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Just discovered this old gem of a codec.

Discovered Musepack last week in my hunt for perfect temporal resolution (rendering every single transient) at a medium-low bitrate around 160kbps. For me this is the most important aspect of perceived sound quality, followed closely by stereo image and good (perceptually transparent) high frequency reproduction.

MPC at its --standard quality setting does all of the above amazingly well. OPUS at 160kbps almost achieves full transient detection and rendering, but in my experience it needs to be pushed to at least ~200kbps to ensure that every single transient is actually detected as such and rendered cleanly. All other aspects of OPUS at 160 are excellent, but it does tend to fall slightly behind when it comes to temporally dense (?) sounds like fast guitar strumming, shakers, castanets, electronic clicks in quick succession, applause, etc. especially in a busy mix. Worth noting that OPUS renders the transients it does detect flawlessly, just that it won't pick up on 100% of them without upping the bitrate. With Musepack, there's no such compromise.

Aside from temporal resolution, Musepack's psychoacoustic model is also excellent. I find that it comes closest out of all the codecs I've tried in doing exactly what it takes to achieve perceptual transparency, no more and no less. The noise shaping is executed well enough that I cannot ABX the resulting transcode against the lossless source, and I've tried this across a range of genres. The noise was the thing I was expecting to give the MPC files away more than anything else, but it looks like Buschmann and Klemm really nailed the model. Results are as clean as the original FLAC to my ears, which was a pleasant surprise!

Vivid and accurate stereo imaging is thankfully also part of the package here. Sometimes a codec will alter the stereo field in some way and compress it, such that sounds are either smeared across a wider degree angle in the horizontal plane (an approximation of position instead of being rendered accurately), or they collapse into the centre (rendered as mono) if they are close enough to it, as happens with Vorbis below Q6 (unless you use the 'disable-coupling' tag). Even Apple's own AAC (with I would class as very good at 160kbps) subtly does something to the stereo field at medium bitrates in a way that is hard to describe here - it affects sounds (mostly heard in reverb) out at the wider ends of the field, such that it sounds attenuated or flat somehow, and as such I can reliably ABX this otherwise excellent codec against the lossless source in most cases. MPC, like OPUS, has excellent stereo definition with no compression. Perfect!

Lastly is the efficiency of how Musepack deals with super high frequency information. I've been playing with audio for a long time and over the years I've learned that I cannot hear a single sound above say, 18kHz unless it's a very hot signal (at normal / moderately loud listening levels). Same goes for 19kHz except the signal has to be even hotter. I'm in my late 20s and my hearing is healthy, topping out at around 19.4kHz, so I have a decent range. But I find that too many codecs waste far too many bits on the stuff right up top, when likely more than 90% of the sounds are inaudible below a certain decibel threshold. MPC takes the correct approach here (similar to vorbis) by only rendering sounds at 16, 17, 18, and 19kHz that are loud enough to actually be heard (assuming good hearing and a quiet listening environment). And in my case the results are just as crisp and vivid as the lossless source, even when listening very carefully, using very bright and HF-rich source material. I really appreciate this intelligent, no-nonsense approach to lossy encoding and I'm sure its a big reason why Musepack manages to be as efficient as it is at ~160kbps while achieving what most other modern codecs can't: true temporal resolution.

So to sum it all up I'm really impressed. Love the the philosophy and the methodology behind Musepack and gladly it's fairly well supported: Swinsian (the best music player available on OSX imo) has native playback and tagging support for Musepack, as does GoneMAD player on my Android. For transcoding from FLAC to MPC I use BatchEncoder 4.0 on my Windows machine. A minor inconvenience (I wish LameXP could encode to Musepack - it already decodes it) but better than being stuck with command line tools. Here's hoping we'll see continued support going forward!

Re: Just discovered this old gem of a codec.

Reply #1
Discovered Musepack last week
 
Congrats!  It's indeed a well established format.

Though my Musepack "innitiation" was, like for most people in this forum, back when it was still called MP+, I see myself returning to Musepack's "certainty", so as to speak (encode it once then forget about; its maturity) more often, at this day and age of a broader, almost endeless supply of software available for smart phones (long live foobar2000 for Android!) - which has practically rendered our deciding which format to use, more a matter of personal choice (and I've always had a soft spot for Musepack) than compatibility per se.

MPC at its --standard quality setting does all of the above amazingly well. OPUS at 160kbps almost achieves full transient detection and rendering, but in my experience it needs to be pushed to at least ~200kbps to ensure that every single transient is actually detected as such and rendered cleanly. All other aspects of OPUS at 160 are excellent, but it does tend to fall slightly behind when it comes to temporally dense (?) sounds like fast guitar strumming, shakers, castanets, electronic clicks in quick succession, applause, etc. especially in a busy mix. Worth noting that OPUS renders the transients it does detect flawlessly, just that it won't pick up on 100% of them without upping the bitrate. With Musepack, there's no such compromise.
 
 Here's hoping all those adjectives and impressions, as well as your decision itself, were thoroughly based on blind testing and nothing else. Not to mention full TOS 8 compatibility. ;)
Listen to the music, not the media.
Qualidade em MP3

Re: Just discovered this old gem of a codec.

Reply #2
Not sure if you're aware of it or not, but you can also extend your compliments to the current developer in their community.

Whether it having been rather stagnant for a couple of years is down to its "fall from grace" or its maturity, is down to anyone's own interpretation.

Listen to the music, not the media.
Qualidade em MP3

Re: Just discovered this old gem of a codec.

Reply #3
 A new post on how great MPC is. [In 2019]
Reminds me of the old days here. circa 2002-2004.
Yes MPC was, & maybe still is one of the best codecs.

But...

Vivid and accurate stereo imaging is thankfully also part of the package here. Sometimes a codec will alter the stereo field in some way and compress it, such that sounds are either smeared across a wider degree angle in the horizontal plane (an approximation of position instead of being rendered accurately), or they collapse into the centre (rendered as mono) if they are close enough to it

Which codecs & at what bitrate?

Re: Just discovered this old gem of a codec.

Reply #4

Vivid and accurate stereo imaging is thankfully also part of the package here. Sometimes a codec will alter the stereo field in some way and compress it, such that sounds are either smeared across a wider degree angle in the horizontal plane (an approximation of position instead of being rendered accurately), or they collapse into the centre (rendered as mono) if they are close enough to it

Which codecs & at what bitrate?
I guess opus below 128kbps and vorbis below 160kbps everything above 12KHz-ish is mostly mono. Atleast it's the reason that breaks transparency for me for any content with a decent amount of stereo separation and sounds that are transient-ish and have panning effects. It's like parts of that transient are leaking from one channel to the other (I think it's called crosstalk? Correct me if I'm wrong).

Re: Just discovered this old gem of a codec.

Reply #5
But I find that too many codecs waste far too many bits on the stuff right up top, when likely more than 90% of the sounds are inaudible below a certain decibel threshold.

Opus can use so few bits for the highest couple of bands thanks to folding and predictive energy conservation that there's pretty much no reason for a lowpass.

Re: Just discovered this old gem of a codec.

Reply #6
Discovered Musepack last week in my hunt for perfect temporal resolution (rendering every single transient) at a medium-low bitrate around 160kbps. For me this is the most important aspect of perceived sound quality, followed closely by stereo image and good (perceptually transparent) high frequency reproduction.

MPC at its --standard quality setting does all of the above amazingly well. OPUS at 160kbps almost achieves full transient detection and rendering, but in my experience it needs to be pushed to at least ~200kbps to ensure that every single transient is actually detected as such and rendered cleanly. All other aspects of OPUS at 160 are excellent, but it does tend to fall slightly behind when it comes to temporally dense (?) sounds like fast guitar strumming, shakers, castanets, electronic clicks in quick succession, applause, etc. especially in a busy mix. Worth noting that OPUS renders the transients it does detect flawlessly, just that it won't pick up on 100% of them without upping the bitrate. With Musepack, there's no such compromise.

Aside from temporal resolution, Musepack's psychoacoustic model is also excellent. I find that it comes closest out of all the codecs I've tried in doing exactly what it takes to achieve perceptual transparency, no more and no less. The noise shaping is executed well enough that I cannot ABX the resulting transcode against the lossless source, and I've tried this across a range of genres. The noise was the thing I was expecting to give the MPC files away more than anything else, but it looks like Buschmann and Klemm really nailed the model. Results are as clean as the original FLAC to my ears, which was a pleasant surprise!

Vivid and accurate stereo imaging is thankfully also part of the package here. Sometimes a codec will alter the stereo field in some way and compress it, such that sounds are either smeared across a wider degree angle in the horizontal plane (an approximation of position instead of being rendered accurately), or they collapse into the centre (rendered as mono) if they are close enough to it, as happens with Vorbis below Q6 (unless you use the 'disable-coupling' tag). Even Apple's own AAC (with I would class as very good at 160kbps) subtly does something to the stereo field at medium bitrates in a way that is hard to describe here - it affects sounds (mostly heard in reverb) out at the wider ends of the field, such that it sounds attenuated or flat somehow, and as such I can reliably ABX this otherwise excellent codec against the lossless source in most cases. MPC, like OPUS, has excellent stereo definition with no compression. Perfect!

Lastly is the efficiency of how Musepack deals with super high frequency information. I've been playing with audio for a long time and over the years I've learned that I cannot hear a single sound above say, 18kHz unless it's a very hot signal (at normal / moderately loud listening levels). Same goes for 19kHz except the signal has to be even hotter. I'm in my late 20s and my hearing is healthy, topping out at around 19.4kHz, so I have a decent range. But I find that too many codecs waste far too many bits on the stuff right up top, when likely more than 90% of the sounds are inaudible below a certain decibel threshold. MPC takes the correct approach here (similar to vorbis) by only rendering sounds at 16, 17, 18, and 19kHz that are loud enough to actually be heard (assuming good hearing and a quiet listening environment). And in my case the results are just as crisp and vivid as the lossless source, even when listening very carefully, using very bright and HF-rich source material. I really appreciate this intelligent, no-nonsense approach to lossy encoding and I'm sure its a big reason why Musepack manages to be as efficient as it is at ~160kbps while achieving what most other modern codecs can't: true temporal resolution.

So to sum it all up I'm really impressed. Love the the philosophy and the methodology behind Musepack and gladly it's fairly well supported: Swinsian (the best music player available on OSX imo) has native playback and tagging support for Musepack, as does GoneMAD player on my Android. For transcoding from FLAC to MPC I use BatchEncoder 4.0 on my Windows machine. A minor inconvenience (I wish LameXP could encode to Musepack - it already decodes it) but better than being stuck with command line tools. Here's hoping we'll see continued support going forward!

I started my adventure with Musepack when SV8 came out, encoded everything with standard, tested tested and tested, and will never use any other codec for my music library.
It's nice to see that in 2019 people are still going for Musepack :)

 

Re: Just discovered this old gem of a codec.

Reply #7
I encoded my whole CD library to MPC at Radio preset like 15 years ago and yet I'm to spot a single artifact. I store it on NAS to listen at home, and on a 32GB microSD card in my smartphone to listen to anytime with fb2k, stream via bluetooth in my car etc :D

 
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