sub specie aeternitatis

Can YOU hear the difference?

July 27, 2005

If you have any sort of collection of digital music on your computer, or bought any music online, or ripped CDs, then I am sure you are well aware of lossy codecs and read articles and comments on competing codes and why various codecs in different settings are far superior to others. I do not wish to get into a discussion here debating the many audio codecs and why one may be better than another. To tell you the truth, I doubt most people would be able to tell the difference between a high bitrate mp3, aac, or ogg file. In fact, I find it near impossible to tell the difference beween high bitrate files myself, and I have a trained ear listening on not at all shabby audio equipment. My point is, being a musician interested in all things electroacoustic, I’ve tried listening for difference between codecs and different bitrates in the same codec, and, quite frankly, can hardly tell the difference between them. So I wished to do a simple experiment of my own.

I copied a track from a CD, Miles Davis’ Greatest Hits with EAC, cut out a 28 second snipit, and encoded it into 4 different bitrates (or quality settings) using the latest Ogg Vorbis encoder (1.1.1). For reference I’ve uploaded the lossless copy, but encoded it in flac so it isn’t quite so big. How well are your ears trained? Can you hear the difference?






The exerpt is from Someday My Prince Will Come, with Wynton Kelly on piano solo, Paul Chambers on bass, and Jimmy Cobb on drums.