iTMS. Time for 256kbps AAC music !

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Comments

  • Reply 21 of 67
    I also agree that it is time to raise the bar as far as digital music goes. If the recording industry is going to make a shift to an all digital delivery system, there will have to be an upgrade in sound quality.



    I also would like to see and ipod/itunes only system for managing my music. I currently have a 6-cd changer in my car, but I want to put in an ipod-only setup. I'm tired of messing around with CDs...flipping through a CD wallet trying to find "new" music to listen to when I can just hit "shuffle" and go to town.



    So, here's what I think would work for Apple. They need to leverage the home market. I would like to see an Airport Extreme base station that has:



    1. Integrated cable/dsl modem

    2. Integrated wireless router

    3. Optional add-on for networked storage (to hold music, pictures, movies...the whole iLife bit)



    With that base station in place, possibilities come to life.



    - Use any Mac on the network to gain access to the digital media library

    - Stream music to home stereo speakers via a smaller Airport Express device. All you need is an antenna and an audio out. Linksys currently has such a product. Make these devices cheap enough so that people will buy them (about 50 beans)

    - Stream video/pictures to TV via the rumored Apple home theatre appliance.



    All of this can be accomplished now, of course, but I would like to see it in an integrated package. I don't want to have a cable modem...a router...a clumsy external HD that is only accessable to the computer it is physically connected to. The whole reason I bought a laptop is so I can take it where I want in the house!



    Anyway, to get back on topic, for this to be practical, the quality of the media must increase. If this will truly be a media hub, sub-par media will undermine it. It would be like having an awesome home theatre setup...just to listen to an old 8-track. If anyone can do it, I'm sure that Apple can.
  • Reply 22 of 67
    Maybe with the new data center Apple bought they will kick the quality of the songs to 160kbps VBR or even 192kbps VBR. I have most of my music at 160kbps VBR with some at 192kbps VBR and a select few at 256kbps VBR. I have purchased many songs from iTMS and I have no real complaints about the quality, but then again, I listen to my music using either the ear buds, my car stereo, or my Altec Lancing inMotion speakers, none of which are audiophile quality. I do have a Yamaha receiver that came with my home theater system, but the speakers are nothing to brag about.
  • Reply 23 of 67
    Quote:

    Originally posted by troberts

    none of which are audiophile quality. .



    Well...audiophile is such a broad concept that it's difficult to establish a good reference.



    The fact remains that on a quality stereo set up, 60 W amp, good CD player and monitor speakers ( 3000 USD at least ) you WILL DEFINITELY HEAR the difference beetwen a 128 kbps AAC encoding and the original CD recording.



    And if you can hear that at this price point, the you will certainly hear it in a 10 000 USD + setup.

    So where does that leaves us ? Is download music going to replace the CD ?

    Only if quality increases.

    Otherwise it will be a poor gimmick like the cellular ringtones (arghhh! )

    Well...a bit better.\



    Maybe that's what the BIG Recording Companies want. To stop song piracy through a low end stop gap measure.And that's bad for all.

    If so, Apple would give them the run around by increasing the quality and cater to a different crowd , too. That way commitment from the Record Companies would have to expand. IMHO of course.
  • Reply 24 of 67
    sopphodesopphode Posts: 135member
    Already at 128kbps, VBR AAC is really really good these days. I think it's fair to say that perceptual transparency is reached at about 160-192kbps, so serving songs in 256kbps would just be a waste.



    I've yet to see a person who can consistently hear a difference at 160kbps with AAC VBR by blind testing. It's no big secret most audiophiles make judgments purely based on placebo.
  • Reply 25 of 67
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Sopphode

    Already at 128kbps, VBR AAC is really really good these days. I think it's fair to say that perceptual transparency is reached at about 160-192kbps, so serving songs in 256kbps would just be a waste.



    I've yet to see a person who can consistently hear a difference at 160kbps with AAC VBR by blind testing. It's no big secret most audiophiles make judgments purely based on placebo.




    I'm sorry, you are wrong.

    I DARE anyone to say that 192 kps AAC or whatever loss encodeing technique sounds the same as an original CD player.



    Unless they are listening on computer speakers.

    I'm no audiophile, but I do have a reasonably priced British gear from Cyrus, Proac and Musical Fidelity. AAC Music at 192 kbps sounds like SHIT.

    Listening to auditorium voice recordings or best takes from Miles Davis as an example. 128 and 192 kbps "flattens" the sound directly compared to CD recording.

    I hate to admit it but it's true.



    PS: As a side note, people present at the unveiling of the iPod HIFI said they could perceive the bad quality when listening to 128 kbps songs from itunes Music Store. And specs for the iPod Hifi are not that good (although reasonable)

    \
  • Reply 26 of 67
    sopphodesopphode Posts: 135member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by European guy

    I'm sorry, you are wrong.

    I DARE anyone to say that 192 kps AAC or whatever loss encodeing technique sounds the same as an original CD player.



    Unless they are listening on computer speakers.

    I'm no audiophile, but I do have a reasonably priced British gear from Cyrus, Proac and Musical Fidelity. AAC Music at 192 kbps sounds like SHIT.

    Listening to auditorium voice recordings or best takes from Miles Davis as an example. 128 and 192 kbps "flattens" the sound directly compared to CD recording.

    I hate to admit it but it's true.



    PS: As a side note, people present at the unveiling of the iPod HIFI said they could perceive the bad quality when listening to 128 kbps songs from itunes Music Store. And specs for the iPod Hifi are not that good (although reasonable)

    \




    Give this app a try. Select the original wav and one that's converted from an AAC file and do a blind comparison (and post the logs afterward).



    Saying that something "flattens" the sound is usually pure placebo talk.
  • Reply 27 of 67
    mzaslovemzaslove Posts: 519member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by European guy



    Listening to auditorium voice recordings or best takes from Miles Davis as an example. 128 and 192 kbps "flattens" the sound directly compared to CD recording.

    I hate to admit it but it's true.





    \




    The guy listens to "jazz, man" -- so he's got weird ears to begin with.



    But seriously: I'm a tv/movie producer and have been a music producer, and I can hear compression in most forms, most of the time (except at the end of a session when my ears are bleeding)... but I don't think 95% of the people out there can (and 110% of the critics out there). 160kbps would work for me. We get used to stuff like that, unfortunately. I mean, look at all the lousy CGI we accept in movies and tv now. A whole generation has grown up on it and accepts it as good. I'm hoping there's some higher rate we can download; but, in the end, I think most people will be like me and blindly (deafly?) accept what they can get in a download and make do.
  • Reply 28 of 67
    ebbyebby Posts: 3,110member
    As an audiophile and soundboard operator I find it easy to tell the difference between encoding rates IF you know what to listen for.

    #1) dynamic range. The dynamic range of CD sound exceeds that of most stereo systems. (Roughly including sound between 16hz - 23Khz depending on technology in recording studios) Keep in mind that low frequencies below say 20hz are felt rather than heard, enhancing the audio experience. Compression usually chops off these "inaudible" sounds to save space.

    #2) Compression artifacts. This depends a lot of the type of music being encoded. Rock with frequent cymbal crashes is often a weakness in compression and is the first sign if bitrates are too low. You can hear the cymbal hit, than immediately distort and sound flat. Again, the type of music vs. bitrate has a lot to do with the prominence of distortions.

    #3) Stereo depth and Image. The most common test is to close your eyes and position each instrument in the band based on its stereo sound. The greater "depth" is a sign of better audio. Keep in mind this is easily faked, for example the sound enhancer in iTunes. (iTunes->Preferences->Playback->Sound enhancer) This artificially creates depth and clarity through signal processing. This is like sharpening an image in Photoshop, it helps but a better source would require less "Enhancing" to sound the same.



    It is hard to judge sound because you need a reference to compare to. Since few people actually have a tuned system for this reference it makes this step even more difficult. If I were to say HDTV was better than standard TV, you would agree (if you can picture a reference HDTV image). But if that HDTV picture were actually compressed from a SHDTV signal, you could only imagine what the original would be like. The same thing applies to sound, where the high-end equipment usually doesn't make it into typical households. Therefore no reference material.



    I hope I made some sense here.
  • Reply 29 of 67
    dfilerdfiler Posts: 3,420member
    Total sense, I completely agree.



    Don't worry, most of us realize the following:

    There's always some non-audiophiles who claim that the perceived difference could only possibly be from a placebo effect. There's also always some audiophiles who overestimate their own ability to discern quality.



    But for the record: I've passed the 128aac vs 256aac blind listening test. Specifically, with an A/B comparison, I almost always correctly identify which is which. (On my home stereo)
  • Reply 30 of 67
    mr. hmr. h Posts: 4,822member
    To those talking about HE-AAC, it only delivers improvements below 128 kbps. It wouldn't help.



    My take is this:



    The standard bit rate should be upped to 160 kbps

    256 kbps should be introduced as an option for $1.50

    Apple Lossless should be introduced as an option for $2.00 or maybe even $2.50.



    That's individual song pricing.



    Standard bit-rate albums should be cheaper than they currently are. 256 kbps albums should be just below the price of the album on CD, and the Apple Lossless version should cost the same as a CD.



    edit: and Apple should look into p2p technology for iTunes to reduce their bandwidth costs. This would be necessary for them to be able to seel Apple Lossless albums for the same price as a CD.
  • Reply 31 of 67
    mzaslovemzaslove Posts: 519member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Mr. H



    My take is this:



    The standard bit rate should be upped to 160 kbps

    256 kbps should be introduced as an option for $1.50

    Apple Lossless should be introduced as an option for $2.00 or maybe even $2.50.





    I'd go for this. Give me a chance to try out some songs on the cheap, live with them for awhile, then if I really want to keep them, go lossless. Be even better if I could "upgrade" the tunes I have to lossless (not pay another full fee, but an upgrade fee). I would totally live with that. Very cool.
  • Reply 32 of 67
    addaboxaddabox Posts: 12,664member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Mr. H

    To those talking about HE-AAC, it only delivers improvements below 128 kbps. It wouldn't help.



    My take is this:



    The standard bit rate should be upped to 160 kbps

    256 kbps should be introduced as an option for $1.50

    Apple Lossless should be introduced as an option for $2.00 or maybe even $2.50.



    That's individual song pricing.



    Standard bit-rate albums should be cheaper than they currently are. 256 kbps albums should be just below the price of the album on CD, and the Apple Lossless version should cost the same as a CD.



    edit: and Apple should look into p2p technology for iTunes to reduce their bandwidth costs. This would be necessary for them to be able to seel Apple Lossless albums for the same price as a CD.




    Yep. I would definitely go for this.



    I have to say I find it somewhat bizarre that in a few short years we've gone from CDs being regarded (by people who care a lot about the actual sound of what they listen to, as opposed to convenience and form factors) as something of a compromise in sound quality (due to some of the inherent issues with digital recording), to CD bitrates being derisively dismissed as the provenance of "audiophiles".



    I wonder if in another few years fans of 128k encodes will have to defend their elitist tastes before a generation of kids that are happy with the latest "perceptual encoding" that allows 32k files to be bass heavy and exaggeratedly "sparkly".



    Maybe eventually we can dispense with "music" altogether (since its main function is to serve as a soundtrack to various corporate designated market segments) and just listen to the codecs themselves, which could be tailored for each demographic: "fast 'n driving", "slow and mellow", "hard and loud" etc.
  • Reply 33 of 67
    mzaslovemzaslove Posts: 519member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by addabox









    Maybe eventually we can dispense with "music" altogether (since its main function is to serve as a soundtrack to various corporate designated market segments) and just listen to the codecs themselves, which could be tailored for each demographic: "fast 'n driving", "slow and mellow", "hard and loud" etc.




    Shhhhhhh, M$ might be listening and add it to Origami before next week.
  • Reply 34 of 67
    addaboxaddabox Posts: 12,664member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by mzaslove

    Shhhhhhh, M$ might be listening and add it to Origami before next week.



    Speaking of which, shouldn't there be a thread somewhere wherein we weep bitter tears about how "MS has beat Apple to the punch, how much better an Apple version would have been, and how Apple has to release a small form factor tablet now or be condemned forever to irrelevancy?"



    If there is one someone kindly steer me to it, since I 'm all about the bitter tears.
  • Reply 35 of 67
    jasenj1jasenj1 Posts: 922member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by addabox

    Speaking of which, shouldn't there be a thread somewhere wherein we weep bitter tears about how "MS has beat Apple to the punch, how much better an Apple version would have been, and how Apple has to release a small form factor tablet now or be condemned forever to irrelevancy?"



    Naah. MS will try to have the device do too many things and people will complain about how clunky it is. Later, Apple will come out with a similar device with half the features. People will complain about how weak it is compared to the MS product, but they'll fly off the shelves because consumers will be able to understand them and all the features will just work(tm).



    On topic:

    "Most" people don't care enough about most things to bother thinking about "quality". They'll just buy whatever and be satisfied (see MS Windows). "Most" people will go to Best Buy or Circuit City and think they're getting a GREAT stereo if the spend $500 on one of those HTIBs from Sony or Yamaha. And Bose (shudder) is the pinnacle of audiphile quality.



    It just doesn't matter enough to the "masses".



    - Jasen.



    P.S. I'd LOVE for Apple to start selling lossless tracks.
  • Reply 36 of 67
    cosmonutcosmonut Posts: 4,872member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by jasenj1

    It just doesn't matter enough to the "masses".



    EXACTLY! And the iPod has become a device for the "masses" (i.e. Joe Schmoe teenager or college student who doesn't care about sound quality, but the very fact that the music is cool, portable, and playing in the first place). For the "masses," 128 AAC is good enough.



    Let's extend this argument beyond digital music quality: The "masses" realize that Macs are cool and are probably better computers, but the "masses" also don't base a bunch of their lives around their computer. Let's face it. They use a computer at work just enough to get the work done. When they go home at night, they spend time with the girlfriend, husband, kids, church group, etc. For these people -- a significant portion of our society -- a cheapo PC with IE, Hotmail, and a 17" CRT will do the job.
  • Reply 37 of 67
    mr. hmr. h Posts: 4,822member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by CosmoNut

    EXACTLY! And the iPod has become a device for the "masses" (i.e. Joe Schmoe teenager or college student who doesn't care about sound quality, but the very fact that the music is cool, portable, and playing in the first place).



    Actually, the iPod gets pretty good reviews for sound quality. You don't have to load it up with 128 kbps songs.



    Quote:

    Originally posted by CosmoNut

    For the "masses," 128 AAC is good enough.



    I agree. So there's no harm in continuing to offer it (or something slightly better), and offering higher bitrates as an option for more money, to those who are willing to pay.
  • Reply 38 of 67
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Mr. H

    Actually, the iPod gets pretty good reviews for sound quality. You don't have to load it up with 128 kbps songs.







    I agree. So there's no harm in continuing to offer it (or something slightly better), and offering higher bitrates as an option for more money, to those who are willing to pay.






    Yes, the iPod is an excellent piece of audio gear. And it is bound to get better..

    People think that because it's a mass market device it MUST be bad.

    Not so !( at least not for the top end models )

    The iPod Video and 4G won a praise in various audiophiles magazines for the quality of the audio produced. Don't know about the Nano.

    The quality of the Wolfson chips inside it is reputable.

    I still say there is a HUGE opportunity for high quality or lossless encoded music and it has NOT been explored.

    Apple should do something about this. Or others will.

    Just my 2 cents.
  • Reply 39 of 67
    addaboxaddabox Posts: 12,664member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Mr. H

    Actually, the iPod gets pretty good reviews for sound quality. You don't have to load it up with 128 kbps songs.







    I agree. So there's no harm in continuing to offer it (or something slightly better), and offering higher bitrates as an option for more money, to those who are willing to pay.




    The slightly unnerving thing about this particular mass phenomena is how it seems to be changing the fundamentals on which we judge what "quality" is, when it comes to prerecorded music (although this is arguably and artifact of downloadable music in general and not the iTMS in particular).



    I agree it's fine to offer bit rates and sound quality that are "good enough" for most people; what's not entirely clear to me, pace the thread topic, is whether or not there is going to be any room for higher quality in the new world of highly portable, disposable music.



    Sure, if it's profitable, but where is the next generation of people who consider "sound quality" (past a certain point) to be a desirable attribute in their music, worth paying for, when everything in their experience of recorded music has been focused on portability and convenience of acquisition?



    In the history of mechanically recorded music we've never seen anything like what's happening now . Up until the download explosion, each and every advancement in the technology had been centered around improving the delivered sound quality. We have now entered an era which emphasizes maximizing quantity.



    And the irony is, as I remarked before, all of this happened just as digital recordings were starting to live up to their promise, with savvier engineers, higher bit rates, denser sampling frequencies, and the like.



    What do you suppose the state of the market of "super bit CD" type technology is now? Do you think, in a world where sales and the whole idea of a physical CD is fading, there is much interest in releasing many new titles?



    So I wonder if there will be much interest in offering the downloadable equivalent of even CD quality music, much less some the extensions of that quality that were just starting to mature.



    We'll see, and I suppose there will always be some limited number of "audiophile" releases in the jazz and classical areas, but I for one am not going to hold my breath that mainstream popular music recordings are ever again going to sound as good as they did, once, for a little while.
  • Reply 40 of 67
    dfilerdfiler Posts: 3,420member
    I don't think it's about people valueing sound quality less than they did in the past. Rather, new possabilities of convenience have once again trumped sound quality; a slight but important distinction.



    It has happened many times in the past.
    • When walkmans first came out, they sounded worse than stationary systems. Consumer headphones just weren't very good.

    • When MiniDiscs came out, they offered poorer sound quality than CDs.

    • Same thing for CDs. (Granted, not everyone is an analog freak. )

    • When boomboxes came out, they sounded worse than home stereos.

    • 8-Tracks sound worse than records.

    • Transitor amplifiers and radios

    • Would you be surprised to learn that both Sirius and XM sound horrible compared to FM... or even AM radio!

    The lesson here is that sound quality isn't the only criteria for consumer preference in audio gear. If a poorer sounding medium is drastically more convenient, consumers will flock to that technology. Definately not a new phenomenon.
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