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Thread: Classical music in mp3?

  1. #1
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    Classical music in mp3?

    Hi all,

    I am considering the purchase of one of those mp3/multimedia players with outrageously big hard disks and video capability.

    Now I own a collection of ca. 200 CDs with classical music. A 30 gb hard disk is advertised to be able to store 15000 mp3 songs - about 45000 min, or 750 h of music, more than ample for my collection.

    What do you think of classical music in mp3? Does the format degrade the complexity of the original sound too much or is it sufficient, at least for non-optimal listening conditions (car, travel, beach...) with small headphones/speakers?

  2. #2
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    Get yourself decent headphones, a good mp3 converter software and use 320 kb/s quality. That will be good enough for the road.

    If you can't enjoy music on the road in that quality IMO your goalposts in enjoying music are way out of line . It sounds quite good indeed, and when you're at home you can still go for that "perfect" reproduction.

    Note that in 320 kb/s quality less songs will fit on the disk, but still plenty and less = more in this case. In fact, try 192 kb/s and other settings too. Maybe it's already good enough for you. I doubt 128 would be good enough. It tends to sound metallic here.
    With sufficient thrust, water towers fly just fine.

  3. #3
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    I would really emphasize quality headphones. I know they are clunky and unstylish and all, but a good pair of the old fashioned earmuff style can not be beat. They are so much better than what you get with players.

    I got some funny looks wearing them on the plane in the recent past; but the kind of looks I get is not a priority.

    I've got a pair of old Koss ones that blow away any of the puny things I've ever tried. The bass of those things is not even in the ballpark, it's like you are only getting half the sound.

    I let my daughter try them on (she's never worn anything but the miniature versions). She was absolutely amazed, to the point where I couldn't get them back. I ended up repossesing them after she fell asleep (with my headphones still on).

  4. #4
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    At 192, most pieces are fine, but not all. I think I found a few that needed a higher bitrate, so now I just default to using 256 for everything so I don't have to put more thought and work into it than that. I once thought I had found one piece that wasn't as good in MP3 even at the highest rate as uncompressed, but then I checked and found that the same minor flaw was present in the CD as well, so it wasn't an MP3 issue. Objective double-blind tests have shown that people really can't hear the differences between uncompressed and MP3 in the mid-200s and above anyway.

  5. #5
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    Some people claim they can't hear differences between 128 and uncompressed. I assume they're deaf anyway . The same people tend to enjoy the current quality of DAB.
    With sufficient thrust, water towers fly just fine.

  6. #6
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    The MP3 algorithm is *supposed* to only ever remove frequencies that the human ear can't hear anyway, so you're not *supposed* to be able to tell the difference between an MP3 and, for example, CDDA. The two things that determine the quality of an MP3 are the bit rate at which it is encoded, and the quality of the encoder program. In spite of the way it's supposed to work, I've done tests and you can definitely hear the difference between a high bitrate and a lower bitrate mp3. I did my test with a piano piece, because that's the kind of music where you really want to be able to hear everything. The highest bit rate was exactly like a CD. But to me, the lowest bitrate sounded like it was being played in a tube. I'm not sure if that makes any sense.

    The way it sounded kind of reminded me going to awards ceremonies in the Army. All Army buildings are made of cinderblocks. The Army loves cinderblocks. And at the start of a ceremony, they will play the national anthem from a cassette tape on a tiny little boom box, and the sound waves bounce off the cinderblocks and it sounds just awful.

    I did this test about 10 years ago and I can't remember the name of the encoder, but there are several out there so I would encourage you to try them all. They also do variable bitrate these days. That wasn't an option when I did the test. Lately I've gotten very lazy and have just used iTunes to rip the few CDs I buy, but I haven't bought a classical CD in a while, and you wouldn't be able to tell the difference on most other kinds of music.

    Oh, and one other thing, on a small mp3 player with earbud headphones, it probably wont matter how the files are encoded. You might want to do tests on a computer with a nice pair of speakers first.

  7. #7
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    I can't tell the difference, but I'm not a connoisseur, and when I'm listening it's usually in inclement environments, anyway: while running or on an airplane or subway train.
    Everything I need to know I learned through Googling.

  8. #8
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    On a side note...

    On a side note, I have found some good legal classical mp3 online (mp3.com specifically but its been so long since I've been there I don't know what its like now). Typically is smaller orchistras playing public domain works (i.e. the vast majority of classical music), but can be quite excellent.

  9. #9
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    I use lame and I tend to use variable bitrate with near max quality, which ends up with about 200 kB/s with peaks in the 300's where required.

    Except when I have to use it in my MP3 player, with earbuds and environmental noise, there I have a version of the same music encoded with VBR to an average of 64kB/s, which is good enough with that setup, and gives me 40+ complete albums on a 1GB player.
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  10. #10
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    Oh, and one other thing, on a small mp3 player with earbud headphones, it probably wont matter how the files are encoded.
    Except when I have to use it in my MP3 player, with earbuds and environmental noise, there I have a version of the same music encoded with VBR to an average of 64kB/s,
    My experience with this is different. We use a very very small Creative MP3 player with Creative earbuds or Panasonic earbuds, both of quite good quality. You really want a well encoded 192 variable (=192 and better) MP3 or better (= mp3 that sounds very well on home stereo as well, only subtle difference with CD) even in a noisy environment, because it sounds clearly better that way. Below that quality, you clearly start to hear the lack of detail, metallic sound, and towards 64 the windy, tubelike sound.

    So also small MP3 players with earbuds in noisy environments can play clean and clear enough to demand more than 128 kb/s, if the quality of the player and earbuds is high enough.

    But as I said, we shouldn't go off the other end on this. If you want "perfect" reproduction at home ok, but if you can't enjoy music while awaiting a flight because you're listening "only" to say a 320 kb/s MP3, you're ruining the pleasure you can have listening to music.
    With sufficient thrust, water towers fly just fine.

  11. #11
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    About 75% of my CD collection is jazz, with some classical, rock, blues, folk and reggae. On the road, I use an iPod with the Apple Lossless file format - my 20Gb drive works out to about 60 CDs, and every month or so I tweak the contents a little. I have a pair of Ultimate Ears in-ear earphones, which as well as providing great sound, reduce external noise a lot. Sound quality isn't quite up to the big Sennheisers on my home rig, but it's pretty close.

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