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Topic: Is it normal i can not hear differences between MP3 and flac? (Read 7373 times) previous topic - next topic

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  • Bahamut2
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Is it normal i can not hear differences between MP3 and flac?
I tried LAME V5 vs FLAC source with an ABX test, with at least 3 songs, and i can never notice any little difference! Is that normal?
I tried electronic music too... and it sounds really clear, my hearphones are senheisser hd 518 with a very good quality and my speakers are 2.1 Logitech THX Z2300... (btw i love them)

  • bauerm
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Is it normal i can not hear differences between MP3 and flac?
Reply #1
Yes, very normal. It is called perceptual transparency and is the goal of any lossy codec.

  • emte
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Is it normal i can not hear differences between MP3 and flac?
Reply #2
Dunno whether it's something out of normal... I can't tell iTunes 128 AAC and lossless apart. Maybe sometimes I hear lack of some high frequencies. It's been tested, a lot of pepole can't tell the difference in blind tests. If you don't hear difference better for you. Also I don't belive in all those golden ears.
  • Last Edit: 05 January, 2012, 02:53:34 PM by emte

  • pdq
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Is it normal i can not hear differences between MP3 and flac?
Reply #3
Also I don't belive in all those golden ears.

There are certainly people that are much better than average at detecting artifacts in lossy encoded files. Some are just naturally more sensitive to certain kinds of artifacts, but many more have actually trained themselves to hear such things.

Personally I would prefer never to enhance my ability to hear problems in the music that I listen to.

  • mjb2006
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Is it normal i can not hear differences between MP3 and flac?
Reply #4
I routinely hear artifacts in my car, but the same files are un-ABXable when I listen at home through (what I believe is) better gear. It has been said here, by greynol, that this is to be expected; lossy codecs are tuned for playback with fairly flat frequency response. Thus, artifacts that were properly masked when played through those nice speakers or headphones could be unmasked by the wonky EQ of lesser gear.

  • greynol
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  • Global Moderator
Is it normal i can not hear differences between MP3 and flac?
Reply #5
That's pretty interesting since the interior of the car can also be quite noisy which might help to better mask artifacts.

I guess it just goes to show that one can run into trouble when making generalizations about these things.

It also helps to be reminded that simply turning your head can create a vastly different frequency response, unless you're using headphones.
  • Last Edit: 05 January, 2012, 06:45:40 PM by greynol
Your eyes cannot hear.

  • saratoga
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Is it normal i can not hear differences between MP3 and flac?
Reply #6
That's pretty interesting since the interior of the car can also be quite noisy which might help to better mask artifacts.


I guess the inside of a car is a lot like a big resonator, so the frequency response could be very far off from a normal pair of headphones.

Still, I would hope most car stereo's are EQed a little better then that, although aftermarket ones might not be. 

Is it normal i can not hear differences between MP3 and flac?
Reply #7
Yes, it is normal.

My opinion on this - as long as it sounds good, that's all that matters to me.  Although this can be tricky sometimes.  While I can't ABX a -V4 file, I can hear artifacts while playing it thru my car's JBL stereo, as mjb2006 has said.  This is why I prefer V2 and up on my iPod.

  • Nessuno
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Is it normal i can not hear differences between MP3 and flac?
Reply #8
While I can't ABX a -V4 file, I can hear artifacts while playing it thru my car's JBL stereo, as mjb2006 has said.


Could you and mjb2006 please elaborate a little more on "I can hear artifacts but can't ABX them"?
... I live by long distance.

Is it normal i can not hear differences between MP3 and flac?
Reply #9
While I can't ABX a -V4 file, I can hear artifacts while playing it thru my car's JBL stereo, as mjb2006 has said.


Could you and mjb2006 please elaborate a little more on "I can hear artifacts but can't ABX them"?


It's a little bit hard to explain....the music sounds small.

  • saratoga
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Is it normal i can not hear differences between MP3 and flac?
Reply #10
It's a little bit hard to explain....the music sounds small.


Because of the compression or because of the poor acoustics in the car?

  • db1989
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Is it normal i can not hear differences between MP3 and flac?
Reply #11
Could you and mjb2006 please elaborate a little more on "I can hear artifacts but can't ABX them"?

Emphasis mine:
I routinely hear artifacts in my car, but the same files are un-ABXable when I listen at home through (what I believe is) better gear.


Is it normal i can not hear differences between MP3 and flac?
Reply #12
It's a little bit hard to explain....the music sounds small.


Because of the compression or because of the poor acoustics in the car?


Probably because of the poor acoustics in the car, but then again it may just be the placebo effect and I can't hear any difference.

  • mjb2006
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Is it normal i can not hear differences between MP3 and flac?
Reply #13
In car: artifacts heard in some lossy files (pre-echo in tambourines mainly).
At home: artifacts not heard, nor can I differentiate those lossy files from their lossless counterparts in a proper ABX test.
  • Last Edit: 05 January, 2012, 08:13:57 PM by mjb2006

  • richard123
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Is it normal i can not hear differences between MP3 and flac?
Reply #14
There are certainly people that are much better than average at detecting artifacts in lossy encoded files. Some are just naturally more sensitive to certain kinds of artifacts, but many more have actually trained themselves to hear such things.

Personally I would prefer never to enhance my ability to hear problems in the music that I listen to.

Training yourself to hear problem with music does seem an odd thing to do (unless you are a developer).

  • Nessuno
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Is it normal i can not hear differences between MP3 and flac?
Reply #15
Emphasis mine:
I routinely hear artifacts in my car, but the same files are un-ABXable when I listen at home through (what I believe is) better gear.



So, if I can read english, it seems to me that, according to HA TOS but also, generally speaking, to the so called "scientific method" according to GG, he is not legitimate to attribute the distortion he perceive (about this phenomena to happen I trust him, of course) to compression artifacts.

In my precedent post I was just asking him, out of scientific curiousity, to elaborate about the characteristic of the distortion he perceive and how, being so subtle he can't ABX it even when he knows so well what to search for, he can speculate so surely it comes from compression artifacts.
... I live by long distance.

  • Martel
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Is it normal i can not hear differences between MP3 and flac?
Reply #16
When I was younger (18-20), I unintentionally trained myself to hear artifacts while I was comparing the lossy codecs available at that time (unsurprisingly, they performed worse than they do nowadays on average).
I generally don't compare codecs so much nowadays (due to my "golden" ears turning silver at best) but I still test how they encode metallic percussions. I just hate how I can't help myself paying attention to hi-hat/cymbal rendering in lossy encodings.
Is there any therapy to get rid of this habit? 
IE4 Rockbox Clip+ AAC@192; HD 668B/HD 518 Xonar DX FB2k FLAC;

  • dhromed
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Is it normal i can not hear differences between MP3 and flac?
Reply #17
Quote
Is there any therapy to get rid of this habit?


11KHz lowpass therapy has proven to be nearly 100% effective in stopping people from thinking about hi-hat distortion.

  • mjb2006
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Is it normal i can not hear differences between MP3 and flac?
Reply #18
Nessuno, 1. See my most recent post. 2. How can I prove the source of perceived distortion? All I can say is it is something I only notice when playing lossy files in the car, either via my iPod Shuffle or the head unit's CD-R player (it supports MP3, AAC, and WMA), but not when playing regular audio CDs. It is consistent with known examples of pre-echo I've heard and unfortunately am apparently sensitive to. It seems unlikely that the AAC files are being improperly decoded. The files are encoded with Nero, which has been demonstrated here as being not terrible, but not as good as it could be, either. And my car's acoustics are crap, despite my efforts to use the head unit's built-in EQ to even it out. Sorry I cannot prove it for you. I don't think it's a TOS issue in this case though, is it?

Even if I have misattributed the noise to compression artifacts, and even if I only imagined the noise, the point remains: the OP might not be able to differentiate MP3 and FLAC because he's listening to the MP3s as intended, using his high-quality gear with its presumably flat frequency response. That is, none of the frequency bands are being boosted or cut or subjected to room acoustics in ways that unmask noise. He may find inferior equipment and listening environments would emphasize the differences to the point of audibility, just like if he were to go cranking up the volume during fade-outs on a CD in order to hear whatever noise or dither might be there.

  • Nessuno
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Is it normal i can not hear differences between MP3 and flac?
Reply #19
Nessuno, 1. See my most recent post. 2. How can I prove the source of perceived distortion? All I can say is it is something I only notice when playing lossy files in the car, either via my iPod Shuffle or the head unit's CD-R player (it supports MP3, AAC, and WMA), but not when playing regular audio CDs. It is consistent with known examples of pre-echo I've heard and unfortunately am apparently sensitive to.


Ok, so they seem like compression artifacts, though you can't prove it. That's a good point for further examination, but can't in itself lead to the conclusion that compression artifacts otherwise unabxable can be easily perceived in, well, real life listening environment.

To clarify: I'm not telling that they can't, as all this matter is not so plain and simple, I was just asking for clarification (and your latest post clarifies a lot) because the assumption "in a certain listening environment one can clearly and rutinely detect artifacts" (maybe now I'm oversimplifying, but this is the message I got from your first posts, am I wrong here?) seems to me to strong to state and, for what is worth here at HA, not TOS#8 compliant.
... I live by long distance.

  • db1989
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  • Global Moderator
Is it normal i can not hear differences between MP3 and flac?
Reply #20
Ok, so they seem like compression artifacts, though you can't prove it.
There are ways. Off the top of my head (which I hope disclaims me from any horrifying [methodo]logical failures), mjb2006 could ask someone else to create a CD with randomly ordered excerpts of A and B vs. X, note down his guesses (for lack of a better word), and then have it independently evaluated afterwards.

Quote
[T]he assumption "in a certain listening environment one can clearly and rutinely detect artifacts" [. . .] seems to me [too] strong to state and [is] not TOS#8 compliant.
Maybe not quite, but I do not see any real problem.

  • 2Bdecided
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Is it normal i can not hear differences between MP3 and flac?
Reply #21
The problems in cars are...
a) the separate parts of the speakers are physically separated by large differences, allowing spatial unmasking of different frequency components (i.e. the treble is 50cm away from the bass) - or simply allowing you to hear the treble far too well compared with the bass / midrange.
b) I suspect the mp3 decoders in some car stereos are imperfect.
c) the entirely different reproduction allows you to hear faults/features in the original recording which you never noticed before, and you wrongly attribute these to lossy coding.

As db1989 said, you can run a "good enough" ABX test from a specially created CD in the car. That can't catch (b) though - you need to play the actual mp3s and lossless decoded through the actual unit, which only work if device will play mp3 and flac/wav/etc in the same playlist - not all mp3-capable car head units will.

Cheers,
David.

EDIT: P.S. the OP is normal IMO! for their sanity, they should try to remain that way and leave HA immediately
  • Last Edit: 06 January, 2012, 11:00:51 AM by 2Bdecided

  • Nessuno
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Is it normal i can not hear differences between MP3 and flac?
Reply #22
As db1989 said, you can run a "good enough" ABX test from a specially created CD in the car. That can't catch (b) though - you need to play the actual mp3s and lossless decoded through the actual unit, which only work if device will play mp3 and flac/wav/etc in the same playlist - not all mp3-capable car head units will.


If instead the decoding is done at home by a software known not to fail, possibly the same used for the failing ABX tests, all levels matched and a plain red book CD is made from the resulting wav files the way db1989 suggests, then playing it on the car unit will take its lossy decoder out of the chain and if the test has positive result, then the differences between the same musical excerpts are actually compression artifacts revealed by the car system (speakers + environment).
  • Last Edit: 06 January, 2012, 03:07:11 PM by Nessuno
... I live by long distance.

  • db1989
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Is it normal i can not hear differences between MP3 and flac?
Reply #23
. . .which would be great, but what David was pointing out (good catch! ) was exactly the fact that, if the test failed, this would not conclusively indicate that mjb2006 had been under the placebo effect before the test; for the previously heard difference may have arisen from a dodgy decoder that would now have been excluded from testing.

  • Nessuno
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Is it normal i can not hear differences between MP3 and flac?
Reply #24
for the previously heard difference may have arisen from a dodgy decoder that would now have been excluded from testing.


Ok, but mjb2006 wrote also that he perceives distortion even using an iPod shuffle as source.

By the way: if his iPod supports lossless, as a preliminary to a more rigorous test, he could simply load it with multiple AAC and ALAC files from troublemaking excerpts of the same track, let the shuffle do its job and test if he can hear any difference between many replays.
... I live by long distance.