for classical music than other lossy codecs. I can't be bothered to look for it right now but you may want to if you're interested. I think part of the problem is that "classical" covers such a wide spectrum - from say, renaissance choral (with no instruments) to full symphony orchestra and all stops in between - that the success or failure of a particular codec with "classical" music probably depends pretty much on the pieces chosen for the listening test

most difficult genre of music to mp3 encode?

Reply #13
I'm a sparetime Power Electronics / Dark Ambient / Neofolk musician and I prefer for my tracks lossless or -V0 -Y. Plain -V0 sounds worse to me than -V0 -Y with this type of music.

well nice bands vpa, but can you ABX it or you just put your favourites

what about Death in June or Current 93 or not to mention early SPK (which are on tapes)...

i think that you can't even ABX NON's most noise album God & Beast, or whatever from Autechre

V0? ok, it's your choice

most difficult genre of music to mp3 encode?

Reply #14
Hi-hats, cymbols and acoustic guitar (properly recorded, full spectrum) are always going to beat the crap out of MP3-like lossy codecs at lower bitrates. Nonlinear (overdrive) guitar effects spawning sh*tload of higher harmonics don't help it either.

most difficult genre of music to mp3 encode?

Reply #15
I'm a sparetime Power Electronics / Dark Ambient / Neofolk musician and I prefer for my tracks lossless or -V0 -Y. Plain -V0 sounds worse to me than -V0 -Y with this type of music.

well nice bands vpa, but can you ABX it or you just put your favourites

what about Death in June or Current 93 or not to mention early SPK (which are on tapes)...

i think that you can't even ABX NON's most noise album God & Beast, or whatever from Autechre

V0? ok, it's your choice

I can do an ABX, but it might take a some days. I'm usually using my Macs and my Windows PC is collecting dust. I even haven't installed Foobar on it yet

With Merzbow and Genocide Organ it is usually very easy to hear that there is something wrong. Also with older Sonar tracks. "God & Beast" isn't striking me with encoding artefacts, but I remember "Ragnarok Rune" was problematic (ok, he released it as Boyd Rice and not as NON).
I had a few DI6 tracks where the guitar was sounding warbled when there was also noise / synths in the background. Current 93 is problematic with the early experimental industrial stuff (Nature Unveiled / Dogs Blood Rising / Imperium) and tracks like "The Dreammoves Of The Sleeping King" (Earth Covers Earth) where he tried all available effects of his effect machine.
Autechre: I had some problems with "Amber", but that was at LAME 3.97 times. Maybe the problems are gone now with LAME 3.98
Nitzer Ebb: Encode "One Mans Burden" to iTunes AAC and you will notice that the sub bass is completely gone!  I also had problems with LAME, but I don't remember what it was (it's been a while).

All only with good headphones. My 34 year old ears doesn't notice a difference with speakers.

But I better stop now, as I know I have to back up this claims by an ABX test. Give me some time, I will provide the needed tests.
WavPack 4.50.1 -hhx6 | LAME 3.98.2 -V 0

most difficult genre of music to mp3 encode?

Reply #16
Guys, if you could pick just one killer sample as the worst sounding for lame at -V2, which would it be?

most difficult genre of music to mp3 encode?

Reply #17
Guys, if you could pick just one killer sample as the worst sounding for lame at -V2, which would it be?

eig has to be worst sounding killer sample i have heard at V2. And my personal one, would be the nasty drum smear at the first 10 seconds of Marilyn Manson's Angel With The Scabbed Wings at --vbr-new. Also Minstry's Stigmata has horrible drum smears at 2:51 and 3:41 on V2.

EDIT: Grammer and added more examples
"I never thought I'd see this much candy in one mission!"

most difficult genre of music to mp3 encode?

Reply #18
I haven't ABX'ed this or anything, but I have noticed that when using a VBR with target bitrate of 210 or so, rock bands like The Donnas, Nashville Pussy, Backstreet Girls, Rose Tattoo and that kind of music always lands on a much higher bitrate. It may well be transparent at that bitrate for all I know, but it seems like the codec "struggles" more to get it right, since target is 210 and the result usually is in the range of 230-250.

The common denominator for those bands are very distorted guitars (using no other effects than what guitar and amp can produce) and very tight rhythm.


I've noticed that the latest Metallica album just released, Death Magnetic, when encoding using LAME 3.98 -h -V0, each track's average VBR rate is around 300 kbps.

At that level, I might as well just go with 320 kbps CBR, as the savings when using -V0 would only be a few megabytes at the most.

I would venture a guess to say that the extreme DRC, distortion, and clipping is causing a lot of that.  However, even the older Metallica albums have average VBR rates in the 280-290 kbps range when targeting 256 kbps with -V0

most difficult genre of music to mp3 encode?

Reply #19
The answer is 'some of all kinds'.

Solo Harpsichord (not just the SQAM thing) is hard.
Hammered Dulcimer (the Cooder thing) is ((*&* hard.
Suzanne Vega is hard.
Percussion music (the asian variety) is sometimes hard.
Low-pitched, open-vocal tract spoken voice can be hard. (German Male speech from SQAM)
"Glockenspiel and Drums" is pretty brutal (but made deliberately)

Broadband classical generally isn't.  But that's only "generally".
-----
J. D. (jj) Johnston

most difficult genre of music to mp3 encode?

Reply #20
If there was a way to port the Musepack psymodel to LAME.. I know its not trivial but it would provide a very high level of quality using 170-200k across all genres.
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most difficult genre of music to mp3 encode?

Reply #21
I haven't ABX'ed this or anything, but I have noticed that when using a VBR with target bitrate of 210 or so, rock bands like The Donnas, Nashville Pussy, Backstreet Girls, Rose Tattoo and that kind of music always lands on a much higher bitrate. It may well be transparent at that bitrate for all I know, but it seems like the codec "struggles" more to get it right, since target is 210 and the result usually is in the range of 230-250.

The common denominator for those bands are very distorted guitars (using no other effects than what guitar and amp can produce) and very tight rhythm.

I've noticed that the latest Metallica album just released, Death Magnetic, when encoding using LAME 3.98 -h -V0, each track's average VBR rate is around 300 kbps.

At that level, I might as well just go with 320 kbps CBR, as the savings when using -V0 would only be a few megabytes at the most.

I would venture a guess to say that the extreme DRC, distortion, and clipping is causing a lot of that.  However, even the older Metallica albums have average VBR rates in the 280-290 kbps range when targeting 256 kbps with -V0

This just a good example that mp3 kinda sucks for Heavy Metal and other music that has alot high-freq noise, due to sfb21 bloating at V2 - V0. And using V0 for alot Metal tracks is a complete joke and you are better off using 320 CBR sometimes, with the bitrates that V0 gives out. Even at V2, i got a few tracks that ended up at 260kbps, because of sfb21 bloat.

And also you would expect a V2 encoded track to be transparent at 237kbps, but guess what.

Code: [Select]
foo_abx 1.3.3 report
foobar2000 v0.9.5.4
2008/07/17 11:22:55

File A: C:\Temp\2 Run To The Hills.wav
File B: C:\Music\Albums\Iron Maiden - The Number Of The Beast\06. Run To The Hills.mp3

11:22:55 : Test started.
11:23:45 : 01/01 50.0%
11:23:50 : 02/02 25.0%
11:23:59 : 03/03 12.5%
11:24:49 : 03/04 31.3%
11:25:15 : 04/05 18.8%
11:25:20 : 05/06 10.9%
11:25:26 : 06/07 6.3%
11:25:36 : 07/08 3.5%
11:25:45 : 08/09 2.0%
11:25:57 : 09/10 1.1%
11:26:29 : 10/11 0.6%
11:26:48 : 11/12 0.3%
11:27:07 : 12/13 0.2%
11:27:19 : 13/14 0.1%
11:27:37 : Test finished.

----------
Total: 13/14 (0.1%)

Has drum smearing at 0:48. I found it transperant at -V0, but at a whooping 290kbps though. I also found it transparent on LAME 3.98 at V2.

I have done a couple of LAME V0 transcodes from FLAC of Metallica's new album and Iron Maiden's Power Slave. Death Magnetic was 25mb bigger then my V2 encode and Power Slave was 20mb bigger.



"I never thought I'd see this much candy in one mission!"

most difficult genre of music to mp3 encode?

Reply #22
One could also utilise a less aggressive V2: V2.5 ~ V2.9

Advantages are 20 ~ 40k saving on hf loud material. Quality should remain high, encoding all the way to 18.4 khz without -Y restriction.

-V1 will bloat less than V0 and could be used instead (V0 is too high imo).
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