Author Topic: CD's vs download formats  (Read 18075 times)

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Offline Cato

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CD's vs download formats
« on: February 11, 2009, 03:18:10 PM »
Dudes!  Dudettes!

Anyone crowned with the alias Cato is ipso facto highly skeptical of newfangled devices!   $:)

But not afraid: you should see my technical map for putting together my TV-VCR-DVD Recorder+CD Player-Tape Player-Amplifier-SurroundSound-Digital TV Converter Box System! 

But I am also tighter than a Scotsman in a kilt in January when it comes to money!   :o

So... I am looking at MP-3 downloads of complete albums of things like Langgaard's Music of the Spheres for $8.95 vs the "old-fashioned" CD for c. $15.00 used after paying for shipping.  And I wonder...is it time?

So what is your opinion of the sound quality of downloaded classical music - using large orchestras and choirs, etc.? 

I can understand how the quality is good enough for pop stuff, but how good is the quality of something like an i-Pod version of Götterdämmerung or Gurrelieder?

And I now see "players" for i-Pods: which ones are decent?  Can they be played through a SurroundSound system?

Many thanks for your opinions!   0:)
"Meet Miss Ruth Sherwood, from Columbus, Ohio, the Middle of the Universe!"

- Brian Aherne introducing Rosalind Russell in  My Sister Eileen (1942)

Dr. Dread

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Re: CD's vs download formats
« Reply #1 on: February 11, 2009, 03:35:09 PM »
http://www.lincomatic.com/mp3/mp3quality.html

"MP3's ripped with BladeENC sound far better than I expected, and I believe that most listeners (except neurotic audiophiles those with extremely expensive equipment who claim that $800/meter speaker cables sound significantly better than my cheap but high quality 12 gauge stranded copper cables) would find that the difference in audio quality between the original CD's and 256Kbps MP3 is insignificant."

 ;D
« Last Edit: February 11, 2009, 03:37:24 PM by mn dave »

Frumaster

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Re: CD's vs download formats
« Reply #2 on: February 11, 2009, 03:37:13 PM »
Dudes!  Dudettes!

Anyone crowned with the alias Cato is ipso facto highly skeptical of newfangled devices!   $:)

But not afraid: you should see my technical map for putting together my TV-VCR-DVD Recorder+CD Player-Tape Player-Amplifier-SurroundSound-Digital TV Converter Box System! 

But I am also tighter than a Scotsman in a kilt in January when it comes to money!   :o

So... I am looking at MP-3 downloads of complete albums of things like Langgaard's Music of the Spheres for $8.95 vs the "old-fashioned" CD for c. $15.00 used after paying for shipping.  And I wonder...is it time?

So what is your opinion of the sound quality of downloaded classical music - using large orchestras and choirs, etc.? 

I can understand how the quality is good enough for pop stuff, but how good is the quality of something like an i-Pod version of Götterdämmerung or Gurrelieder?

And I now see "players" for i-Pods: which ones are decent?  Can they be played through a SurroundSound system?

Many thanks for your opinions!   0:)

iPods be fed into any audio system.  You will not get true surround sound in the same sense as a SACD or DVD-a playback device.  Some surround systems will artificially create surround out of a stereo source (which is what the iPod is limited to).  

Most online download services are limited to 256kbps.  This is pretty darn good, but if you have a sensitive ear you might be disappointed.  mp3 uses an algorithm to basically cheat you of resolution in the areas of low dynamics and vocals.  The human ear percieves distortion less in vocals and in quieter passages, so you're not supposed to be able to tell.  256k is sort of in questionable territory if you ask me.  You may not hear blatant distortion as with 192k and lower, but the loss in resolution will deteriorate the 3-dimensionality of the sound stage (if you use good equipment), and the overall 'realness'.  They know a lot about psychoacoustics these days, but there are things I experience on a well mastered CD or LP that noone can describe.  MP3 can by contrast sound flat, cold, and harsh.  Again these results depend on the quality of your gear.  The better your gear, the more pronounced the difference will be.  

Lossless digital audio is fine though.  My iPod is filled with it, and it is very satisfying.  Plus its just a cool device.  The internal DAC could be improved, but the bit stream of audio you're dealing with is identical to that of a CD.  If you do get an iPod, I would suggest getting the most storage they offer.  Classical music leads to huge chunks of space.  How many 10-40 CD sets do you have in pop music?  In classical there are tons, with sizes up to several GB each. 
« Last Edit: February 11, 2009, 03:40:29 PM by Frumaster »

DavidW

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Re: CD's vs download formats
« Reply #3 on: February 11, 2009, 03:46:51 PM »
Buying an mp3 is not worth it because it's lossy.  The difference between lossy and lossless is audible.  With a lossless source you can always make an mp3 from it, but you never can go backwards (without loss of information).

Also itunes (but not amazon) is guilty of DRM.  You want to make copies everywhere, that way if a harddrive fails (as what happened with me) you have backups.  You have to be careful where you buy from if you want that feature.

Plus tagging in classical music is a mess.  It was designed for pop music.

Plus gapless playback with mp3?

And what if you want to sell or trade your music?  You can't with an mp3, you can with a cd.

I think cd is still the king.  I'll change my mind if they go to lossless audio downloads and better pricing, but for now you still can't beat cd.

Offline Cato

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Re: CD's vs download formats
« Reply #4 on: February 11, 2009, 03:58:07 PM »
Buying an mp3 is not worth it because it's lossy.  The difference between lossy and lossless is audible.  With a lossless source you can always make an mp3 from it, but you never can go backwards (without loss of information).

Also itunes (but not amazon) is guilty of DRM.  You want to make copies everywhere, that way if a harddrive fails (as what happened with me) you have backups.  You have to be careful where you buy from if you want that feature.

Plus tagging in classical music is a mess.  It was designed for pop music.

Plus gapless playback with mp3?

And what if you want to sell or trade your music?  You can't with an mp3, you can with a cd.

I think cd is still the king.  I'll change my mind if they go to lossless audio downloads and better pricing, but for now you still can't beat cd.

Wow!  And with Yul Brynner over there staring at us, how could anyone disagree?   :D

I know some people earlier in the era complained about "Compression" of the sound, and I was wondering if that problem had been solved. 

Many thanks to all who have responded so far! 
« Last Edit: February 11, 2009, 03:59:51 PM by Cato »
"Meet Miss Ruth Sherwood, from Columbus, Ohio, the Middle of the Universe!"

- Brian Aherne introducing Rosalind Russell in  My Sister Eileen (1942)

Dr. Dread

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Re: CD's vs download formats
« Reply #5 on: February 11, 2009, 04:05:10 PM »
Buying an mp3 is not worth it because it's lossy.  The difference between lossy and lossless is audible.  With a lossless source you can always make an mp3 from it, but you never can go backwards (without loss of information).

Also itunes (but not amazon) is guilty of DRM.  You want to make copies everywhere, that way if a harddrive fails (as what happened with me) you have backups.  You have to be careful where you buy from if you want that feature.

Plus tagging in classical music is a mess.  It was designed for pop music.

Plus gapless playback with mp3?

And what if you want to sell or trade your music?  You can't with an mp3, you can with a cd.

I think cd is still the king.  I'll change my mind if they go to lossless audio downloads and better pricing, but for now you still can't beat cd.

This thinking is kind of old. For instance, iTunes now has "plus" files with no DRM and higher bit rate. And, yes, gaplessness is possible with mp3s. And no, some can't tell the difference in sound. And don't forget portability.

Offline Josquin des Prez

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Re: CD's vs download formats
« Reply #6 on: February 11, 2009, 04:05:28 PM »
The only time i ever noticed the difference between a CD and an mp3 is when i used the equalizer function in winamp and amplified the signal. The the quality of the mp3 degenerated horribly. This days i just use flac, to be on the safe side.

Frumaster

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Re: CD's vs download formats
« Reply #7 on: February 11, 2009, 04:19:12 PM »
Wow!  And with Yul Brynner over there staring at us, how could anyone disagree?   :D

I know some people earlier in the era complained about "Compression" of the sound, and I was wondering if that problem had been solved. 

Many thanks to all who have responded so far! 


Well the algorithms haven't changed, and bit rates are bit rates.  There are ways of artificially enhancing mp3's, but most are very unnatural sounding.  If you mean 'Compression' as part of the mastering process, it seems to only be a problem with pop, rock, etc.  Classical music CDs usually have excellent dynamics.

I would suggest continuing to buy CDs.  You can always get the information off of a CD by burning in a lossless format.  Besides, mp3 prices though slightly lower, are still a rip-off in my book.  You pay near the same price, but get no physical product.

Offline drogulus

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Re: CD's vs download formats
« Reply #8 on: February 11, 2009, 04:23:23 PM »
Wow!  And with Yul Brynner over there staring at us, how could anyone disagree?   :D

I know some people earlier in the era complained about "Compression" of the sound, and I was wondering if that problem had been solved. 

Many thanks to all who have responded so far! 


     If you want to know if mp3 compression is audible you can research the subject at Hydogenaudio Forums. The question is not, repeat not "Is compression audible?". The question is "At what rate does compression become audible?" If you ask the first question you get absolutist answers that mean nothing. All you get is compression=good or compression=bad. What you want to know is if music you buy will sound good.

     Generally it's better to buy music in the lossless formats that are increasingly available so you can do your own compression at the highest rates (a so-called paranoid rate is what I use :)). And of course with lossless you can burn a CD at the full rate. Whether that makes an audible difference is something else. The listening tests at Hydrogenaudio will be helpful. You should read something about them since the question is not as simple as it sometimes is made to appear. Some artifacts can be audible with some program material in some conditions.
« Last Edit: February 11, 2009, 05:14:46 PM by drogulus »
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Dr. Dread

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Re: CD's vs download formats
« Reply #9 on: February 11, 2009, 04:25:47 PM »
Cato,

If your music is going to be played on an expensive stereo most of the time, I wouldn't bother with mp3s. However, if you want to carry your collection (or at least part of it, if it's huge) around with you wherever you go (it fits in your pocket!) and listen on headphones or computer speakers, then you might want to consider it. And remember, if you keep buying CDs, they can always be ripped down to mp3 files in the size of your choice via your computer's CD drive. That way, you have the best of both worlds.

ChamberNut

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Re: CD's vs download formats
« Reply #10 on: February 11, 2009, 04:33:46 PM »
I still listen to my CDs in the office with headphoneson my now 17 year old Technics portable CD player.  ;D

I do have a portable mp3 player, which was a company Christmas gift, but hardly ever use it.  I've put some music on it, then found out that it hadn't recorded some of the tracks I had picked to put on there, and then I found there wasn't a continuous flow for the music (ie. in cases where movements run into the next without a pause, when copying on an mp3 - there is a pause which I personally don't like >:()  It disturbs the continuity of the work.  And....the volume on the mp3 I have isn't loud enough for the bus ride to work, so it seems pointless for me at this time.  I'm happy to stick with CDs for now.

If I ever have lots of spare time on my hands, I'll try to figure out the mp3 kinks, but I LOVE CDs!  I do agree that the mp3s have their place, and are very valuable and useful.  I just prefer the crisp sound of CDs above all.

 0:)


DavidW

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Re: CD's vs download formats
« Reply #11 on: February 11, 2009, 04:48:44 PM »
This thinking is kind of old. For instance, iTunes now has "plus" files with no DRM and higher bit rate. And, yes, gaplessness is possible with mp3s. And no, some can't tell the difference in sound. And don't forget portability.

The plus files are not for the entire itunes library, just some files, and they charge more.  They charge for what should be free!  Itunes is a rip off compared to amazon (given that they have lower prices, no drm and higher bitrate), and even amazon charges too much.  The thinking is old, but still correct.

Portability is a very stupid point to make since you can just use eac, itunes etc to rip cds to mp3, which makes cds just as portable.  In fact more so since they don't have drm.

Dr. Dread

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Re: CD's vs download formats
« Reply #12 on: February 11, 2009, 04:55:19 PM »
The plus files are not for the entire itunes library, just some files, and they charge more. 

There are more plus files all the time at iTunes; DG has plus files there now. And Amazon is not necessarily cheaper. And no, they do not charge more for their plus files.

Portability, as in download and go.  0:) Not go the the store, or wait for the mail, rip the CD, then go.  ;D

DavidW

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Re: CD's vs download formats
« Reply #13 on: February 11, 2009, 05:02:36 PM »
There are more plus files all the time at iTunes; DG has plus files there now. And Amazon is not necessarily cheaper. And no, they do not charge more for their plus files.

Portability, as in download and go.  0:) Not go the the store, or wait for the mail, rip the CD, then go.  ;D

I clearly recall $1.30/plus file on itunes as compared to $1.00/reg file on itunes.  How is that not more?  And how is amazon not cheaper when they charge $1.00/file for what's the same quality as a $1.30/plus file?  And how is amazon not cheaper when offer significant discounts (half off or more) for entire albums?

Download and go is neat, but all of us here at gmg are adults that do not need immediate gratification, so it's merely a minor convenience.  And in the long run, not worth it compared to other disadvantages already discussed.

Offline drogulus

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Re: CD's vs download formats
« Reply #14 on: February 11, 2009, 05:14:09 PM »


    Listening tests are done on good equipment. Public listening tests are done on your equipment if you participate. I would want to use the best available gear to reveal the worst case. If playing mp3s on good stereos was all it took to reveal their hidden awfulness wouldn't this have occurred to the testers?

    Also, there's plenty of evidence that good headphones on an iPod are very revealing, in fact more revealing of problems than many expensive home stereos. If mp3s are going to be a problem anywhere, it will be on the players they were intended for. If they pass that test, they will probably pass the less revealing speaker tests as well.



I do have a portable mp3 player, which was a company Christmas gift, but hardly ever use it.  I've put some music on it, then found out that it hadn't recorded some of the tracks I had picked to put on there, and then I found there wasn't a continuous flow for the music (ie. in cases where movements run into the next without a pause, when copying on an mp3 - there is a pause which I personally don't like >:()  It disturbs the continuity of the work.  And....the volume on the mp3 I have isn't loud enough for the bus ride to work, so it seems pointless for me at this time.  I'm happy to stick with CDs for now.

If I ever have lots of spare time on my hands, I'll try to figure out the mp3 kinks, but I LOVE CDs!  I do agree that the mp3s have their place, and are very valuable and useful.  I just prefer the crisp sound of CDs above all.

 0:)



    Your don't have a good player, or you don't have good headphones, or you may have mp3s made at a low rate, and your player isn't gapless. I wouldn't be satisfied either. Fortunately I learned a little about how compressed audio works before I got my Pod, and the requirement that it play gaplessly played an important part in choosing an iPod instead of another player. So when I started with the Pod I was already in a good position to get good sound, and I didn't have to listen to all the ignorant comments about why compressed audio can't be good. At the technical level, an iPod is just about an exact equivalent to a CD player. With good files that's what it sounds like.
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Dr. Dread

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Re: CD's vs download formats
« Reply #15 on: February 11, 2009, 05:35:05 PM »
I clearly recall $1.30/plus file on itunes as compared to $1.00/reg file on itunes.  How is that not more?  And how is amazon not cheaper when they charge $1.00/file for what's the same quality as a $1.30/plus file?  And how is amazon not cheaper when offer significant discounts (half off or more) for entire albums?

There was talk of charging more for plus, but I've never been charged that much for a plus file and I buy them quite often; .99 each, or even cheaper if you buy whole albums--just like non-plus. So, Amazon and iTunes are roughly the same price. And iTunes offers discounts on albums as well.

Dr. Dread

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Re: CD's vs download formats
« Reply #16 on: February 11, 2009, 05:38:53 PM »
Oh, and THIS.  :-*

DavidW

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Re: CD's vs download formats
« Reply #17 on: February 11, 2009, 05:39:32 PM »
There was talk of charging more for plus, but I've never been charged that much for a plus file and I buy them quite often; .99 each, or even cheaper if you buy whole albums--just like non-plus. So, Amazon and iTunes are roughly the same price. And iTunes offers discounts on albums as well.

Alright I'll check it out then.  I already have itunes because I use it for podcasts.

DavidW

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Re: CD's vs download formats
« Reply #18 on: February 11, 2009, 05:45:35 PM »
Alright I immediately ran into a road block that I did not realize Dave.  Their plus tracks are aac, not mp3.  Not portable, I doubt my players support that format.  And since they are lossy, transcoding to mp3 would reduce the sound quality to mush. :P

Dr. Dread

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Re: CD's vs download formats
« Reply #19 on: February 11, 2009, 05:48:22 PM »
Alright I immediately ran into a road block that I did not realize Dave.  Their plus tracks are aac, not mp3.  Not portable, I doubt my players support that format.  And since they are lossy, transcoding to mp3 would reduce the sound quality to mush. :P

Oh, are they? Sorry. I guess I forgot. I have Apple everything, so I don't notice.  :-\