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Autumn 2006 Listening Test, MP3 @ 128 kbps vs. Multiformat @ 80 kbps
guruboolez
post Aug 16 2006, 12:10
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QUOTE (jmartis @ Aug 16 2006, 12:43) *
QUOTE (guruboolez @ Aug 16 2006, 12:37) *

... On the other side, didn't Fastenc joint-stereo suffer from another kind of bug (stereo collapse or something like that)?

This bug is just in the Fastencc from rarewares, it is not present in the newer (WMP) fastenc.

Not only in this unofficial encoder; see http://www.hydrogenaudio.org/forums/index....ost&p=13607
Official product including "SlowEnc" were also affected. But it doesn't really matter, because we're mostly interested I suppose by the fast "Fastenc", and not the legacy one which was so slow (and buggy).
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Gabriel
post Aug 16 2006, 12:22
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Regarding Apple, if there are specific questions I could direct them to the right persons.
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guruboolez
post Aug 16 2006, 12:22
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QUOTE (Sebastian Mares @ Aug 16 2006, 12:44) *
WMP's MP3 encoder on the other hand is CBR only. There is no VBR option provided. Using MMJB or AA is an option, but just like for WMP and its CBR encoder, the encoders are not only FhG, but FhG + company tunings.

Are you sure that these encoders are also tuned by these companies?
Anyway, if the Fhg "generic" encoder really benefits from external tuning, the question isn't only to see which mode (VBR or CBR) is better but also which companie is providing the best Fhg-mod encoder. In this case, we don't have the choice : we can't mail to the developer (hello, is your encoder better than your direct competitor?... guess the answer! tongue.gif ) and we're forced to perform intensive pre-tests... and just for Fhg encoder! Then iTunes, then Helix...

Now you can see the problem with pre-test: it's a neverending task.

This post has been edited by guruboolez: Aug 16 2006, 12:23
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vlada
post Aug 16 2006, 12:31
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QUOTE (guruboolez @ Aug 16 2006, 00:54) *
An alternative choice would be "112 kbps + VBR" which would correspond to a bitrate higher than 112 kbps and --who knows-- maybe as close to 128 kbps than the previous setting. But as Roberto explained it this choice would handicap iTunes encoder (as it handicap it in 2004).


Why sould this handicap the iTunes encoder? If this is the best setting you can set to get files with average bitrate ~130kbps, then it is their faul the didn't implement a better VBR. Or use 128 CBR if it will produce better results.

QUOTE (guruboolez @ Aug 16 2006, 00:54) *
So assuming that iTunes 112@VBR is lower quality than 128@CBR, we still don't know how iTunes 128@VBR would perform against CBR@128. As I said, VBR@128 won't go below 128 kbps. Therefore it's hard to imaging this setting performing poorer than 128@CBR! So what we really need to know is the average bitrate of iTunes VBR at "128 kbps". If the average bitrate isn't too far from 128 kbps then iTunes VBR would easily be include in the test. If the bitrate is a bit too high (138...140 kbps) then we could easily increase a bit the setting for HELIX, FHG (and also GOGO). Then we would perform a listening test at ~135...140 kbps instead of a ~128...132 kbps one. Not a big issue in my opinion.


I think if iTunes 112 kbps + VBR would produce bitrate which would be close to 128 kbps, I would go with it. If you have a VBR encoder which would produce lower bitrates then 128 kbps with 112 kbps set as minimum bitrate, I wouldn't call such encoder VBR. It is a hybrid between CBR and VBR, but much closer to CBR.
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guruboolez
post Aug 16 2006, 12:43
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QUOTE (vlada @ Aug 16 2006, 13:31) *
Why sould this handicap the iTunes encoder? If this is the best setting you can set to get files with average bitrate ~130kbps, then it is their faul the didn't implement a better VBR. Or use 128 CBR if it will produce better results.

The handicap would come from a too low bitrate (it was the case in 2004; situation is maybe different with latest iTunes). But if bitrate is indeed close to 130 kbps then no problem smile.gif
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fpi
post Aug 16 2006, 12:48
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QUOTE (guruboolez @ Aug 16 2006, 04:37) *
If people are interested to see how various MP3 encoders perform compared to LAME, I'd tend to say that it wouldn't be a bad idea to test them all with similar settings: VBR against VBR, CBR against CBR. VBR is per default supposed to offer a better quality (or efficiency) than CBR, especially on hard-to-encode samples (precisely what we're used to include in listening tests). HELIX, Apple, Fraunhofer... have all put energy and money to develop a VBR mode; this mode is offered to the public; there is no contraindication nor warning against VBR in the manual telling to users that VBR isn't tuned enough. And as far as I can remember, we didn't mail to Apple developers neither the Microsoft ones to see if we had to prefer CBR over VBR with iTunes AAC or WMAPro (last 130 kbps multiformat listening test).

I'm not against the idea of questionning developers themselves, but as you said, answer may take a long time. I'm not against making a pre-test, but it looks like filling ourselves a hole in the encoder/software's manual (and I'm very sceptical about the success of such pre-tests -- which are requiring as energy as the final test: we can't count on a pre-test to help us and spoil it by a lack of samples/testers). The idea of having two distinct tests (one for CBR, another for VBR) is also a good one, but again I'm not sure that many people are interested to spend free time to test twice what is often considered as an outdated format (MP3), including what is often perceived as outdated encoders (Fhg, iTunes), with one test dedicated to what is considered with right as a wrong coding method (CBR).


Totally agree with that smile.gif
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Sebastian Mares
post Aug 16 2006, 13:04
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QUOTE (Gabriel @ Aug 16 2006, 13:22) *
Regarding Apple, if there are specific questions I could direct them to the right persons.


Well, it would be nice to know if they recommend CBR or VBR.

iTunes is encoding track 261/519.

QUOTE (guruboolez @ Aug 16 2006, 13:22) *
QUOTE (Sebastian Mares @ Aug 16 2006, 12:44) *
WMP's MP3 encoder on the other hand is CBR only. There is no VBR option provided. Using MMJB or AA is an option, but just like for WMP and its CBR encoder, the encoders are not only FhG, but FhG + company tunings.

Are you sure that these encoders are also tuned by these companies?
Anyway, if the Fhg "generic" encoder really benefits from external tuning, the question isn't only to see which mode (VBR or CBR) is better but also which companie is providing the best Fhg-mod encoder. In this case, we don't have the choice : we can't mail to the developer (hello, is your encoder better than your direct competitor?... guess the answer! tongue.gif ) and we're forced to perform intensive pre-tests... and just for Fhg encoder! Then iTunes, then Helix...

Now you can see the problem with pre-test: it's a neverending task.


The FhG problem came into my mind just now. I cannot say for sure if MS really tweaked the FhG encoder. I cannot say for sure if MusicMatch or Adobe did. But it's possible. If you look at it now, deciding which codec to use based on popularity is not a bad idea for this specific case. Adobe Audition is not freeware and it's not something you would use to encode CDs. MMJB and WMP are better programs for such tasks and are also more user friendly. Since WMP is installed with Windows, I thought it would be best to test that. MMJB on the other hand offers VBR and is also good for casual usage.

Food is waiting for me.

Edit: BTW, I contacted someone from Real and asked what settings he recommends. I am waiting for the reply, though. Gabriel, what do you recommend for LAME? -V5 --vbr-new?

This post has been edited by Sebastian Mares: Aug 16 2006, 13:08


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guruboolez
post Aug 16 2006, 13:16
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QUOTE (Sebastian Mares @ Aug 16 2006, 14:04) *
If you look at it now, deciding which codec to use based on popularity is not a bad idea for this specific case.

I agree. The subject of this test (MP3, ~128 kbps) is (or was?) also something popular. The choice of a popular and unexpensive software makes more sense than a professional editing tool.

But correct me if I'm wrong: to access to the MP3 encoder within WMP (at 128 kbps), you have either to pay or to manually change the name of one .dll, right? In this case, could we consider WMP encoder as a popular one?
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jmartis
post Aug 16 2006, 13:25
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QUOTE (guruboolez @ Aug 16 2006, 14:16) *
...
But correct me if I'm wrong: to access to the MP3 encoder within WMP (at 128 kbps), you have either to pay or to manually change the name of one .dll, right? In this case, could we consider WMP encoder as a popular one?

it is an ACM codec (most probably fastenc based).

This post has been edited by jmartis: Aug 16 2006, 13:25
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Sebastian Mares
post Aug 16 2006, 13:26
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I didn't edit anything and I got it with WMP 10.


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guruboolez
post Aug 16 2006, 13:42
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You must be right. I didn't remember well the debate on this thread. MP3 encoder is available in WMP10; manual changes are only necessary to make it available for all softwares using the ACM engine.
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Sebastian Mares
post Aug 16 2006, 13:55
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IIRC, you also had to add or modify some registry keys to make WMP 9 encode to MP3.

BTW, iTunes is encoding track 485/519 and as far as I can tell by looking at the reported speed, it's doing so at ~22x. CPU has 48 °C in the meanwhile. tongue.gif


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Alex B
post Aug 16 2006, 13:56
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I updated my 128 kbps bitrate table with itunes VBR 128 kbps:

http://www.hydrogenaudio.org/forums/index....st&p=421284

I used iTunes v. 6.05.20 with these settings:

stereo bitrate 128 kbps, vbr: enabled, quality: highest, stereo mode: joint, smart adjustments: enabled, filter below 10 Hz: enabled

I checked the bitrates with Mr Questionman v.0.81b and foobar2000 v.0.9.3.1.


Edit: fixed MrQ version

This post has been edited by Alex B: Aug 16 2006, 13:58


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Sebastian Mares
post Aug 16 2006, 13:57
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Thanks Alex, I am also going to post my bitrate table in a few minutes (iTunes only).


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Egor
post Aug 16 2006, 14:20
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QUOTE (Sebastian Mares @ Aug 16 2006, 19:26) *
I didn't edit anything and I got it with WMP 10.

There is a newer 3.4.0.0 version of l3codec.acm that comes with WMP11 beta (it is possible to extract the binary without actual wmp installation). I tried to encode with 128k Low and 128k High using EAC, and then checked the resulting files. foobar2000 said "No differences in decoded data found" and Mr QuestionMan said the files were encoded with "MPEG 1 Layer III FhG".
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Alex B
post Aug 16 2006, 14:22
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Has decoder clipping ever considered as a factor that may have some effect to the listening test results?

Some of my bitrate test tracks produce extremely high peak values with iTunes VBR MP3.

This is the worst of them:

CODE
File Name : Garbage - Bleed Like Me.mp3
File Path : D:\test\iTunes_VBR128\Garbage - Bleed Like Me.mp3
Subsong Index : 0
File Size : 4 135 339 bytes
Last Modified : 2006-08-16 16:10:26
Duration : 4:01.934 (10669295 samples)
Sample Rate : 44100 Hz
Channels : 2
Bitrate : 137 kbps
Codec : MP3
Encoding : lossy
Tag Type : id3v2|id3v1
Track Gain : -9.61 dB
Track Peak : 1.642079
<ENC_DELAY> : 0
<ENC_PADDING> : 0
<EXTRAINFO> : VBR
<MP3_ACCURATE_LENGTH> : yes
<MP3_STEREO_MODE> : joint stereo


The source file looks like this:

CODE
File Name : Garbage - Bleed Like Me.ape
File Path : E:\test\Convert\LL\Garbage - Bleed Like Me.ape
Subsong Index : 0
File Size : 27 576 655 bytes
Last Modified : 2006-03-23 18:37:42
Duration : 4:01.867 (10666320 samples)
Sample Rate : 44100 Hz
Channels : 2
Bits Per Sample : 16
Bitrate : 912 kbps
Codec : Monkey's Audio (Normal)
Encoding : lossless
Tag Type : apev2
Embedded Cuesheet : no
Audio MD5 : C7D86603166482C328E9BF0015A27C79
Track Gain : -9.78 dB
Track Peak : 0.999969
<FLAGS> : 32
<VERSION> : 3.99


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Sebastian Mares
post Aug 16 2006, 14:27
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http://www.hydrogenaudio.org/forums/index....showtopic=47452

Average bitrate of iTunes is 134 kbps. 143 kbps was the highest bitrate.

Going to get some fresh air now that the damn rain finally stopped after one week (not that it rained one week without pause, but chances are good that the weather will finally get sunny and warm).

This post has been edited by Sebastian Mares: Aug 16 2006, 14:30


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guruboolez
post Aug 16 2006, 14:48
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Thank you for the tables (I can't build one at the moment: I'm on my notebook, iTunes doesn't work anymore and I don't have access to my usual samples/tracks gallery).
From both tables 128 kbps appears as the minimal bitrate. I suppose that iTunes MP3 VBR encoders still uses a minimal bitrate floor corresponding to the selected bitrate). Average bitrate is near 135 kbps. What matters in this case isn't the gap between iTunes' average bitrate and 128 kbps (+ 7 kbps) but the gap with LAME -V5. The latter also tend to be 130...135 kbps. In other words, iTunes 128@VBR and LAME@V5 are very close each others (bitrate-wise); a comparison would be interesting IMO. With both HELIX and FHG finely tunable VBR mode, I believe that we should be able to start a VBR-only listening test with very limited bitrate discrepencies between all competitors (if people agree with this idea).
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AtaqueEG
post Aug 16 2006, 15:05
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QUOTE (Gabriel @ Aug 16 2006, 06:22) *
Regarding Apple, if there are specific questions I could direct them to the right persons.


When are we getting gapless playback on iPods?

(Off-topic, I know, but I couldn't help myself)


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Egor
post Aug 16 2006, 15:16
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QUOTE (guruboolez @ Aug 16 2006, 20:48) *
[...] FHG finely tunable VBR mode, I believe that we should be able to start a VBR-only listening test with very limited bitrate discrepencies between all competitors (if people agree with this idea).

I believe that FhG "CBR Joint Stereo" would perform better than FHG "VBR Stereo" in the planned bitrate range.
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jmartis
post Aug 16 2006, 15:19
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QUOTE (Egor @ Aug 16 2006, 16:16) *
QUOTE (guruboolez @ Aug 16 2006, 20:48) *
[...] FHG finely tunable VBR mode, I believe that we should be able to start a VBR-only listening test with very limited bitrate discrepencies between all competitors (if people agree with this idea).

I believe that FhG "CBR Joint Stereo" would perform better than FHG "VBR Stereo" in the planned bitrate range.

This is also my thinking. I've posted this two times so far and it seems like nobody is listening to me sad.gif
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Alex B
post Aug 16 2006, 15:30
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Believing and thinking do not count here.

Tests?

EDIT

If no usable or trustable results from public tests are available you should provide a sample that can demonstrate the difference and include ABX logs and the encoder & settings details.

This post has been edited by Alex B: Aug 16 2006, 15:45


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Egor
post Aug 16 2006, 15:42
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QUOTE (Alex B @ Aug 16 2006, 21:30) *
Believing and thinking do not count here.

Tests?

What kind of tests do you need? I can easily (10/10) ABX FhG 3.4.0.0 128k from the original with pop music, but I don't have FhG VBR encoder to compare. If I had one, how would I compare then? (BTW, there may be another satisfactory explanation why JS@128 will be better than Stereo@128 wink.gif ).
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Alex B
post Aug 16 2006, 15:52
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QUOTE (Egor @ Aug 16 2006, 17:42) *
QUOTE (Alex B @ Aug 16 2006, 21:30) *
Believing and thinking do not count here.

Tests?

What kind of tests do you need? I can easily (10/10) ABX FhG 3.4.0.0 128k from the original with pop music, but I don't have FhG VBR encoder to compare. If I had one, how would I compare then? (BTW, there may be another satisfactory explanation why JS@128 will be better than Stereo@128 wink.gif ).
Check my edit.

In general, we should not claim anything if others cannot try to reproduce the findings. (This is not my personal "rule" - you know what I mean.)


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Egor
post Aug 16 2006, 16:00
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QUOTE (Alex B @ Aug 16 2006, 21:52) *
(This is not my personal "rule" - you know what I mean.)

But requiring to verify if JS@128 is superior to Stereo@128 is senseless and simply absurd.
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