320kbit: Blade vs. Lame 2004-08-27 05:51:27 I am new to these boards, but not new to quality recordings. In fact, as my name implies, I work with sounds in the kilo-hertz, mega-hertz, and tera-hertz. I'm a tweaker for sure.I did a comparision of some 320kbit recordings using two different codecs - I was not able to compare to FhG, but at 320kbit, I'm sure it sounds pretty good. Here goes my layman's evaluation:dBPowerAmp Music Converter - Release 10.1http://www.dbpoweramp.com/Rio Cali MP3 Player - 768MBhttp://www.digitalnetworksna.com/shop/_tem...o.asp?model=258Sennheiser HD 497 Headphoneshttp://www.sennheiserusa.com/newsite/pdfs/hd497.pdfCodecs: Blade 0.94.2, Lame 3.96.1Methods: 320kbit CBR stereo, 320kbit CBR joint-stereo, 256kbit VBR Stereo, 256kbit Stereo @ 44.1Khz Sampling Rate and 320kbit CBR Stereo @ 48.0Khz Sampling RateMedia: Great White - Call it Rock and Roll; Evanescence - Bring Me to Life; Evanescence - Everybody's FoolSCOPE:The purpose of the listening test was to see if there were any discernable differences (to my ears) between the Blade codec and the Lame codec at 320kbit Stereo. Suffice it to say, I could not really hear a difference at that quality level. I went down as low as 256kbit and still could not really detect a difference between the two.OVERVIEW:I understand the masking and joint-stereo techniques, but I would still rather have true stereo - Fraunhofer states " ... joint-stereo is used in cases where only low bitrates are available but stereo signals are desired." Disk-space and file-size are of no consequence to me. I am after the best quality for lossy encoding.Perhaps the differences of the two codecs become more apparent at 192kbit or less ... I could not hear a difference between 320kbit CBR or 320/256kbit VBR either.The biggest difference of all, and most noticeable, was when sampling at a higher frequency. I did not see many posts concerning sampling at 48Khz but please offer your opinions.EVALUATIONS - Great White:This rock band is from the 1980's and has some killer crispness and transient responces in their recordings. The track was Call it Rock and Roll. Try as I might, listening for the top-hat cymbols and snar-drums did not reveal any differences between the Blade and the Lame codecs at 320kbit. When I sampled the track at 48,000Hz the difference was immediate. The Blade encoder sounded more 'spacious' ... the Lame codec also was pleasingly spacious but sounded a bit 'tighter'.EVALUATIONS - Evanesence:A relatively new band, this singer is a female and they know how to rock. They incorporate piano, strings, along with the amplified components. With the track Bring me to Life, the same findings hold true with the two codecs at 320kbit.Moving on to the sampling rate change yielded more surprises. Once again, the Blade 'opened up', as did the Lame - both were very much an improvement on sound-staging when compared to the 44.1Khz sampling rate. This time, I was able to put something on the Blade at 48Khz ... the opening piano sequence that sounded more spacious, was in fact what I believe to be distortion. The Lame was also more spacious at this sampling rate, but it retained it's composure and 'tightess'. I did not notice any distortion with the Lame codec at 48Khz samplings.I added one more track with some nice light strings at the beginning - Everybody's Fool. Bit-rates above 256k did not tell a story, but the sampling rate did again. In this track, both codecs sounded slightly more open than at 44.1Khz, but the Blade had a bit more ... perhaps the stories of how many codecs fall off with filtering at around 16,000Hz plays a roll - that is if the Blade does not filter the highs and goes on to say 18,000Hz. This could explain the 'extra' little bit the Blade seemed to have in most cases. This little bit of 'extra' in the Blade codec results in distortion at higher frequencies, however.CONCLUSIONS:I created 18 tracks between the 3 sound tracks and various combinations ... here are a few of the particulars:Great White - Call it Rock and Roll01 - Blade - 320k - 44.1Khz Sample - Stereo - 48sec encode02 - Lame - 320k - 44.1Khz Sample - Stereo - 47sec encode03 - Lame - 320k/256k VBR - 44.1Khz Sample - Stereo - 1min 24sec encode04 - Lame - Insane - 44.1Khz Sample - Joint-Stereo - 47sec encode09 - Blade - 320k - 48Khz Sample - Stereo - 47sec encode10 - Lame - 320k - 48Khz Sample - Stereo - 1min 10sec encodeEvanesence - Bring Me to Life11 - Blade - 320k - 48Khz Sample - Stereo - 39sec encode12 - Lame - 320k - 48Khz Sample - Stereo - 1min 16sec encodeEvanesence - Everybody's Fool17 - Blade - 320k - 48Khz Sample - 28sec encode18 - Lame - 320k - 48Khz Sample - 55sec encodeI may end up going to 256kbit CBR or perhaps a VBR with a high-end cap of 320kbit and low-end cap of 256kbit as shown in track #03. The difference in sound-staging from track #10 to track #02 was evident. I'm not sure what the technical reasoning for that is, but it did make a difference.Notice track #11 and track #12 ... the Lame took quite a bit more time in processing and it paid off in the results.The 'distortion' I mentioned before, with the Blade codec at 48Khz, sounded as if things were run through a Peavy amp with a switch thrown between 'distortion' and 'tube' - but left in the 'distortion' mode. Maybe it is that the Blade goes a tad bit higher in frequency response and does not handle it well at 48Khz - maybe not. In any event, the Blade codec did not handle 48Khz very well - what was intitially thought to be 'spaciousness' turned out to be what I would characterize as noise, or distortion. No matter what I gave to the Lame codec, it never mis-behaved. The highs were crisp and with 48Khz, the sound-stage got wider (but just by a little).I'm not sure if I will re-sample my tunes at 48Khz at this point - I'll need to play around with it some more. It might be fun for you to try some as well and see what you get.I'd have to agree: Lame 3.96.1 is a great sounding codec - though not decisive at 320kbit, it does seem to be the codec to choose.