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June 19, 2009



He is right, many people could discern between an mp3 and uncompressed music as long as the mp3 is recorded with a bitrate of 128 or less but it´s not so easy when the music is encoded with bitrates of 256 Khz or higher, of course the tradeoff is bigger files. I recommend encoding the music with a bitrate of 256 Khz, that´s worth of an expensive audio system.


MP3s at 128 kbps really don't cut it anymore, with storage space getting ever more affordable. When people claim that MP3 in general doesn't sound good, they should always specify the encoder type and bitrate.

Encoding MP3s using LAME VBR "standard" (aka "2") quality, using a 32 to 320 kbps range, produces music very close in quality to the original CD.

You could simply encode all MP3s at 320 kbps but VBR is more efficient than CBR, which wastes space for low resolution passages. All MP3s are "VBR" to some degree anyhow. VBR got a bad rap in earlier implementations but that was fixed years ago.

Scott Atkinson

I own a few thousand cds and a lot of digital files, and spent most of my adult life listening on a $99 boombox.

I love music, but thought the rest - sound quality - was just affectation.

Then something unexpected happened - a couple of years ago I got tired of listening. Not at first; I could still sit down, throw on a cd and do just fine. But a little ways in everything would just sound harsh and grating and annoying, and I'd turn it off.

This was especially true for downloads, like the 192 kbps ones from eMusic.

This went on for months. I tried a few halfway measures, like buying better powered speakers, but they only made me more aware of what I wasn't hearing, or what sounded wrong.

So I ended up, very, very reluctantly, being an audiophile. I only listen to cd quality and above, and I own modest but decent equipment. I'm not happy about it - it's money, time and distraction from the music - but it's what lets me continue to listen.

Can I tell the difference between a high bitrate mp3 or aac file and uncompressed? Only sometimes, certainly not consistently. But give me 30 minutes with a cd made from compressed files and it'll be turned off.

Oddly, I'm more forgiving of radio sound, though even there I'm more likely to enjoy f.m. and less likely to enjoy net or sat radio when i"m listening to my main system. I enjoy Slacker and SiriusXM and such, but mostly through a decent table radio.


For me iPods simply do not cut the mustard. No matter what the bit rate or format used every iPod I've had my hands on (and I have had several different models over the years) sounds lackluster at best. It's not the recordings,but the equipment itself that's lacking.

Compared to several different MiniDisc portables the difference is night and day. The MD players simply blow any iPod away. That alone should tell you all you need to know.

That's not to say there aren't decent MP3 players to be had. The inexpensive Sansa Clip models are fairly impressive, and the Cowons are too.

Avo Ohanian

The default codec in iTunes (iTunes Plus - AAC 256kbps) is actually not too bad. I tend to find that the MP3 codec affects the soundstage and dynamic range more than AAC does although both seem equal in frequency range (even to the point of hearing recorded hiss and rumble on AAD transcoded CDs through my closed cans - not so much through the Apple phones).

Still, I totally agree with you all that given the right music and using proper gear one can discern some tangible difference between compressed and uncompressed recordings. Saying that, most modern doof doof stuff have distortion and all manners of "nuances" built-in to the recording so it's pretty hard to tell whether it is due to compression or artistic (dis)taste......

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