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Windows 7: Listening test: please partake and help ;)

15 Jul 2011   #1

Windows 7 Home Premium x64
Listening test: please partake and help ;)

I am trying to keep my cool, seriously, I am.
Since the wise guys at Winamp decided to throw away the original, wonderful AAC codec and replace it with one from Fraunhofer, I found myself extremely frustrated at the differences in quality from my soon-to-be rips and the old rips, compared both one to another AND with the original CD version.

Now with the addition of the HE-AAC v2 codec, things got a lot more complicated for me, and I simply cannot conclude which option I should choose for my future rips, assuming I don't completely lose it, delete all my music collection and just start ripping all over again in LAME version of the MP3 codec and be done with it.

So I ask you to partake in a listening test I have prepared. I will upload as an attachment a .zip archive containing three files. All the files are of the same song with the same length, frequency, bit depth etc. etc.
The first one is a WAV extraction directly from the CD through Sound Forge. I reduced the length of the clip to only 13 seconds, I think it will suffice considering the nature of the actual music.

The second file is an AAC file encoded with Fraunhofer's HE-AAC v1 codec @ 64 kb/s, which is what I used to use while Winamp had the codec from Coding Technologies.

Finally, the third clip is also an AAC file, but uses Fraunhofer's HE-AAC v2 codec @ 48 kb/s.

I ask you to listen to these files and compare them, and try to recognize any difference between all of them; both encoded files from the original; each individual AAC from the original, AS WELL AS the difference between the two AAC files ONLY. I would really appreciate it if you guys could help me out and reply with your honest (and kind :P) feedback.

From what I can hear, the 64kb/s HE-AAC v1 file takes a bit off from high frequencies (cymbals!) and/or reduces the overall volume (how/if that's possible, I don't know), while the 48kb/s HE-AAC v2 sounds to me just like the original CD/WAV sample, and definitely better than the 64kb/s encoded clip. Maybe I'm just tripping, but I'd really like a confirmation on this.

I know it would be easy to just use MP3, but with such a large collection of music, it would take a lot of space (which is why I don't use FLAC). WMA/OGG and/or anything else is also out of the question, I am only interested in these two particular types of rips. Also, having to choose MP3 would definitely mean re-ripping everything instead of just transcoding from the original AAC rip, because I'd loose a lot of quality and just waste the space.

Also, I would love if you could just describe your audio setup, i.e. speakers: stereo, headphones, 2.1 , 5.1 etc. It would help a lot!

My System SpecsSystem Spec
15 Jul 2011   #2

Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit

No offense intended, but why do you choose HE codec?
It does well for internet streaming, or mobile devices such as phones, but its not really intended for Music, and is a very low quality.

I understand space is a issue.

The AAC codec itself is, IMHO, the better option for lower bitrate files though.
It tends sound better to my ears at lower bitrates Vs MP3.

But what about just moving to the LC (Low Complexity) AAC codec?
226kb/s would sound leaps and bounds better, but even at 128-192kbps I think youd be happy.

At anycount, to answer your initial question ..

The 64kb sounds a bit better to me.
The other seem to be more muddy sounding, without much on the low end.

--Using a X-Fi Extreme Gamer Sound card, and Klipsch ProMedia Speakers.

And if you are interested, heres a recode of the WAVE using Neros LC AAC codec at 128kbs (its free)
Nero LC

My System SpecsSystem Spec
15 Jul 2011   #3

Windows 7 Home Premium x64

The thing is that many European radio stations are broadcasting at 48kb/s; I was skeptical too, that's why I did this kind of a test a few years back, and ultimately chose v1 @ 64 kb/s, because I could not hear any difference between the rip and the original whatsoever; it didn't matter if it was jazz, metal, house, pop/rock...

The LC profile doesn't do me much justice with space either, I can get the same quality with LAME MP3 @128 or 192 kb/s by using Joint Stereo and flipping to "Highest quality".
Back when I first did the tests, LC fell highly behind HE on the quality basis, as did MP3, and pretty much everything else except FLAC/Monkey audio. And I complained about Fraunhofer's codec because the one from Coding Technologies was simple, as I'm hearing results of the test myself, much more quality efficient while also a big space-saver.

I don't know, I'm just confused, I guess. I've gotten used to the benefits of (subjectively) good quality and small filesize of the HE profile, and switching to something else after so many years sounds... I don't know... Unnecessary, even though it looks like I'll have to
My System SpecsSystem Spec

15 Jul 2011   #4

Window's 7 Ultimate 64bit

HD5670 HDMI sound connection throught fiber optics to a Pioneer AV amp with Polk 10b speaker main and Bose 301 surround with a JBL center speaker the CD wav to me sound the sweetest and the first is muddy and the center one is a little better but the cd wave one is the best sounding on my system. I went throught this all when i ripped using Accurite rip to my hard drive ov over 600 cd's and endless mp3's . Here is one link I used a lot dBpoweramp: CD Ripper & Audio Converter. Secure ripping to mp3, FLAC, m4a, Apple Lossless & WMA plus this one AccurateRip . Good luck and have fun ripping one more link
My System SpecsSystem Spec
15 Jul 2011   #5

Windows 7 Home Premium x64

Ah, yes, dBpoweramp. Too bad I have to pay for it, I have wasted too much money on software I ended up not using anymore already xD

sandman, your setup is sweet, can I have a piece of that xD
No wonder the WAV file was the only one sounding good, as it was the only one without any compression.

I am seriously considering just dropping it all, having done numerous re-tests today. I installed Music Bee tonight, and pretty much love it. It uses Nero's AAC codec and LAME MP3, but as I was Binging today (yes, I don't use Google :P) I kept reading posts that Nero's AAC has fallen behind other solutions. After a couple of Aspirins and a six-pack, I think I will just settle on LAME MP3, either @192CBR or probably the VBR "equivalent" which is -v 3.0, depending on the type of music I'm ripping.

So I'll mark this thread solved, cross my fingers and just hope it never comes to this again, lol.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
17 Jul 2011   #6

Window's 7 Ultimate 64bit

I have the download link for the dbpoweramp but I cannot transfer it to any one or i would give you the link to download it for your use but it have to much passwords of mine and security for the download to transfer and then it may not even f work for you on your system. The 64 kbit was quite close to the orginal and would be the one i would use i wetn for the big files and ripped most of mine uncompressed for the most of the music i have, I was using two Samsung cdrw S-203N burners to do the ripping and sometimes it got confusing on what one went in which cd case, but what a pleasure when someone wants to listen to a track or album and you just bring them up on the computer no looking through the CD tower over and over for the CD you want to listen to and cannot find. I even bought the Nero digital codec when i was doing the project of ripping all my cd's to HD.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
17 Jul 2011   #7

Windows 7 Home Premium x64

Bought it? To my knowledge, the Nero Digital Codec is free for quite some time now, maybe you bought it before that?

Anyway, I decided to compare it to the iTunes encoder, but since the latter can't be found anywhere but iTunes, I gave up pretty fast, listened to reason and Wishmaster's advice, and started ripping to Nero's LC-AAC with VBR @ ~128 kb/s and it sounds great, definitely better than the crappy Fraunhofer's AAC. The average bitrate seems to be calculated much more precisely, and where MP3 fails extremely (short songs, especially under one minute), AAC does it beautifully; atmospheric interludes, easy-listening jazz and classical music has a very low bitrate and still sounds awesome, and complicated songs (rock/metal/house with a lot of samples and special effects) go up to 140/145kb/s, also sounding extremely well. From what I've read about Nero's codec, it surpassed all my expectations and premature judgments.

The truth is that I actually fear playing my CDs, because some of them are quite rare releases, while others are just too fancy for me to even unpack. There's some of them I just keep as a collection item and instead download a FLAC version of the same CD (if it exists) and compress it some more. Now, whether it's illegal or not, well, I don't care, I spend A LOT of money on CDs, and I own them ALL physically, no digital download B$ whatsoever; I think it's not bad that I wish to keep some of them in perfect condition this way. I mean, it's not like I'm stealing bonus tracks and B-sides and rare singles or anything; the CD I own physically, I sometimes choose to keep intact; and I'm quite proud of my collection.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
18 Jul 2011   #8

Window's 7 Ultimate 64bit

Nero Digital Audio Reference MPEG-4 & 3GPP Audio Encoder This is what I bought from Nero back when I was ripping well glad to see you got what you needed Enjoy.
My System SpecsSystem Spec

 Listening test: please partake and help ;)

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