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  • uart
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Best bitrate for online streaming (aka internet radio).
I know that for most of us, as storage capacities have increased we've generally become less concerned about being economic with the bit rates of our encoded music formats. One area however where I"m still kinda interested in bit rate economy is when listening to internet streamed music such as "internet radio". The reason is simple, I've only got 10GB/month downloads and I'd prefer to not use more than about 30% of this for online listening, particularly as it's something that I'm often just using as "background" music.

With that said, what bit-rates to others here find suitable for online radio purposes. Personally I seem to find 64 kbps HE-AAC to be roughly equivalent to FM radio, though that's only a subjective judgement. Just wondering if anyone knew of any tests to establish what codec/bitrates are roughly equivalent FM radio for typical music listening purposes?

Thanks.

  • DVDdoug
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Best bitrate for online streaming (aka internet radio).
Reply #1
I don't normaly listen to Internet radio, but...

Quote
Personally I seem to find 64 kbps HE-AAC to be roughly equivalent to FM radio, though that's only a subjective judgement.
It's always subjective.    Analog defects & artifacts are different from digital-compression artifacts & defects.     

So, the only way to do this would be to get a bunch of people to compare the sound.  When half of the people say A is better, and half of the people say B is better, you could say the quality is "equal".  (Or maybe if most of the group doesn't have a preference or can't hear a difference.)
  • Last Edit: 30 May, 2012, 03:02:11 PM by DVDdoug

  • uart
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Best bitrate for online streaming (aka internet radio).
Reply #2
It's always subjective.    Analog defects & artifacts are different from digital-compression artifacts & defects.

Yep very true Doug. Actually my FM reception is always a bit noisy, so obviously I could ABX it every time but it wouldn't mean much. The digital artifacts are quite different so it's not an apples to apples comparison. I guess I'm really just asking what other members find acceptable in terms of  codecs and bitrates for FM radio replacement?

  • uart
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Best bitrate for online streaming (aka internet radio).
Reply #3
I don't normally listen to Internet radio, but...


In the past I haven't either Doug. Crappy internet speed and download limits have previously steered me away, but lately I've been reconsidering it now that my internet service is somewhat improved. So actually, this low bit rate listening is kind of new to me. So far I've been surprised just how reasonable the low bit rate HE-AAC sounds.

  • nagual
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Best bitrate for online streaming (aka internet radio).
Reply #4
http://www.977music.com/channels2/oldies/wmplayeroldies.php

(seems quite noiseless to me,  128Kbps/ mp3).  Another question:  Are there other factors that affect audio quality of internet radio, in same hardware,  besides data rate and compression format ?

  • zerowalker
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Best bitrate for online streaming (aka internet radio).
Reply #5
Shouldn´t be, Same hardware should give the same sound. Decoding should do the same and shouldn´t matter either.

Tell me if i am wrong;S

  • LithosZA
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Best bitrate for online streaming (aka internet radio).
Reply #6
Depends on what bandwdith I have available:

192Kbit/s Vorbis/AAC-LC/MP3
128Kbit/s Vorbis/AAC-LC
96 Kbit/s Vorbis
64Kbit/s AAC-HE
32Kbit/s AAC-HE
24Kbit/s AAC-HE

Personally I feel 128Kbit/s is usually efficient enough.
For some reason most online stations don't sound good at all at 128Kbit/s MP3. Maybe they use a crappy encoder.

  • mixminus1
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Best bitrate for online streaming (aka internet radio).
Reply #7
Years ago, the standard Nullsoft Shoutcast Winamp plug-in initialized the LAME encoder dll with a quality (-q) setting of 9, the lowest quality possible...don't know if that's changed recently.

Also, I suspect that many stations are using lossy files as their sources (at who-knows-what bitrates), which are then likely to be decompressed for DSP/mixing purposes, and then of course recompressed for streaming.
"Not sure what the question is, but the answer is probably no."

  • nagual
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Best bitrate for online streaming (aka internet radio).
Reply #8
Personally I feel 128Kbit/s is usually efficient enough.
For some reason most online stations don't sound good at all at 128Kbit/s MP3. Maybe they use a crappy encoder.



  Thats the point  ! (at least, I think so).
  This radio:  http://www.977music.com/channels2/oldies/wmplayeroldies.php, sounds to me much better than others streaming at the same parameters,  but I didn´t know why...

  • pdq
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Best bitrate for online streaming (aka internet radio).
Reply #9
Years ago, the standard Nullsoft Shoutcast Winamp plug-in initialized the LAME encoder dll with a quality (-q) setting of 9, the lowest quality possible...don't know if that's changed recently.

The -q switch in LAME trades off quality vs. calculation time, something that is perhaps more important for streaming than for normal encoding.

  • mixminus1
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Best bitrate for online streaming (aka internet radio).
Reply #10
I suspect it was more like the developers didn't understand how the -q switch worked, and thought that 9 was maximum.

I haven't done any tests, but I'm pretty sure that whatever the difference in input-to-output time is between -q 3 (default) and -q 9 would be swamped by the buffering that takes place on the client side, and MP3 isn't exactly a low-latency codec to begin with.
"Not sure what the question is, but the answer is probably no."

  • uart
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Best bitrate for online streaming (aka internet radio).
Reply #11
http://www.977music.com/channels2/oldies/wmplayeroldies.php

(seems quite noiseless to me,  128Kbps/ mp3).  Another question:  Are there other factors that affect audio quality of internet radio, in same hardware,  besides data rate and compression format ?


Yep I'm pretty familiar with bit rates like that, 128 kbps can certainly sound fine if done (encoded) well. Here I'm really interested in lower bitrates for casual listening though. Like I said in the OP, I've got download limits. I don't want to use online streaming, at least not for casual listening, if it's going to mean that I'm constantly having to look out for exceeding my limits. This is exactly what has kept me away from using this type of service in the past.

Lets look at some numbers. If I start to regularly use online streaming for casual listening then I could use up to about 150 hours per month (most likely would be less, but I'll take this as a likely upper limit of 5hr/s per day, averaged over a month). The 128kbps (134 kpbs) site you linked was taking about 19 kB/sec (68 MB/hr) here, that would equate to over 10 GB for 150 hours over a month. This would blow my download limit for certain.

If I listen to HE-AAC streams at 48 to 64 kbps however, then even at the proposed 150 hour limit it's only about 3.3 to 5 GB per month. This it turns out is about what I have spare, I've currently got a 10GB download limit, but typically use a little under 5GB of it. This is the reason that I'm sensitive to bit rate here, and am looking at low bitrate territory like 48 and 64 kbps that I've previously had no experience with.


Here's a couple of good examples that you can stream directly from a url if anyone would like to have a listen and comment.

1. Smooth FM Sydney (48 kbps he-aac)  http://117.53.175.113:15020

2. Radio Paradise (64 kbps he-aac) http://207.200.96.231:8004

BTW. You can just use "open location" in either foobar or winamp and insert the url to stream either of these directly.

The first one is just a commercial FM station (so you may get ads), the second is a community sponsored online station. I find the 64 kbps station remarkably good for casual listening. Definitely seem reasonable as an FM radio replacement, particularly with the less than perfect FM reception that I get here.
  • Last Edit: 31 May, 2012, 01:25:55 PM by uart

  • LithosZA
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Best bitrate for online streaming (aka internet radio).
Reply #12
Radio Paradise is my favourite station. A *very* wide selection of music that commercial stations can only dream of.  I listen to it 24/7

  • uart
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Best bitrate for online streaming (aka internet radio).
Reply #13
Radio Paradise is my favourite station. A *very* wide selection of music that commercial stations can only dream of.  I listen to it 24/7

Yeah I thought it was a nice find too LithosZA. 

Could you comment on how you find the quality of the 64 kbps he-aac stream for casual listening, thanks.

  • Brazil2
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Best bitrate for online streaming (aka internet radio).
Reply #14
Many available formats and bitrates at Absolute Radio stations, I've selected two of them which offer a wide variety of styles from funk to metal:
http://absolute80s.com/listen/other/
http://absoluteclassicrock.co.uk/listen/other/

They are also using MP3@192 kbps and HE-AAC@64 kbps if you register to the site... or use Google

  • LithosZA
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Best bitrate for online streaming (aka internet radio).
Reply #15
Quote
Could you comment on how you find the quality of the 64 kbps he-aac stream for casual listening, thanks. smile.gif


At 64Kbit/s it sounds really good. Casual listening through speakers with the 64Kbits HE-AAC would work for me.

I am a bit picky with headphones and usually listen to the 96Kbps OGG Vorbis or 128Kbps LC-AAC stream from Radio Paradise.
  • Last Edit: 31 May, 2012, 03:23:54 PM by LithosZA

  • uart
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Best bitrate for online streaming (aka internet radio).
Reply #16
Here's another really nice one streaming 64kpbs (average) vorbis. This also sounds pretty good to me.

http://granimpacto.servebeer.com:8000/listen

Again, foobar or winamp can stream this directly from the above url.

Anyone care to comment on how good/bad/otherwise they find this format.
  • Last Edit: 01 June, 2012, 01:16:33 PM by uart

  • IgorC
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Best bitrate for online streaming (aka internet radio).
Reply #17
Hopefully new codec Opus will hit 1.0 soon.  A king on 64 kbps. Plus  low delay make it ideal for such real time screnarios like radio (for those where low delay counts).
  • Last Edit: 01 June, 2012, 01:45:47 PM by IgorC

  • uart
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Best bitrate for online streaming (aka internet radio).
Reply #18
Hopefully new codec Opus will hit 1.0 soon.  A king on 64 kbps. Plus  low delay make it ideal for such real time screnarios like radio (for those where low delay counts).

Thanks Igor. Yes I just now read the recent 64kbps listening test results and was amazed to see such a codec in early development beat out both he-aac and vorbis. Is seems very promising. I may upgrade my internet plan to greater a download limit at some time in the future, but meanwhile these efficient low bit rate encoders are huge benefit to me for online streaming.

  • IgorC
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Best bitrate for online streaming (aka internet radio).
Reply #19
Well, that 64 kbps test is already outdated. And Opus was actually pretty mature at that point.

Both Opus and HE-AAC encoders were improved.
http://www.hydrogenaudio.org/forums/index....st&p=796102
http://www.hydrogenaudio.org/forums/index....st&p=796836







  • uart
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Best bitrate for online streaming (aka internet radio).
Reply #20
A couple of issues after listening to online "radio" for a week or so.

For most part aac-sbr sounds really good at 64 kbps. I sometimes notice what seems like a bit of sibilance type distortion, like harshness on the "s"es. Is this a common issue with SBR?

Most of the online radio stations seem to have everything gained up by about +8 dB compared to the RG'ed stuff I normally listen to (in foobar). Sometimes when I hear a track that's already in my media library I switch back and forth between the streaming version and my local RG'ed copy to compare. I find that I need to push the RG to about +8dB ( = 97dB ) to make them sound about the same loundness. I wonder if some of the added distortion is due to overcooking the gain, don't they know that we've got our own volume controls. 
  • Last Edit: 03 June, 2012, 09:39:58 AM by uart

  • [JAZ]
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Best bitrate for online streaming (aka internet radio).
Reply #21
Most of the online radio stations seem to have everything gained up by about +8 dB compared to the RG'ed stuff I normally listen to (in foobar).


That's similar to my experience. For that reason, I have, in playback options, the settings +3dB for replaygained tracks, and -4dB for non-replaygained.

And yes, due to the nature of SBR (he-aac tool), the highs is the region where it's easier to hear differences/artifacts.

  • uart
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Best bitrate for online streaming (aka internet radio).
Reply #22
Quote
I have, in playback options, the settings +3dB for replaygained tracks, and -4dB for non-replaygained.

Hey great idea Jazz, I'll have to give that a try. Save my poor ears when switching between local and streamed content!

Actually I've already got +2dB on RG'ed stuff so I'll just have to put -5dB on the non RG'ed and that should just about do it.
  • Last Edit: 03 June, 2012, 01:26:01 PM by uart

Best bitrate for online streaming (aka internet radio).
Reply #23
Here's another really nice one streaming 64kpbs (average) vorbis. This also sounds pretty good to me.

http://granimpacto.servebeer.com:8000/listen

Again, foobar or winamp can stream this directly from the above url.

Anyone care to comment on how good/bad/otherwise they find this format.

YOU ARE RIGHT THIS RADIO ON LINE USING 64kbps Vorbis. SOUNDS GREAT! THANKS FOR SHARING.

  • psycho
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Best bitrate for online streaming (aka internet radio).
Reply #24
Another good-sounding 64 kbps AAC radio stream: HARDRADIO.COM
lame -V 0