Skip to main content

Topic: Any advantage using FLAC over MP3 for vintage music? (Read 5601 times) previous topic - next topic

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.
  • bnation
  • [*]
Any advantage using FLAC over MP3 for vintage music?
I have some recordings, both on CD and vinyl, of music issued on 78's in the forties and earlier. Some recorded at the best quality available at the time, others field and audience recordings where quality is ok but not that great. As I'm transferring as much of my music collection as possible to my hard drive using FLAC, is there any point using FLAC for these older recordings?

I've been using FLAC for everything but it occurs to me that eventually disc space might become an issue. I can't tell the difference, with these older mono records, when listening to the original and a high bit-rate MP3, but I don't have audiophile gear or anything like that. Still, I'd like the best quality possible for any future requirements.

  • Nick.C
  • [*][*][*][*][*]
  • Developer
Any advantage using FLAC over MP3 for vintage music?
Reply #1
If you can keep them lossless then you are less likely to want to kick yourself for transcoding to a lossy codec at some point when disk space ultimately becomes no problem at all....
lossyWAV -q X -a 4 -s h -A --feedback 2 --limit 15848| FLAC -5 -e -p -b 512 -P=4096 -S-

  • uart
  • [*][*][*][*][*]
Any advantage using FLAC over MP3 for vintage music?
Reply #2
I can't tell the difference, with these older mono records, when listening to the original and a high bit-rate MP3, but I don't have audiophile gear or anything like that. Still, I'd like the best quality possible for any future requirements.


Yeah I know the dilemma, I'm often thinking along the same lines with some of my not so pristine vinyl transfers. This thinking starts out with the realization that the level of artefacts from the medium itself (and transfer) are probably at least ten times worse than any artefacts that mp3 (or other lossy encoder) would introduce at even mostest bitrates.

Despite this I still prefer to have them lossless where-ever possible. The reason is simple, if I use mp3 then I might need to transcode them at some time in the future and I just don't like the idea of doing that.  I just cant deny that lossless is king for archival purposes.

Still it might be worthwhile look at something like lossyway, it might be a good compromise for archiving.

BTW. What type of lossless compression ratios do you get with those old mono records - I'd be interested to know. Also if you feel like giving lossywav a try on a few of those tracks it would be interesting to see what kind of compression improvements it yields on that material.
  • Last Edit: 21 June, 2009, 02:11:20 PM by uart

  • bnation
  • [*]
Any advantage using FLAC over MP3 for vintage music?
Reply #3
Problem is, like most things in life, "a little learning is a dangerous thing". I read as much as I could and started in before I got way over my head. I started in ripping my CD's and LP's uncomfortably aware that I was going to learn something down the road that might make me have to start over again.

After reading the replies above I feel I might have to go back and re-rip the few albums I converted to MP3. At least so that when the time comes when I have to concert again to a newer format I'll have a lossless copy. Also, as Nick.C points out, disk space will not be a consideration for long. (I already have a a 1 TB drive with a mirrored backup. When I need to add another it'll be even cheaper.) But the real question remains: Given the relatively lower quality of older mono recordings, am I sacrificing anything by converting them to MP3?

Quote
What type of lossless compression ratios do you get with those old mono records
Not sure how I'd measure that.

Quote
Still it might be worthwhile look at something like lossyway
I hadn't heard of that before. Read up a little on it . . . it's beyond my meager grasp.

  • Squeller
  • [*][*][*][*][*]
Any advantage using FLAC over MP3 for vintage music?
Reply #4
If you can keep them lossless then you are less likely to want to kick yourself for transcoding to a lossy codec at some point when disk space ultimately becomes no problem at all....
The day already has come

bnation, you are likely to not sacrificing anything (when it comes to audible differences), but keeping a best available lossless audio file is something from a future point of view. E.g. the day may come where you may have lost your physical source. You'd regret to only have the lossy file then. Already today, much more in the future, audio files will be seen small files. When 400 MB is almost nothing
Finally, you are way more flexible with the lossless source, when it comes to transcoding to whatever lossy format for target devices (car radio, portable, dvd player ...)
  • Last Edit: 21 June, 2009, 11:58:27 PM by Squeller

  • carpman
  • [*][*][*][*][*]
  • Developer
Any advantage using FLAC over MP3 for vintage music?
Reply #5
Quote
What type of lossless compression ratios do you get with those old mono records
Not sure how I'd measure that.

Feel free to upload a 30 sec WAV sample or two and I'll happily run them through FLAC, TAK, WavPack and lossyWAV etc for you. I'm interested to see what compression they achieve.

C.
PC = TAK + LossyWAV  ::  Portable = Lame MP3

  • uart
  • [*][*][*][*][*]
Any advantage using FLAC over MP3 for vintage music?
Reply #6
Quote
What type of lossless compression ratios do you get with those old mono records
Not sure how I'd measure that.

Ok what bitrate does your media player report for those flac files? Uncompressed wav files are typically 1411 kbps, so if for example your flac files were 820kbps then you've got a compression of 820/1411 which is approximately 58% of the original file size (or as it's sometimes expressed, 100-58 = 42% compression). Anyway no need to bother with the calculations, just post the bitrate numbers and I can figure it out.


Quote
Quote
Still it might be worthwhile look at something like lossyway
I hadn't heard of that before. Read up a little on it . . . it's beyond my meager grasp.


Lossywav just pre-processes the original wav file so as to make it more easily compressed by any of several lossless encoders (including flac and tak). The implication for your audio quailty is that it will add a very small amount of noise (impeceptible even on a pristine CD source so certainly way below anything you could perceive on a vinyl transfer). Even though the added noise is very small it can significantly increase the amount by which the file can subsequently be losslessly compressed (eg you might get 480 kbps flacs instead of 820 kbps ones). Overall you can consider lossywav as a "one-off" quality reduction due to tiny amount of added noise.
  • Last Edit: 22 June, 2009, 12:32:32 PM by uart

  • Roseval
  • [*][*][*][*][*]
Any advantage using FLAC over MP3 for vintage music?
Reply #7
Vinyl ripping is a very time consuming process.
Of course you can rip to a lossy format like MP3.
But after a couple of years it might be more convenient to have them in AAC.
After a couple of year it might be more convenient to have them in XYZ
Etc.
Converting from one lossy format to another might yield audible differences in the end as you can get a kind of cumulative error.
Given the work involved I should choose a lossless format, maybe for peace of mind only but as 1 Tb sets you back 100,- why bother
TheWellTemperedComputer.com

Any advantage using FLAC over MP3 for vintage music?
Reply #8
I don't know much about how audio compression works i.e., lossy formats like MP3 etc. but I do know a lot about video compression and the worse the picture quality the higher the bitrate you need to maintain the picture quality yet people tend to think, "It doesn't look that great to begin with so I might as well use a low bitrate" ... but really that is a fallacy.

I wouldn't be surprised if audio compression is the same, i.e., the worse the sound quality (especially "noise" in the signal like record pops and cracks etc.) then the higher the bitrate needed to maintain quality.

So I would definitely use lossless even more so for low / poor quality recordings.


  • SomeChap
  • [*]
Any advantage using FLAC over MP3 for vintage music?
Reply #9
I'd have thought your existing mp3s were absolutely fine. 

However I can see the argument for archiving in FLAC for possible future transcoding purposes.

Roseval is of course right that analogue ripping is very time-consuming.

So.  I'd recommend that you up-convert your current MP3s to FLAC, purely for archival purposes - much quicker than re-ripping them.  Then future analogue rips can be ripped to FLAC, possibly via LossyWAV (which is an interesting idea, IMO more suitable for conversions from analogue than for CD rips).

FulciLives makes an interesting point.  I think varying video bit-rates make more perceptible difference than MP3 does at any range of reasonable bit-rates (ie. above 192kbps?), especially these days when even stick-in-the-mud philistines like me have huge 1080p televisions far higher-specced than they really need.  I get the feeling that the degradation due to MP3 is negligible when put next to the faults inherent in a vintage source recording, whereas deciding on video compression rate is definitely a chewy one regardless of the source quality.

It does also depend on why you're listening / watching.  I don't care that the picture quality on my old Blackadder DVDs is pretty naff compared with a modern film released on Blu-ray; that's how I'm used to seeing it.

  • 2Bdecided
  • [*][*][*][*][*]
  • Developer
Any advantage using FLAC over MP3 for vintage music?
Reply #10
Whatever justification you've found for using FLAC for everything else applies equally to old / poor quality recordings.


For people who do their own transfers, lossless is essential - if you spot another defect you want to fix, or decide you need a little more NR or a slightly different EQ, you do not want to be starting from an mp3, making the change, and then re-encoding to mp3 each time.

And if you archive raw transfers from 78s, mp3 is a really poor choice - all those clicks and all that hissing (which you'll probably remove later) will give the encoder a very hard time.


btw, some audio restoration software (as used on commercial CDs, and by us mere mortals) contains elements of psychoacoustic models, somewhat similar to what you find in mp3 etc. So there's an argument that any lossy encoding of restored audio is somewhat comparable to tanscoding - you might create artefacts in an unforeseen and unpredictable manner, because there are already "masked" faults within the "original" recording.


Warning: beyond the need for lossless when processing, I'm more than happy to use mp3 for listening to anything, so you should probably ignore my advice.

Cheers,
David.

P.S. I haven't tried lossyWAV with raw 78 transfers - it should be fairly benign, because it should pick the lowest time/frequency point of the noise floor in each block and keep everything above it (which is probably about the best that any audio restoration software will ever manage) but I wouldn't trust it without some serious testing.

  • rpp3po
  • [*][*][*][*][*]
  • Developer
Any advantage using FLAC over MP3 for vintage music?
Reply #11
Go lossless, no MP3, no AAC, no lossywav. You'll stomp your feet in 2025, when that new FHG restoration plugin, that everyone at HA is going to be cheering about, hits the shelfs. DSP technology is already at a very high level, but far from having crossed its peak. It is very likely that lossy encoding would eliminate contents of the signal that a future restoration DSP could exploit. I'm not saying that this must happen, but it could. And why already close those doors today? A gigabyte of HD space doesn't have to cost more than 0,15 €.

You could lock away the FLACs, though, and create AACs/MP3s from a current restoration DSP for daily use. I have tried to ABX recordings by Dinu Lipatti from the 50's, which came out below 100 kbit/s (Quicktime AAC, true VBR, highest quality setting) and they were transparent without exception. So modern encoders seem to do pretty well for old, bandwidth limited, noisy, and grainy material.

I'd recommend that you up-convert your current MP3s to FLAC, purely for archival purposes - much quicker than re-ripping them.


That's the worst recommendation I've read for a long time.
  • Last Edit: 23 June, 2009, 12:37:46 PM by rpp3po