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Topic: Is there any difference between AAC and MP3 for wireless use today? (Read 1131 times) previous topic - next topic
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Is there any difference between AAC and MP3 for wireless use today?

Hi,

I am looking for some advice on using wireless headphones. I find it difficult to find clear and accurate information about differences between aptX, different version of Bluetooth and combinations of codecs and protocols. I'd appreciate any tips you might have, as well as pointers to useful online resources.

I believe I have read that AAC is a good codec for wireless because it is natively supported with aptX, but I am not sure if this is still the case and if it has any real life advantages over MP3 today. My main concerns are power consumption, possibly perceivable sound quality differences, connection stability and performance reliability.

What I would like to know is:

1. With the latest versions, is there any practical difference between aptX and Bluetooth for sound purposes?

2. Using aptX, does it make more sense to play AAC or lossless files from your source to your headphones?

3. Using Bluetooth, does it make more sense to play AAC or lossless files from your source to your headphones?

4. Using aptX, does it make more sense to use AAC than MP3 to avoid transcoding?

5. Using Bluetooth, does it make more sense to use AAC than MP3 to avoid transcoding, or is transcoding unavoidable?

Thanks in advance for your input!

(Sorry if this is not the correct subforum. Feel free to move this post.)

Re: Is there any difference between AAC and MP3 for wireless use today?

Reply #1
Quote
I believe I have read that AAC is a good codec for wireless because it is natively supported with aptX

Aptx is an audio codec used by some Bluetooth hardware. AAC is a different audio codec sometimes used by Bluetooth. If you had hardware that could do AAC, and your files were the right bitrate, and your software could be configured to not transcode, then AAC might be preferred. If you're just using aptx it doesn't matter what the source is.

Re: Is there any difference between AAC and MP3 for wireless use today?

Reply #2
Most devices will still transcode AAC, because they support mixing system sounds, or sounds from other sources on the device, all at the same time. This is the same reason that native DSD support is also a stupid idea, considering how stupid DSD is to begin with.

Re: Is there any difference between AAC and MP3 for wireless use today?

Reply #3
Aptx is an audio codec used by some Bluetooth hardware. AAC is a different audio codec sometimes used by Bluetooth.

OK, thanks for explaining this.

If you had hardware that could do AAC, and your files were the right bitrate, and your software could be configured to not transcode, then AAC might be preferred.

Information like this, such as what "the right bitrate" might be, does not seem to be easy to find for most hardware.

If you're just using aptx it doesn't matter what the source is.

Is this because it will be transcoded to aptX anyway? If so, would it not be a good idea to use the best quality source available, even lossless? At least from a theoretical point of view, if you can't hear any obvious difference between the different formats.


Re: Is there any difference between AAC and MP3 for wireless use today?

Reply #4
Most devices will still transcode AAC, because they support mixing system sounds, or sounds from other sources on the device, all at the same time.

Thank you. So if the source will probably be transcoded either way, is there any consensus on which formats are the most transparent in such cases? I believe I have seen information somewhere that high bitrate AAC transcode well to lower bitrates, but I guess high bitrate MP3 to AAC might be just as transparent, depending on how low the resulting AAC bitrate is.

Will Bluetooth transfer always use either AAC or aptX, or could other codecs be used as well?

Re: Is there any difference between AAC and MP3 for wireless use today?

Reply #5
I was testing Bluetooth's default SBC encoder for car listening in the past, and I've found that highly compressed sources can sound bad when further transcoded for Bluetooth transmission (this is with a recent Android version which uses the higher bitpool setting, I'm not familiar how iPhone behaves in this situation).

Without any scientific evaluation, just as an idea where you can start experimenting, in my findings you cannot go wrong with :
- Lossless, or LossyWav or WavPack Lossy (basically any encoder which lower bit depth and shift introduced noise in the upper frequency domain), this was the best source in my opinion for further transcoding
- Musepack (matches nicely with SBC's subband allocation), my second best choice
- AAC-LC/MP3 >= 160kbps
- Opus >= 96kbps
- HE-AAC (I've tried this with web radio stations and seems to keep the stereo separation nicely, also the highs are already artificially altered so SBC doesn't seem to make much of a difference anyway)

Just my 2 cents.
With AptX I don't think you have to care too much about the source, because AptX seems to work very much like LossyWav and makes a variable bit depth encoding.
WavPack -b4x4hc
Opus --cvbr --bitrate 256 --framesize 5

Re: Is there any difference between AAC and MP3 for wireless use today?

Reply #6
Just my 2 cents.

Thanks!

So far I have mainly used high bitrate files, and haven't noticed any problems with either AAC, MP3, MPC or Ogg Vorbis in normal, casual listening. I might do some testing to see if I can find the threshold for transparency for me with different codecs. Or I might not. I mostly deal with high bitrate files anyway.

It seems like there is no particularly "wrong" way to listen via Bluetooth. I was thinking there might be some sort of consensus in favour of AAC and aptX, but I had obviously misunderstood. The whole Bluetooth thing is still a bit cloudy to me, as long as I can't know for sure how different files are handled at all times.  8)

 
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