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Is compressed data really that bad? new
      #865110 - 30/09/10 08:46 PM
As some people know I hate Mp3s with a vengeance but I was recently listening to some ipod(1st generation) audio over a very expensive system and the definition was breath taking.

The brass was life like and the vocals had the presence of the mic.


So obviously a system is as strong as its weakest link, but I was beginning to wonder if all compressed data is the same?
How do different algorithms deal with the compression etc.
On the delivery side(the sound system that is), how do they "deliver the audio" from the source through amplification and down to the speakers "cleanly".

Which system would give our ears the most "perfect" reproduction of what was put down on the original audio take?

Thanks


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~Paul



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Re: Is compressed data really that bad? new [Re: ]
      #865116 - 30/09/10 09:14 PM
Quote Music Manic:

I was beginning to wonder if all compressed data is the same?





Far from it!
You can test it very simply too. Try converting a track to a 128k MP3. It will sound distinctly crappy. Now try that again, but converting to a 128k AAC files instead (iTunes and some audio editors will do this for you). Light years better, right? Yet the files sizes are similarly diddy.

Also keep in mind that iPods and similar players will play a multitude of audio formats. Including lossless ones, and of course raw wav's/aiff's etc. A lossless file or wav etc is going to sound better than your average MP3 any day of the week.
Sure, an iPod can sound good, if you use a decent quality audio file on it to begin with. Conversely, put a crappy MP3 on, and it's going to sound crappy!

Paul

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Paul


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The Elf
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Re: Is compressed data really that bad? new [Re: ]
      #865170 - 01/10/10 07:42 AM
I'd like to see all audio compression systems wiped off the face of the planet.

Hopefully there will be less and less requirement for them as time passes and we can finally get back to where we were supposed to be when CD first arrived!

--------------------
An Eagle for an Emperor, A Kestrel for a Knave.


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Ramirez



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Re: Is compressed data really that bad? new [Re: The Elf]
      #865173 - 01/10/10 07:59 AM
Quote The Elf:

opefully there will be less and requirement for them as time passes and we can finally get back to where we were supposed to be when CD first arrived!




As nice as it would be, I can't see that happening for quite a while! While advancing hard drives and huge storage should, in all good sense, make the need for audio compression pretty much obsolete, I think most people still care more about quantity than quality.
The promise of storing 400,000,000,000 albums at 128 kb/s is still more alluring to the average customer than storing less music at better quality, regardless of the fact that he or she will probably never come close to filling the device.

Maybe I'm being too pessimistic though. I hope so, anyway.

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narcoman
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Re: Is compressed data really that bad? new [Re: ]
      #865183 - 01/10/10 08:43 AM
Unfortunately I think there is an element of truth in that! At least most Itunes stuff is 256 these days...... Be thankful for small mercies!


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Daniel Davis



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Re: Is compressed data really that bad? new [Re: The Elf]
      #865205 - 01/10/10 09:22 AM
Quote The Elf:

I'd like to see all audio compression systems wiped off the face of the planet.

Hopefully there will be less and less requirement for them as time passes and we can finally get back to where we were supposed to be when CD first arrived!




Actually it would be nice if we could get the average consumer to 44.1kHz 24-bit. Don't you always hate that moment when you click on the 16-bit output?

--------------------
Daniel Davis
Edinburgh Recording Studio Windmill Sound


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Hugh RobjohnsAdministrator
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Re: Is compressed data really that bad? new [Re: ]
      #865206 - 01/10/10 09:22 AM
Quote Music Manic:

I was beginning to wonder if all compressed data is the same?




No. There are a number of different algorithms, each with different sonic strengths and weaknesses, and they also vary with the bit rate used. And there are loss-less systems too. Without knowing what format and bit rate your friend was using, it's impossible to comment usefully on the perceived quality.

Quote:

How do different algorithms deal with the compression etc.




That's the subject of an entire book and involves some very complicated concepts.

However, the basic premise of all lossy compression systems is that they rely on throwing away data that the designers think the average human can't perceive. If they get that right the listener shouldn't be able to tell the difference between the original and the lossy version... and most systems can achieve that given sufficient data. The better the system, the less data required to achieve imperceptible degradation.

For the data rate required with MP2 (as used in DAB radio and terrestrial digital telly) to achieve imperceptibility, MP3 can do it for significantly less and AAC less still.

Quote:

On the delivery side(the sound system that is), how do they "deliver the audio" from the source through amplification and down to the speakers "cleanly".




The data-reduced signal is reconstructed into a linear PCM data stream -- the same as would come from a CD player etc) and passed down the line in the usual way -- through a D-A converter, through a preamp, power amp and into the speaker drive units.

Quote:

Which system would give our ears the most "perfect" reproduction of what was put down on the original audio take?




They should all be capable of it -- that's what they wre designed to do -- but you have to allow sufficient data rate to achieve that.

That's where MP3 went wrong because it supports data rates which are way too low to achieve imperceptibility and so the muppets of the world used stupidly low data rates and MP3 got an undeserved bad name.

Hopefully, lossy codecs will fade away over the next decade as storage capacity and network bandwidths increase. In comparison with HD and 3D TV pictures, the amount of data needed for lossless audio is trivially small.

hugh

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Hugh RobjohnsAdministrator
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Re: Is compressed data really that bad? new [Re: Daniel Davis]
      #865215 - 01/10/10 09:41 AM
Quote Daniel Davis:

Actually it would be nice if we could get the average consumer to 44.1kHz 24-bit. Don't you always hate that moment when you click on the 16-bit output?




Most wouldn't hear the difference and no, in that order.

Modern 16 bit systems can and do all deliver a dynamic range well in excess of 90dB. The average ambient noise floor of a domestic sitting room is about 30dB(A) SPL and if you set the replay gain structure such that the noise floor of the 16 bit system sits at the same level as the ambient noise floor you'll be expecting the speakers to reproduce 120dB SPL. There aren't many domestic hifi systems that can achieve that...

So in practice, the 16 bit format provides a significantly greater dynamic range capability than is required for normal domestic listening.

24 bit systems allow a lower noise floor and/or a graeter headroom, which makes recording and post-production easier and better. But isn't required for domestic applications of mastered material where a headroom margin is not required.

Hugh

--------------------
Technical Editor, Sound On Sound


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WiredUp



Joined: 12/12/04
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Re: Is compressed data really that bad? new [Re: ]
      #865220 - 01/10/10 09:45 AM
I have my music collection stored in 256kps MP3. Sounds fine to me.
I listen to a lot of music from a varied amount of styles. If it sounded [ ****** ] I wouldn't be able to listen to it.

There's a lot of anoraks around who slag MP3. It's always a pleasure to play them my MP3 256 khz files yet tell them I only store my music as Flac uncompressed and listen to them praise the sound quality while slagging off MP3

While a 256khz MP3 does contain far less audio information than a wav, in terms of actual noticeable difference I believe we are talking under 5% in quality loss. Considering the huge space saving on my hard drive, I can live with that.
Having said that, in ten years time storage space and bandwidth will be so high there will be no reason to compress audio.


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Amusikaido



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Re: Is compressed data really that bad? new [Re: ]
      #865490 - 02/10/10 03:39 PM
While I do have a large collection of music in mp3 format, and although I find this perfectly acceptable for casual listening, it is very obvious to me that mp3, even at high data rates, is inferior to most original CD recordings. I say 'most' as there may be exceptions, but I cannot provide a single example where the mp3 is better.

This is mostly apparent on classical recordings, but when listening to a CD immediately after an mp3, even when playing the CD on a mediocre CD player, through decent speakers I find the difference quite noticeable. After listening to a CD for a bit, playing an mp3 sounds somehow less vibrant. This may be dynamic range, it may be something else, but it's there and it's obvious to my ears.

That said, I am quite happy producing mp3 versions of my own material. To me they provide enough fidelity to get the music across without making me wince. I like to add the caveat to all listeners of any mp3 that if they like it, getting the CD version is probably going to sound better to them.


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necromunger



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Re: Is compressed data really that bad? new [Re: The Elf]
      #865491 - 02/10/10 03:42 PM
Quote:

I'd like to see all audio compression systems wiped off the face of the planet.

Hopefully there will be less and less requirement for them as time passes and we can finally get back to where we were supposed to be when CD first arrived!




+1


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~Paul



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Re: Is compressed data really that bad? new [Re: narcoman]
      #865495 - 02/10/10 04:19 PM
Quote narcoman:

At least most Itunes stuff is 256 these days......




AAC at that, which I find vastly better than MP3's of the same bit rate.
I don't think iTunes sells 128k AAC's now? I could be wrong though..

Paul

--------------------
Paul


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gryfyx



Joined: 19/01/10
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Re: Is compressed data really that bad? new [Re: The Elf]
      #865516 - 02/10/10 06:36 PM
Quote The Elf:

I'd like to see all audio compression systems wiped off the face of the planet.

Hopefully there will be less and less requirement for them as time passes and we can finally get back to where we were supposed to be when CD first arrived!




Yes, the times when MP3 was taking the web by storm were those times when the misery of internet speed used to be an epic. Now almost everywhere we have broadband, and moreover we store the data in terabytes, so MP3 should have been banned long back.

I remember the days when it was tough to watch even a very low quality video stream online. But now I purposely look for highest HD availability when I see any video. I personally think that an MP3 isnt a thing to be talked about in a music production forum at least.

--------------------
SoundCloud


Edited by AuralSerenity (02/10/10 06:37 PM)


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Hairy Ears
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Re: Is compressed data really that bad? new [Re: gryfyx]
      #865566 - 03/10/10 08:25 AM
Hark at yourselves - "Mp3 should be banned" indeed.

Most of the contributors to this forum are not the typical end listener. The majority of people I know are casual listeners with older computers and players and don't have access to terabytes of storage, and it is arrogant to tell them to go out and buy new equipment just because we don't like the compromise.

Am I defending MP3? Not particularly, but the idea that people have now lost interest in sound quality is tenuous at best. In the past, many people were content with low quality cassette copies, with drop outs, lousy frequency response, appalling wow and flutter and yet they were reasonably content with what they had, and I was one of those people. Except I developed an interest in recording and hence sound quality and these artefacts did start to get on my tits (I was quite happy to ditch my last cassette recorder earlier this year!) but when I started to point out these shortcomings to people their attitude was typically "f*** off!"

Of course we should be striving for excellent sound quality, but we also need to come back down to earth a bit and realise that for the vast majority of people their listening environment is less than ideal and they won't notice the difference between 96/24 and 128k MP3, and also that many people din't have the cash to invest in the latest whizz-bang audio and tv technology.

Now, playing music out of cheap piezo speakers on mobile phones, _that_ should be banned!

--------------------
* Soundcloud *
* Bandcamp *


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The Elf
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Re: Is compressed data really that bad? new [Re: Hairy Ears]
      #865577 - 03/10/10 09:31 AM
Errr... I never mentioned banning it - I just wish it would go away. It's a complication we don't need and an irrelevance with modern transmission speeds/data storage.

And you certainly don't need terrabytes of storage to hold a typical domestic music collection. It's a non-issue.

Of course Joe/Jane Public aren't interested in audio quality. Why should they be? I'm not interested in fuel injection systems either, but I certainly hope there are professionals out there that *are* interested enough to put a decent one in my next car!

My family will tell you they don't give a stuff about audio quality, but they like to watch X-Factor round at my house because it 'sounds better'! (I go lock myself in the studio!). Mention audio quality to them and you'll likely get a similar reaction to the one you describe.

It is up to those of us who understand and care about audio to do the work for those that don't - and have the humility to do it without throwing it in their faces.

The following has happened twice to me in the last 18 months - I've been presented with my mixes on a CD that 'sounds odd'. Checking back I find that the CD is made from MP3 rips of a CD made from MP3s that were a rip of a CD made from MP3s that... And this chain entirely consisted of audio-aware musicians. Not good.

--------------------
An Eagle for an Emperor, A Kestrel for a Knave.


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franciskimberley



Joined: 28/07/08
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Re: Is compressed data really that bad? new [Re: Hairy Ears]
      #865596 - 03/10/10 11:33 AM
Rich_h totally gets it bang on here.

--------------------
www.hungrybearmastering.com
www.bookofsound.com


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narcoman
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Re: Is compressed data really that bad? new [Re: Hairy Ears]
      #865600 - 03/10/10 11:57 AM
Quote rich_h:

excellent sound quality, but we also need to come back down to earth a bit and realise that for the vast majority of people their listening environment is less than ideal and they won't notice the difference between 96/24 and 128k MP3, and also that many people din't have the cash to invest in the latest whizz-bang audio and tv technology.

Now, playing music out of cheap piezo speakers on mobile phones, _that_ should be banned!





I'd like to think those days are gone. Itunes is 256 AAC so.........

And actually - yes - the casual listener has no interest in sound quality. But they also have little interest in music other than as a background to what they are doing. The "listener" has changed a great deal.


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gryfyx



Joined: 19/01/10
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Re: Is compressed data really that bad? new [Re: The Elf]
      #865612 - 03/10/10 01:01 PM
Quote The Elf:

It's a complication we don't need and an irrelevance with modern transmission speeds/data storage.





That was the most important reason mpeg was popularized in late eighty's and surprising factor is it was never a format that was thought to be used for music production. No matter what bit rate one applies. And if ever on a music production forum its quality is questioned then its an irony.

By the way Elf this was a reply to the 'rich' guy above your comment.

Elf you are right. I would say that the reason I mentioned speed and storage criteria was that I find it uninteresting to find the question of MP3's quality on such forums. I usually dont answer to these but at that moment I questioned myself - why ever on earth people have to worry so much about finding the purity in the format that was meant to save memory space and in place compromising quality. So I mentioned those points. Moreover what's ever wrong with Wave or Lossless? Are they not sufficient to do the job? Is it the online transfer or memory space that's bothering you?

Yes if for some reason the project's necessity is MP3 then or one has some infatuation with this format then its completely alright to carry on but then dont expect the quality result. Compression thing will always eat up the frequencies, even if its so less that its difficult to pick on a super expensive system.

Moreover, about this thread I would like to say that its very difficult to say anything about the quality until the proper comparison is held, also we dont know the attributes and history of that MP3 which was played, as Hugh said earlier there are more than one algorithm that do the job and they do differ in quality.

And I strongly oppose MP3.



By the way, a casual listener? On a music production forum? And defending MP3 quality? Umm! times are changing, and its certainly for good. I would say chill MP3 lovers, chill.



--------------------
SoundCloud


Edited by AuralSerenity (03/10/10 01:15 PM)


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pwhodges



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Re: Is compressed data really that bad? new [Re: ]
      #865840 - 04/10/10 12:40 PM
Compression (whether MP3, Vorbis, AAC or whatever) will still have a place for portable use, and for transmission over slower channels, for a few years yet. However, it should be treated like noise-shaped dither - a process that is only ever applied once at the end of the chain, and whose output is never reused as an input.

Paul


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Shreddie



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Re: Is compressed data really that bad? [Re: ]
      #865938 - 04/10/10 09:53 PM
I just wish FLAC or other lossless codecs were more widely adopted/supported. Not that I'm slating mp3s, I use them often enough, I just prefer lossless.


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zenguitarAdministrator
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Re: Is compressed data really that bad? new [Re: ]
      #865965 - 05/10/10 02:01 AM
Even for mobile use I'm not interested in compressed audio. 4Gb gives over 7 hours of 44.1/16 stereo audio, 8Gb gives around 15 hours. That's before you even consider using memory cards and computer software to manage your playlists. A 32Gb SSD is £56 for 2 and a half days of continuous new music, more than enough for your car. Radio 4 doesn't even go that long without repeating something.

I just can't see a single, real world, benefit from compressed audio for users. Especially when the demands of 44.1/16 stereo are not significantly higher and it is a near perfect format for domestic listening.

A wav player has to put less demands on an MP3 player/iPod/mobile phone than an MP3/AAC decoder, even if the processor has cycles to spare, it saves battery life. I'd rather have a decent DAC and headphone amp built in for the money, and a DAB radio that works so I can listen to Radio 6 on the move.

Compressed audio offers nothing to the Artist, producers, or engineers. Nor to the record companies that paid them.

The only people I see profiting from MP3's and their ilk are the ISPs. And if everyone switched overnight to CD quality audio and forced the ISPs to pay for a five fold increase in bandwidth, perhaps they would be more inclined to help fight piracy.

The bottom line is that even if compressed (including lossless compression) audio was as good as uncompressed, it wouldn't offer any benefits.

Andy

--------------------
When the going gets weird, the Weird turn Pro.


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Wlouch



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Re: Is compressed data really that bad? new [Re: zenguitar]
      #866079 - 05/10/10 01:20 PM
Spot on.

Something that baffles me more than ISPs and their inherent lack of care in terms of piracy, is that HDTV, freeview, the digital switchover, upscaling DVD players, Blu Ray discs et al this has now become the technological benchmark for modern living, yet we (the general consumer) is listening to music on the run, in MP3 form, on a pair of poorly designed and implemented headphones.

If we can SEE a change in something then we are all for it, if it is heard, then the majority (general consumers) do not care nor notice. Why are we obsessed with sharper images, more realistic animation and more vivid colours, yet when it comes to sound no one seems to care?

The TV I am currently viewing a HD film on as standard comes with built in speakers, which rattle the TV structure if I turn them up too loud. Great image, but the speakers that come as standard are basically laptop speakers.

Surely the music industry should be pushing for a standard in music production (in terms of dynamic range, see K-System) this occurs in films, and always has as far as I am aware, yet when the emphasis is the sound i.e. a CD, no standards are set in place, limit and compress it as much as you want. More the better according to the way things are going. It is the same with the devices and sources used for playback. Poor encoding, poor decoding, poor headphones, poorly produced (on the most part of modern music imo). Surely the music industry should be piushing for standards with uncompressed music devices, but there is a major problem in the way, we (the general consumer) are all to naive to notice the difference between a 128kbps MP3 and CD Quality material. What? How is 128kbps considered even remotely near CD quality, yet every MP3 encoder I see seems to say this. Undistinguishable from source.


Where are the music industries standards? Film and the moving image even have audio standards which plays a minor role compared to what can be seem, yet when the emphasis is on music, anything goes.

The end consumer needs to be made more aware of the differences. The differences are MORE than HD to normal TV in my opinion, how can people be so oblivious just because it cant be seen?

Zenguitar, Where in Devon are you? I am nearish Exeter.

--------------------
-W

Edited by Wlouch (05/10/10 01:29 PM)


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pwhodges



Joined: 11/06/05
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Re: Is compressed data really that bad? new [Re: zenguitar]
      #866088 - 05/10/10 02:18 PM
Quote zenguitar:

I just can't see a single, real world, benefit from compressed audio for users.



You can't - that doesn't mean that others might not still find benefits from it, in spite of its imperfections. I have my entire music collection - CDs, DVDs and my own recordings - clipped to my belt wherever I am; I don't have to choose and copy every time I go out. It nearly fills a 240GB disk; when I can carry a 1.5TB disk or flash drive on my belt, I might consider the many weeks, or more, of work required to rerip everything to FLAC.

Paul


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Mixedup
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Re: Is compressed data really that bad? new [Re: Wlouch]
      #866095 - 05/10/10 02:45 PM
Quote Wlouch:

Why are we obsessed with sharper images, more realistic animation and more vivid colours, yet when it comes to sound no one seems to care?




Because (1) sight is by far and away the strongest sense for the vast majority of people;
(2) If you have a strong image and the suggestion of the right sort of sound, your brain fills in a lot of the gaps;
(3) The quality of reproduction of the moving image compared with that of sound, even at MP3, is incredibly poor (just stand to the side of a TV and watch it flicker if you don't believe me); and
(4) Close the curtains and you have decent control over the visual environment; whereas controlling the acoustic environment, as anyone who has tried to treat their own studio knows, is a rather taller order.

Combine the above reasons and the obsession with better, sharper images becomes more understandable.


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Wlouch



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Re: Is compressed data really that bad? new [Re: Mixedup]
      #866096 - 05/10/10 03:04 PM
Very good points, well made.

I do wish dynamic ranges of material was at least standarised in the Music Industry. The loudness war does not help our cause.

Admittedly it only takes 24 frames per second for something to seem true to real life resolution with image, whilst the ears require 44,100 "frames" per second to sound realistic. The ears need HD, movies don't, its just EASIER to implement with the moving image?

--------------------
-W


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Mixedup
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Re: Is compressed data really that bad? new [Re: Wlouch]
      #866160 - 05/10/10 08:32 PM
I see where you're going, though the analogy doesn't really stack up for me. A sample is a bit of info that enables a D-A converter to recreate an analogue waveform. A frame doesn't work that way.

But think about it; even the most impressive moving pics don't make us think it's the real thing. Sure, we can suspend our disbelief and let ourselves into the world created by the moving picture. But not in the way that with a decent audio playback system you can close your eyes and really imagine things are happening. Particularly with LF effects, vibrations etc. That's probably the best directors place such importance on sound in their films. It makes the pictures sooo much more believable.

In other words, it's arguably because everything's *harder* to do for the moving image that we're so keen to see improvements in this area. Video has some way to go to match the standards already reached in audio. But our sight is a stronger sense and better able to compensate...


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zenguitarAdministrator
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Re: Is compressed data really that bad? new [Re: ]
      #866168 - 05/10/10 08:53 PM
Hi W, I'm near Plymouth. If you want to say Hi, I'll be in Exeter on 31st at Sound Gallery studios, I'm doing an SOS guitar clinic there.

And Paul, I see exactly where you are coming from, but I just don't see it as a real world benefit.

Andy

--------------------
When the going gets weird, the Weird turn Pro.


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