Hydrogenaudio Forums

Hydrogenaudio Forum => Listening Tests => Topic started by: BearcatSandor on 03 November, 2010, 04:30:08 PM

Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: BearcatSandor on 03 November, 2010, 04:30:08 PM
By "stuff" i mean equipment and music?

Have you ever ABXed something and found yourself not enjoying it as much as you did now that you know it's not all you thought it to be?  Has the opposite ever happened to you?

I don't have the set up to ABX sound files yet (i'm a Linux user and both options seem to be dead). After participating in this forum for only a few days and reading of others experiences with 24-bit vs 16-bit music i'm now looking at my 24-bit collection of DVD-As, SACDs and 24-bit Studio Master downloads and thinking "..Damn it?" with a bit of confusion.  I don't feel as secure with them anymore.  I thought i had the 'best' sound i could get which is always a goal for folks like me.

Conversely, i might enjoy my redbook CDs more now as i won't be thinking "well they aren't 24-bit :"( " and i might not be hearing deficits that aren't really there.

I'm not sure how to feel about that.

I'm sure i'm not the only one here who's gone though this. Some of you started out as 'audiofools' too, right?  How did you deal with this?

In a sense i'm kinda feeling "No, i don't want to look up ABX testing for loudspeakers. I waited 10 years for just the right pair to come to me and i really don't want to know that my $2.5k Anthony Gallo Acoustic Reference 3.1s are 'the same' as a pair of BestBuy specials."  That's a bit of an exaggeration given how different speakers can be ...at least i think it is.

I'm uncertain.  Honestly, i think i'm changing quickly and looking for support.

So how did you deal when the ABXing didn't work out how how you hoped it might?

Thanks

edit: Brought it back on-topic a bit.
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: db1989 on 03 November, 2010, 04:39:52 PM
i'm now looking at my 24-bit collection of DVD-As, SACDs and 24-bit Studio Master downloads and thinking "..Damn it?" with a bit of confusion.  I don't feel as secure with them anymore.  I thought i had the 'best' sound i could get which is always a goal for folks like me. […] I'm not sure how to feel about that.
[…]
In a sense i'm kinda feeling "No, i don't want to look up ABX testing for loudspeakers. I waited 10 years for just the right pair to come to me and i really don't want to know that my $2.5k Anthony Gallo Acoustic Reference 3.1s are 'the same' as a pair of BestBuy specials."
At the very least, be glad you’re considering this now, and not a few thousand dollars later!
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: BearcatSandor on 03 November, 2010, 04:45:26 PM
At the very least, be glad you’re considering this now, and not a few thousand dollars later!

This is true! Thanks. Only "a few thousand"? I had a salesperson try to sell me $80k speakers with $10k per meter cables. I don't know how he kept a straight face.
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: greynol on 03 November, 2010, 04:48:24 PM
If it's any consolation, the most common advice around here is to spend the lion's share of your budget on speakers.  I don't think you'll find many people expressing any regrets with doing this.

If you haven't already, I suggest you read Sean Olive's contributions to this forum as well as articles he's published on his website.

Regarding hi-res vs. redbook, it is not unusual for releases in each format to be sourced from different masters resulting in an apples and oranges comparison.  It's quite possible for someone to prefer the hi-res version for reasons other than the fact that they are hi-res.  The same goes with vinyl, though preference for vinyl can very easily be related to the distortions intrinsic to the format itself as well as different mastering; unlike with hi-res, where controlled double-blind testing doesn't exactly support the notion that the format provides any tangible benefit over redbook.
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: greynol on 03 November, 2010, 05:04:01 PM
I don't know how he kept a straight face.

He probably believes it makes a difference.  I've had more than a few clueless salespeople try to tell me that they can tell the difference between X and Y, and I'm sure they can when their comparison is sighted.

I'm still waiting for one particular forum member to demonstrate he can distinguish a Squeezebox from a Transporter in a double-blind test.  It's been a couple of years now and I'm not holding my breath.
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: db1989 on 03 November, 2010, 05:17:36 PM
I had a salesperson try to sell me $80k speakers with $10k per meter cables. I don't know how he kept a straight face.

I’m quite sure most careers in sales mandate a well-honed ability to maintain a deadpan demeanour while insulting unwitting customers who naïvely take the former’s uniforms as evidence of their words having a factual basis. Now taking bets on how often the absence of any such basis is just an innocent mistake!
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: mixminus1 on 03 November, 2010, 05:20:35 PM
Oh, I don't think you should regret buying the Gallo's one bit - I can assure you that there is nothing at Best Buy that *looks* anything like them.

Loudspeakers can be much more than just transducers - they can be fine furniture, or even art.

For instance, I'll never be able to even dream of affording them, and likewise I'll probably never see (and hear) them in person (I believe the only way to do that is to fly out to the factory in Maine), but I think the Rockport Technologies Arrakis loudspeakers look absolutely stunning, and that's just from seeing pictures of them on the Rockport website...of course, for around $150K, you'd hope they sound pretty good, too.
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: BearcatSandor on 03 November, 2010, 05:32:51 PM
Oh, I don't think you should regret buying the Gallo's one bit - I can assure you that there is nothing at Best Buy that *looks* anything like them.

*laughs* Ok, that was just mean 

@ graynol: Thanks, that helps.  I'll check out Sean Olive's posts.

Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: Northpack on 03 November, 2010, 05:39:07 PM
I'll probably never see (and hear) them in person (I believe the only way to do that is to fly out to the factory in Maine), but I think the Rockport Technologies Arrakis loudspeakers look absolutely stunning, and that's just from seeing pictures of them on the Rockport website...

Quote from the website: "the Arrakis transcends the boundary of believability"

 

I wish all audiophile companys would be that honest about their products....
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: mixminus1 on 03 November, 2010, 05:48:52 PM
Oh, I don't think you should regret buying the Gallo's one bit - I can assure you that there is nothing at Best Buy that *looks* anything like them.

*laughs* Ok, that was just mean 

Heh, I guess you could take that both ways...I really do think the References look tres cool, and I certainly wouldn't mind having them in my living room.

@Northpack:  Ha, check out their "turntable" (the System III Sirius) in the Hall of Fame section...that's one of those products that I have to admire and respect simply for the incredible engineering that went into it...but WHY?!  It's still just f**king vinyl!!
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: greynol on 03 November, 2010, 05:51:48 PM
That's funny, I was thinking the opposite:  they'd have to sound really really good for me to put up with the way they look.

More to the point, in a sighted test I might actually rate their sound quality lower.
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: mixminus1 on 03 November, 2010, 06:14:24 PM
Oh, then you'd positively LOVE these (http://www.mbl-usa.com/View.aspx/2184/mbl-101-X-treme). >:D

(Getting a bit OT, I know, but your mention of "putting up" with the appearance of a loudspeaker brought the mbl's immediately to mind, for some reason...)
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: mixminus1 on 03 November, 2010, 06:45:25 PM
...and now attempting to at least get myself back on-topic:

So how did you deal when the ABXing didn't work out how how you hoped it might?

I embraced my newfound freedom.

In my case, it was a spectacularly unsuccessful ABX between MP3s that I had made with LAME 3.96.1 with a "tweaked" command line vs. just the good ol' "-V2 --vbr-new" (at the time), as well as not being able to ABX against the lossless originals with tracks that I *swore* had artifacts in the encoded versions (surprise, surprise, all those "artifacts" were present on the original CDs).

That really did free me to just enjoy the music and not worry that I was "missing" something.  Since then, I've encoded several thousand tracks using LAME, and when listening to them - either via my iPod(s) and Sony MDR-V6s, or my Dynaudio Audience 52s - not once have I ever thought "Oh, I should be listening to the CD, because then it would sound more <insert audiophile buzzword here>".

In fact, I'm now streaming MP3s (and AACs) wirelessly to my Marantz receiver's optical input via an Apple Airport Express, and couldn't be happier with it.

So, I think you're definitely on the right track, even though it may be difficult at times to accept just how good "commodity" technologies (such as lossy compression and computer sound cards) can be.
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: Roseval on 03 November, 2010, 07:22:36 PM
After participating in this forum for only a few days and reading of others experiences with 24-bit vs 16-bit music i'm now looking at my 24-bit collection of DVD-As, SACDs and 24-bit Studio Master downloads and thinking "..Damn it?" with a bit of confusion. I don't feel as secure with them anymore. I thought i had the 'best' sound i could get which is always a goal for folks like me.
Conversely, i might enjoy my redbook CDs more now as i won't be thinking "well they aren't 24-bit :"( " and i might not be hearing deficits that aren't really there.

I'm not sure how to feel about that.


Love you're post.
One loves Music
One is quality minded
So only the best will do

In the end you are listening to file formats, gear, everything except to the music.
Good music nocks you of you're feet.
Might be on that Ferrari style > $200.000 system, might be on a transistor radio.

Forget the price tag,
Forget ABX,
Enjoy
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: odigg on 03 November, 2010, 08:29:08 PM
I think I had two simultaneous feelings after I started controlled tests on eqiupment.  Mostly I felt a sense of relief because I realized that voice at the back of my head (the BS detector) was correct.  I also learned I wasn't half-deaf since other people conducting ABX's had similar results.  It was great to know that I didn't have to spend much money or time to get excellent eqiupment.  I then proceeded to sell off a lot of stuff.

There was also a sense of loss through.  I was disappointed to learn that so much of the audio hobby is nonsense.  It's nice to fool around with eqiupment and hunt for that next shiny thing.  It was sad to learn all that effort was pointless. 

I don't regret it one bit though.  It's easier to enjoy music now.  I now know my $50 portable player plays music in a sonically transparent manner.  I can also fit my music collection onto a device that fits into my palm.  All this without worrying if I'm getting the best sound!
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: Josh358 on 04 November, 2010, 02:23:42 PM
Conversely, i might enjoy my redbook CDs more now as i won't be thinking "well they aren't 24-bit :"( " and i might not be hearing deficits that aren't really there.


Though as the authors of the comparison paper pointed out, high res CD's are frequently produced to a higher standard of quality. This is because the record companies know that they're selling mainly to audiophiles and don't have to accommodate Grandma's Philco with sonic compromises like excessive compression.

So I say trust your ears, just not excessively so! I've heard hi res recordings that really do sound sweet.

And don't forget that ABX testing has limitations. It's nice to see someone avoiding snake oil, but I've seen people go to the opposite extreme, and overlook statistical limitations in practical ABX tests and flaws in testing methodology.

An example of the latter would be the use of program material of inadequate dynamic range to "prove" that you can't hear the difference between 16 and 24 bits. On most program material, you can't. But it's established both as a matter of theory and experiment that on program material of very wide dynamic range, reproduced at natural levels in a quiet listening room, you can. Here's a wonderful paper, by Louis B. Fielder of Dolby Labs, on the issue:

http://www.zainea.com/Dynamic%20range.htm (http://www.zainea.com/Dynamic%20range.htm)

Sure, not every recording is of a Mahler symphony, but bits are cheap, so why not choose a format that can accommodate even the most demanding program material?
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: greynol on 04 November, 2010, 03:54:36 PM
An example of the latter would be the use of program material of inadequate dynamic range to "prove" that you can't hear the difference between 16 and 24 bits

People who actually understand ABX testing methodology would never make such a claim.

Perhaps you can provide some samples and ABX logs demonstrating how one derives an audibly perceptible benefit in using greater than 16 bits with real music?
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: hlloyge on 04 November, 2010, 04:54:12 PM
Personally, my aac's are now around 160 kbit VBR, because I can't tell difference between 128 kbit and original. Considering I encoded my music mostly @something around 256 kbit, I saved a bit of space...
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: Josh358 on 04 November, 2010, 07:18:21 PM
An example of the latter would be the use of program material of inadequate dynamic range to "prove" that you can't hear the difference between 16 and 24 bits

People who actually understand ABX testing methodology would never make such a claim.

Perhaps you can provide some samples and ABX logs demonstrating how one derives an audibly perceptible benefit in using greater than 16 bits with real music?


I was referring to Meyer and Moran:

"We found that most of the SACD and DVD-A recordings produced what might be termed realistic playback (that is, the subjects heard the sources loudly and clearly, with natural timbres and appropriate scale but without discomfort) at a system gain such that a 1-kHz octave band of noise recorded at an average level of ?16 dBFS produced an SPL at the listening position of 85 dB, unweighted." (Audibility of CD-standard A/D/A Loop, J. Audio Eng. Soc., Vol. 55, No. 9, 2007 September)

ABX comparisons conducted at a peak level of 101 dB SPL is unlikely to challenge a system with a dynamic range of 96 dB.

However,

"In one brief test with two subjects we added 14 dB of gain to the reference level quoted and tested the two sources with no input signal, to see whether the noise level of the CD audio channel would prove audible. Although one of the subjects was uncertain of his ability to hear the noise, both achieved results of 10/10 in detecting the CD loop. (We have not yet determined the threshold of this effect. With gain of more than 14 dB above reference, detection of the CD chain?s higher noise floor was easy, with no uncertainty. Tests with other subjects bore this out.)"

So the noise floor of the 16 bit system was apparently audible in an ABX test with the system calibrated to produce a peak full scale level of 115 dB SPL, which is within the measured maximum peak levels of live acoustical music as reported in the paper to which I referred in my post. That would seem to validate at least some of the conclusions reached by the author of the Dolby paper.


Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: greynol on 04 November, 2010, 07:41:12 PM
While that may be, this forum requires different criteria from those who claim they can perceive an audible difference. 

NB that I am not suggesting that you are making such claims.

Perhaps I missed it somewhere, but when you're talking about peak amplitudes, is this including the ambient noise of the listening area or not?  It most certainly makes a difference!
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: 2Bdecided on 04 November, 2010, 08:08:14 PM
a system gain such that a 1-kHz octave band of noise recorded at an average level of ?16 dBFS produced an SPL at the listening position of 85 dB, unweighted
That's only 2dB quieter than SMPTE RP200 (if the calibration was single channel).

No sane person wants to listen louder than SMPTE RP200. Not that many people want to listen at SMPTE RP200 loudness. I've ran tests where people have demanded 6 to 12dB less volume than this. Depends on the recording of course. On modern pop recordings you'd easily want to run 20dB quieter!

It's fantastically rare for people listening to recordings to re-create a sound pressure level that matches a loud live performance. Some instruments (e.g. brass) are just so loud that it's really hard to match it - and the recording sounds "too loud" at a far lower level than the real thing.

Cheers,
David.
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: Josh358 on 04 November, 2010, 08:19:22 PM
While that may be, this forum requires different criteria from those who claim they can perceive an audible difference. 

NB that I am not suggesting that you are making such claims.

Perhaps I missed it somewhere, but when you're talking about peak amplitudes, is this including the ambient noise of the listening area or not?  It most certainly makes a difference!


I hope I'm not violating the rules of the forum. I came directly to this thread after seeing a post on another forum and these are my first posts here. In any case, no, I'm not making any personal claims. I've never heard noise from a fully digital 16 bit recording played at natural levels, either at home or in the studio, though I'm intrigued enough that when I get my system set up again (it's in the attic while my listening room is renovated) I may try a calibrated experiment. I was just referring to the Meyer-Moran results.

Surprisingly, to me, anyway, Fielder found that the noise of a quiet home listening room was below the threshold of hearing, and that the noise in an average room wasn't far enough above it to mask noise in a recording:

"The level of typical listening-room noise is assessed by two further studies. The first of these, by this author, examines 10 home listening rooms to produce an average noise curve, while the second, by Cohen and Fielder, examines 27 home listening rooms and produces minimum, maximum, and average noise spectra. Since both studies produce similar averages for home listening-room noise, Fig. 6 shows the minimum, average, and maximum noise spectrum levels from only the second study.

"Fig. 6 shows that the average noise spectrum of the home listening rooms surveyed possesses noise levels above 400 Hz that are no higher than 10 dB above the hearing threshold criterion. This, combined with the fact that the listener is able to employ directional clues, means that generally the home listening-room noise has no effect on reducing the dynamic-range requirements. Examination of the minimum noise levels for each one- third-octave frequency point shows that the most quiet home playback conditions have extremely low noise levels in the frequency bands above 2 kHz, critical to the detection of white noise. In this frequency region the lowest room noise situations are at least 10 dB below the hearing acuity curve."

http://www.zainea.com/Dynamic%20range.htm (http://www.zainea.com/Dynamic%20range.htm)

On the other hand, according to Meyer and Moran, "The background noise level in [the room used for the ABX comparisons] is lower than that in most urban listening rooms: –19 dBA."

http://www.bostonaudiosociety.org/explanation.htm (http://www.bostonaudiosociety.org/explanation.htm)

So strictly speaking, their result seems to be applicable only to the quietest listening rooms.
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: Josh358 on 04 November, 2010, 08:46:51 PM
That's only 2dB quieter than SMPTE RP200 (if the calibration was single channel).

No sane person wants to listen louder than SMPTE RP200. Not that many people want to listen at SMPTE RP200 loudness. I've ran tests where people have demanded 6 to 12dB less volume than this. Depends on the recording of course. On modern pop recordings you'd easily want to run 20dB quieter!

It's fantastically rare for people listening to recordings to re-create a sound pressure level that matches a loud live performance. Some instruments (e.g. brass) are just so loud that it's really hard to match it - and the recording sounds "too loud" at a far lower level than the real thing.

Cheers,
David.


Interesting. It doesn't surprise me. I do know, online, a couple of people who listen at natural levels because they're familiar with and want to reproduce the 120 dB peaks of a grand piano at close quarters, but they appear to be the exception rather than the norm.

I'm not sure how much of this has to do with personal preferences and how much of it has to do with the limitations of consumer playback equipment and compression on acoustical recordings. I believe it's been demonstrated that listeners tend to gauge subjective loudness on the basis of distortion rather than SPL, meaning that people will listen at higher levels to a system with greater headroom. I've noticed that people typically listen at much higher levels in the studio than they do at home, and it seems to me that the ability of professional equipment to reproduce music cleanly at natural levels may have something to do with that.
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: DigitalMan on 04 November, 2010, 09:06:13 PM
Interesting OP
Did ABX after ripping to LAME 256kb/s and was humbled. 

Then had transformation in attitude to high end audio, sold most of my high end gear (preamp, biwire speaker cables, etc.), settled in to 140kb/s and much more affordable gear and enjoy the heck out of the music a lot more ever since.  I used to listen for the audiophile "characteristics" whenever I played music but now just enjoy the music.

The occasional, fleeting "my home stereo sounds better on these songs than my PC speakers" happens and then disappears.  I still appreciate good sound quality, but can enjoy the music without it.

Although I archive in FLAC, I now don't really care if I hear the occasional artifact in the MP3 encode for my portables/car/streaming.  The sound quality 99%+ of the time for me is transparent and the convenience enables me to enjoy so much more music than before that I've never looked back.

I don't look at it as lowering my standards, rather having a more mature perspective on the relative importance of sound quality.
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: ExUser on 04 November, 2010, 09:20:57 PM
I have never regretted ABXing. Double-blind testing has given me a better grasp on my limitations as a human being. As at one point I thought I found 44.1/16 insufficient, like DigitalMan above me, I am now happier with my music than I had ever been. I'm entirely okay with even low-bitrate lossy. Sure, sometimes I can hear the loss, but hearing how good it sounds at such low bitrates makes me grin.

The truth has, indeed, set me free. I cannot fathom the worldview of a person to whom the truth would be objectionable.
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: BearcatSandor on 04 November, 2010, 10:00:38 PM
I appreciate all of these posts. I'm still de-programming as i think of it, and the though of taking my lossless file collection and turning them into a lossy format kinda makes me want to run for the hills.  I know it's "just music" but i'm one of those people who sometimes, when i play a piece that moves me i feel like i might never have to eat again if i kept listening to it.  It "feeds" me so to speak.  In resturants and other public places, background music does not exist for me. It's always part of my foreground.

What if one does ABX testing and finds that MP3s at high bitrates are 'good enough'.  Then one gets a different amp or moves the audio system to a different room? Then you'd have to test all over again to see if it's still good enough in the new room/with the new amp/and the dog not shedding as much this time of year.

(i assume that dog fur creates a -.005 db suck-out at 80 hz when a dog is standing a meter away from the speaker  )

I always knew it was a case of diminishing returns but it is nice to know that a $20k amplifier compared to a $2k amplifier makes little to no difference, according to what i've been reading lately.
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: Josh358 on 04 November, 2010, 10:51:05 PM
(i assume that dog fur creates a -.005 db suck-out at 80 hz when a dog is standing a meter away from the speaker  )


Clearly, you need a second dog so the first one doesn't unbalance the image. :-)

Seriously, I agree that it makes little sense to convert to a lossy format. For one thing, it's been reported elsewhere here that expert listeners were able to distinguish between high BR MP-3 and lossless, so there's always the possibility that, as you surmise, you'll be able to hear the difference yourself. For another, bits are cheap these days, so why bother? I still have some MP-3's that I made back in the days when they weren't, and I still listen to them, but for new files, I stick to flac.

I see that some here have given up on audiophilia entirely after discovering that they couldn't hear some things they thought they could in ABX tests. I'm not going to second guess their choices, because I think everyone has their own reasons for doing things. But from my own perspective, the pursuit of good sound is fun and rewarding, whether one can hear the difference between two amplifiers or not. So I see blind testing more as a tool than a challenge to what I like to do. Even if amplifiers do differ only in frequency response and overload characteristics, they still differ, and other components, such as loudspeakers, differ even more. So there's plenty of room for tweaking.
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: greynol on 04 November, 2010, 11:23:23 PM
Then you'd have to test all over again to see if it's still good enough in the new room/with the new amp/and the dog not shedding as much this time of year.
I seriously doubt you'll need to do that.  Regardless, if you are able to maintain a lossless collection of music, I think you should keep it.  Not simply because it is guaranteed to be artifact-free, but also because it will be easy to create a lossy library to whatever format and bitrate you like without having to transcode.

$2k amplifier
Perhaps even a $200 amplifier, depending on your power requirements.
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: Engelsstaub on 05 November, 2010, 02:13:52 AM
I'm still de-programming as i think of it, and the though of taking my lossless file collection and turning them into a lossy format kinda makes me want to run for the hills.


Don't do that, BearcatSandor. Keep your lossless files (as storage, especially for lossless music, is very reasonable nowdays.) I'm sure you already know this, but using those lossy files as "source" to re-encode to the next great lossy would not be wise at all. If you can't hear the difference now you'll likely do so if you try that even once!

That's the benefit of lossless archiving: you can always go to the source, when the want arises, to get a transparent copy for your current needs.

You've actually inspired me to run some ABX testing myself. I'm finding I can tell the difference (most of the time) between a Lame-encoded mp3@128Kbps (CBR) and the FLAC...but I'm surprised by how negligible it is to me with my current equipment. I'm actually afraid to try 256 or 320 CBRs. I may shatter what remains of my audiophool ego.  (To be fair I do have a huge earwax problem that I need to remedy one of these days and am thirty-six years old. Fire guns on a regular basis and went to way too many heavy metal concerts in my youth.)

BTW "current equipment" is less than "audiophile" ideal. Alienware m15x laptop/Sennheiser HD 595s/Creative X-Fi Soundblaster external with the stupid fake 5.1 shit turned off. I am 100% certain that if I buy those $1400 "Hand-assembled in Germany instead of China" (whoopty-doo) cans that Stereophile is always raving about and a Grado headphone amp I'll DEFINITELY hear the difference!

If I had ten thousand US dollars to spend, I couldn't even get a recently-reviewed set of speakers featured in that fish-wrapper of a magazine.

...but yeah: I am finding that it actually irritates me that I don't hear a big difference even at the low bitrate that I've thus far ABXed with Foobar. Great post and thanks for the kick in the butt.

Edit: sorry, greynol. If I had been paying attention I'd have seen you covered that part about lossless archives being advisable above.
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: greynol on 05 November, 2010, 02:42:30 AM
No worries.

I think the fear that transcoding is certain to result in audible degradation is overblown, but nowhere near as overblown as the notion that audiophile-grade equipment will more easily reveal artifacts from lossy encoding.
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: knutinh on 05 November, 2010, 03:20:55 AM
I'm sure you already know this, but using those lossy files as "source" to re-encode to the next great lossy would not be wise at all. If you can't hear the difference now you'll likely do so if you try that even once!

Are you sure that it is "likely" to hear degradation from going lossless->"sensible lossy encoding"->"another sensible lossy encoding"? Depends on what is "sensible", I guess, but I would not dare to say that its likely. I'd rather say that chances of hearing flaws increase as the number of transcodes increase.

I also agree on keeping the lossless archive. Hard-drives are cheap, most of us dont have more than 1000 albums but ripping those 1000 albums a second time is no fun. It may not matter, but even the slight chance that it might matter is enough for me to keep the flac files. I guess that makes me an audiophile?

-k
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: 2Bdecided on 05 November, 2010, 03:44:40 AM
I've noticed that people typically listen at much higher levels in the studio than they do at home
...and many of those professionals go very deaf very quickly!

Cheers,
David.

Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: simonh on 05 November, 2010, 03:52:51 AM
I wonder whether lossy will formats distributed over the net will soon become the only choice for mainstream music. Most consumers aren't that fussy and it'd make sense for the music industry. Personally, I've (nearly) only ever heard artifacts that were present on the CD. The couple of genuine artifacts were not in the least 'annoying' anyway.

So, I don't bother with ABX'ing anymore. I use LAME with V2 (or APS on old encodings) and make no attempt to find differences. I think that road leads to madness! I do have my CD collection archived to lossless though. Just in case...

Edit: I'm a Linux user too. You can ABX with Foobar, should you wish.
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: Takla on 05 November, 2010, 11:07:27 AM
The only damage I've caused by abx testing has been to my ego.  No golden ears here, and no regrets (ok, initially some bruised pride).  I last did an abx maybe six months ago and it confirmed that I will probably never be able to hear any difference between lossless and either lame or oggenc at default settings,  and even if there is a difference to be heard I am extremely unlikely to notice it.  These days I notice differences between playback equipment but not between the sources.  That is an amazing difference from when I first heard mp3 about a decade ago.  If I hadn't occasionally done some abx tests I might have retained opinions based on unfavourable early impressions and experiences.
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: Josh358 on 05 November, 2010, 12:32:24 PM
No worries.

I think the fear that transcoding is certain to result in audible degradation is overblown, but nowhere near as overblown as the notion that audiophile-grade equipment will more easily reveal artifacts from lossy encoding.


Has anyone actually ABX tested that premise? Just curious. I remember, many years ago, reading about a blind shootout between digital and analog in which the listeners were able to identify the difference on stacked Quads, but not on AR-LST's.
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: Josh358 on 05 November, 2010, 12:38:43 PM
...and many of those professionals go very deaf very quickly!

Cheers,
David.


Sadly, I have some friends who are in that position.
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: Arnold B. Krueger on 05 November, 2010, 12:50:57 PM
Surprisingly, to me, anyway, Fielder found that the noise of a quiet home listening room was below the threshold of hearing, and that the noise in an average room wasn't far enough above it to mask noise in a recording:


There seems to be a critical missing paragraph in the Fielder paper. It might be titled "Noise in recording Environments".

The paper as presented usecontains an unstated assumption that appears to me to be something like: "The dynamic range requirement for musical playback is irrelevant to noise in the space where the music is recorded."

IME, the space in which the recording is made is actually the weakest link. Large spaces are very expensive to make really quiet, and then you go and spoil the whole thing by putting performers into it. If you add an audience, then its close micing or lotsa noise, mostly both.

I see the Fielder paper as being a justification for HDCD, which we now know failed in the marketplace. IME the reason why is that due to the relatively high levels of noise in spaces used for recording, HDCD like SACD and DVD-A is a solution looking for a problem. It appears that SACD and DVD-A have also failed or are in the later stages of failing in the marketplace.
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: greynol on 05 November, 2010, 01:34:38 PM
Has anyone actually ABX tested that premise? Just curious. I remember, many years ago, reading about a blind shootout between digital and analog in which the listeners were able to identify the difference on stacked Quads, but not on AR-LST's.

Not on this forum, at least.  It's a challenge I issue frequently to which no one has yet to rise.  Would you'd like to take a shot at it?

Anyone else?
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: Josh358 on 05 November, 2010, 05:00:45 PM
Has anyone actually ABX tested that premise? Just curious. I remember, many years ago, reading about a blind shootout between digital and analog in which the listeners were able to identify the difference on stacked Quads, but not on AR-LST's.

Not on this forum, at least.  It's a challenge I issue frequently to which no one has yet to rise.  Would you'd like to take a shot at it?

Anyone else?


You know, I actually tried that many years ago, in a sighted bypass test using a PCM-F1 sourced off analog disk. To my surprise, I couldn't hear any difference. So I doubt I'd hear a difference with today's more advanced converters. Which of course doesn't mean that someone with better ears, electrostatic speakers, or headphones wouldn't (I did my experiment with Tympani 1-D's). But I did read recently someone else who had tried the same experiment with the F1, and was also unable to hear a difference. The acid test would I think be a comparison with a live mic feed, but since I'm retired from engineering I no longer have the facilities to do that.
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: Josh358 on 05 November, 2010, 05:46:40 PM
There seems to be a critical missing paragraph in the Fielder paper. It might be titled "Noise in recording Environments".

The paper as presented usecontains an unstated assumption that appears to me to be something like: "The dynamic range requirement for musical playback is irrelevant to noise in the space where the music is recorded."

IME, the space in which the recording is made is actually the weakest link. Large spaces are very expensive to make really quiet, and then you go and spoil the whole thing by putting performers into it. If you add an audience, then its close micing or lotsa noise, mostly both.

I see the Fielder paper as being a justification for HDCD, which we now know failed in the marketplace. IME the reason why is that due to the relatively high levels of noise in spaces used for recording, HDCD like SACD and DVD-A is a solution looking for a problem. It appears that SACD and DVD-A have also failed or are in the later stages of failing in the marketplace.


Look again, it is there: Section 4.1, Noise in the Recording Environment.
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: db1989 on 05 November, 2010, 06:53:56 PM
I'm still de-programming as i think of it, and the though of taking my lossless file collection and turning them into a lossy format kinda makes me want to run for the hills
I don't think anyone would advocate converting to lossy simply because one can't hear the difference. A lossless archive has value as a future-proof 'storehouse' from which you can convert to other/better lossy formats at a later date. And of course, as you said, what if one later finds artifacts, and is stuck with them?
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: DigitalMan on 06 November, 2010, 12:33:31 AM
After a humbling fail on ABX with MP3 at 192kbp/s I reflected on how much "damage" was technically being done to the audio signal by the MP3 codec and I couldn't hear it (low pass filter, removing harmonics, higher noise floor, time domain anomalies, etc.).

With that as a context, the notion that audio cable, power cords, minute frequency response variations in amplifiers, gold CDs, etc. had much chance of being significantly audible seems really hard to believe.

I still look for competent measurements in what I buy, but I don't worry about it after that.

Room acoustics and speaker nonlinearities are typically orders of magnitude more audible than the others.  I believe they should really be the focus of the sound quality pursuit.  But they are complex, hard to reproduce and solve, so I suppose people gravitate to minutia like 16 vs. 24 bit recordings, etc.

By the way, I also vouch for keeping the lossless files so you can create versions in other formats, bitrates, etc. later.  I ripped my whole collection to MP3 the first time and then re-ripped to FLAC and use that as my source.  I highly recommend you keep your lossless source - ripping is so time consuming I believe you want to only do it once.
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: Engelsstaub on 06 November, 2010, 01:29:03 AM
I'm sure you already know this, but using those lossy files as "source" to re-encode to the next great lossy would not be wise at all. If you can't hear the difference now you'll likely do so if you try that even once!
Are you sure that it is "likely" to hear degradation from going lossless->"sensible lossy encoding"->"another sensible lossy encoding"? Depends on what is "sensible", I guess, but I would not dare to say that its likely. I'd rather say that chances of hearing flaws increase as the number of transcodes increase.

OK, I can happily agree with that. My wording isn't always perfect and I tend to sound "absolute" in print when I didn't mean it that way at the keyboard

I've never ABXed lossy-to-lossy trascodes and am going by things I heard on other people's stuff. (The type of people who just looked at me blankly when I tried explaining to them that taking an MP3 @128 and converting it to 320Kbps was not going to "improve its sound quality.)

Be that as it may, I've ABXed a few passages from certain songs over and over 100% positively @128Kbps LAME-encoded MP3. My point is I don't think it could get "better" if it was transcoded. The results are here:

Code: [Select]
foo_abx 1.3.4 report
foobar2000 v1.1
2010/11/05 00:36:34

File A: C:\dBpoweramp\EAC-FLAC\Jars of Clay\02. Unforgetful You.flac
File B: C:\Users\Engelsstaub\Desktop\New folder\02. Unforgetful You.mp3

00:36:34 : Test started.
00:37:46 : 01/01  50.0%
00:38:52 : 02/02  25.0%
00:39:34 : 03/03  12.5%
00:40:41 : 04/04  6.3%
02:07:57 : 05/05  3.1%
02:09:05 : 06/06  1.6%
02:19:47 : 07/07  0.8%
02:20:04 : Test finished.

 ----------
Total: 7/7 (0.8%)

(...I grew bored with this one after the seventh round. The passage was annoying to listen to over and over.)

I'm not taking some great pride in this because I do go out of my way to find passages that I "just know" I'll be able to ABX and, as before, I'm humiliated at how subtle the difference is. I have to concentrate very hard to hear such "differences" and wouldn't likely notice a thing if I were just listening to them without prejudice. That bugs the crap out of me...I realized that I could actually live with it if I had to.

I used to believe (until recently) that "even at higher bit-rates the high-hats wash out!" But I have heard this effect on transcodes. Truth is, I never heard "the high-hat thing" on my MiniDiscs in the nineties. I knew nothing about ATRAC compression then and believed that these were basically 1:1 digital copies via fiber optic transfer. ...but I know there were a (very) few instances where I was like "what happened to this effect?" or whatever.

...so anyway: I was just thinking "logically" that what was nearly transparent before would likely become apparent after. My bad for making assumptions and claims without more than anecdotal proof. Sincerely.
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: db1989 on 06 November, 2010, 06:10:17 AM
I've never ABXed lossy-to-lossy trascodes and am going by things I heard on other people's stuff. (The type of people who just looked at me blankly when I tried explaining to them that taking an MP3 @128 and converting it to 320Kbps was not going to "improve its sound quality.)

Be that as it may, I've ABXed a few passages from certain songs over and over 100% positively @128Kbps LAME-encoded MP3. My point is I don't think it could get "better" if it was transcoded.
What you think is irrelevant. Simple mathematics dictate that lossy-lossy transcoding cannot improve sound quality, in the context of perceived fidelity to source; that is, each successive transcode creates an audio stream further removed from the original. Unless one idiosyncratically prefers ringing/washing artifacts, etc., I imagine that lossy-lossy transcoding cannot improve sound quality by any definition of the term.
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: googlebot on 06 November, 2010, 06:39:00 AM
What you think is irrelevant. Simple mathematics dictate that lossy-lossy transcoding cannot improve sound quality, in the context of perceived fidelity to source;


There is no mathematics of perceived fidelity. All there is is a pile of empirical findings over a small subset of the population which has lead to the couple of very successful (in regard to a much larger subset of the population) implementations of lossy encoders, we have today. This raises the hope that inductance was justified, but we are still very far away from the features usually attributed to mathematical assertions.

Actually it is indeed possible that a lossy transformation improves perceived quality (whilst certainly not the rule).
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: db1989 on 06 November, 2010, 06:56:07 AM
Yeah, I may have overgeneralised.  I think I meant to refer to absolute fidelity, not perceived. Thanks for the input!
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: greynol on 06 November, 2010, 04:07:20 PM
Which of course doesn't mean that someone with better ears, electrostatic speakers, or headphones wouldn't (I did my experiment with Tympani 1-D's).

Ignoring the part about better ears (higher sensitivity to lossy artifacts), this doesn't mean that there can't possibly be a pink elephant orbiting Uranus, either.

After what I've read from people who have actually developed lossy codecs and those that understand lossy encoding on a level far greater than I, it is my understanding that all other things being equal, the farther the deviation from a flat frequency response, the more likely one is to hear lossy artifacts.  I've also read that electrostatic speakers don't provide a very flat frequency response, so assuming that someone can more easily distinguish a lossy encoding with these speakers (and again I've not seen any objective tests that demonstrate this), a wildly uneven frequency response would be the first explanation that would come to mind.  Same goes for "better" headphones.
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: Josh358 on 06 November, 2010, 06:50:55 PM
Which of course doesn't mean that someone with better ears, electrostatic speakers, or headphones wouldn't (I did my experiment with Tympani 1-D's).

Ignoring the part about better ears (higher sensitivity to lossy artifacts), this doesn't mean that there can't possibly be a pink elephant orbiting Uranus, either.

After what I've read from people who have actually developed lossy codecs and those that understand lossy encoding on a level far greater than I, it is my understanding that all other things being equal, the farther the deviation from a flat frequency response, the more likely one is to hear lossy artifacts.  I've also read that electrostatic speakers don't provide a very flat frequency response, so assuming that someone can more easily distinguish a lossy encoding with these speakers (and again I've not seen any objective tests that demonstrate this), a wildly uneven frequency response would be the first explanation that would come to mind.  Same goes for "better" headphones.


That's interesting. However, while I've seen response curves of electrostatics that were quite messy, the original Quad, which was used in the A/B test to which I referred earlier, had a pretty good on-axis response:

http://www.nutshellhifi.com/MLS/MLS2.html (http://www.nutshellhifi.com/MLS/MLS2.html)

Not bad for 1957! (The bass rolloff is, at least according to the web page, a measurement artifact.) At the same time, it was unusually directional in the high frequencies, and I don't know how regular the polar response was.

Here are AR's curves for the LST:

http://www.classicspeakerpages.net/library...ochure_pg2.html (http://www.classicspeakerpages.net/library/acoustic_research/original_models_1954-1974/original_models_brochures/ar-lst_brochure/ar-lst_brochure_pg2.html)

Note that they intentionally present only the individual driver response rather than on axis curves. The on-axis response of the AR's of that era was significantly irregular at the crossover points as a consequence of primitive driver placement and crossover designs.

Electrostatics tend to have very low measured distortion and unusually good impulse response. I don't know whether and to what extent that may have contributed to the test results. I'm also not aware of any experiments that might confirm or refute their reputation for being unusually revealing of distortion or artifacts in source material, or identify factors that might contribute to that reputation. It sounds like an interesting area for research.
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: Arnold B. Krueger on 08 November, 2010, 08:00:47 AM
There seems to be a critical missing paragraph in the Fielder paper. It might be titled "Noise in recording Environments".

The paper as presented usecontains an unstated assumption that appears to me to be something like: "The dynamic range requirement for musical playback is irrelevant to noise in the space where the music is recorded."

IME, the space in which the recording is made is actually the weakest link. Large spaces are very expensive to make really quiet, and then you go and spoil the whole thing by putting performers into it. If you add an audience, then its close micing or lotsa noise, mostly both.

I see the Fielder paper as being a justification for HDCD, which we now know failed in the marketplace. IME the reason why is that due to the relatively high levels of noise in spaces used for recording, HDCD like SACD and DVD-A is a solution looking for a problem. It appears that SACD and DVD-A have also failed or are in the later stages of failing in the marketplace.


Look again, it is there: Section 4.1, Noise in the Recording Environment.


No, data about totally empty rooms is *not* relevant, at least until we start generally making recordings in totally empty rooms.  I think there's only one piece of music that could be recorded this way. It was written by John Cage, if memory serves.  ;-)

There are also quieter rooms than those. I think one of them is in the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. If data is going to be relevant it has to have a useful level of generality.
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: Arnold B. Krueger on 08 November, 2010, 08:17:06 AM
Electrostatics tend to have very low measured distortion and unusually good impulse response. I don't know whether and to what extent that may have contributed to the test results. I'm also not aware of any experiments that might confirm or refute their reputation for being unusually revealing of distortion or artifacts in source material, or identify factors that might contribute to that reputation. It sounds like an interesting area for research.


There have been enough mediocre and even  *bad* electrostatic speakers pushed onto the market that trying to characterize electrostatics as a class of Spears as having any unique sonic advantages is very questionable. Even the Quad ESL curves you reference have a rather obvious flaw - lack of what most of us would call bass response. Some of that might be due to the measurement environment. I just can't tell from the accompanying text.  The Quad electro stats of that era also have some pretty strong dynamic range limitations.

It is no accident that the most accurate of currently available loudspeaker systems are usually direct radiators with cone and or dome drivers.  Furthermore accuracy is always strongly limited by the room, and the matching of the speaker system to the room.  So raw speaker system measurements are not sufficiently representative,
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: Josh358 on 08 November, 2010, 11:28:44 AM
No, data about totally empty rooms is *not* relevant, at least until we start generally making recordings in totally empty rooms.  I think there's only one piece of music that could be recorded this way. It was written by John Cage, if memory serves.  ;-)

There are also quieter rooms than those. I think one of them is in the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. If data is going to be relevant it has to have a useful level of generality.


Do you have any reason to believe that the sounds made by the musicians are universally sufficient to mask the dither noise? After all, two of the Meyer-Moran subjects were able to detect the 16 bit noise floor with the peak level set to 115 DB. This despite the listeners' self noise (how's that for a new term?) and the possible presence of others in the room (I don't know enough about the experimental details to know if others were present).
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: Josh358 on 08 November, 2010, 01:32:16 PM
Electrostatics tend to have very low measured distortion and unusually good impulse response. I don't know whether and to what extent that may have contributed to the test results. I'm also not aware of any experiments that might confirm or refute their reputation for being unusually revealing of distortion or artifacts in source material, or identify factors that might contribute to that reputation. It sounds like an interesting area for research.


There have been enough mediocre and even  *bad* electrostatic speakers pushed onto the market that trying to characterize electrostatics as a class of Spears as having any unique sonic advantages is very questionable. Even the Quad ESL curves you reference have a rather obvious flaw - lack of what most of us would call bass response. Some of that might be due to the measurement environment. I just can't tell from the accompanying text.  The Quad electro stats of that era also have some pretty strong dynamic range limitations.

It is no accident that the most accurate of currently available loudspeaker systems are usually direct radiators with cone and or dome drivers.  Furthermore accuracy is always strongly limited by the room, and the matching of the speaker system to the room.  So raw speaker system measurements are not sufficiently representative,


The guy who did the Quad measurements writes "Don't be fooled by the ESL57's apparent rolloff below 400 Hz; this is an artifact of the short time window and the Quad's location in the room." I found three other measurements, one showing a (lesser) bass rolloff, and two showing a rising bass response:

http://quadesl.nl/img/Stereoplay_June_1978.jpg (http://quadesl.nl/img/Stereoplay_June_1978.jpg)
http://quadesl.nl/img/esl57_response_graph.jpg (http://quadesl.nl/img/esl57_response_graph.jpg)
http://quadesl.nl/img/Hifi-Stereophonie.jpg (http://quadesl.nl/img/Hifi-Stereophonie.jpg)

Which is to say, who knows?

They definitely had serious dynamic range limitations.

Otherwise, yeah, your point is well taken: there are good and bad electrostatics. I suppose I should have qualified my statement, since I referred generically to electrostatics and headphones as classes of transducers that might potentially affect the outcome of a test. Artifact audibility could potentially depend on the specific design of the transducer, and the acoustics of the space in which its located. -- Are people then justified in suggesting that electrostatics, as a class, are unusually revealing of certain artifacts? I have little objective evidence of that, just the digital/analog comparison test to which I referred. However, measurements do suggest that well-designed members of the breed might be less likely than most other speaker types to mask low levels of non-linear distortion, and, perhaps, other forms of distortion, as well. Also, some psychoacoustic phenomena appear to have a lower threshold of audibility on headphones than on speakers, so perhaps the same is true of certain headphones as well.

The point I think is that some audible characteristics may have a lower threshold of audibility on certain transducers, including, it seems, especially bad ones, and that that possibility has to be taken into account in interpreting the significance of a negative result.
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: Arnold B. Krueger on 08 November, 2010, 02:11:23 PM
No, data about totally empty rooms is *not* relevant, at least until we start generally making recordings in totally empty rooms.  I think there's only one piece of music that could be recorded this way. It was written by John Cage, if memory serves.  ;-)

There are also quieter rooms than those. I think one of them is in the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. If data is going to be relevant it has to have a useful level of generality.


Do you have any reason to believe that the sounds made by the musicians are universally sufficient to mask the dither noise?


Die to the high levels of generality indicted above ("universally sufficient") the asnwer to the qustion has to be "no".

Quote
After all, two of the Meyer-Moran subjects were able to detect the 16 bit noise floor with the peak level set to 115 DB.


As I read it, the paper describes the 16 bit noise floor as that produced by "conventionally dithered digital audio equipment". I take that to mean spectrally *unshaped* dither. Since the 16 bit (or any other) noise floor can and often is shaped to a very large degree with significant subjectively-perceived benefits, the choice of conditions for characterizing 16 bit encoding used in the paper seems to be unfortunate and perhaps even prejudicial.

Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: Josh358 on 08 November, 2010, 07:05:02 PM
As I read it, the paper describes the 16 bit noise floor as that produced by "conventionally dithered digital audio equipment". I take that to mean spectrally *unshaped* dither. Since the 16 bit (or any other) noise floor can and often is shaped to a very large degree with significant subjectively-perceived benefits, the choice of conditions for characterizing 16 bit encoding used in the paper seems to be unfortunate and perhaps even prejudicial.


I assumed it was unshaped as well. Fielder concludes that the dynamic range achievable with shaped dither "is comparable to that needed by consumer end use but does not satisfy the strictest requirements of professional use." This qualified endorsement is I assume a consequence of his very interesting measurements of the dynamic range of consumer loudspeakers, since it seems that the quieter home listening rooms don't limit dynamic range.


Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: Arnold B. Krueger on 09 November, 2010, 07:48:45 AM
I assumed it was unshaped as well. Fielder concludes that the dynamic range achievable with shaped dither "is comparable to that needed by consumer end use but does not satisfy the strictest requirements of professional use."


Saying that shaped dither "...does not satisfy the strictest requirements of professional use."  is a very interesting statement that in retrospect seems to be very hard to justify.  Of course the paper was from 1994 - 16 years ago, and we didn't know then what we know now, and by a lot! When I predicted in Y2K that DVD-A and SACD would fail in the marketplace, even I was not 100.00% convinced.  Of course now I am. But, its a decade later. So much for my prophet's license! ;-)

Quote
This qualified endorsement is I assume a consequence of his very interesting measurements of the dynamic range of consumer loudspeakers, since it seems that the quieter home listening rooms don't limit dynamic range.


It really comes down to what percentage of consumers that you want to satisfy. I suspect that far less than 0.001% of all listeners actually maintain and routinely use a listening environment that is not well-served by 16 bits done well.  OTOH 0.001% of all listeners is still thousands of people. But thousands of people don't make a market for mainstream products. There's something very democratic about distribution media - everybody feeds at the same trough.

Reality is that much distributed media has squashed dynamic range that probably disappoints 1% or more of all listeners. If you can't get all media to be made to a standard that doesn't disappoint 1%, then the futility of trying to make a business out of pleasing 0.001% is very clear.
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: Josh358 on 09 November, 2010, 05:52:51 PM
Saying that shaped dither "...does not satisfy the strictest requirements of professional use."  is a very interesting statement that in retrospect seems to be very hard to justify.  Of course the paper was from 1994 - 16 years ago, and we didn't know then what we know now, and by a lot! When I predicted in Y2K that DVD-A and SACD would fail in the marketplace, even I was not 100.00% convinced.  Of course now I am. But, its a decade later. So much for my prophet's license! ;-)


Yeah, I'm not sure what he had in mind when he wrote that. Of course, professional use requires the combination of multiple channels with cumulative noise increases, extra headroom for recording, and consideration of the possibility of future releases into a more technologically demanding environment. Also, a mixer might decide to increase the relative level of a track, in which case the noise of that track would become more audible. Compression can also increase noise level, whether applied in post production or broadcast. Those are all I think arguments for the use of a robust standard in the studio, one which guarantees that in any reasonable use noise is unlikely to be a problem, and I think in general the industry has followed that practice.

I'm not sure why SACD and DVD-A failed. They certainly weren't going to succeed on the basis of HBR recording, which by all accounts leads at best to a very minor sonic improvement. I was present once at a demonstration conducted by a major electronics manufacturer in which listeners were asked to vote their preference, a multichannel surround version, or a higher sampling rate version. With the exception of an engineer who was involved in the design of high rate converters, everyone voted for the multichannel.

IMO, if high resolution and multichannel audio have a future, and I think they do, it's in the form of downloads; discs are dead, even if they don't quite know it yet.

Quote
It really comes down to what percentage of consumers that you want to satisfy. I suspect that far less than 0.001% of all listeners actually maintain and routinely use a listening environment that is not well-served by 16 bits done well.  OTOH 0.001% of all listeners is still thousands of people. But thousands of people don't make a market for mainstream products. There's something very democratic about distribution media - everybody feeds at the same trough.

Reality is that much distributed media has squashed dynamic range that probably disappoints 1% or more of all listeners. If you can't get all media to be made to a standard that doesn't disappoint 1%, then the futility of trying to make a business out of pleasing 0.001% is very clear.


Interestingly, though, some of the big labels have started releasing high quality vinyl. It's a format, after all, that people can't steal!

My sense of it is that the new downloadable formats offer an opportunity for record companies to offer higher quality versions of their product to paying customers, or to allow a company that specializes in high fidelity recordings to do so. Whether this small market justifies the expense of a remix, I don't know, but I tend to suspect that it does, just as DVD and now Blu Ray sales have apparently been sufficient to finance new film-tape sessions. Certainly, there have been a lot of remixes of varying quality as record companies seek to squeeze new revenue from old material.
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: Engelsstaub on 10 November, 2010, 01:27:30 AM
Interestingly, though, some of the big labels have started releasing high quality vinyl. It's a format, after all, that people can't steal!



They can and do. It works like this: one guy (let's just call him something random like PBTHAL) with a great set-up rips the vinyl to the "audiophile-preferred" 24-bit FLAC. From thence he uploads it to the usual file-sharing sites.

I hope that CDs won't be soon dead. I have a fear you are quite right in your prediction though.
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: Arnold B. Krueger on 10 November, 2010, 08:19:47 AM
Of course, professional use requires the combination of multiple channels with cumulative noise increases, extra headroom for recording, and consideration of the possibility of future releases into a more technologically demanding environment. Also, a mixer might decide to increase the relative level of a track, in which case the noise of that track would become more audible. Compression can also increase noise level, whether applied in post production or broadcast. Those are all I think arguments for the use of a robust standard in the studio, one which guarantees that in any reasonable use noise is unlikely to be a problem, and I think in general the industry has followed that practice.


All those things really happen, but they don't detract from the use of perceptually-shaped quantization,  If the noise floor of a track is for example 20 dB below the threshold of imperceptibility, and you amplify it by 10 dB, that noise floor is still 10 dB below the threshold of perception, no matter whether the noise floor was shaped or unshaped.

I have repeatedly encountered this suspicion among older audio professionals that somehow perceptual gains "aren't real".  For example, people who would never ever demonstrate one of their speakers with even the best-made MP3.
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: Arnold B. Krueger on 10 November, 2010, 09:00:09 AM
Interestingly, though, some of the big labels have started releasing high quality vinyl. It's a format, after all, that people can't steal!


I don't think that anybody seriously sees vinyl as a strategic tool in the war on piracy.

We must remember that music media is a world of style and taste, and what and how some piece of music is released is all about what someone thinks someone else thinks is cool. If the guy down the street releases something on a certain niche medium, just make a few phone calls or send a few emails, the last of which places the press release that you just released something in the same format.

Finally, only about 30 years later, a signficant part of the potential niche market for vinyl seems to be realizing that digitizing does not destroy the unique sound of music on vinyl.
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: Josh358 on 10 November, 2010, 11:20:11 AM
Interestingly, though, some of the big labels have started releasing high quality vinyl. It's a format, after all, that people can't steal!



They can and do. It works like this: one guy (let's just call him something random like PBTHAL) with a great set-up rips the vinyl to the "audiophile-preferred" 24-bit FLAC. From thence he uploads it to the usual file-sharing sites.

I hope that CDs won't be soon dead. I have a fear you are quite right in your prediction though.


I confess I've never understood that. I mean, what can the vinyl stage here possibly do except add noise and distortion?
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: BearcatSandor on 10 November, 2010, 12:00:11 PM
Interestingly, though, some of the big labels have started releasing high quality vinyl. It's a format, after all, that people can't steal!



They can and do. It works like this: one guy (let's just call him something random like PBTHAL) with a great set-up rips the vinyl to the "audiophile-preferred" 24-bit FLAC. From thence he uploads it to the usual file-sharing sites.

I hope that CDs won't be soon dead. I have a fear you are quite right in your prediction though.


I confess I've never understood that. I mean, what can the vinyl stage here possibly do except add noise and distortion?

Well for what it's worth i have had some vinyl transcribed that i could not get on CD. "The Ship" is an album that has never been on any other format than vinyl and there are also a bunch of Jazz releases (some of the works of Miles Davis, John Coletrane, Thelonious Monk and others in that bunch) that have also never been released on other formats.

Also, i prefer the original mono to stereo tracks when i can get them and sometimes (as for Kind of Blue) you can only get the mono on vinyl. I really dislike the hard panning that was used early on to prove to you that you had 2 different speakers, as if the producer was saying "Look! There's your right one! In case you forgot There's your left one and it has one saxophone in it and one piece from the drum kit while the high-hats are in your right one all by themselves! Cool huh?"  Ugh. The drummer must have had really long arms and legs.

That makes it worth it to me.
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: Josh358 on 10 November, 2010, 12:49:21 PM
Interestingly, though, some of the big labels have started releasing high quality vinyl. It's a format, after all, that people can't steal!


I don't think that anybody seriously sees vinyl as a strategic tool in the war on piracy.

We must remember that music media is a world of style and taste, and what and how some piece of music is released is all about what someone thinks someone else thinks is cool. If the guy down the street releases something on a certain niche medium, just make a few phone calls or send a few emails, the last of which places the press release that you just released something in the same format.

Finally, only about 30 years later, a signficant part of the potential niche market for vinyl seems to be realizing that digitizing does not destroy the unique sound of music on vinyl.


The point, which is not mine but a label executive's, was that record companies can make money selling vinyl pressings because they can't be downloaded, not that vinyl disks will somehow eliminate privacy. Surprisingly, , the vinyl niche has been growing, both in number of units shipped and as a percentage of total sales, at a time when CD sales continue to shrink. So it's a profit opportunity for the record companies and they've availed themselves of it, moving back into vinyl even though at 2.1 million units in 2009, vinyl accounts for less than 1% of total sales.
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: Josh358 on 10 November, 2010, 12:54:31 PM
Well for what it's worth i have had some vinyl transcribed that i could not get on CD. "The Ship" is an album that has never been on any other format than vinyl and there are also a bunch of Jazz releases (some of the works of Miles Davis, John Coletrane, Thelonious Monk and others in that bunch) that have also never been released on other formats.

Also, i prefer the original mono to stereo tracks when i can get them and sometimes (as for Kind of Blue) you can only get the mono on vinyl. I really dislike the hard panning that was used early on to prove to you that you had 2 different speakers, as if the producer was saying "Look! There's your right one! In case you forgot There's your left one and it has one saxophone in it and one piece from the drum kit while the high-hats are in your right one all by themselves! Cool huh?"  Ugh. The drummer must have had really long arms and legs.

That makes it worth it to me.


Sure, and some people also use vinyl as the source of transfers because it's just what they happen to have. All worthwhile.

In the case of the Beatles albums, I've found at least some of the mono mixes substantially better from a musical perspective, perhaps because they were the ones in which the Beatles themselves were involved -- they apparently weren't interested in the stereo mix. Of course, they're available on CD.
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: Meeko on 11 November, 2010, 09:18:40 AM
Never regretted learning that my hearing isn't that good and Lame @ -V5 is good enough for my instrumental music.  More music on smallish flash drives and players is a-ok by me.
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: krabapple on 17 November, 2010, 12:15:56 PM


Quote
I see the Fielder paper as being a justification for HDCD, which we now know failed in the marketplace.


It wasn't written to sell HDCD, Fielder worked for Dolby Labs.
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: krabapple on 17 November, 2010, 12:19:55 PM
There seems to be a critical missing paragraph in the Fielder paper. It might be titled "Noise in recording Environments".

The paper as presented usecontains an unstated assumption that appears to me to be something like: "The dynamic range requirement for musical playback is irrelevant to noise in the space where the music is recorded."


Look again, it is there: Section 4.1, Noise in the Recording Environment.


No, data about totally empty rooms is *not* relevant, at least until we start generally making recordings in totally empty rooms.  I think there's only one piece of music that could be recorded this way. It was written by John Cage, if memory serves.  ;-)


Fielder isn't assuming a totally empty room.  He *is* assuming the best (real, not imaginary) recording venue, circa 1994.
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: Porcus on 23 November, 2010, 08:40:03 AM
Though as the authors of the comparison paper pointed out, high res CD's are frequently produced to a higher standard of quality. This is because the record companies know that they're selling mainly to audiophiles and don't have to accommodate Grandma's Philco with sonic compromises like excessive compression.


"It's available in 24/96! Buy the 16/44.1 for sound quality!"



Oh, then you'd positively LOVE these (http://www.mbl-usa.com/View.aspx/2184/mbl-101-X-treme). >:D


Obscenely cool, I want those in my living room. (Did I mention I live alone?)
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: Onebeforezod on 24 November, 2010, 08:36:35 PM
The weird thing for me was that I really could tell the difference between 24 bit and 16 bit when I did ABX testing....48khz and 96khz however? Not so much.  Got about 40%.

Mp3s vs lossless though is night and day.
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: greynol on 24 November, 2010, 08:42:00 PM
Got about 40%

40% is the result  one would expect from randomly choosing (read: guessing).

difference between 24 bit and 16 bit
[...]
Mp3s vs lossless though is night and day.

ABX log and samples for these, please.
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: analog scott on 25 November, 2010, 02:55:14 PM
Got about 40%

40% is the result  one would expect from randomly choosing (read: guessing).

difference between 24 bit and 16 bit
[...]
Mp3s vs lossless though is night and day.

ABX log and samples for these, please.



Depends on the number of trials. 40% after a certain number of trials is not what one would expect from random choosing and is evidence of something going on actually. It's weird but a statistically significant margin of wrong answers would point to something other than chance at work.
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: Arnold B. Krueger on 25 November, 2010, 04:38:12 PM
40% after a certain number of trials is not what one would expect from random choosing and is evidence of something going on actually. It's weird but a statistically significant margin of wrong answers would point to something other than chance at work.


40 precent after a certain amount of trials suggests that there is something very wrong with the experiment. The most common source of this kind of problem that we've seen is where a bunch of listeners are communicating with each other during the test, so the effective number of independent trials is far less than initially estimated.
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: Onebeforezod on 26 November, 2010, 04:37:39 AM
Got about 40%
40% is the result  one would expect from randomly choosing (read: guessing).

difference between 24 bit and 16 bit
[...]
Mp3s vs lossless though is night and day.
ABX log and samples for these, please.


Got about 40%
40% is the result  one would expect from randomly choosing (read: guessing).

difference between 24 bit and 16 bit
[...]
Mp3s vs lossless though is night and day.
ABX log and samples for these, please.


Depends on the number of trials. 40% after a certain number of trials is not what one would expect from random choosing and is evidence of something going on actually. It's weird but a statistically significant margin of wrong answers would point to something other than chance at work.


Code: [Select]
foo_abx 1.3.4 report
foobar2000 v1.0.1
2010/11/11 02:15:23

File A: G:\Music\Audioslave\Audioslave\02 Show Me How to Live.m4a
File B: G:\Music\Audioslave\Audioslave\02 Show Me How to Live.wav

02:15:23 : Test started.
02:15:39 : 01/01  50.0%
02:16:05 : 02/02  25.0%
02:16:41 : 03/03  12.5%
02:17:36 : 04/04  6.3%
02:17:55 : 05/05  3.1%
02:18:21 : 06/06  1.6%
02:18:40 : 07/07  0.8%
02:19:12 : 08/08  0.4%
02:19:39 : 09/09  0.2%
02:20:23 : 10/10  0.1%
02:20:39 : 10/11  0.6%
02:20:41 : Test finished.

 ----------
Total: 10/11 (0.6%)

This was 16-bit vs 24 bit.  Same 24 bit source file.

I had a test from long ago with mp3s vs lossless, but I don't think I saved the log.  (results were similar)  So I did another, the old one I did with 128kbs mp3 conversions, so I decided to do this new one with 320s, and I found that I really couldn't tell the difference.  LAME ain't bad at all.  I retract my statement of "night and day".  But I'll have to retry the 128s again.

Code: [Select]
foo_abx 1.3.4 report
foobar2000 v1.0.1
2010/11/26 01:25:20

File A: G:\Music\Other\Joshua Redman\Freedom In The Groove\01 Hide And Seek.m4a
File B: G:\Music\Other\Joshua Redman\Freedom In The Groove\01 Hide And Seek.mp3

01:25:20 : Test started.
01:25:32 : 00/01  100.0%
01:25:38 : 00/02  100.0%
01:25:49 : 00/03  100.0%
01:25:55 : 01/04  93.8%
01:26:41 : 01/05  96.9%
01:27:31 : 02/06  89.1%
01:27:58 : 02/07  93.8%
01:28:46 : 03/08  85.5%
01:29:15 : 04/09  74.6%
01:30:08 : 04/10  82.8%
01:30:34 : 05/11  72.6%
01:30:48 : 06/12  61.3%
01:31:11 : Test finished.

 ----------
Total: 6/12 (61.3%)


But i did save the 48 vs 96 one...I think you misunderstood me, I said I really couldn't hear the difference here.

Code: [Select]
foo_abx 1.3.4 report
foobar2000 v1.0.1
2010/11/11 02:24:26

File A: G:\Music\24\Reiner - Strauss, Also Sprach Zarathustra, 1962 (24bit-96KHz vinyl)\1. R.Strauss; Also Sprach Zarathustra, Op.30 - Part 1.flac
File B: G:\Music\24\Reiner - Strauss, Also Sprach Zarathustra, 1962 (24bit-96KHz vinyl)\1. R.Strauss; Also Sprach Zarathustra, Op.30 - Part 1.wav

02:24:26 : Test started.
02:25:37 : 01/01  50.0%
02:27:39 : 01/02  75.0%
02:28:26 : 02/03  50.0%
02:29:10 : 03/04  31.3%
02:20:11 : 03/05  50.0%
02:21:06 : 04/06  34.4%
02:22:51 : 04/07  50.0%
02:24:02 : 04/08  63.7%
02:25:19 : 05/09  50.0%
02:26:52 : 05/10  62.3%
02:27:41 : 05/11  72.6%
02:28:49 : 05/12  80.6%
02:28:58 : 05/13  86.7%
02:29:48 : Test finished.

 ----------
Total: 5/13 (86.7%)

To sum it up, I was saying that 24 bit vs 16 is noticeable for me, but I have been humbled as far as mp3s go. :/
I seem to be in the minority when it comes to 24bit audio, and I don't know why.  I can definitely hear the difference, particularly in horn parts, drums.  Guitar depending on the distortion, but it really isn't the biggest deal.  I listen to a lot of classical music, and it helps with making the different parts sound separated and clear, this I am sure of.  What do you guys think?

P.S- I didn't have anyone with me for any ABX test. Sorry for the late reply! Turkey Day and all...)
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: greynol on 26 November, 2010, 09:22:52 PM
Your ABX report saying you can tell the difference between 16-bit and 24-bit is m4a vs. wav.

Please provide 30 second samples or the part that you can most easily distinguish.
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: Wombat on 26 November, 2010, 09:29:28 PM
Your ABX report saying you can tell the difference between 16-bit and 24-bit is m4a vs. wav.

Please provide 30 second samples or the part that you can most easily distinguish.


Yes, please. And tell us how the 16bit file version was created or obtained.
Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: BearcatSandor on 29 November, 2010, 03:50:22 PM
Your ABX report saying you can tell the difference between 16-bit and 24-bit is m4a vs. wav.

Please provide 30 second samples or the part that you can most easily distinguish.


Yes, please. And tell us how the 16bit file version was created or obtained.

(continuing the off-topic-ness a bit i guess it all can be split off to another thread if need be)

I'm actually more interested in how the 24-bit file was obtained. I looked around for a dvd-audio/sacd of this track and all i found was a mention on wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audioslave_(a...on_of_the_album (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audioslave_(album)#Test_Marketed_DualDisc_version_of_the_album)

which states "This test market version of the album is rare. ... The DVD side of the Audioslave DualDisc featured the entire album in higher resolution 20bit 48 kHz sound, as well as some videos."

So where did the 24-bit file come from? The only 24-bit copy i've seen of this is a needle drop online.  If that's the source then we're actually comparing vinyl to CD aren't we?  That's a whole 'nother game isn't it?

Title: Have you ever regretted ABXing?
Post by: mjb2006 on 29 November, 2010, 04:53:31 PM
Your ABX report saying you can tell the difference between 16-bit and 24-bit is m4a vs. wav.


m4a can be ALAC.

Regardless, Onebeforezod, the implication here is that you need to ensure that you're comparing apples to apples, like a 24-bit original to a 16-bit conversion, both lossless. Converting a 16-bit original to 24-bit, or having one of them be lossy (m4a implies AAC, usually), doesn't answer the question.