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Flac 16 bit vs mp3

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Flac 16 bit vs mp3

Postby Slash7 » Fri Jun 08, 2018 7:08 am

Now I quite see the advantage of Flac 24bit/48KHz over mp3 320. But in case of Flac 16bit/44.1 KHz is there any technical differences? Because here again we have the reduction of bit rate and dithering process just like the mp3...
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Re: Flac 16 bit vs mp3

Postby The Elf » Fri Jun 08, 2018 7:42 am

The HUGE advantage of FLAC is that you can convert a FLAC back to the original WAV file. You can't do that with an MP3. Any other consideration is secondary in my book.
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Re: Flac 16 bit vs mp3

Postby Slash7 » Fri Jun 08, 2018 9:02 am

The Elf wrote:The HUGE advantage of FLAC is that you can convert a FLAC back to the original WAV file. You can't do that with an MP3. Any other consideration is secondary in my book.

But how about the listening experience in 16 bit flac? any different than mp3?
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Re: Flac 16 bit vs mp3

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Fri Jun 08, 2018 9:27 am

Slash7 wrote:Now I quite see the advantage of Flac 24bit/48KHz over mp3 320.


But surely the real question is, can you hear any advantage?

The point is that MP3 was designed and intended to serve as a consumer playback format, and in that context most people, when listening on typical domestic hi-fi systems or headphones (not high quality studio monitors in an acoustically treated room), find it impossible to reliably tell an MP3 file at 320kb/s apart from a 44.1/16 bit wav original.

Okay, so the MP3 format is getting a bit long in the tooth now, and as the understanding of the complexities of the human hearing system has evolved over the last 25 years newer lossy codecs perform even better at even lower bit rates... but MP3 at 320kb/s remains pretty darn good.

However, I'm not for one moment suggesting anyone should use it as an acquisition or archive format, but for end-user or consumer consumption it's still got a lot going for it in my view. In contrast, FLAC -- being a loss-less format -- can be used for archive purposes of necessary because no audio content is ever lost.

The sample rate and word-length aspects are really a separate issue. 24-bits provides the opportunity to work with a large headroom margin without a noise-floor penalty which is useful during acquisition and mixing. But it is unnecessary for consumer replay in systems which are inherently restricted in their dynamic range capabilities.

But in case of Flac 16bit/44.1 KHz is there any technical differences?

:?: Er... of course. One is a fully-restorable linear file format while the other is a massively lossy data-reduced format!

Because here again we have the reduction of bit rate and dithering process just like the mp3...

Erm... first, neither involve dithering in the conventional sense. Both reduce the file bit-rate, but they do it in very different ways with very different consequences.

MP3 is a 'perceptual coder' that achieves lossy data reduction fundamentally by discarding 'irrelevant' information. In simple terms, MP3 essentially takes a short chink of sound 576 sample long, converts that into 576 separate frequency bands, and analyses the content of each band in comparison with a model of how the hearing threshold changes due to noise masking effects for that time period.

Signal content in bands which will be masked by other nearby stronger bands is discarded, and the quantisation depth of retained bands is minimised (consistent with keeping the noise floor below the threshold of hearing for that band). Consequently, audio information is irretrievably thrown away... but the hope is that the stuff the coder has thrown away is stuff you couldn't hear anyway -- and at the higher bit rates it does actually achieve that remarkably well.

FLAC is -- in total contrast -- a completely loss-less format which achieves data reduction by discarding 'redundant' data -- data which can be restored faultlessy during playback. Again, in very simple terms, imagine an image of a desert island with a flawless blue sky. Instead of describing each individual pixel's colour and brightness, a loss-less coder would instead say this pixel is bright blue, and so are the next 2478... hence reducing the amount of data that needs to be sent to describe the picture fully by removing 'redundant data'. But the key here is that the original brightness and colour of every single pixel can be fully restored at the receiver so no image data is actually lost.

FLAC is to audio as ZIP is to your computer files!

Of course, lossy codecs like MP3 will always manage a much greater reduction in file size than a loss-less codec like FLAC. In broad terms, FLAC will reduce the file size by about 2:1 whereas lossy codecs will be at least 4:1 and maybe as much as 15:1 or even more.

So, the real answer to your question will depend on what you're trying to achieve and how you intend to use these codec formats.

MP3 at the higher bit rates (say 128kb/s and above) is a perfectly valid option for sending audio to end-users or consumers for domestic auditioning.

FLAC can also be used for more critical applications (such as playback on loud PA systems where the losses of MP3 may become audible) or where the file needs to be processed further.

FLAC can also be used to save space in file archives... although with the low cost of enormous multi-terrabyte drives these days, that argument is becoming rather feeble. It is more relevant for high-quality file transfers and downloads over the internet since it reduces the file size by roughly half.

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Re: Flac 16 bit vs mp3

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Fri Jun 08, 2018 9:30 am

Slash7 wrote:But how about the listening experience in 16 bit flac? any different than mp3?

Depends on your situation and the bit-rate of the MP3 file.

For most people, in most typical consumer listening situations with a 320kb/s mp3, I'd say no. But for the really critical listeners with experienced ears, some will be able to hear some minor differences on occasion.

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Re: Flac 16 bit vs mp3

Postby Slash7 » Fri Jun 08, 2018 9:58 am

Thank you so much Hugh for your great explanation. Really appreciate it.
I've also heard about this format called MQA which TIDAL is using it. I guess it has the same quality as Flac but with lower file sizes. So if this is the case then I think it's a big deal
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Re: Flac 16 bit vs mp3

Postby ConcertinaChap » Fri Jun 08, 2018 10:27 am

Never heard of it so I looked it up on Wickedpedia where it states that the format is lossy. So whatever other virtues/vices it has it falls over at the first hurdle on the Elf's test. I'd be interested to hear more from those who know.

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Re: Flac 16 bit vs mp3

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Fri Jun 08, 2018 10:27 am

Slash7 wrote:I've also heard about this format called MQA which TIDAL is using it.

It's being heavily promoted at the moment. I wrote about the technology here:

https://www.soundonsound.com/techniques/mqa-time-domain-accuracy-digital-audio-quality

I guess it has the same quality as Flac but with lower file sizes. So if this is the case then I think it's a big deal

It's actually an intelligent combination of both lossy and loss-less coding, and the file size ends up about the same as a conventional 16/44.1 WAV file, but with the audio content and 'benefits' associated with a 24/192 wav file.

MQA and many of the claims made for it are very interesting indeed, but I suspect its present popularity with Tidal etc is more to do with the commercial benefits of a single inventory for standard and 'hi-res' audio files. Both Sam and I listened to it carefully at the company's HQ but neither of us was entirely convinced of any real audible benefits. To be fair, though, we were listening on an unfamiliar hi-fi system and it can take a while to really tune into the subtleties of advanced systems like this.

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Re: Flac 16 bit vs mp3

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Fri Jun 08, 2018 10:28 am

ConcertinaChap wrote:Never heard of it ...

Your subscription to the mag must have run out at an inopportune moment then! :lol: :cry:
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Re: Flac 16 bit vs mp3

Postby ConcertinaChap » Fri Jun 08, 2018 10:36 am

[hangs head in shame]
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Re: Flac 16 bit vs mp3

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Fri Jun 08, 2018 10:48 am

You need to sit on the naughty-step for five minutes and think about what you've done.... go on... :lol:
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Re: Flac 16 bit vs mp3

Postby CS70 » Fri Jun 08, 2018 1:32 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:FLAC is to audio as ZIP is to your computer files!

Haha that's exactly what I say every time! :D
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