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Why is MPC perceived to be the best?, (an off-topic audio encoding discussion)
ScorLibran
post Feb 8 2004, 18:43
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This is a question that has floated through my mind for most of a year, but only yesterday became more clear to me.

Actually, it's a two-part question...

... 1. Is MPC commonly accepted among the HA community as the best psychoacoustic encoding format? (i.e., the most efficient at achieving perceptual transparency.)

... 2. If so, why?

The first item I've heard stated quite frequently, but have never seen any results of "transparency threshold tests" that would reveal the superior efficiency of MPC. I've heard that MPC uses superior encoding technology, but I'm referring more to the end result of such development efforts...the perceived sound quality, as measured against other codecs at the point of perceptual transparency for a significant number of people.

These concerns on my part were born from a post I made here, where the points of MPC statistically tying other formats at 128kbps, but no other known test results existing, were brought up. The thread portion ended up in the recycle bin, but I'm taking the chance that my concerns about calling MPC "the best" weren't the reason it was put there.

Hence, I want to bring up this idea in a different context in the off-topic forum (in the hope that this will be the correct area for it).

What I'd like to see, for instance, for the education of myself and others, would be a results summary like the following (though this is a very simplistic example)...

Format............Perceptual Transparency Threshold (nominal bitrate across samples tested)
MPC.................nnn kbps
AAC.................nnn kbps
Vorbis..............nnn kbps

...and so forth

Granted, VBR is more efficient at mid-bitrates and up, and quality-based VBR modes aren't bitrate centric, but we need some means of measurement and comparison between codecs in this context, so if not calling it "nominal bitrate", then perhaps "average filesize per minute of audio across all samples"

Perceptual Transparency Threshold could have a fixed target, like >90% samples with 5.0 subjective ratings, and non-differentiable from reference with ABX testing.

This kind of test has been discussed before, and has been mostly viewed as having little "real-world value". And I agree. Roberto's tests are much more relevant for most music listeners, and for determining the best formats for useful purposes like streaming audio, portable players, etc.

Many of us (including me) have trouble testing even these bitrate ranges, so higher ones would be even more tedious, and would answer not as many pressing questions.

My point, though, is how can MPC be called "the best for achieving transparency" without a test such as this? (Because so far it's been shown to be only "among the best" at lower rates.)
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SometimesWarrior
post Feb 11 2004, 06:41
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Whoa, I haven't posted here in 6 months! I hope people still take what I have to say seriously. tongue.gif

This thread started out as a simple question: is MPC really the best lossy format for achieving transparency at a reasonable bitrate? Then, the follow-up question: if not, then what format is?

I think answering the first question is more important than answering, for example, "What are the exact quality settings for each encoder so that, on problem samples, 80% of the population represented by the test group will be unable to distinguish between the encoded and original sample?"

A test for transparency must be done differently than a test for quality. For low-bitrate quality tests, we are examining the encoder's ability to intelligently throw out information that is less critical for the reproduction of the musical sample. An encoder that is incapable of producing a transparent encoding can still win a low-bitrate contest, if it degrades more pleasantly than its competitors. For transparency tests, the encoder can't underestimate the audibility of any kind of distortion. Though I've never tuned an audio encoder myself, from what I've read here by codec developers, the tuning needs to be done somewhat differently. Think about the Vorbis discussions that claim Monty is working on improving low bitrates, but not high bitrates. Consider that the tuning done for the alt-presets provided no benefit for lower bitrates in Lame. Hopefully, someone who has done codec tuning will quickly and mercilessly correct me if my assumption is wrong. biggrin.gif

Also consider the behavior of a codec when it fails on a problem sample: increasing the bitrate rarely helps. Practically any sample that defeats --alt-preset standard will beat --alt-preset extreme. Garf has expressed his findings that any sample besting MPC --standard will also fail with --xtreme. Problem samples for Vorbis may be non-transparent up through --quality 9. A problem sample can be overcome by telling the encoder to dump buckets of bits on it, but that's beside the point, because the codec has already failed to provide transparency at a quality setting designed to be transparent.

If you want to find out which encoder achieves transparency 90% of the time at the lowest bitrate, you can probably extrapolate from Roberto's 128kbps tests. However, Musepack isn't considered "the best" because it hits the 90% marker at a lower bitrate than its competitors. Musepack gets the crown for being closest to the lossy encoder's ultimate goal of 100% transparency at a reasonable bitrate.

Let me provide a contrived example. Format ABC gets 90% transparency at 120kbps average, XYZ at 150kbps. However, XYZ gets 99% transparency at 180kbps, whereas ABC needs 300kbps. This would be the case if ABC degraded more gracefully than XYZ, but XYZ was tuned to handle extreme test-sample cases more thoroughly than ABC. In this situation, XYZ would be championed as the best encoder when transparency is the goal.

Here's my point: if we're testing for transparency, the exact bitrate or quality setting of the encoder is unimportant, because when an encoder fails, adding 20kbps or 40kbps often won't solve the problem. We can simply pick one setting from each encoder that gives the encoder enough "breathing room" to not run out of bits, and then see which encoder can get over the most problem-sample hurdles. This would mean Musepack "standard", AAC "transparent", and Vorbis "quality 5" (or something along those lines). Perhaps even "xtreme", "extreme", and "quality 6", so that we're really testing the encoder's ability to overcome the worst-case scenario, rather than its ability trim bits as close to the wire as possible.

Now, all of this rambling does nothing to address the very difficult issue of picking samples for a fair multi-codec transparency test... rolleyes.gif
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Posts in this topic
- ScorLibran   Why is MPC perceived to be the best?   Feb 8 2004, 18:43
- - sthayashi   1) The answer appears to be yes. 2) This result ca...   Feb 8 2004, 19:53
- - Canar   There's never been a hard and fast test as to ...   Feb 8 2004, 21:51
- - ScorLibran   Thanks for the input, guys. If nothing "f...   Feb 8 2004, 22:52
- - Canar   The smartest way to do it would be to encode the p...   Feb 8 2004, 23:13
- - ddrawley   The proof of MPC quality is neither vague nor simp...   Feb 9 2004, 03:38
- - Eli   Its more than the quality of the codec that draws ...   Feb 9 2004, 03:45
- - rjamorim   QUOTE (ScorLibran @ Feb 8 2004, 07:52 PM)If n...   Feb 9 2004, 04:07
- - indybrett   This is what I would like to see compared. It woul...   Feb 9 2004, 05:09
- - ScorLibran   QUOTE (rjamorim @ Feb 8 2004, 10:07 PM)QUOTE ...   Feb 9 2004, 07:36
- - Kalamity   Looks like double-nested QUOTES puts the auto-quot...   Feb 9 2004, 09:00
- - 2Bdecided   Just how many people are going to give you anythin...   Feb 9 2004, 12:51
- - Der_Iltis   Is there any site you would suggest where i can fi...   Feb 9 2004, 17:04
- - bubka   QUOTE (indybrett @ Feb 8 2004, 11:09 PM)This ...   Feb 9 2004, 17:08
- - sthayashi   QUOTE (ScorLibran @ Feb 9 2004, 01:36 AM)How ...   Feb 9 2004, 17:47
- - music_man_mpc   This problem has bothered me as well in the past. ...   Feb 9 2004, 21:30
- - MGuti   if all the samples were problem samples, this woul...   Feb 9 2004, 22:00
- - ChristianHJW   To make this test sensible, you have to remove the...   Feb 9 2004, 22:03
- - Continuum   Some remarks: I think neither MP3 nor Vorbis is a...   Feb 9 2004, 22:08
- - music_man_mpc   QUOTE (Continuum @ Feb 9 2004, 01:08 PM)QUOTE...   Feb 9 2004, 22:19
- - Kalamity   QUOTE (music_man_mpc)We should start making some p...   Feb 10 2004, 00:07
- - music_man_mpc   QUOTE (Kalamity @ Feb 9 2004, 03:07 PM)QUOTE ...   Feb 10 2004, 01:16
- - Kalamity   QUOTE (music_man_mpc)I agree with you in terms of ...   Feb 10 2004, 01:52
- - ScorLibran   QUOTE (Kalamity @ Feb 9 2004, 03:00 AM)Some o...   Feb 10 2004, 02:08
- - music_man_mpc   QUOTE (Kalamity @ Feb 9 2004, 04:52 PM)QUOTE ...   Feb 10 2004, 02:18
- - ScorLibran   QUOTE (Kalamity @ Feb 9 2004, 07:52 PM)I do n...   Feb 10 2004, 02:30
- - Doctor   For narrowing down quality settings use binary sea...   Feb 10 2004, 02:43
- - Kalamity   QUOTE (ScorLibran)QUOTE (Kalamity @ Feb 9 200...   Feb 10 2004, 02:59
- - Vertigo   Do we ask why god is omnipotent? He just is....sa...   Feb 10 2004, 04:00
- - rjamorim   QUOTE (Vertigo @ Feb 10 2004, 01:00 AM)Do we ...   Feb 10 2004, 04:07
- - Dologan   The god part or the MPC part?   Feb 10 2004, 04:22
- - Mr_Rabid_Teddybear   QUOTE (rjamorim @ Feb 9 2004, 07:07 PM)QUOTE ...   Feb 10 2004, 04:33
- - music_man_mpc   QUOTE (Doctor @ Feb 9 2004, 05:43 PM)For narr...   Feb 10 2004, 04:59
- - music_man_mpc   QUOTE (music_man_mpc @ Feb 9 2004, 07:59 PM)E...   Feb 10 2004, 15:43
- - Doctor   QUOTE (music_man_mpc @ Feb 10 2004, 09:43 AM)...   Feb 11 2004, 02:17
- - music_man_mpc   QUOTE (Doctor @ Feb 10 2004, 05:17 PM)Regardi...   Feb 11 2004, 04:53
- - Eli   Wouldnt a problem sample set make the most sense? ...   Feb 11 2004, 04:55
- - music_man_mpc   QUOTE (Eli @ Feb 10 2004, 07:55 PM)Wouldnt a ...   Feb 11 2004, 05:00
- - ScorLibran   Well, the time frame for this test should really b...   Feb 11 2004, 05:24
- - Kalamity   QUOTE (music_man_mpc @ Feb 10 2004, 07:53 PM)...   Feb 11 2004, 06:22
- - SometimesWarrior   Whoa, I haven't posted here in 6 months! I...   Feb 11 2004, 06:41
- - ChangFest   QUOTE Here's my point: if we're testing fo...   Feb 11 2004, 16:18
- - Eli   QUOTE (music_man_mpc @ Feb 10 2004, 11:00 PM)...   Feb 11 2004, 16:57
- - ChangFest   QUOTE However if one codec handles problem samples...   Feb 11 2004, 23:04
- - Eli   QUOTE (ChangFest @ Feb 11 2004, 05:04 PM)QUOT...   Feb 11 2004, 23:16
- - SometimesWarrior   QUOTE (Eli @ Feb 11 2004, 02:16 PM)IMHO a tes...   Feb 12 2004, 00:38
- - Doctor   Hm, I feel a flamefest waiting to happen. Before e...   Feb 12 2004, 00:59
- - Doctor   Concerning the goal of the test. It is obviously i...   Feb 12 2004, 01:10
- - Kalamity   I would not consider this thread flammable, let al...   Feb 12 2004, 05:23
- - 2Bdecided   Before spending hours discussing and thinking abou...   Feb 12 2004, 12:18
- - Continuum   QUOTE (2Bdecided @ Feb 12 2004, 12:18 PM)Cons...   Feb 12 2004, 12:40
- - 2Bdecided   QUOTE (Continuum @ Feb 12 2004, 11:40 AM)QUOT...   Feb 12 2004, 12:51
- - fanerman91   This "Really Big Codec Test" sounds exci...   Apr 18 2004, 04:18
- - ScorLibran   QUOTE (fanerman91 @ Apr 17 2004, 10:18 PM)Thi...   Apr 18 2004, 05:43
- - damiandimitri   QUOTE Consider each negative ABX result as a ...   Apr 19 2004, 12:04
- - tigre   QUOTE (damiandimitri @ Apr 19 2004, 01:04 PM)...   Apr 19 2004, 12:46


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