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Discussion Starter #1
Yesterday, I spent time with my good friend Jake - the metal wizard - who fabricated my bed panel as part of a pending modification to the RL's system. We were discussing his plans for an upcoming change in his shop and how we could put together a simple background music system for his listening pleasure while working away.

Starting at the beginning of how he sources, stores and plays back music today, he explained all his files are downloaded via the internet as mp3's (mostly via iTunes store). Then his phone is connected to a portable work site boom box style thingy via the headset jack on his phone. He wants to unplug in favor of Bluetooth audio, freeing him up to move around the shop with his phone but keep the music going.

With that knowledge, I invited him to listen to the system in the RL. Selecting a few choice tracks on my hidden iPod, he commented on how "crisp & fast" the system sounded and how he could "hear everything". I asked him to choose a favorite tune on his phone and play it back over the RL system via Bluetooth audio.

Immediately, he asked "what happened?" Playing dumb, I asked what he meant. "What happened to the crisp? What happened to the drums? Why does it sound so dead? This song didn't sound that way when I listened to it early today on earphones."

Simple answer: It starts with the original file. mp3's are compressed in order to speed up transfer rates over the internet. Then, the coding scheme used to load and store a file on the playback device has an influence. Then, the method with which the storage device is connected to the playback system has an influence. For example, Bluetooth audio further compresses transfers in the air transfer between the storage and playback system. Even when connected by headphone outputs, the signal passes through circuitry inside the storage device - so it's sound can only be as good as the design of a device where the OEM looks to contain cost in every part of the total assembled package.

Jake is a prime example of a entire generation born into a music system that favors convenience over reproduction quality. Its not his fault and there are literally millions of Millennials like him who don't know what they don't know until they are exposed to something better than the "new normal". Upon hearing the delta between lossless file storage and proper decoding of files, Jake was at first confused, then amazed at how much more enjoyable sound can be with a little effort and knowledge.

Now, in his case, best practices when it comes to music file management will make little difference to the goal of providing background music in his metal fabricating shop, however, when the files on his phone are already compromised, using his phone as a source in other environments will always mean poor reproduction.

In my case, I use the iTunes PC application strictly as a file management system. The library is now over 12,000 tunes occupying a little over half the storage space on a 500GB portable hard drive backed up to a second hard drive, backed up to an SSD. All files are sourced from CD, SACD and DVD audio discs and transferred using Apple lossless codec (meaning as close to bit-for-bit as possible according to Apple standards). For portability, some of those files are stored lossless on a Gen2 64 GB iPod Touch. In the RL, files are transferred directly to the Pioneer's very good on-board DAC.

The end result is, within the limits of each link in the chain, files are reproduced at the same sample rates a disc provides - with the convenience of a 2,000 tune portable library. Playback is quite pleasing.

BTW: "aptX" is a relatively new Bluetooth audio standard that solves many of the limitations of the current air interface. There are good reviews by some of the golden ear snooty types in the audio world. I haven't had the opportunity to hear it myself but its encouraging there may someday be an air transfer system that eliminates cabled connection. I'm not aware of mobile head units taking advantage of aptX, but that's probably just ignorance on my part

BTW 2: although good, CD's are not state of the art. CD's are themselves compressed. This goes back to the first introduction of digital audio to the consumer market. In the 80's, Sample rates and Bit Depth were limited by hardware and software. Even though the benefits of of "more" were understood - 44kHz/16Bit sample rates were deemed "good enough" based on consumer level production of storage and playback media. Naturally, things have evolved since then. If anyone has heard the difference between a standard CD & SACD, it can be as stark as what Jake heard when comparing a crappy mp3 against lossless.
 

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I no longer have a "good" system at home or in the SUV. But I agree with all your points.

When I got rid of my physical music (800+ CDs) I ripped them all to WAV files. And then made several backups, both at home and at a relative's house far away (in case of a tornado, house fire, etc). Took me months to do them all.

My "casual" speakers are some desktops from Definitive Audio (their "Slant" series) using the DAC in the speakers. They're a very good bipolar design, but don't have any bass. I'd need to get a subwoofer for that. In the meantime I use some Sennheiser HD485 headphones - very good bass response in them.

Playback is via a Macbook Pro. The Apple hardware is probably the best of the computer makers. Dell is the worst - all their systems have a huge amount of hiss and just bad sound.

I buy the Mobile Fidelity CDs when I can find them (http://www.mofi.com/). But the absolute best sound I've gotten was on a DVD-Audio with 6 discrete channels (no DTS or compression) of Fleetwood Mac "Rumours". Just amazing.

I've bought some modern music, and the compression levels used is just stupid. They've even remastered some of the older CDs with higher amounts of compression, so if you want good sound, buy an older pressing. Daft Punk's "Random Access Memories" got accolades over it's good sound, but really, it just has less compression than anything else released at the same time.

Chip H.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
I no longer have a "good" system at home or in the SUV. But I agree with all your points.

When I got rid of my physical music (800+ CDs) I ripped them all to WAV files. And then made several backups, both at home and at a relative's house far away (in case of a tornado, house fire, etc). Took me months to do them all.

My "casual" speakers are some desktops from Definitive Audio (their "Slant" series) using the DAC in the speakers. They're a very good bipolar design, but don't have any bass. I'd need to get a subwoofer for that. In the meantime I use some Sennheiser HD485 headphones - very good bass response in them.

Playback is via a Macbook Pro. The Apple hardware is probably the best of the computer makers. Dell is the worst - all their systems have a huge amount of hiss and just bad sound.

I buy the Mobile Fidelity CDs when I can find them (http://www.mofi.com/). But the absolute best sound I've gotten was on a DVD-Audio with 6 discrete channels (no DTS or compression) of Fleetwood Mac "Rumours". Just amazing.

I've bought some modern music, and the compression levels used is just stupid. They've even remastered some of the older CDs with higher amounts of compression, so if you want good sound, buy an older pressing. Daft Punk's "Random Access Memories" got accolades over it's good sound, but really, it just has less compression than anything else released at the same time.

Chip H.
Hey Chip. Sometime last year, this little Yamaha sub was added to my office desk top system. For $115, it's easily the best enhancement to everyday listening enjoyment yet, even at very low listening levels. Just a suggestion.

Edit: for a guy without a "good system", you've got a better than average handle on music file management. Good on ya for that.
 

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Disclosure: I dunno squat about compression or anything else techie but I do love some excellent music faithfully reproduced. I had a local shop put a nice system in my old RL, but I don't have that kind of $$ any more so with the newer RL I just did tweeters and new front speakers (no amps).

Writing really only to share a similar experience with Bluetooth. I installed a gizmo that would allow me to go Bluetooth from my phone to the AUX plug in my 12 RL. Had been using a direct connect double male plug cord from the phone to the AUX jack. The BT gizmo allows the phone to work and allows you to answer it via BT using hands free. But music sounds awful over the stereo system using BT. I would classify it as similar to standard FM sound quality.

I went back to the double male plug and re-purposed my old iPhone5 as my music only source. Now my new phone is free to roam. I know there are better solutions but this works for me.
 

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Hey Chip. Sometime last year, this little Yamaha sub was added to my office desk top system. For $115, it's easily the best enhancement to everyday listening enjoyment yet, even at very low listening levels. Just a suggestion.

Edit: for a guy without a "good system", you've got a better than average handle on music file management. Good on ya for that.
I used to be into car audio - I got a chance to listen to Richard Clark's Buick Grand National one time -- just amazing.

A good sub can really add to the listening experience. But too many sub-boxes I hear in cars have really bad porting, with either pumping noise, or they are "one-note" bass because the port size/length was selected wrong. When I had the Ridgeline, I had the JL Audio Stealthbox and it had good response, but as a sealed design it was lacking in SPL for me (I prefer a good ported design for cars).

The Fleetwood Mac DVD-A disc I was telling you about is pretty much unplayable today, because DVD/BluRay players no longer have the six-channel analog outputs. They've all gone to HDMI for cost and hookup simplicity reasons.

Definitive Technology has a 8" sub that is designed for use with my speakers, but I haven't bought it because I'm in an apartment and the walls are thin. :(

Chip H.
 

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More high end players (Oppo Digital comes to mind) will have 7 channels of analog output that will handle Fleetwood Mac and the Beatles ("Love" album) in DVD-A.
Some still handle SACD recordings as well, especially some Sony players (of course).
 

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Discussion Starter #7
I used to be into car audio - I got a chance to listen to Richard Clark's Buick Grand National one time -- just amazing.

A good sub can really add to the listening experience. But too many sub-boxes I hear in cars have really bad porting, with either pumping noise, or they are "one-note" bass because the port size/length was selected wrong. When I had the Ridgeline, I had the JL Audio Stealthbox and it had good response, but as a sealed design it was lacking in SPL for me (I prefer a good ported design for cars).

The Fleetwood Mac DVD-A disc I was telling you about is pretty much unplayable today, because DVD/BluRay players no longer have the six-channel analog outputs. They've all gone to HDMI for cost and hookup simplicity reasons.

Definitive Technology has a 8" sub that is designed for use with my speakers, but I haven't bought it because I'm in an apartment and the walls are thin. :(

Chip H.
To your point about improper enclosures, there are some who blindly believe ports, slots, vents or other pressure release designs are somehow inferior to air tight designs. Those who do are grossly misinformed. The sole function of any enclosure design is to maximize the mechanical characteristics of a given transducer while reducing cabinet influence.

I would submit that, although limited, the factory Pioneer designed stock sub in the RL is far superior to randomly chosen raw drivers stuck in an improper enclosure. The port noise you reference is "chuffing", an appropriate term for the audible junk emitted by a poorly implemented exhaust port. And the factory RL sub does not exhibit that tendency due to it's (cost constrained) design parameters. But I repeat myself, I believe the factory sub has been inappropriately disparaged by those who never bothered to experiment. Anyhoo...

Back to the sub on your desk top system... mine is in an office environment. Regardless of very low listening levels to avoid disturbing my neighbors, I couldn't be more pleased with the contribution the little Yamaha lends to sound. and then there's Friday afternoons when locals submit requests for a tune at listenable levels one or two spaces away. :) Wallet concerns aside, going for a sub on your system would be worthwhile. Even though you might not vibrate the common wall between you and the neighbors, it'll still be a nice addition. I don't mean to nag!
 

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Audio of any type can be a subjective force.
Me? I don't use the CD player in my 2011 Ridgeline RTL. I purchase over time
a few Apple Shuffle solid state players, each is connected to
the audio system of the truck using the 3.5mm input plug installed to the right
of the audio system. A stereo lead with another 3.5 male ploug on the
o ther end plugs into a Shuffle.

I know audio in digital form is severly compressed, so the tunes are transferred
from the LP , CD or open reel tape running at 15 ips to either my 27" iMac
or my MacBook Pro laptop and then transferred to the approrpriate shuttle.
Each shuttle has a different colour indicating a different form of musical
entertainment; Cinema Organ, Classical Organ, stride piano or classical piano.

I know audio in the truck is simply entertainment whereas at home that's a whole different matter.

My primary home audio is a 26 year old Bryston 2B amp (recently rebuilt at their factory in Peterborough Ontario Canada, with their basic separate
pre-amplifier fed into a pair of recently refreshed wtih new speakers and drivers, Paradigm two way system.

Audio sources include
a pair of Revox A77 15" audio tape decks with 1/4" tape, both recently rebuilt by a chap in Montreal who does these massive machines; a Panasonic direct drive turntable, and a Pair of Tascam audio cassette decks.

I see no reason to change, many many LP's and audio tapes in both formats, and they
translate and transfer quite well to the Mac computers.
Also have many compact discs, some twenty years old from when CD's first appeared.

So much of the music we are bombarded with on a daily basis is very much homogenized music;
it is not what is real at least to many of us older people. Loud music played tends to
hide poor music played by varoious groups.

Digital recording may be the current end-all currently and is often
used on devices which really do not give the audio a change to be heard
as it was recorded or played for its first audiences.

In your Ridgeline, what you are hearing is NOT as it existed coming from the originator of same...
it is to my ears, often just basic noise.

One reason I cancelled my XM supscription;
the noise emanating from the speakers was not music, at least not to my ears.

The so-called audio from the Shuttles will last upwards of ten hours,
I then plug them into their own chargers to bring them back up to
full power again. Have no idea for what length of time these shuttles
can be recharged over and over again.So far all of mine have been
going quite well for five years or more. One of these days...
they'll expire.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Pardon me but I call horse hooey, balderdash and will add a hardy HARUMPH(!) in response to your post.

Standard 44kHz sampling @ 16 bit code depth provides ~100db dynamic range, can be stored indefinitely in solid state form and has a virtual zero noise floor. Try getting those attributes from a magnetic tape or the grooves of a vinyl pressing. Ain't gonna happen. Like vacuum tubes, every analog media degrades with age and use. Add the additional issues of inherent bandwidth, range and long term storage stability limitations and analog is left in the weeds of sonic quality at the consumer level.

You didn't mention the codec you choose when creating a digital file born of your analog source material. The fact is: if a user doesn't explicitly select something other than iTunes default values, files are most certainly being compressed during transfer. So starting at square 1, this is a must if one is to optimize their digital file management/playback quality.

Further, the Apple Shuffle is not a reference device by which to judge digital. At its price point, flash memory is limited to 2GB which by default means without compression during transfer, it won't store very many files. Additionally, any device at this price point is compromised at the analog output stage. Component selection for the everything in the digital and analog signal path of the Shuffle is reflected in its price point, which is to say high fidelity was not as high on the goal list as it would be with other assemblies offered by Apple. For example, the Shuffle does not employ the excellent Wolfson DAC used in other Apple devices.

Based on your description, it sounds like your vehicle has the stock head unit with an analog input. If that's true, this is a further negative influence over your impression of mobile audio. In summary:
Strike 1: it appears your files are compressed on their way into the Shuffle.
Strike 2: The Shuffle is not a reference device.
Strike 3: analog output from a digital storage device is limited by the D to A conversion and analog headphone output from that device - which is further limited by the nature of the Shuffle.
Strike 4: most factory stereos can't be used as any sort of reference by which to judge digital. Especially when that factory head is used in a total factory speaker system.

Given the assumption that all of the above is true, I can see why your opinion is what it is - because you are likely experiencing audio quality somewhere between analog AM and FM air transmissions.

It is a fact of physics that digital capture and storage has the potential to FAR exceed the frequency and dynamic properties of the microphones, voices and acoustic instruments (all analog) used to create original sounds. Which cannot be said for magnetic tape, direct to disc or any other analog capture/retention/playback mechanism. One of the biggest "issues" with digital file transfers is the options available to an uninformed or unconcerned user. If someone doesn't know what encode/decode schema and interconnect methods do to reproduction, it isn't digital's fault.

None of this is to say that pure analog is virtue-less. For many golden ear audiophiles, high quality turntables spinning high quality vinyl pressings remain state of the art. But that state of the art comes with stratospheric cost and a complete set of luggage (read: baggage) to attain said state of the art. Conversely, digital offers even higher quality playback at a fraction of the cost - but only when properly implemented.

Magnetic tape is included in the long list of limitations stuffed into analog baggage. Crosstalk, channel bleed, pre-echo, long term retention of ferrous material orientation on an acetate base are chief among those very real limitations. It's only because of the restoration efforts of modern archivists that 2" original 24 track and 2 track final master magnetic tapes are being restored and retained to their former glory for mankinds prosperity. If it weren't for DSP, those archivists could never restore the sonic integrity of 40 year old magnetic tape.

I couldn't disagree more with your statement that what (can be) heard in a vehicle is NOT an accurate representation of an original recording. When properly implemented, even a mediocre mobile system is capable of exceeding the dynamic range, frequency integrity and subtle detail offered by many recordings. The enemy of mobile playback is limited only by the equipment in use and noise introduced by several tons of metal moving down a paved surface.

BTW: the chemistry of Li-Ion battery characteristics are universal. "For the most part" they are stable for approximately 700 charge/discharge cycles, making them "good" for approximately two years before showing signs of severe charge retention. Because the Shuffle is a playback only device (meaning it has no LCD to place intermittent demand on the battery), it may not exhibit the same discharge characteristics as other devices due to the relatively stable current demand of audio playback. As is true with any mass produced component, actual battery life is a function of manufacture variability and use in the field. The "mileage" of an individual user will vary widely.

BTW 2: your Revox A-77 was an excellent 2 track machine. It is, in fact a consumer version and direct relative of the studio reference standard Studer decks used in professional studios around the world. I happen to own a vintage Sony studio 2 track capable of 15/30ips that was once direct competition for the Studer. The provenance of this machine appears to establish it as one of Sony's last pro analog decks before moving into PCM. I hope you have a method to clean demagnetize the recording and playback heads. Cleaning is especially important. As tape ages, it sheds more and more of the ferrous oxide it needs to retain magnetization.

Two turntables available to my system but not in use are: Harmon Kardon ST-8 with interchangeable arms with a Shure V-15 Type 4 or a Stanton 681EEE moving magnet cartridges mounted for quick change and calibration. The reference standard in my system is a Thorens TD124 and Sumiko tone arm system with Grado Ruby Moving Coil cartridge tracking at 1.75 grams (light for a MC).

BTW 3: much (not all) of what passes for "music" today is not professionally engineered. The files created by some "artists" originate in the digital domain using consumer available "mixing" software and standard codecs resident in PC's or MACs. And don't get me started on consumer microphones. PFFFT! I share your opinion on these techniques, they suck but there are other, more aware artists who craft excellent recordings in the digital domain. A big thanks to them for that.

And we haven't even touched on the use of compression in live and studio sound. It is both necessary and common to nearly every recording for compression to exist at one level of another. When an uniformed user applies it to their file transfer, all bets are off. In that single regard, compression is evil. :)

Oh, and tape speed is another issue with magnetic storage. 1 7/8 ips of cassettes and tape formulations were huge leap over the old 4 & 8 track cartridges that preceded them, but holy crap! The noise floor of a cassette is simply too high to be considered high fidelity. As the former owner of a Nacamichi Dragon & out board noise reduction equipment like Dolby B & C, dbX compression/expansion, I can say with absolute confidence the best thing cassettes offered was portability and ease of load into a playback machine. Past that, they were mediocre at best.

Coming from a history of high quality analog playback, I have nothing but respect for the media, however, your comments about digital storage and playback are not accurate.
 

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Strike 4: most factory stereos can't be used as any sort of reference by which to judge digital.
When I pulled my Ridgeline's speakers out, I was amazed at how cheaply they were made. Tiny magnet, paper cones, floppy mounting frame.

Putting in the JL Audio replacements was a huge step up in quality. C5 components in the front, C2 coaxials in the back.

But the #1 improvement was adding Dynamat to lower the noise floor of the truck. A quieter vehicle will automatically have better sounding music.


As the former owner of a Nacamichi Dragon & out board noise reduction equipment like Dolby B & C, dbX compression/expansion
I should have bought a Dragon. Instead I bought an Akai auto-reversing deck. Instead of flipping the entire cassette shell to reverse play, it dropped the record & playback heads down and reversed them. It of course broke. And the repair shop was run by a drug addict who sold it to support his habit. But I also had a dbx 224 noise reduction box, and it really helped when making tape recordings. I used a VHS Hi-Fi video tape recorder as my "reel to reel" for long-running music.

Chip H.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
When I pulled my Ridgeline's speakers out, I was amazed at how cheaply they were made. Tiny magnet, paper cones, floppy mounting frame.

Putting in the JL Audio replacements was a huge step up in quality. C5 components in the front, C2 coaxials in the back.

But the #1 improvement was adding Dynamat to lower the noise floor of the truck. A quieter vehicle will automatically have better sounding music.

I should have bought a Dragon. Instead I bought an Akai auto-reversing deck. Instead of flipping the entire cassette shell to reverse play, it dropped the record & playback heads down and reversed them. It of course broke. And the repair shop was run by a drug addict who sold it to support his habit. But I also had a dbx 224 noise reduction box, and it really helped when making tape recordings. I used a VHS Hi-Fi video tape recorder as my "reel to reel" for long-running music.

Chip H.
No doubt about it. Reducing ambient noise and resonance of large plastic and metal panels raises satisfaction all the way around. Sound on or off, a quieter vehicle is simply more enjoyable.

Oh man, in its day, the Dragon was literally a world class machine. Often used in studios to create a demo tape for artists to take with them after long recording and mix sessions. What happened to the Nacamichi brand is enough to make a guy sick. Like a/d/s and other companies from the past, any connection with the founding roots of those innovated companies have disappeared into moneyed interests of "investment" firms looking to capitalize on a once high quality brand.

You were totally cutting edge with VHS as a recording/playback media. The spinning heads of a Beta or VHS machine beat the snot out audio cassettes. Not many hobbyists ventured into that territory, those who did were well rewarded.

Shame that dbX was never widely accepted cuz it made Dolby B & C sound like a hand held bullhorn.

Harman International is one of the only conglomerates to maintain the original quality of brands they have gobbled up over the years. Forever grateful for that. I hope they stay true to that philosophy.

Interestingly, most of the brands mentioned in this thread are owned by Harman. Check out wiki's list of Harman companies:

AKG Acoustics - microphone/headphones
AMX - video switching and control devices
Audio Access - A/V controllers
Bang & Olufsen Automotive
Becker - car infotainment
BSS Audio - signal processing
Crown International - pro amplifiers
dbx Professional Products - signal processors
DigiTech - guitar products
HardWire - guitar pedals
HiQnet - audio digital network, based on Ethernet
harman/kardon - home/car audio
Infinity - home/car speakers
iOnRoad - Personal driving assistance app
JBL - home/car speakers & amplifiers, professional speakers
Lexicon - digital processing
Mark Levinson Audio Systems - home/car audio
Martin Professional - stage and architectural lighting and effects fixtures
Revel - home speakers
Selenium - home, car and professional speakers, amplifiers, sound tables/mixers
Soundcraft - mixing consoles
Studer - mixing consoles
 

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I've got the Mark Levinson factory option in the Lexus. And it sounds ... good for a factory radio. Thank you, previous owner for paying for it!

Lots of speakers around the interior (3 in each front door, one in the center of the dash, 2 in the rear doors, 2 in the cargo door, and a sub), and they seem to have done a decent job of getting the time-domain right. Still had to adjust the balance + fader a bit, though.

Amazingly, the Lexus came with a cassette deck (in 2004!). I've been keeping an eye out at the local Goodwill stores for something to play in it (even if it's a worn-out copy of "The Gap Band's Greatest Hits"), but it seems that even Goodwill doesn't want tapes any more. The player may remain unused..

I've added a 3rd party module that imitates a MiniDisc player (remember those?) and it will play WAV and MP3 files off a USB stick, but not the iTunes Store purchases.

Chip H.
 

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Older recordings from the 80's, 90's tend to have more dynamics and are not compressed as many newer ones, they may not be loud but sound better. And remastered recordings tend to be louder and have less dynamics most of the time.
There are many new good recordings that offer really good sound quality.


Younger generations demand louder, not quality but US pop artists choose to be the loudest, and engineers just have to raise all the levels, killing dynamics and many times introducing distortion, but as long as they are the loudest for the younger crowd, they are happy. That is what is called the Loudness wars in the recording industry, in you tube it can be searched to see examples and technical explanations about it.


If the original recording is compressed, loud and with no dynamics, then you will have a hard time distinguishing differences between a 128K file and a lossless file, while if the recording and the type of music is good material to be evaluated, like more acoustic instruments, and less electronic computer generated sounds, then we can notice a significant sound quality difference between a large and a small compressed 128K file.


Regarding the Itunes downloads, they are supposed to be 256K files, They call it Itunes plus and they claim they better than the regular 256K file being just a 256K file.

Sometimes the playback source being a car boom box or ipod, may have EQ settings applied that will change the sound, or if the recording is bad, old or certain pop music, it may sound different or not as expected even if the file is big enough.


It has been mentioned by many that it is very hard to detect SQ difference between an Original CD/Lossless file and a 256K file unless you have very good quality speakers, good amplification and a good sub.

Some claim, you get more stereo separation with CD original lossless files over anything.
Detecting a difference between a 320K file and a Lossless one is almost impossible, you will need to have special ability or hearing to be correct every time.

Shared files tend to degrade more and more as they are copied or compressed with lower resolution, and making the larger do not make them better.

Playback through CD and USB port will reproduce better sound than BT in most cases, AUX being at the bottom.

This test is to detect differences between uncompressed, 320KMP3 and low quality 128K

If you got all correct, either you were lucky or you have golden ears, if you take the test a second time you most likely miss one or more.

If most of the ones you select are 128K files the first time, it means you can't even tell the difference between CD and the most compressed file. Good headphones help, a good sound system in a car or home are also good for the test.

http://www.npr.org/sections/therecord/2015/06/02/411473508/how-well-can-you-hear-audio-quality
 

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Discussion Starter #15 (Edited)
Laserdude: Ah, yup. Said another way: garbage in = garbage out. Said yet another way: a high quality copy of junk is still junk.

If the marketing behind any form of lossy data compression was a game show on a TV production stage - with bright lights and colorful, shimmering fixtures, it might go something like this: Vanna White tells the audience... behind these doors are fresh dog turds, none of them are surrounded by flies! (applause, applause, applause).

Behind one of these doors is a plain ol' poo log (128k), behind another is a poo log and fresh flowers (256k), and the last has a poo log on wheels with chrome hub caps (320k). Which door does the contestant choose? They all stink to start with, so who cares about flowers and chrome?

100% of the time, staying out of the mp3 audience is the best option for anyone who cares about maximizing their personal listening experience. Splitting the marketing hairs of the "virtues" of one kind of compression over another is OK if one can't hear the difference or doesn't care. For the most part, consumers simply don't know. Hence the "technical discussions" behind the various levels crap within the world of mp3.

Personally, best practices are to start with the best source available, convert it with bit-for-bit encoding and accept the fact that a nice library requires large storage capacity. Playback is then limited only by the DAC in use and the remaining system.

Speaking of splitting hairs.... the on-going discussion in the audiophile world revolves around high resolution files beyond the CD standard. Is 44.1 sampling and 16 bit depth “good enough”? Can the human ear discern the nuance offered at 96kHz/24 bit? How about even higher resolution? For many, the questions don't even merit discussion. The difference is immediately apparent. For others, the discussion often devolves into the minutia of personal interpretation/perception. At the end of it all, the CD standard is still the most pervasive physical media format available. AND, I might add, over-sampling a disc offers no audible benefit. But there is more to that topic.

Chip: I suggest not confusing “remaster” and /or “remix” with restoration. The terms remaster and remixed are often interchanged by the general public but can mean very different things by the person using those terms. Technically, a “remix” starts with the multi-track original studio recording where misguided producers eff around with levels and effects on voice and instruments to change the original in significant ways as they chase new dollars from the buying public. “Remastered” *should mean* “cleaning up” the original 2 track mix down master by applying noise/notch filters and/or the gentle application of equalization in a (sometime unproductive) quest to improve sonic integrity. The waters are WAY too muddy in this area to adopt a one-size-fits all approach as to which is superior.

Buying a first edition disc is one way to ensure a 44.1kHz/16bit obtaining a copy of original work but it may not be the best available. TO WIT: “Remixed” can also mean the original multi-track 2” analog tapes are digitized so that dynamics and frequency content of individual voices and instruments can be processed in the digital domain, making them sound fresh and new. In the hands of a loving archivist who insists on not changing the original mix but also insists on restoring the sonic integrity of an aging original source, the outcome can be dramatically beneficial. Witness Steven Wilson's efforts with the 40th anniversary editions of Jethro Tull's recordings. And Roger Waters re-release of “Amused to death” and Jimmy Page's restoration of Led Zeppelin's seminal work. These efforts are truly remarkable and well worth the investment to fans of their music. Even after playing some of these tunes to DEATH over the years, a well done restoration reveals content never heard before.

Having spewed all that, it's hard to beat a $4 first edition disc in a used store or (my favorite) a swap meet. :)

EDIT: The statement "This test is to detect differences between uncompressed, 320KMP3 and low quality 128K" is FALSE. By definition, a 320kbs is absolutely compressed and is NOT analogous to lossless encoding in any way shape or form. If one begins with standard CD 44.kHz/16 bit encoding, converts it to what you call "uncompressed" 320kbs mp3 and cannot hear the difference, the conversation is moot. For goodness sake, they are not the same! Anyone not hearing the difference in proper encoding/decoding is either suffering from significant hearing degradation or are hopelessly lost in their misunderstanding of basic digital.
 

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I should have included that a lot of the late 80's CDs were shovel-ware. As in, just get the music on there and shovel them out the door. Lots of them were released with the RIAA LP record equalization curve still on them. My copy of Pink Floyd The Wall from 1984 is like that.

Remaster vs. Remix -- I agree with you, but in practice the terms are muddled so you're never sure what you're going to get until you're able to listen to it (by which time, they already have your dollars...)

I'm one of the people whose ears aren't good enough to be able to tell the difference between CD standard and the "new & improved" hi-bitrate standards. MP3 vs. lossless, I'm pretty good at.

Chip H.
 

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To clear up what I wrote and avoid confusion, perhaps my coma was ignored, I did not say uncompressed MP3 320k. And no need to edit my op either.

I wrote compare differences between uncompressed files to 320 kb MP3 compressed and to more compressed 128kb files.

Despite what some claim saying they can notice differences, I would say they might tend to be right with familiar music they are used to listen to, A blind test with good demos that we are not familiar with or listen to them frequently would really tell how well we can hear the difference.

There might be a few special edition cd's or recorded with superior methods, making it very easy to notice the differences.

Then I hope we are comparing apples to apples, meaning lossless files versus 320kb or 256kb files played through an iPod using a USB port, most likely in a car.
A CD player vs iPod will sound different due to the DA converters.


And to add a personal opinion regarding either having better abilities or choosing the best recording engineer or method to excell in quality recordings, for some reason the British artists, simply kick ass left and right when it comes to the best recordings being rock, pop or any kind of music, they did in the past and continue to do so today.
There might be exceptions like the spice girls and a few others usually in the pop music for the most part.
 

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To clear up what I wrote and avoid confusion, perhaps my coma was ignored, I did not say uncompressed MP3 320k. And no need to edit my op either.

I wrote compare differences between uncompressed files to 320 kb MP3 compressed and to more compressed 128kb files.

Despite what some claim saying they can notice differences, I would say they might tend to be right with familiar music they are used to listen to, A blind test with good demos that we are not familiar with or listen to them frequently would really tell how well we can hear the difference.

There might be a few special edition cd's or recorded with superior methods, making it very easy to notice the differences.

Then I hope we are comparing apples to apples, meaning lossless files versus 320kb or 256kb files played through an iPod using a USB port, most likely in a car.
A CD player vs iPod will sound different due to the DA converters.


And to add a personal opinion regarding either having better abilities or choosing the best recording engineer or method to excell in quality recordings, for some reason the British artists, simply kick ass left and right when it comes to the best recordings being rock, pop or any kind of music, they did in the past and continue to do so today.
There might be exceptions like the spice girls and a few others usually in the pop music for the most part.
Thanks for the clarification. Yes, I missed the coma. Please pardon the lack of attention to that very important punctuation in your post.

On the point of the ability to discern between the 3 layers of stink in mp3 files, I'll never know. Others can discuss the difference between bad, worse and horrible if they choose to do so.

On the point of disc vs. files stored in an iPod, the entire point of lossless - or - bit for bit encoding, is to eliminate the delta between original data and subsequent copies of that data. When an Apple licensed interconnect is used to access the data line in an iPod, the bit stream flowing through USB to the automotive head arrives for processing by the same DAC that decodes data from an audio disc. In other words, there *should be* no audible difference between data decoded from a disc vs. a lossless file streamed from the flash memory of an iPod.
 

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Oh, that's Ok, no worries.

I can not confirm this. Many people get this device to get the full digital sound signal from ipods, iphones and Ipads for their cars.

http://www.pure.com/product/i-20-vl-61429/


That makes me wonder if the CD playback is better than the USB lightning or 30 pin connector Ipod sound, or there is no benefit from the I-20 device using it's analog outputs, or simply they use a cable adapter that will support the I-20 digital signal to HU's USB port to get the better sound all user's and I-20 claims to offer.

One thing I have read is that it works better using the optical port, and I have have heard some systems with some head units that have an optical digital output that is connected to an external sound processor, and many simply use their iPads as a Head Unit using this I-20 device connected to an external sound processor having an optical digital input and claiming better sound quality, than just the simple HU USB port through the apple lightning cable.
 

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Oh, that's Ok, no worries.

I can not confirm this. Many people get this device to get the full digital sound signal from ipods, iphones and Ipads for their cars.

http://www.pure.com/product/i-20-vl-61429/
Would you mind if I take a stab at clearing a few things up? I hope not.

Use of the term "full digital" implies partial digital exists. It does not.

The 30 pin Apple connector supports a few different functions other than charging. Setting aside cable configuration variations to avoid clouding the issue, an Apple "sync" cable taps a data line directly into flash memory where files are stored. That data line supports bi-directional streaming of data to/from the device. By doing that, it bypasses Apples internal DAC and all internal electronics so that an outboard DAC (like those inside USB configured head units) can decode files.

The docking station in your link has a nice built in DAC to provide an analog output. It also has coaxial data outputs and a TOSLINK optical outputs tapped into the data line mentioned above. Interestingly, it does not support micro USB. Odd. The point of those connection options is to make the docking station universal for as many users as possible.

If that docking station were to used in a car, the built in DAC could be used for an analog connection to a head unit (which in not advisable for MAX_audio quality) or one of its digital outputs could be connected to an appropriately configured head unit where a built-in DAC can decode the files streaming from the Apple device.

It's worth mentioning that optical (TOSLINK), coaxial RCA and USB interconnects are mirrors of each other. There is no functional loss or benefit to any of the three despite what proponents of "high end" cable manufacturers espouse. To that point: digital is binary, meaning its a series of on/off bits. Said another way: digital files can either be decoded or they can't. How that binary data is delivered for decoding is inconsequential. The point of all that is, *most* head units with USB Apple support use very good internal DACs for decoding data sources like CD's or files stored in memory device(s) like a USB drive or Apple product. In some cases, they'll decode 96/24 or 192/24. Those resolutions are truly state-of-the art.

SO.... other than providing a cradle to hold an Apple device, the docking station in your link adds no sonic value in mobile systems employing a good H.U.. AND, if files are encoded at the same rates across various storage media, sound from a CD, flash drive or Apple device sound identical to each other.

BTW: when an Apple product is connected to USB on a H.U., it takes over control of the Apple device via the digital tap. This is whats happening: the H.U. contains a streamlined version iTunes P.C./MAC application that has been modified to conform to a GUI (graphic user interface) designed by the H.U. OEM. That data line is how the H.U. displays all the information contained on the Apple device. Song, Album, Genre, Art work and the bits making up the tune being played flow across that data line. When the Apple device is connected to an H.U. this way, it is nothing more than a storage envelop. It's just a flash drive contained in a nice industrial design. All the internal electronics have been by-passed. So it doesn't matter which Apple device serves as the source. iPod, iPhone, iPad become nothing more that a file server limited only by their memory capacity.

[/QUOTE]
That makes me wonder if the CD playback is better than the USB lightning or 30 pin connector Ipod sound, [/QUOTE]

As described above, the DAC residing inside the H.U. decodes data stored on discs, Apple device - or - USB flash drive. If those sources are encoded at the same rate, there is virtually no difference in the final analog output.

[/QUOTE] or there is no benefit from the I-20 device using it's analog outputs, or simply they use a cable adapter that will support the I-20 digital signal to HU's USB port to get the better sound all user's and I-20 claims to offer. [/QUOTE]

When a portable device like an iPod is used as the source of music and that device is connected via headphone output to the H.U. by the 3.5mm analog input, the audio we hear in passing thru the iPod's DAC to a headphone amp, out to the headphone connector. The sound delivered that way is limited by the quality of the headphone amp - which - although good - connecting via 3.5mm analog audio is not the preferred method. As mentioned above, direct bit streaming from file memory via USB is by far superior.

And to the point of this thread, encoding of the files to be stored on the external device is key to obtaining superior playback. It starts with the source (original studio recording stored on with best available uncompressed media like CD, FLAC or WAV's) and ends with the DAC and the remaining audio system.

[/QUOTE]
One thing I have read is that it works better using the optical port, and I have have heard some systems with some head units that have an optical digital output that is connected to an external sound processor, and many simply use their iPads as a Head Unit using this I-20 device connected to an external sound processor having an optical digital input and claiming better sound quality, than just the simple HU USB port through the apple lightning cable.[/QUOTE]

Repeating: iPad, iPhone, iPod or USB flash drive. The storage device makes no difference when making a pure digital connection between the storage container and the H.U.. Binary delivered via optical, RCA coaxial or USB contains identical information. The only variable with that data is how it is encoded and decoded (the job of the DAC). Arguments otherwise hinge on opinion and perceived differences born of psychological belief systems rooted in affiliation and/or unrealistic "knowledge".

When interconnecting devices like a H.U. to a signal processor, data based interconnection *can be* superior because it is immune to externally generated spurious noises. Having said that, signal manipulation in the digital domain is software driven and therefore limited (or unlimited) by the skills, knowledge and development budget of software developers. Because an OEM cannot throw unlimited dollars into product development, "good enough" is often the operating principle. So, yes, digital interconnect is superior to analog interconnects like a low level RCA cable. But that superiority is ultimately limited by how data is treated inside the various devices connected to one another. It's a safe bet an OEM offering outboard DSP devices have their poop-in-a-group when it comes to signal processing, so there can be real sonic benefit from various designs.

Sorry to blather on but I hope this helps clear up some of the smoke and mirrors about encoding, decoding, interconnects, DACs and DSP.

Rock on!
 
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