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192kbps vs 320kbps - Any Differences?

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Posted · Original PosterOP

I'm one for high quality music, and I happened to notice some of my Google Play Music tracks are 192kbps and others 320kbps, which is obviously annoying.

 

I'm not sure if it's just me being picky, but I can feel more clarity and range in 320 as opposed to 192, is there any major audio differences between them, in your experiences?

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12 minutes ago, MiNy said:

I'm one for high quality music, and I happened to notice some of my Google Play Music tracks are 192kbps and others 320kbps, which is obviously annoying.

 

I'm not sure if it's just me being picky, but I can feel more clarity and range in 320 as opposed to 192, is there any major audio differences between them, in your experiences?

I listen to kvlt black metal. I can't tell the difference between 96k and flac, TBH because most of the music is unrefined noise to begin with xD

But if you listen to proper music, I suspect there would be enough of a difference for you to notice.


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14 minutes ago, MiNy said:

I'm one for high quality music, and I happened to notice some of my Google Play Music tracks are 192kbps and others 320kbps, which is obviously annoying.

 

I'm not sure if it's just me being picky, but I can feel more clarity and range in 320 as opposed to 192, is there any major audio differences between them, in your experiences?

Completely depends on a large variety of factors, but if we're just talking about MP3 files, then yes, most people can hear the difference between MP3 -b 320 and MP3 V2 encoding. With decent headphones in a quiet-ish home-based setting, tracks that have cymbals and other high frequency sounds will sound noticeably crisper at MP3 -b 320 than at a lower encoding quality because there's more headroom to store the extra frequencies. This is extremely simplified though, as your headphones, playback hardware/software, or even ears will affect sound differently.

 

Bear in mind that this only applies to tracks that are mastered properly in the studio to begin with, meaning that almost every modern-day track will still sound like shit because studio's almost always master for perfect beat replication using loudness equalization and extreme levels of compression, and more disgustingly, auto-tune vocals of so-called "singers" as if it were going out of style. Good test albums to actually hear the difference between bitrates would be older versions of Pink Floyd's The Wall or Guns N' Roses Chinese Democracy as they aren't mastered using cheap tricks to get noticed right away.

 

Full disclosure: I love my modern-day shit-mastered EDM and pop tracks just as much as Linus himself does, but it doesn't mean we can't also appreciate real music mastered back in the days when you had to listen for the faint sound of the strings in a hard rock song just to enjoy them.


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Most of my music is 192, but since I have a higher end player coming in I'll be getting it all in 320.

I can tell, in some songs, but not all. I can definitely tell in the amount of space it takes up.

It also depends a lot on your set up.

 


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Posted · Original PosterOP
1 minute ago, dizmo said:

I can definitely tell in the amount of space it takes up

Yeah, the big part is the storage consumption. I feel like I'd be missing out on quality if I didn't go 320kbps but at that storage cost, it's hard.

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Posted · Original PosterOP
23 minutes ago, kirashi said:

Bear in mind that this only applies to tracks that are mastered properly in the studio to begin with

Considering I listen to Korean pop, I'm going to assume it's in the middle of what you described. Some tracks are better than others, but for the most part, the big company K-pop groups seem to benefit more from 320kbps from what I can hear.

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1 minute ago, MiNy said:

Considering I listen to Korean pop, I'm going to assume it's in the middle of what you described. Some tracks are better than others, but for the most part, the big company K-pop groups seem to benefit more from 320kbps from what I can hear.

I agree here totally. Having been into Jpop and Jrock since my good old days of Anime, I can say that there's a huge variety in the types of tracks coming out of Japan for both the English and Japanese market, so having a higher bitrate is certainly favorable. I know I've heard the same opening / ending themes from old Anime shows on a local radio station from Vancouver (Fairchild Radio 96.1 FM) and they definitely sound better in MP3 -b 320 stored on my computer than over the radio due to the compression that FM uses.


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6 minutes ago, MiNy said:

Yeah, the big part is the storage consumption. I feel like I'd be missing out on quality if I didn't go 320kbps but at that storage cost, it's hard.

What gear do you use? They make awfully large microSD cards these days.


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Posted · Original PosterOP
1 minute ago, kirashi said:

I know I've heard the same opening / ending themes from old Anime shows on a local radio station from Vancouver (Fairchild Radio 96.1 FM) and they definitely sound better in MP3 -b 320 stored on my computer than over the radio due to the compression that FM uses.

The biggest part about Eastern Asian music in general is their diversity in instrumentals and vocals, so in that regard, 320kbps would almost certainly be a no-brainer.

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Posted · Original PosterOP
2 minutes ago, dizmo said:

What gear do you use?

I usually listen to music on my phone, a Samsung Galaxy S8 64GB. I download my music for offline listening through Google Play Music. A mix of 192k and 320k music across around 150 songs equates to 1.2GB of internal storage, it's not bad but it certainly lingers in the back of my mind.

 

My earphones are the Sennheiser MX375, they're nicer audio quality than Apple EarPods in my opinion. My on-ears are the Sony MDR ZX310, they're on the basy side but clarity-wise, they beat my entire audio collection.

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21 minutes ago, MiNy said:

I usually listen to music on my phone, a Samsung Galaxy S8 64GB. I download my music for offline listening through Google Play Music. A mix of 192k and 320k music across around 150 songs equates to 1.2GB of internal storage, it's not bad but it certainly lingers in the back of my mind.

 

My earphones are the Sennheiser MX375, they're nicer audio quality than Apple EarPods in my opinion. My on-ears are the Sony MDR ZX310, they're on the basy side but clarity-wise, they beat my entire audio collection.

Honestly I probably wouldn't worry too much about the kbps then. You can always tweak the music with an EQ if you don't find it sounds right.

That's quite a bit of space, I remember when the average MP3 was 3MB! I'd just pick up a microSD card and get the higher bitrate stuff.

Nice, I actually prefer my music to be a little on the bassy side. I'm using RHA T20s.


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2 hours ago, MiNy said:

Considering I listen to Korean pop, I'm going to assume it's in the middle of what you described. Some tracks are better than others, but for the most part, the big company K-pop groups seem to benefit more from 320kbps from what I can hear.

As dumb as it sounds, i actually buy all my kpop in CD form and rip it to FLAC for in-home listening. 

 

On my home theater I can hear a huge difference between FLAC and 192 kbps MP3. Some tracks sound a little cleaner in FLAC than 320 kbps MP3 but the quality gap is much less obvious, however i upload everything to Google Play Music for streaming in my car since 320 kbps mp3 is fine given how much extra noise there is in a car vs sound treated room. 


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Let's look at it shall we:

 

The song used as my example is Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd.

 

FLAC

FLAC.png.a0e61aadcd263811b1712b51162a26a4.png

 

320kbps MP3

MP3-320.png.b8ebb68b27a2729f1812d12cba319c62.png

 

192kbps MP3

MP3-192.png.24719e7441c239e19e9410f66b3cff66.png

 

While the graphs don't allign perfectly, I do think they're still usable. 

As you can see the frequency cutoff is quite a bit lower on a 192kbps file than it is on a 320kbps file. 

Whether or not the missing frequencies will have an impact on your listening experience will depend on the person. 

Also, if you're looking for the best possible music experience, then looking at the bitrate is only one part of the equation. Looking at how the album was mixed and mastered will yield a much better experience than just seeking out high bitrate files. 

 

It should be said that the FLAC file is a 88.2KHz file, meaning the difference is somewhat exaggerated.


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9 hours ago, kirashi said:

Completely depends on a large variety of factors, but if we're just talking about MP3 files, then yes, most people can hear the difference between MP3 -b 320 and MP3 V2 encoding. With decent headphones in a quiet-ish home-based setting, tracks that have cymbals and other high frequency sounds will sound noticeably crisper at MP3 -b 320 than at a lower encoding quality because there's more headroom to store the extra frequencies. This is extremely simplified though, as your headphones, playback hardware/software, or even ears will affect sound differently.

 

Bear in mind that this only applies to tracks that are mastered properly in the studio to begin with, meaning that almost every modern-day track will still sound like shit because studio's almost always master for perfect beat replication using loudness equalization and extreme levels of compression, and more disgustingly, auto-tune vocals of so-called "singers" as if it were going out of style. Good test albums to actually hear the difference between bitrates would be older versions of Pink Floyd's The Wall or Guns N' Roses Chinese Democracy as they aren't mastered using cheap tricks to get noticed right away.

 

Full disclosure: I love my modern-day shit-mastered EDM and pop tracks just as much as Linus himself does, but it doesn't mean we can't also appreciate real music mastered back in the days when you had to listen for the faint sound of the strings in a hard rock song just to enjoy them.

Auto tune would be as much my issue to be honest, it's a tool that many musicians and band use for the whole process. I can understand people seeing it as cheating, but it is a tool. Would you get mad at a construction worker using a drill or a digger? 

 

The loudness wars on the other hand, that's a pain. Open any modern song and look at the wave form and it's absolutely slammed to the limit. There's no dynamic range to pick out the nuances, and that sounds bad. 


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9 hours ago, Nertballs said:

Auto tune would be as much my issue to be honest, it's a tool that many musicians and band use for the whole process. I can understand people seeing it as cheating, but it is a tool. Would you get mad at a construction worker using a drill or a digger? 

As long as the construction worker used the hammer, drill, or backhoe appropriately, that's OK, just like the use of AutoTune. For instance, I actually enjoy Cher or Galantis' use of AutoTune because it was used in a creative way that no one had ever done before, but more so because it was used to enhance their particular performances during the songs they heavily implemented it on, and was never designed to mask imperfections in the vocals.

 

What I have an issue with is singers who... just... can't... sing using it, such as all the "rap" and "hip hop" people are listening to these days. AutoTune is not to be used as a replacement for singing, just as an air-powered nail gun is not a replacement for a hammer if the construction worker doesn't understand the core concepts of building a frame. I guess what I'm saying is I'd rather hear the imperfections in a vocalists voice than have everything be pitch perfect, which might be why I like Nelly Furtado's voice while the majority of my friends think it sounds like coil whine.

 

In an interview with Neko Case back in 2006, it was revealed that Nelly Furtado and Neko were the only two artists who didn't use AutoTune in a Toronto recording studio. Good on them for sticking to a more natural realistic sound. https://pitchfork.com/features/interview/6306-neko-case/


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3 hours ago, kirashi said:

What I have an issue with is singers who... just... can't... sing using it

I understand what you mean. I would see it as something used to make an already great performance a little bit better, but it shouldn't be used to polish a turd, or completely in the place of talent. 


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23 hours ago, Volbet said:
Spoiler

Let's look at it shall we:

 

The song used as my example is Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd.

 

FLAC

FLAC.png.a0e61aadcd263811b1712b51162a26a4.png

 

320kbps MP3

MP3-320.png.b8ebb68b27a2729f1812d12cba319c62.png

 

192kbps MP3

MP3-192.png.24719e7441c239e19e9410f66b3cff66.png

 

While the graphs don't allign perfectly, I do think they're still usable. 

As you can see the frequency cutoff is quite a bit lower on a 192kbps file than it is on a 320kbps file. 

Whether or not the missing frequencies will have an impact on your listening experience will depend on the person. 

Also, if you're looking for the best possible music experience, then looking at the bitrate is only one part of the equation. Looking at how the album was mixed and mastered will yield a much better experience than just seeking out high bitrate files. 

 

It should be said that the FLAC file is a 88.2KHz file, meaning the difference is somewhat exaggerated.

 

You should try using a spectrogram instead of plotting the frequencies. You can do that in Audacity too, though the resolution isn't great.

Spoiler

sK6Tcfl.png

The cutoff isn't as hard as you might think; if the lower frequencies are complex enough the compression will still be bandwidth limited.

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11 minutes ago, Nimrodor said:

You should try using a spectrogram instead of plotting the frequencies. You can do that in Audacity too, though the resolution isn't great.

  Hide contents

sK6Tcfl.png

The cutoff isn't as hard as you might think; if the lower frequencies are complex enough the compression will still be bandwidth limited.

In hindsight. yeah, I should also have done that. It completely slipped my mind. 

 

I wasn't trying to suggest that the frequency cutoff would make an extreme difference. I just wanted to point out that the difference was there. 

 

In hindsight I should also go back and downsample the FLAC file to a 44.1KHz file. The graph is pretty much useless.


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It's a placebo effects.

 

Maybe there's a difference if there's high-end equipment involved to capture all of that fidelity, but that's not practical for 99.9% of people.


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58 minutes ago, minervx said:

It's a placebo effects.

 

Maybe there's a difference if there's high-end equipment involved to capture all of that fidelity, but that's not practical for 99.9% of people.

dCLeR6n.png

Decided to test that. The original file was .wav, the .mp3 was made from that .wav at 192kbps. To eliminate the effects of high-end equipment, I used $15 KSC75's directly out of the rear headphone jack (direct output from the audio codec) on my motherboard.

 

I'm kind of surprised. I could tell 128kbps immediately the first time I tested this song, but it took me a couple tries to get used to the differences between 192kbps and the original. It's definitely not placebo though.

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