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What kind of sound differences do you hear in your system between FLAC and streaming?

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Jan 20, 2019
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#1
Was listening to the highest streaming-rate Amazon Music this evening to test out new speakers. A/B'd the same tune (Cinema Show by Genesis) in FLAC through Foobar and the resolution/imaging was greatly improved, but the highs were noticeably harsher. My ears started to burn out after only a couple minutes. It seems to me that the compression in the Amazon algorithm was rolling off the highs, which were audible via the FLAC? The difference was shocking!

Has anyone else had similar experience? May be a separate topic, but have you folks struggled with painful high-end when putting systems together?
 

BillG

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#4
Thanks for the response-- is that high-end filtering done for a reason or is it just a side-effect of the decoding process?
It's done for a reason: LAME, a widely used freeware encoder, filters at 18 - 20kHz to reduce compression artifacts.


have you folks struggled with painful high-end when putting systems together?
No, but I understand that can be an issue with certain types of tweeters Iike horns and ribbons. Mine are a composite of ceramic and metal, and while they're bright, they're certainly not harsh... :cool:
 
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#8
Correctly encoded lossy files are generally transparent at 128kbps since 2004/2005:

2004: http://listening-tests.freetzi.com/html/Multiformat_128kbps_public_listening_test_results.htm
2005: http://listening-tests.freetzi.com/mf-128-1/results.htm
2008: http://listening-tests.freetzi.com/mp3-128-1/results.htm

If you hear a difference, you either have golden ears, hearing damage that doesn't agree with the encoder, or somebody made a mistake. I spend money on audio equipment, but I probably couldn't ABX a 128kbps file from FLAC to save my life....

That said. When encoding is ******, it's generally metallic, mushy sounding hihats that give it away for me. While most encoders cut off content above 16khz, this is usually not noticeable with real music. I tried to ABX this when I could still hear up to 18.5khz and was unable to.

Thanks-- is there a program I can use to test FLACs and streaming audio?
For files only: http://losslessaudiochecker.com/#downloads

Thanks for the response-- is that high-end filtering done for a reason or is it just a side-effect of the decoding process?
In MP3, it is done because the last scalefactor band's quality can only be adjusted by changing the global scale factor. This will waste a lot of space. See: https://wiki.hydrogenaud.io/index.php?title=LAME_Y_switch
 
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andreasmaaan

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#10
No, but I understand that can be an issue with certain types of tweeters Iike horns and ribbons.
It’s not a problem that’s specific to any tweeter type per se. Any tweeter of any material (within reason ofc) can be made to sound overly bright if the implementation is poor, and any decently-designed tweeter can be made to sound neutral.

Think about the question from this angle: What causes “brightness”?

Considering all plausible answers to that question, it becomes clear that tweeters of a wide variety of types and materials needn’t be inherently bright.

Basically, it is a question of implementation rather than materials.
 
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#11
I directly compare Pandora which streams at 192kps on the highest setting with Tidal which of course is in 1411kps FLAC on the Hifi setting. I can pick out better high's that are sharper and defined, a tightened and defined low end and the midrange becomes a bit more broad and boosts the imaging, the speakers sort of disappear where as with Pandora the music sort of becomes more boxed-in. I use Pandora like the old FM stations only better without commercials and Tidal when I want to listen to something specific. Like both services and have tried to drop Pandora more than once but just keep letting it ride.
 
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#12
I directly compare Pandora which streams at 192kps on the highest setting with Tidal which of course is in 1411kps FLAC on the Hifi setting. I can pick out better high's that are sharper and defined, a tightened and defined low end and the midrange becomes a bit more broad and boosts the imaging, the speakers sort of disappear where as with Pandora the music sort of becomes more boxed-in. I use Pandora like the old FM stations only better without commercials and Tidal when I want to listen to something specific. Like both services and have tried to drop Pandora more than once but just keep letting it ride.
Just curious - by "directly compare" do you mean blind A/B testing?
 
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May 8, 2019
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#13
Just curious - by "directly compare" do you mean blind A/B testing?[/QUOTE

Not really possible to do this blind as I am doing the switching/selecting between the services and there is no quarantee that I am actually using tracks from identical sources. Tidal gives me a definite edge in sound qualty while Pandora's music genome program is really quite uncanny in finding new music.
 
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