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What makes foobar a good FLAC player ?
elge
post Jul 10 2012, 19:08
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Hi,

I'm a (Unix) system administrator, not a programmer, so my questions about development and the inner components of foobar2000 may seem a little naive to some of you. I'm also a passionate music listener, I'm equipped with a very good sound card and a premium HiFi installation: modified NAD + JMlab Onyx speakers. Foobar2000 is known by the audio community in France, like on the other parts of the world it seems, as the best FLAC and WAV player on Windows. To me, the quality with VLC is very good too, if not identical. But I've experienced a little less quality with Winamp + FLAC plugin. So here's my question. What makes Foobar2000 the player of choice for those who search for the best audio rendering ? I would like to know what FLAC decoder is used. I'm also interested in the specs of the MP3 decoder.

I have to say, the MAD MP3 decoder plugin on Winamp renders very good quality (as far as MP3 goes) and the FFSoX decoder plugin seems perfect to me for FLAC decoding (unlike the FLAC plugin). Does Foobar2000 use FFmpeg or SoX too ? So is the result supposed to be exactly the same with Winamp if I use the latter with that FFSoX plugin ?

In the end, does Foobar2000 = VLC = Winamp + FFSox ?

MAD Plug-in for Winamp: http://www.mars.org/home/rob/proj/mpeg/mad-plugin/
FFSox: http://in-ffsox.sourceforge.net/

Many thanks

Pierre-Philipp
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lvqcl
post Jul 10 2012, 19:48
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QUOTE (elge @ Jul 10 2012, 22:08) *
What makes Foobar2000 the player of choice for those who search for the best audio rendering ?

Delusions, maybe? From foobar2000 FAQ:

QUOTE
Does foobar2000 sound better than other players?

No. Most of “sound quality differences” people “hear” are placebo effect (at least with real music), as actual differences in produced sound data are below their noise floor (1 or 2 last bits in 16bit samples). foobar2000 has sound processing features such as software resampling or 24bit output on new high-end soundcards, but most of the other mainstream players are capable of doing the same by now.


QUOTE (elge @ Jul 10 2012, 22:08) *
I would like to know what FLAC decoder is used. I'm also interested in the specs of the MP3 decoder.

It doesn't matter actually.
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Porcus
post Jul 10 2012, 19:51
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I guess that this is not the right forum, so I would suppose the thread would be moved. (BTW, http://www.hydrogenaudio.org/forums/index....showtopic=20322 for 'why use this program' questions?)

And I suppose that a moderator will remind you that statements of subjective audio quality, not verified by rigorous blind testing, are frowned upon in this corner of the web.


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trout
post Jul 10 2012, 20:32
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I would not think VLC is even worth consideration by a serious music listener simply because it lacks gapless playback.

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db1989
post Jul 10 2012, 21:13
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QUOTE (elge @ Jul 10 2012, 19:08) *
I'm also a passionate music listener, I'm equipped with a very good sound card and a premium HiFi installation: modified NAD + JMlab Onyx speakers. Foobar2000 is known by the audio community in France, like on the other parts of the world it seems, as the best FLAC and WAV player on Windows.
I presume that reputation is not based upon the results of double-blind tests or some other objectively valid methodology.

QUOTE
To me, the quality with VLC is very good too, if not identical.
Why would it be any different?

QUOTE
But I've experienced a little less quality with Winamp + FLAC plugin.
My sentiment about this claim is the same as the one in reply to the first quote above.

Please now familiarise yourself with #8 of our terms of service, which I guess you did not do upon registration as advised, and consider its implications for any future claims about quality.

Hmm, I see Porcus has already beaten me to that one! But it is important, for we do not accept subjective and unverifiable claims about sound quality, which are probably based upon the placebo effect and/or expectation bias, anyway.
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elge
post Jul 10 2012, 22:36
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Hmm, interesting. Alright I'll give no subjective opinions about quality. The fact this endeavor is included in the terms of use is even more fascinating. However, I would like to comment on that with a few philosophical considerations. Objectivity doesn't necessarily exist. It's the traditional view on the behalf of sciences and technology to consider that things are absolutely testable and provable. But this view has been considerably criticized by modern sociology of science, especially by the School of Bath, namely Harry Collins which shows how scientific knowledge is forged by non-scientific and inter-human conflicts. Those considerations are particularly relevant in regards to the Audio quality. The appreciation we give to a technical object, say speakers, amplifiers and to some extend, music player software cannot be entirely subjective, and it goes with emotional if not "affective" attachment to those objects. Those appreciations are transmitted among humans and generate or define the notions of quality. I don't debate that they may be no difference between VLC Foobar2000 and Winamp+FFSox, (although Winamp 2.x + FLAC was clearly below -- double blind test has to be planned! -- in fact this was the direction I was taking as a system engineer, hence my questions and my lack of surprise on yours answers (I'm just astonished how uncompromising they are). But here's where the human and the digital world meet. If there's actually no technical difference between the players (no one has given me the inner-specs for now, though, see questions below), the placebo effect can eventually be revealed, but this doesn't apply to various hardware configurations. One educates precociously its ear by the first great audio experiences he gets and then by the first durable audio installation he listens to. Despite an early and striking experience with small JBL speakers, I've learned to like the Sound of Audio Référence and JMLab/Focal speakers with modified NAD amplifiers. If one starts and get used to another type of systems, the appreciations will vary. In this regard, audio quality can only be subjective and a matter of taste. Collins and relativist's critics upon the traditional view of science is particularly valid in the area of sound quality.

Also, human ear's experience for audio evaluation shouldn't be undermined. Even great sound engineers still rely upon their experience of hearing, especially when there's no technical data to differentiate two models of the same hardware, even after measurement procedures. But that wasn't ruled out anyway as blind testing seem to be accepted.

I totally agree with the rejection of subjectivity in regards of software players as long as technical data is provided (as I said this doesn't apply to various hardware devices which, if there are differences, those cannot be defined as "good" or "bad" without social and human factors). So, what FLAC library is foobar2000 using ? (as this was originally posted in the "Development" area) What FLAC library are other players using ? (FLAC plugin for Winamp 2, Winamp 5, VLC and mplayer for windows -- actually that one is using FFmpeg)

I guess there are actual differences depending on the FLAC decoder aren't they ?

Thanks


This post has been edited by elge: Jul 10 2012, 22:47
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lvqcl
post Jul 10 2012, 22:58
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FLAC is lossless, and all decoders must produce bit-identical output. The same is true for all lossless compression formats, including ZIP, RAR, etc.
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Porcus
post Jul 11 2012, 00:09
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@ elge, on science:
ABX testing does not measure the magnitude of a measurement-device-reported difference (indeed, such ones are insufficient for TOS#8). ABX testing does send the signal through human perception first, and does hopefully measure whether humanly perceptive differences exist at all, other than through a mindtrick that is not related to the signal itself.

This goes straight to the core of this “observations and their interpretation are in the eye of the beholder” idea: It is well established that there's a lot in the eye of the beholder, and the ABX test is a modest attempt at answering “can we find anything but the eye of the beholder, that actually plays a rôle?”

If there isn't anything such, then it is not only “in the eye” it is “chiefly in the eye”. And then, please let the researchers of medicine, psychology, sociology, pedagogy and not to mention marketing, start trying to explain why this nothing is reported to feel like something. Why should a researcher want to first do all the work of building a model and a hypothesis that sets out to explain how a given phenomenon works, when there is some (comparably) easy test to find whether that phenomenon does really exist?



... well there could be rationales behind that too. For example, if a scientific explanatory model turns out to work equally well regardless of whether there are small ABXable differences or none at all, then that would be an indication that “just because it is ABXable, it doesn't say it is of any importance” (keyword: killer samples). But in that case, science should require more than ABXability. Not less.

This post has been edited by Porcus: Jul 11 2012, 00:12


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Porcus
post Jul 11 2012, 01:10
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Re FLAC and foobar2000:

The actual decoding of course produces the same signal (cf. lvqcl's comment) for every piece of software[note2] that isn't buggy to the point of uselessness. (Tautologically so, among us who hold that such a bug implies uselessness.)

Then there are potential issues with Windows' mixer. fb2k offers a couple of ways to bypass that and deliver the signal to an S/PDIF output unaltered (“bit-perfect” output). For DTS signals this is a clearcut works-or-doesn't; they are totally corrupted without bit-perfection.[note1]
It isn't sonically better than any other solution that provides the same (and doesn't pretty much every player work that way with Windows 7 and WASAPI set up right? Anyone?) – bit-perfect is bit-perfect.
By the way, the Windows XP way to achieve this, ASIO, is not supported by VLC (and cannot be, for licensing reasons).
ASIO is not a fb2k-unique feature, but I found it easy to set it up with foobar2000. It works, thank you fb2k.


Now fb2k manages your library and playback in a way I appreciate. But that is kinda orthogonal to the decoding and transmission details.


[note1] Actually, foobar2000 can decode DTS through an external component. Another plus, if you have music in that format. Another component can decode most HDCD features (any that is software-supported). Yet another can decode and appy de-emphasis if instructed by a metadata tag. All this on-the-fly while keeping the FLACs from the CD rip unaltered, if you like. I like.


[note2] As for mp3: the mp3 standard is actually defined by way of decoding. Basically, if it decodes right, then it is an mp3 decoder. If it doesn't, it ain't. (In practice, I have seen fb2k making a roundoff at -153.5 decibels. That corresponds, give or take a few dB's, to standing at the rocket launch pad with closed eyes and hearing that one of the light bulbs is turned off. Big deal.)

This post has been edited by Porcus: Jul 11 2012, 01:15


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db1989
post Jul 11 2012, 11:19
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elge: irrelevant and TL;DR. Please feel free to avoid wasting any more of your energy on what boils down to a lot of very convoluted ways of saying “but... but... someone else once said... also, philosophy!” Our rules are what they are; objections from subjectivity are irrelevant by definition, and they look unlikely to succeed anyway seeing as they've already had over a decade to do so and still haven't managed it.

This post has been edited by db1989: Jul 11 2012, 11:26
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orgonebox
post Jul 16 2012, 01:14
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The reason Foobar2000 is the best FLAC, WAV, and nearly every other audio format player for me all pend upon its inexhaustible customization options and the dedicated community of generous programmers who offer an unparalleled palette of options so I can listen to music the way I like it.

It's up to you to make Foobar your ideal player, but you'll feel a deep sense of reward knowing (to whatever degree of approximation your apprehension of audio knowledge permits) your aural art gallery is exhibited the way you like it. No other player I have encountered allows the user to do what Foobar does. If there's better for the price (free), developer support, and general community, I'd like to know.
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