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Just another note. Jeff is the lucky one who is satisfied with 192kbps files. I once kept all my music at this bitrate and one day I hated them for I can tell the artifacts. Then I had to redo all of them in 256kbps and that was a lot of work! I don't keep lossless simply because they are large. I might as well just store all the CDs under my bed!
To Pablomedok above, you see how people can really make things up. TOS-link cables transmit digital signal and it is only a yes/no question (signal/no signal). A good TOS-link vs a bad TOS-link is the amount of signal error. All you would hear is how many glitches and jitter, but never how warm or how sweet or how much bass or treble etc. If someone says he can tell these kind of audio characteristics out of a TOS-link, he is just fooling himself and the readers. Back to MP3. As I mentioned in an earlier comment here, the industry standards (AAC@256kpbs etc) are developed to be transparent in most cases, and I presume MP3@320kbps can do that too. Of course I don't rule out exceptions and also people with good ears. If you know the technical details enough you can even generate test tones to trip up these codecs, say a square wave or some harmonic combinations. But most of the time it is very hard to tell the difference to most people. On the other hand, when Jeff claimed "that difference should be audible in any music track", it is also flawed. For an extreme case of a pure 1kHz tone. It is accurately reproduced down to 64kbps or even less. Nevertheless, I still believe someone with good ears and equipment can tell the difference for this bad sample although there is little audio quality. Indeed many here claimed they can, and I don't doubt that. I use average gears (Macbook + Sennheiser PX200II) and yet I can pick up the worst two. Which sample is better than the other is the big question. But hang on, aren't we talking about telling the difference? We should not be rating which one sounds better. But we don't even have a reference, where is the difference??? I think Jeff should think of a more proper methodology for conducting his next experiment!
There are at least two "industry standards" AFAIK: ATRAC at 292kbps (Sony), AAC at 256kbps (Apple iTunes Plus). The bitrates are chosen carefully by audio engineers given the efficiency of the codecs they used. MP3 is inferior to both codecs especially AAC, so it is not surprising people prefer 320kbps "to be safe". All these references are designed to be perceptually indistinguishable human beings' "psychoacoustics". So if it is easy to tell the difference, the codecs at such bitrates are simply a failure in audio research and engineering. And I don't think this is true! Of course the choice of sample makes a big difference too. The reference is supposed to be transparent to even the trickiest music we would ever hear most of the time. The sample we have here has no quality and we don't even know how the original should sound like (its highly processed and distorted anyway). I can tell Feta (128kbps) is worst from the drums at around 0:15. The pre-echo noise is a signature of bad MP3. I can also tell Limburger (160kbps) sounds different to the rest. Given I don't believe I can tell the difference of a 320kbps to the original in such a bad sample, logically Limburger (160kbps) should be the 2nd worst. The other three, I think it is completely reasonable for me not telling the difference! The result from the poll is not surprising at all. I am one of the average who can tell Limburger and Feta are different. But I don't rate Limburger best simply by logic!
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Jun 27, 2012