As Serato’s DJ software programs gained FLAC support on Monday, we decided it’s time to write an article that discusses the best options of the variety of formats that digital audio files come in. Many DJs don’t notice a big difference in file type and bitrate until they’re blasting the track on a high-end club system and find the track just isn’t hitting hard enough. Read on to find out the best practices and how to be ready for the future.
LOSSLESS AND LOSSY AUDIO: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
While the image above makes it pretty clear as to what the results of different compression can do to an image, Here’s a quick refresher on the two groups of audio files out there:
Lossless audio files are files that are used as masters. They can be uncompressed or compressed, but their compression retains all of the original data of the recording or final master. Lossless formats include WAVs, FLACs, AIFF, and Apple Lossless. Their file size tend to be large, and it’s not uncommon to see an compressed WAV that’s 30-40MB for a song that’s about 3:30 long.
Lossy audio files are compressed versions of tracks that have parts of the data removed to reduce the size of the file. The more compressed, the more data is missing. The most common form of lossy audio is MP3, although other less-supported and/or older formats like AAC, WMA, OGG, and MP2 still haunt many a music library. With lossy audio, you’ll want to pay close attention to the bitrate (see below), and a typical size for a 3:30 long song is just over 8MB.
WHAT DJS SHOULD USE AND WHY IT MATTERS
An overwhelming majority of performing DJs have a library of 320kps MP3 files – as even on large club PA systems the 320 MP3s will sound solid. (Funktion One systems – like in the image below – will eat 192kbps MP3s for breakfast).
One of the biggest differences in quality happens when you start to change the tempo of the song. Whether in your DJ setup or DAW, you’ll notice that the higher the sample rate, the more information there is to “pull apart” when you slow it down, resulting in fewer artifacts and the closer to a master it will sound.
As a result, many DJs and audiophiles insist that there’s a lot of territory beyond sounding “solid” – and on the right system, there is a difference, it may not be the difference between good or bad, but it could be the difference between good and “freaking insane.” Two such artists committed to lossless audio include Sander Van Doorn and Loco Dice, as interviewed on Beatportal earlier this year:
DJ extraordinaire Sander van Doorn prefers “playing lossless files only,” he says. “As I want to guarantee my fans the best audio experience for every set.” And he’s definitely not the only one. Loco Dice echoes the sentiment, saying, “I play lossless files because the format contains uncompressed audio, gives me the maximum audio quality, and doesn’t fail when I combine digital files and vinyl records.”
As a digital DJ, your primary job is to deliver great sounds to the audience – so there’s little reason why you shouldn’t start out with the highest quality audio so that you preserve as much of the original quality as possible.
WHERE CAN A DIGITAL DJ GET LOSSLESS AUDIO TRACKS?
While we’re rapidly approaching an era in where storage and bandwidth aren’t limitations that will hold back lossless audio – but there’s still an associated fee and stigma found in a number of online music stores that makes it that much harder of a purchase.
The iTunes Music Store continues to be the behemoth in the legitimate online music world, but lacks any lossless download options, most likely due to potential server costs – but comparatively smaller services like Beatport, Boomkat, Juno Download, and others do offer lossless files at an increased rate. On Beatport, almost all tracks are available in AIFF and WAV formats, but you’ll need to pay up an extra dollar at checkout per track – which could easily make upgrading your entire library very unrealistic.
A note about tags: WAV files do not support ID3 tags – meaning that it’s harder to store information to be parsed apart in your DJ software like tempo, key, artist, album, etc. That’s why Beatport also offers files in AIFF format, which allows for full ID3 tagging!
File size should rapidly become less of a problem as disk space continues to get cheaper and cheaper, but it still takes about the same space to fit hundreds of 320s as 40 high quality WAV files. That reason alone saves big digital stores millions a year in hosting storage and data transfers!
BEWARE FAKE QUALITY TRANSCODES
Oftentimes tracks ripped from YouTube or Soundcloud streams will be of 128 quality, but the actual recording tool is set higher – so you end up with a 320kbps or WAV file that still sounds pretty mediocre. The fakes will be easy to spot in a audio editing program – like in the example on the right, the compressed file is cut off, whereas the WAV waveform looks way more dynamic.
One of the simplest ways to instantly tell what type of file you’re getting from a friend or as a free download from an artist page is to look at the file size – if you’re expecting a 320 MP3 for a standard length track and the download is only showing a total size of 2 to 4 MB, it’s probably not legit.
*DJ TechTools in no way endorses music piracy – but we’re equally not fans of people playing really low quality audio files in clubs.
TEST YOUR EARS, FUTUREPROOF YOUR COLLECTION
If you got rid of all of your CDs after ripping them to iTunes at 256kbps (or even worse… 192kbps) ten years ago and now you’re looking to upgrade your files to 320 or a lossless audio format, bad news. There’s no program out there that will magically turn your old rips into lossless audio – which is part of the appeal of having a completely lossless master file in the first place. For this reason its super important to make sure your iTunes’ “import settings” are optimized. Its a bit tucked away in the preferences, but you’ll want to create a custom setting because what iTunes calls, “high quality” is actually 128kbps (not high quality at all). Depending on your storage capabilities, we’d recommend using a lossless format, although if you do want to stick with mp3, you’ll want to make sure you have 320kbps selected and a 44.1 kHz sample rate.
If you’re ready to start building a lossless library, we recommend upgrading in a track-by-track, set-by-set fashion – building out your most played tracks and favorites is the best way to actually see if you can detect the difference. This will ensure that you have a great batch of easily-mixed songs if you suddenly find yourself offered a chance to DJ a set on your city’s nicest soundsystem.
BONUS: MAD ZACH’S PRODUCTION ADVICE
It’s important to set your DAW at the right audio quality, otherwise you might realize in the future that you’ve limited yourself by recording the best sample, synth, or vocal session of your life only in 16 bit! If at all possible set your system to 24bit and no lower than 44.1 kHZ. If your processor allows, put the sample rate up for super pristine sound. Most new machines can handle 48 kHz, which is what I usually run my computer at, although on days when I’m feeling extra smooth I’ll bump it up to 96 (which sounds crystal clear but definitely taxes my processor). The same principle applies to your VSTs and all of your various FX plug-ins. Whatever sample rate you are operating and recording your DAW at also determines the resolution of your VSTs. And don’t forget about dithering!
Deep in the world of professional audio optimization is something called “dithering.” You’ll notice when you export a track from your DAW that you often get to choose whether or not to dither, and what type of dithering to use. Fatlimey, a longstanding member of the DJTT community, explains dithering the best below:
“Dithering is the process of shuffling around information to make the best use of the number of bits in each sample. Every sample in a stream of audio is represented using a fixed number of bits (e.g. 16-bit for CD, 24-bit for studio recordings, etc.) and a fixed rate at which those samples appear in time (e.g. 44.1 KHz, 16KHz, etc), so if you want to increase the quality of a signal the only thing left to play with is the placement of information in time. After quantization we take a little bit of the error here and move it over there, trade off a little bit of overshoot with reducing the adjacent sample a little. That’s essentially what “Error Diffusion” dithering does, it distributes the error throughout the signal making an overall better representation of the original signal using less bits. “Random Dithering” works by using specific forms of statistical random noise to do the same job of distributing the error.
In the diagram, the fine computer scientist’s neckbeard is quantized to the maximum extreme, just 1-bit per pixel and the results are pretty terrible. Apply some dithering to shuffle around the error and the resulting 1-bit per pixel image is a much better representation of the original. Do the same process with more than 2-, 4- or more bits per pixel and the results are practically indistinguishable from the original. That is until you start stretching it and the differences start to become apparent…” – Fatlimey
To Dither, or not to Dither, that is the question
If you’re scratching your head wondering “so… what do I do with all this information?” This means that you should use dithering any time you’re going from a higher quality to lower quality i.e. if you mixed your track in 24 bit 48 kHz but you want to export at 16 bit and 44.1 kHz (for burning cd’s). You’ll find the option to dither in your export menu. The various dithering styles refer to different algorithms that prioritize different elements of the mix. When it comes to the practical application of dithering your exports, Ableton provides a very helpful explanation:
“If you are rendering at a bit depth lower than 32-bit, choose one of the dither modes. Dithering adds a small amount of noise to rendered audio, but minimizes artifacts when reducing the bit depth. By default, Triangular is selected, which is the safest mode to use if there is any possibility of doing additional processing on your file. Rectangular mode introduces an even smaller amount of dither
noise, but at the expense of additional quantization error. The three Pow-r modes offer successively higher amounts of dithering, but with the noise pushed above the audible range. Note that dithering is a procedure that should only be applied once to any given audio. If you plan to do further processing on your rendered track, it’s best to render to 32-bit to avoid the need for dithering at this stage. In particular, the Pow-r modes should never be used for any material that will be sent on to a further mastering stage – these are for final output only.” – Ableton
The difference comes out in the headroom and harmonics. While an MP3 might cover all the bases, it’s still going to squeeze that frequency range into as small a package as possible. But just as you wouldn’t put a plant or a human in a tight little space, when the waveform is allowed to “breath” it can also retain the harmonics that give it that extra character.
LOSSLESS IS THE FUTURE
With faster internet, larger drives, and constantly improving audio hardware, there’s no doubt that 320kbps MP3s may very well start to feel archaic to DJs in just a matter of years. The human ear and our ability to perceive sound likely won’t improve (fictional cybernetic implants excluded), but making the move to lossless will ensure that your collection has a dynamic range that sounds and feels great in the mix well into the future of your DJ or production career.
How lossless is your DJ library? Let us know if you can hear the difference in your sets, or if you think that 320 MP3s will be the industry standard for some time to come.
[…] debate still rages about just how high the quality of the audio should be that you play in clubs. The general […]
[…] https://djtechtools.com/2012/09/26/a-djs-guide-to-audio-files-and-bitrates/ […]
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I totally thought amazon would have 320kb bitrates, but sadly after importing them into serato and getting ready to make a mix, I was less than thrilled to see 256-266 bitrates on my newest batch of downloads. I’ll be bucking up the extra 20-50 cents to make sure this doesn’t happen again!
[…] A DJ’s Guide to Audio Files and Bitrates – DJ TechTools: Download H.I.M. – Come and See Me (Remix) [CDQ + M4A + ALAC]. Full Mp3 Track / Zip Album available for Free Download. Working Links: M4A, CDQ & 160/320KBPS, iTunes, Torrent […]
Thank you very much for this information. It was very helpful.
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[…] Read more: A DJ’s Guide To Audio Files + Bit Rates […]
Interesting article, but no mention of the 3 distinct types of MP3. These make all the difference and bitrate doesn’t come into it if you are using Joint Stereo for example.
The 3 types of MP3 are:-
Joint Stereo very common and even found its way onto the Beatles USB albums somehow! This is NOT stereo as the data is shared left and right, it also has very reduced high frequencies and unclear bass.
Stereo, quite common, but again not true stereo as still data is shared between left and right, and improvement of Joint Stereo though.
Dual Channel, sometimes called Dual Stereo. This is the ONLY stereo MP3 there is as it has 2 completely separate channels. Originally designed for multilingual tracks, this is the only true stereo you can get in an MP3.
Obviously, lossless is the way to go, but for sheer storage space Dual Channel MP3 offers the best sound/file size ratio, obviously, don’t even think of using less than 320 kbps.
All coders do Dual Channel, you just have to set it up rather than go for the low quality Joint Stereo that most default to.
You need to use decent headphones, a proper D to A converter and proper speakers to hear the difference, but it is quite noticeable when you get used to it.
The description of the different MP3 types courtesy of Jackie Franck, one of the pioneers of MP3 conversion and the author of Audiograbber, the definitive MP3 converter from the last century. He is now part of the dB Poweramp team, the definitive audio converter from THIS century.
Hi DTT, Im a big fan of lossles files. But like the article says its unrealistic to replace all your library to lossless for economic reasons or perhaps lack of availability. Therefore Id like to get your advice on having borh lossles and 320kbps files in your library. There are a couple of mp3s in my library that can sort of be blended in with a lossles, but there are many others that perhaps are not loud enough. My question is… How can I create some sort of compatibility between the two audio formats, in order to be able to mix decently with both. Thanks in advance.
[…] So why is Amazon so much cheaper? The biggest difference is that Beatport carries MP3s that are 320kbps, where as Amazon is encoding at a 256kbps VBR. The quality is still pretty solid, but for DJs playing large club systems many will want to stick with 320 MP3s (read our DJ’s Guide To Audio Files and Bit Rates). […]
[…] So why is Amazon so much cheaper? The biggest difference is that Beatport carries MP3s that are 320kbps, where as Amazon is encoding at a 256kbps VBR. The quality is still pretty solid, but for DJs playing large club systems many will want to stick with 320 MP3s (read our DJ’s Guide To Audio Files and Bit Rates). […]
You can use Avdshare Video Downloader to
Change audio bitrate and then convert FLAC to other audio formats, like to AAC,
OGG, MP3, WAV, AIFF, M4A, AC3, etc.
[…] Dithering is the action of adding white noise to a signal before downsampling. This page has a nice example (see the portrait below). Audio dithering is technically no different from image […]
[…] Read More: A DJ’s Guide To Audio Files and Bitrates […]
[…] Read More: A DJ’s Guide To Audio Files and Bitrates […]
[…] Read More: A DJ’s Guide To Audio Files and Bitrates […]
[…] A DJ’s Guide to Audio Files and … – WHERE CAN A DIGITAL DJ GET LOSSLESS AUDIO TRACKS ? – this is a very crazy question you pose if you cannot answer the MOST OBVIOUS of methods. […]
WHERE CAN A DIGITAL DJ GET LOSSLESS AUDIO TRACKS ? – this is a very
crazy question you pose if you cannot answer the MOST OBVIOUS of
methods. RIPPING THEM YOURSELF FROM VARIOUS SOURCES INCLUDING VINYL, CD,
AUDIO TAPE ECT. Why is this simply not mentioned, yet i have NEVER
downloaded/ bought a ‘digital’ file and I probably never will, because
the simple fact is, the music I specialize in, is not issued in ‘itunes’
or others trend based services.
pushes this into 3rd party profiteering which is disgusting and another
topic unto itself. Dj’s!! – learn to rip all your material yourself so
you don’t have the company (the artist rarely gets the residuals) from
offering you a digital approximation of a physical product for money.
I play music bought from iTunes Store (AAC 256kbps).
I think the quality of an 256kbps AAC is better than that of a 320kbps MP3.
Now I’m waiting for this new “stems” format…
I play music bought from iTunes Store (AAC 256kbps).
I think the quality of an 256kbps AAC is better than that of a 320kbps MP3.
Now I’m waiting for this new “stems” format…
[…] A DJ’s Guide to Audio Files and Bitrates by Dan White […]
When digitizing my vinal collection I personally use Ogg coz it reads 400/500kbps which is roughly the same rate as a mono wav.
This in order to save space because I don’t like the idea of playing tracks from an external drive.
If I buy files I’ll go for wavs or if no money 320. But then again it can only be as good as the production and the mastering. A track with a shit mastering in wav will still be shit , and a good track at 320 could sound way better .
I play on systems up to 40k and Ogg doesn’t sound bad at all if you have a good hardware mixer to play your sound through ( don’t like Traktor’s internal mixer) and add Eq and headroom .
At the end of the day if you mix just go for the top quality, no need to argue really !
Also torrent is your friend and shit loads of musics are available in wavs or flac so don’t go for beatport scums straight away ! Bandcamp would be best for digital , give your money to the artist not some random 3rd party. I even contact producers and buy it straight from them
For better performance I think it depends on how stereo installation works out.
Very interesting, thanks.
most BIG Djs don’t know how to sound correct .
Just take a look at Ibiza Radio and try to find only one famous dj who do it OK . Don’t waste your time , all in this radio is really bad
come ON !!! Roger Sanchez , all in red . Quality of the files doesn’t matter in this case .
smh, i don’t have the time or the energy. Ill make it short.. its quite simple, take a crappy MP3 and power the hell out of it on a ” big system ” then take a high quality WAV file chocked full of lots of information and power the hell out of it on a ” big system ” quite a huge difference. amplify a turd, its still a turd. search YouTube for Tony Andrews and learn something people. Half the people debunking or trying to debunk this article are ignorant and naive when it comes to sound quality and are only adding to the problem of why the sound quality in the world has dropped tremendously in the past 30 or more years.I have a small system of only 4,000 watts PA style which includes 3 ways and 2 18inch subs (which i think is crap compared to bigger systems ive heard and demoed) and ive had tons of people ive blind tested in my garage even with fans on or with a bullet heater running that have picked out WAVs over MP3s. Real world happened, not on paper bla bla bla happened. Tony Andrews on YouTube… look into it. 🙂
i hope someone at techtools still reads this! i have a question about dithering! basicly, if i import an allready masterd track, just to do some cuts and copy pasting, and if i keep warping off, how should i set the dithering mode when exporting again? triangular? or off??
Lossless storage is great but when you start out with an over-clipped original recording that was done to make it louder than other songs on the radio, you’re starting with crap anyway. Who cares whether crap is transcoded losslessly or not. It sounds lousy and is very tiring to listen to. Begin with a decent recording (which most rock/alternative/pop, etc is not) and then lossless is the only way to go. 320 mp3s will rule until music redcording quality improves.
If someone who calls himself a DJ, can not notice a difference between a wav file and mp3 file, well, just change your path and do anything else than djing. You have no ears at all.
Considering only DVS and the Numark HDX support FLAC for DJs, I’m compelled to think the lossless format that will become standard is AIFF. Any DJ media player that does not support it should be ignored.
Reading this i’m wondering about what settings I should use regarding dithering. Could anybody advice me on what settings to use for editing a mix in Audacity? I import the 16 bit, 44.1kHz WAV and edit with Audacity’s default settings (32 bit, 44.1 kHz), I don’t use any effects in Audacity, just cut, paste & replace. I export the WAV to 16 bit, 44.1 kHz each time I make an edit rather than saving the project. The first time I did this I noticed loud noise because of multiple exports. I researched & realised it was dithering so I have turned this off since, but after reading this I’m wondering if I should export to 32 bit, 44.1 khz each time I make an edit and on the final export turn dithering on and save at 16 bit, 44.1 kHz, or should I edit in 16bit, 44.1 kHz. Thanks
I play mostly vinyl only, so there is no space for me to play files, except my own produced tracks, which i play from cd, as .wav files. mp3 is okay if you listen to it at home, but in a club with a good soundsystem you need to have uncompressed files, otherwise it sounds flat.
All I can say is that I hope Tony Andrews never reads these comments, he will have a heart attack! For those of you who don’t know Tony Andrews, google him.
I had to stop reading after just a few comments as I could not believe some people can’t tell the difference between mp3’s and lossless audio such as wav or flac (and yes flac is lossless even if it may be compressed). I can hear the difference through my Allen&Heath XD-53 headphones, my Logitech z-2300 computer speakers, my car audio system and my KRK Rokit 5’s, so I don’t know how some people don’t manage to hear the difference (hearing damage? (no offence) I hope not) (I’ll be ordering those awesome earplugs from the DJTT store soon).
A sound system is like a chain, it is only as strong(good) as its weakest link. Thus if just one link in the chain is weak you’ll have a weak sound reaching your ears. I try to have the strongest links possible on my side, I do the best I can with that which I have control over, Such as having the highest quality audio and sound card. The sad thing is though most of the time it is the amplifier and speaker system of the club that is the weakest link. I know there are clubs like Space that have amazing speaker systems, but in my area the owners of the clubs tend to not know and/or care about what cheap(poor) quality speaker systems they install, as long as they save money and they make noise. Such a pity :'(
I just wanted to point out, if you do choose WAV or AIFF, be sure to use the one thats native with your operating system! WAV – Microsoft/ AIFF – Apple obviously.
many people speaks about frequencies, human ear thresholds, audible, inaudible.. ok, but what about definition?
audio files are exactly as they are intended to be in cd format (44khz/16bit). transcoding to mp3 will modify things there to make it lighter and provide a light version, easy to carry on a portable music player -“it is crucial to carry 10000 songs, although i just listen to 100 of them in 4 months”-, but the result of the compression will be different in each song.
there are songs that will sound and feel exactly equal, while others will lose their soul, which some times is in the details, richness in small things that an evil mp3 algorithm may consider unnecessary and take them off, or mash it with other similar frequencies. it is random like the lottery.
so why jeopardize the quality and definition of the output you are providing your crowd, specially on good and/or big soundsystems… just to save hard disk space? come on. as professionals we should care about these things.
it sounds different, there is no magic: mp3 means shaving frequencies AND definition off our music. if only one person of the venue can notice it, instead of 30 noticing i’m playing 128kbps mp3’s transcoded to 320 i got from a famous blog this afternoon, it is worth it.
on the other hand, wav and aiff are a waste of space, and not having tagging capabilities, wav is completely out of the equation. flac and alac are the future, they both can even hold more definition and dynamic range than a cd (96khz/24bit?) while using space more efficiently.
as per the lossless fee sh*t some are trying to sell us, even trying to justify it… and the tiny portion the artist gets from each sale from those industry vultures -not going to name them-, bandcamp is the solution. they are already selling flac files with more definition than cd’s, (quality masters some shops like qobuz call them…).
the customer can choose between a wide range of formats at the same cost (flac, alac, aac, mp3v0, mp3 320…) and the artist gets up to 80 / 85% of what they sell. if artists are not using this plattform, they may have their reasons (or fears). but the old industry ways are every day less necessary, at least to me. i’m totally in with bandcamp’s business model (btw, no affiliation whatsoever, just plain, grateful, customer experience)
i come from vinyl as well, and i don’t miss what we had to pay those days for a single track. i don’t want the shops selling me virtual items at the same price as physical releases either. and i want the artist getting payed for what they do, not the mf’s in between for just storing petabytes of data. many shops don’t have even a proper database, they don’t catalogue properly their stuff, it’s just plain and simple robbery.
Fraunhofer, etc may have invented the audio subgroup of Moving Picture Experts Group – MPEG… MP3’s, but Steve Jobs, formerly the head of the richest company in the world, is indisputably the core catalyst that paved the way for the Digital vs Analogue vs Digital (320Kbps vs 128Kbps MP3 sample rates) ..MP3’s vs WAV files vs FLAC vs AIFF Lossless vs Lossy,,,,etc, etc, etc… Etc …namely, the interminable debate about audio fidelity, with his advent of a consumer friendly incarnation, purchasing MP3’s on iTunes. But, Steve Jobs presumably, at the helm of a company with more $ than the USA, had access to information from people whose time and attention may not be accessible to say, someone like ourselves, who are equally passionate about music, but not endowed with an iconic image bolstered up by Billions in $ hard currency. Which begs to question, if 320Kbps MP3’s are as high quality (more or less) as uncompressed WAV / lossless, or say an ANA chain… then why would the following sentiment be confirmed as a truthful representation of Steve Jobs opinion of this mess of Audio Fidelity with which he has clearly so utterly confused us poor DJ’s re: sound quality, and the endless fruitless debates regarding it’s merit?!??
…Steve Jobs, the “pioneer of digital music” who brought us the iPod, listened to vinyl records when he was at home because the quality of the sound is better than current digital formats can produce, rock ‘n’ roll legend Neil Young said Tuesday.
That’s not a slam of digital music, Young said during a Q&A at the Dive Into Digital conference in Laguna Niguel, Calif. Instead, he made the case that the Apple CEO’s preference was just a recognition that current digital formats produce only about “5 percent” of the sound that vinyl records do because the data is so compressed.
(CD Quality – 16/44.1Khz are no where near 100%, but there is far more information than an MP3)
…”When I started making records and what I remember as music,” said Young, who came to fame with Buffalo Springfield in the ’60s, “we had 100 percent of the sound.”
Young said he and Jobs, who died in October, had been talking about a new format and devices that could equal the sound quality of vinyl. “If [Jobs] had lived long enough he would eventually” have come up with such a device, Young said.
Young’s opinion of Jobs was confirmed by interviewer Walt Mossberg, a journalist with News Corp.’s All Things D website, which hosted Jobs at its conferences.
!!! Mossberg said Steve Jobs expressed surprise that “people traded QUALITY, to the extent they had, for CONVENIENCE or PRICE.” !!!
But, Steve Jobs was likely flipping through his billions of our cash, whilst surprised and pondering why we, the consumer, so readily traded it to him for inferior quality, but more convenience and slightly less cost. Perhaps we simply didn’t and don’t care, cuz no one knows the difference anyway right…
That Neil Young and Steve Jobs talk has been portrayed out there several times and I see that with additions many times.
However to me it all sounds quite out of place. From Steve Jobs, no need for further audio-related presentations. And Neil Young? well his music ALWAYS appeared to me as too bordering on the noise side and definitely devoid of timbre/spectral composition, most always relying on the same basic instruments and atmospheres.
(haven’t heard his post 70/80s music though)
Not that I don’t appreciate music based on the same parameters, but also propably one of the actual worst sound and audio background to come out and discuss about the audio quality of formats.
Totally different if we were considering George Lucas’ opinions and actual actions on these subjects, He actually pressured the cinema business to adopt the superior certified surround THX high quality sound projection and encoding system.
I’ve recently started messing around with dramatic tempo shifts on songs (“screwed-up funk” – knocking down 117-125 funk tunes to 85 to mix with hip hop) and you can really hear the difference in sound engines. Using actual production CDs (redbook etc) on my CDJs vs. 320 mp3s on Traktor through my Macbook pro to test it out, CD’s are better every time. Part of it I’m sure is my computer soundcard, but you can really start to hear the songs pull apart and in particular the bass on the mp3s (much of which is in the midrange on the original mp3s, before it’s timestretched) sounds mushy. This is a pretty extreme example but I think does demonstrate the loss of flexibility with mp3s. Unfortunately CDs are really on the way out as a fast-moving production medium.
Last post, last line, should say: “sound quality results are NOT up to par””
Well, you just managed to add more confusion to the subject, by adding a third kind of compression to the discussion…
Commenters above, so far had made the distinction between two kinds of FILE compression, Lossles and Lossy..
//Lossless refers to the physical distribution of zeros and ones that an old PCM system (files for CD) can be subjected to. Understand that the old PCM retrieval system was created for standalone CD players, THAT NEEDED TO BE PLAYED WITHOUT the complexities of a PC decoding system. You inserted the CD into any CDplayer and voilá the digital files unfold under the tick of an internal.clock, and thus, they need a kind of collar-system to which attach the sampled bytes… very simmilar to the DAT players way of sequentially orders the digital data. Nowadays instead. digital players manage the files without that collar structure therefore the data may be further compressed without touching a single bite of musical info… and this is exactly what FLAC does.
//The second kind of compression are the Lossy types mp3s, mp4s, vorbis,etc, which use CODECs that are clever mathematical algorithms based on various human perceptual models and take advantage on the fact that humans usually cant tell subtle differences because of many reasons (including environmental noise, bad quality sound systems and even non-focused attention)… facts that may vary an indeed do!
//The 3rd compression type you bring up, lately known by the “Loudness-war debate”, is a different subject altogether. And as you cited, there is plenty of info around. It is about how the musical info takes advantage of the actual format you encase your tunes into. This compression is not about the format or about sample or bit rates. What you mention as 32 bit is about the internal CODEC functioning “while doing the process” not about the format that carries it… Most importantly, the 32 bit (re-sampling) is done ON the original 16 bit original files, thus no extra info is added, no background noise is ever taken away… just a better compression method is used.(as compared with processes that use 24bit, 16, 12 or 8bit to PROCESS the format),
Let me improve the wording of the 3rd compression kind mentioned above for clarity effect 😉
//The 3rd compression type you bring up, lately known by the
“Loudness-war debate”, is a different subject altogether. And as you
cited, there is plenty of info around. It is about how the musical info
takes advantage of the actual format you encase your tunes into. This
compression is not about the format or about sample or bit rates. What
you mention as 32 bit is about the internal CODEC functioning “while
doing the INITIAL CONVERSION process” not about a better format that carries music with that resolution, far from it… Most
importantly, that 32 bit (re-sampling) is done just once ON the original 16 bit
original files, thus no extra info is added, no background noise is ever
taken away (well sonic pyrotechnics maybe…but not real). Just, with 32 bit a better CONVERSION method is used.(as compared
with processes that use 24bit, 16, 12 or 8bit to do the initial conversion),
I can’t really tell the difference between 320 and wav.
I can tell the difference between a well produced track and a poorly produced one though. I have some crappily made records from the early 2000s that sound awful next to my newer primo production 320s. Does anyone else?
Don’t confuse variations on sound engineering + mastering quality, versus recording formats different sound quality. The fact that so far you are not able to distinguish between lossless vs lossy files, belongs to the later distinction, while tracks from 2000 sounding worse than today’s ones -recorded on the same format-, is the former dilemma.
I thought the article did a good job comparing audio fidelity to image fidelity and I think the arguments are applicable to both discussions and furthermore I hypothesize that digital photography circles are having the same debates (with an analogous ‘vinyl is better’ phrase banally passed around).
To each his own, then. But there is an objective argument for using loss-less files.
1) file size is not an issue anymore (flac weighs roughly only a little more than double of 320 mp3, not 8 times as much..), so why treating your audience to less quality just because YOU can’t hear the difference?
2) try to pitch down to -8 a 320 file and a lossless one and decide for yourself..
i personally find it insulting that there IS a debate over this among djs
Thank You! With you 100% !!
I’ve bought a lot of tunes from iTunes but they’re only 256kBit/s.. Any way to change this?
Well, no other than buying again. You better think of the many tunes you would need to buy twice if you come to realize this later on.
//Actually… there is a chance of DJ communities like this one, getting an united voice and implementing some public strategy to obtain an UPGRADE PATH for those holding buyer rights or proof of acquisition, so by paying and extra fee, be able to upgrade their tunes quality up to lossless.
DJTT’s team are you listening???
Hey, just wanna quickly adress something you said: “There’s no program out there that will magically turn your old rips into lossless audio”
That’s totally right, however I ripped a heap of CD’s about 6-7 years ago at 128kbps and didn’t keep the CD’s… however iTunes (groan) has something called iMatch, which matches and stores all your music in a cloud server for you to access on any iPhone, iPad or computer at anytime… AND if the songs are already on the server (With itunes giant database, a lot of them are) it automatically downloads them at 256kb… if you’re dealing with a large library it could be a faster way of getting some better audio files. It’s about $30 a year.
The other plus is it’s a permanent cloud backup for you entire collection… so if you’re travelling and something crashes, you can get the essentials pretty quickly.
Saying the apple shitphones are the most used headphones is probably right, but that doesn’t mean people don’t care about audio qualit, they might just not kniw of better. As a producer, rapper & a occasional dj i always want to offer the audience the best sound quality possible. And as i read these comments here, it just makes me wanna keep doing so. Everybody nowadays can be a dj so easily, so pushing and improving every aspect of your set makes you stand out from the “mass”. Think about it, and don’t let the laziness or old habbits restrict you n your music. Peace & love!
every now and then this is some thing that comes up in dj sites and forums , on thing that never happens is in depth as we are talking about audio , i want to see the like in the above post a comparison of eg 192 vs 320 kbps but how do programs like platinum notes affect lower bit rate files. i would love to see a low bit rate file converted and peoples opinions on this. what about genres how does bit rates affect music with no vocals ?
I definitely notice a difference between Lossless files and Lossy files. I accept nothing less than 320 Kb in my library, but prefer Apple’s Lossless because it seems to be a good marriage of sound quality and file size. And it has ID3 tag editing unlike WAVs.
A regular Joe Schmoe might not be an audiophile, but I do think the general public can tell a difference between 256 and Lossless if you’re playing on a decently loud system in the club or at a party. At 320 it starts to get a bit harder to tell, but the difference is still there. Remember, you can have the nicest speakers in the world, but if your source is crap, they’ll sound like garbage. I like to err on the side of caution and use 320 or better.
FLAC! FLAC! FLAC!
i definitely prefer flac over mp3.
whenever i buy music, i buy it from digital-tunes.net. prices for mp3 and flac are equal. most tracks cost about 1.00 – 1.30€. that’s ok. of course, beatport has a greater selection. and they publish the scale of a track. but i found out that, for me, they are wrong most of the time.
i have a 25% off coupon from beatport, but thats still more expensive than dt. never used it though :D.
99% of the general population (sober, at home, alone, with no noisefloor) can’t tell the difference between 320k mp3 and .wav. Like we can ever push that back to 98% with better gear and higher rates.
What about programs like platinum notes is a really good tool for improve you library to a profesional cuality sound????
I’m irresistibly drawn to these debates. They confuse sound quality with accuracy. Worse still this article confuses loudness and accuracy. And it assumes WAV is the indisputable King of quality. Some random points below illuminate these points.
But most importantly, forget the science! Otherwise the pre-MP3 creativity
will be lost forever, swamped by these debates that miss the point. As everyone knows, it ain’t the size, it is what you do with it that counts!
In blind tests people can just about tell the difference between 44.1k 16bit WAVs and 160kbps MP3s, any higher and the difference is not noticeable, even on good monitors in silent, damped studios, when they are intensely concentrated on the audio quality. And most people listen to music on ipod earphones and are almost always distracted. If the original source is a 44.1k 16bit WAV, (assuming there’s such a thing as ‘original source’ these days), that will be the most accurate format. If the original is a 176.4k WAV, then it is possible that a 320kbps MP3 may be a perceptually superior downgrade to a 44.1k 16bit WAV. It is nice to think of an ‘ultimate’ level of quality, but we’ve no idea what that is. We considered 20Hz to be the lowest audible frequency until we realized people don’t just hear with their ears. The best sound engineers work with their ears.
There are some great articles that try to objectively prove that WAVs are better, for example by looking at the waveforms in oscilloscopes. Yes the waveforms are different, and this will have a probably negative effect on the sound of processing, but if the difference is inaudible you are wasting mental energy.
Clunky great bass bins in clubs and festivals are not the best reproduction money can buy, as this article seems to assume, they are just loud, they can handle enormous amounts of power without melting. At these levels your ears cannot discern subtle differences, let alone among a crowd of screaming people, all those bodies absorbing frequencies, perhaps inebriated, with reverberations, etc. You can only hope to detect subtle quality variations at not much above talking level. Nor are audiophile sound systems the most accurate reproduction, although they are the most appealing. Audiophile sound systems are great because they do NOT reproduce the sound accurately, they colour it, as does vinyl. (Many older DJs will claim vinyl was best – because they love the colouring.) The most demanding environment a DJ plays for is audiophile’s living rooms, not massive festival bass bins, which you prepare for on monitors, using your ears.
WAV may not be easier on your system than MP3, if your biggest bottleneck is data throughput contention rather than processing power, as is the case on many systems.
With my science hat on, something that makes a far bigger difference to final quality is making sure your levels are as hot as possible without peaking, (subject to them sounding level with the previous/next track of-course), and in terms of investment, getting the most professional gear possible, with a low output impedance and a good line level strength. But have a go with a nice analogue setup, especially good quality old scratch DJ kit, and you’ll notice that the sound is gorgeous and the kit less fussy, letting the technology get out of the way letting you focus on your art.
Anything in a DAW should be recorded at the highest possible quality. But after that, the ONLY criteria is your ears. Watch those videos recently on DJTT about sampling – terribly ‘inaccurate’ samples making musical history. It is precisely the quirks and colouring of a system that makes the sound special as much as its accuracy. For DJs, if you’re recording a CD, use WAVs – you would anyway as you have to licence them and there’s only a small number. It is unlikely less accurate MP3s would sound better, especially with processing.
Bottom line, to repeat myself. It aint the size, it is what you do with it that counts.
I play weekly for up to 18hours on good sound systems, at high levels using both 320 and wav. No way you can tell the difference – what matters more than any of these debates is the quality of your sound card. There’s a clear and very noticible difference when i follow the last DJs who was using a more affordable card. I’ve invested around 800usd on a higher quality card and was the best musical decision I ever made. output SNR is key if your pushing high levels.
What would you say about Native Instruments or Serato DJ sound cards?
Hard to answer and im not putting down these products which are all great. The cards we use are high end, and probably not suitable for most folks budgets. ( though the RME Babyface is fantastic)
NI make great cards at good price points, but you can hear the difference in quality when you play next to a card from BENCHMARK (the DAC1) or RME. Tech specs for THD+N ,dynamic range and frequency response for these DAs are so much better, and this shows in both the pricing and the result. Cant say so much for the Serato/Rane cards as i only see one local DJ using them, but they have better specs than NI slightly which no doubt shows in the result.
Gets technical but THD+N ( total harmonic distortion + noise) figures for the various cards give an indication of the purity of the sound. Only becomes noticeable (to me anyway) when your really pushing the PA ( which we do ). RME cards AD/DA frequency response is flat throughout the range ( where as NI changes depending on DA frequency). The DAC1 figures are off the scale at 0.0005. Basically as with most things in life you get what you pay for and better quality costs.
We run the PAs in the clubs, and though a bit bashed due to the outdoor nature we try to get the sounds as pure as possible with a few components in the signal path – this sometimes includes bypassing the DJ mixer completely and connecting directly to the PA crossover, not something most DJs will be able to do in clubs.
Have to eat a bit of humble pie on my last post. This weekend decided to check my facts and A – B (ie compare) the same tracks playing at both MP3 and WAV, while in the mix to the crowd.
The difference is clearly noticible, the MP3 sounds good the WAV sounds better and feels GREAT. The improvement was massive. There a depth and fullness to the low end on the wav thats just not present in the mp3 version.
I guess i’d got so used to hearing mp3s sound good @ 320kbs coming from the higher end equipment, especially after following Djs with an audio2 dj.
actually you can’t imagine how much your expectation colors the sound. in order to really test wav vs mp3 you should switch between them without knowing which is which and only-afterwards confirm.
i have tested myself with a lot of people playing the exact same file twice telling them one is wav and one is mp3. when they hear the “mp3” which is actually the same wav they are absolutely convinced that the sound quality is worse.
double-blind or at least blind testing is needed to remove the psichological expectation factor
There may also have been level differences. An increase in volume that is not consciously detectable still makes people evaluate the sound or song as better.
In my experience NI is pretty poor – the S4 can be USB-powered. What signal source would you power with a 5V low power supply? Unfortunately plugging it in makes no difference – the D-A converters are designed to run on a tiny amount of power so they sound precise but sterile and gutless, especially on anything but a pristine sound system. An amplifier, by engineering definition, is inefficient – it sculpts the signal out of the power supply, its job is to get rid of power, hence getting hot and using heavy components. The S4 is also a digital device with a small analogue appendage on the outputs. At the same price point/component quality, a device that is analogue at its heart, with digital stuff at the fringes, is going to sound better. There’s a reason the best studio kit is analogue.
I can’t comment on Serato. Denon MC3000/6000 sound beautiful, drive with beautiful precision on any sound system, run hot like silk, and are analogue circuitry at their heart.
Update to the above – I recently got an NI Audio 8 so could do a side by side comparison of Denon’s MC3000 with NI’s Audio 8 (which is presumably the same interface as in the S4). The two sound near identical, and this is on a very high spec audiophile system. The Denon is perhaps a little punchier, while the Audio 8 is a fraction more detailed, but I am not sure that isn’t my imagination after many switches between the two. The Audio 8 however can’t run without glitches even when running as a straight ASIO soundcard – as I wanted DVS I had to buy an Apple laptop to get it to run OK, and believe me I’ve invested many thousands of hours getting NI gear working on Windows. The Denon runs perfectly on both but can’t do Traktor DVS.
Serato and especially the newest versions that play back 24bit , sound transparent. The way it should.
In the name of fuck!, people…why does this huge “noise” set around getting the audience satisfied with your performance?…We simply outta know a few main things to consider here: the EQ applied to the signals, the sampling rate and bits depth, the compression, the loudspeakers location, the room reverberation, etc. and if you are using mp3s, AIFFs, WAVs, or whatever…go smash their ears just with what you think is right!
your comment is retarded.
Honestly, I don’t hear any difference between 320kbs & everything between to 190kbs … What Im doing wrong?
There are many stages that are part of what is going on until you are able to hear differences. Starting with the software, soundcard (particularly the DAC conversion stage), your cabling and connectors, and very importantly the amp and speakers, the listening room and the background.noise.
edit because of typo..: Pffff, so many people trying to convice themself that MP3 isn’t so bad just because cheaper and lighter is more convenient..but S**T aren’t DJ’s suppose to love music?? how can you accept music cut by half of what it is made and play it loud for everybody to hear…just my 2 cents.
Pffff, so many people trying to convice themself that MP3 isn’t so bad just because cheaper and lighter is more convenient..but S**T aren’t DJ’s suppose to love music?? how can’t you accept music cut by half of what it is made and play it loud for everybody to hear…just my 2 cents..
I personally find that 320kbps mp3s are fine but if you mix and match that’s when you start to notice if your whole set is 320s no one will notice but if you throw in some lossless files or even an AAC then it’s noticeable. I think find which format works for you and try to stick to it. My whole library is 256 AAC files and there’s a noticeable improvement over my old 320 mp3s but it is more for me, I agree that the crowd won’t care or notice.. Saying that I recall Apple requesting high quality master files for all songs in iTunes with the ultimate aim to upgrade them all one day? That should be interesting.
99.9% of patrons and 95% of club sound systems simply will not be able to tell the difference between a 320kbs mp3 and a WAV.
But they will be able to “perceive” the longer attendance presence at the club when subjected to vastly improved quality sound.
I’m still boggled that we’re still talking about Stereo as though it’s the Be-all, end-all of how audio is presented. True Spatial Audio sound is phenomenal (not this awkward sorta’ stereo, sorta’ spatial “5.1” or “7.1” surround sound). REAL Spatial Audio allows you to move elements around in true 3D space as though it were an actual object in your personal space. Real Spatial Audio takes into consideration the walls around you, the objects in the room and what they’re made of when rendering sound.
I get that both playback and recording equipment (not to mention having to retrain professionals to work on files like this) for this kind of presentation are expensive, but this style, this ability to move things around as though you’re decorating the actual space around you with audio IS the future of Audio. We might as well save everything we can in a lossless mono sound from its original source… just like in real life so it can be rendered to sound in real-time and allow us to hear the sounds the way WE hear sounds, not the way someone thinks we hear sound.
Agreed about Spatial Audio, there is plenty of researc about this, Actually there’s a whole branch of Academic Contemporanean Music that works with Spatialization called Acousmatic Music, which is part of the Electroacoustic Music that mostly steams from the Musique Concrete side of the XX musical tradition.
Put this aside the generous technical investigation around this subject, and Yes I agree that the future flows towards there.
//So far stick with lossless stereo highest resolution possible audio.
Well nice article, but I mean youd really have to be an amateur not to know this to be honest. I notice the difference even between 24O and 32O kbps on my studio speakers, and as the sound system gets larger, those problems would only obviously multiply.
Good that you and some of us noticed. However the state of things being… it is actually great Techtools has run this article so like a domino this rarely published news are going to finally spread. It was very wise of TT to actually give advice on the retrieval side and other convenience issues related to switching resolution for DJs that these ideas are news.or that felt but didn’t know what was wrong with their sound.
I think a good way to look at it is by comparing files sizes.. an Mp3 version is a lot smaller then a WAV because there is HEAPS OF INFORMATION MISSING.. information that is supposed to be there.. Buying the lossless version means your getting exactly what came out out of the producers computer and thats how I like it..
that’s misinformed nonsense.
a FLAC may be only half as small as the WAV from which it was created. applying your logic, the FLAC is smaller because there’s heaps of information missing. but, of course, that’s not true. a decoded FLAC is bit-perfect. so there’s zero information missing. it’s just that the FLAC is like a .zip file. Once you decompress it, all the data is there again.
now, an MP3 is not only compressed but it also discards some information. but the pychoacoustic algorithm used tries to discard information you cannot hear. the proper way to gauge the accuracy of an MP3 is by means of a double-blind test.
@3486348b84b38fce09313ce6279ad1ce:disqus Yes, file sizes (of the same time length) are a “good way to look at it”. Just be careful you are not comparing lossy formats with others that move around zeros and ones in order to save disk space, and do that without messing with the actual music in the file. (Like FLAC).
Apart form that an MP3, MP4 WMA or other CODECs may have difference in their audio quality results, but their size is a good comparison start.
Ugg. I suppose I should start buying lossless and compressing for iTunes/my phone. So. Much. Money. So much space. I’m an audiophile, but honestly if you’re playing on a sound system where you can tell the difference between 320 and lossless, chances are you’re wealthy enough to upgrade your whole library to lossless. Otherwise, if you’re like me, it probably doesn’t matter all too much.
I guess a better directive would be to get lossless when possible and have a way to store it, while having the compressed twin ready for use. And why not? start to look for your resolution bottlenecks and replace them when you may.
Judging from DJ Equipment; mixers, soundcards, etc. and ProAudio equipment been released lately… not-so-expensive Sound Systems are going to tell the sound quality difference, if they are not showing it already!
Alright, can anyone answer this question for me?
In iTunes, under the advanced options, there is the ability to convert songs to “apple lossless” or MP4 have you. Well ya can’t up the bit rate from 192 to 1080 as stated here, but iTunes sure will do it. Is this really of any use or am I just adding fat to my storage space?
Also, doing this to any FLAC file almost always changes the bit rate and it’s not always higher either. Apple is up to something and I don’t think it should be declared as a true “lossless” file. Or at least correct me here.
Does anybody out there have an opinion on Apple Lossless?
Besides the nice booklet the reason why I still buy my CDs or if available the one and only high fidelity LP
what a stupid unscientific article is this! First of all the spectrogram you are using is not really a way to see if a file is more dynamic. It is just a property of mp3 to cut off all frequencies above 20Khz, which normal people cannot hear, be happy if a grown-up can still hear till 17Khz (not even talking about deaf dj’s). In fact, recording at 44.1Khz is more than enough and your sound doesn’t SOUND better with a higher sample frequency. Ok, it is better if you follow the “use the best technology available” but to say that you would hear it, or that it sounds better, I would say that is a lie. Technically it is better, better for processing etc. but you just get a bit extra information in the range of 22.05 and 24 Khz (if 48Khz is used in stead of 44.1Khz), which we can not hear anyway, so there is actually no point in recording this and this is the reason why CD is 44.1Khz.
And about the bitrates: it all depends on the music file. Visually there will always be a difference as sample values will change, the only question is, will we hear it? If you are only negative about mp3 without even knowing how it works, how can you even have an objective opinion on it? And then I am not even talking about other compression formats that are more complex and achieve a better quality for the same compression rate.
Well the reason we record at higher sample rates is to prevent aliasing. We may not hear frequencies at 24 kHz but we can sometimes hear their artifacts if they were recorded at 44.1 kHz.
There are already known studies that point at that 192Khz is needed to achieve some analoge equakity.
There is also the interacting between frequencies. Although we don’t here some frequencies they still interact with frequencies we dont hear.
*with frequencies we do hear…
How can that be explained? I haven’t seen a paper on that in my life (you can always give me a link). And comparing digital to analog information is a whole different story. To go back to the interaction of frequencies, how can you explain this? there is only one interaction that I know of and this is the negative aliasing effect, but this is hard to notice. I have some samples where this is visible for instance this violin note: http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/15/sonicvisualiserviolin.png/ here a glissando is played going from high note to a lower note. In the beginning you can see (but not hear) that there are some frequency components that are raising in pitch. But I don’t know any other ‘frequency interactions’, in a good or bad way.
Another reason to mixdown or use more than the 44.1khz , according some studies, is the fact that the D/A converters have hp and lp filters ,having different slope 12db, 24db, 48db etc… and different behaviours on them , so that limit freqs changes from one system to another and overlaps with the zone of aliasing on 44.1 khz or 48khz, so there is “double degradation” in the “air” of the track/mix/sample.
The short answer is: use FLAC whenever you have the chance. You can still convert it to any other format – including WAV, AIFF or even cdaudio. FLAC has one big advantage to wav or aiff: it supports extensive tagging.
There is a
common misconception with DJ’s concerning the use of the term “lossless”.
First of all, there is no such thing as a “Lossless Audio file”, it simply does
There are only “Lossy audio files”.
analog, so as soon as you digitize it into zero’s and one, you lose information,
meaning the audio file is by definition “lossy”, it is NOT the same as the analog
audio signal. Not at a sample rate of 44Kbps or even @ 192Kbps. It’s always
converted to zero’s and ones, independent
of how many of them you have.
The term “Lossless” and ”Lossy” reflects to the compression type that is used
in the file.
Meaning MP3, MP4, OGG, WMA* are Lossy compressions.
after compression/decompression is NOT identical to the original (like a JPG).
WAV, AIFF are RAW format’s. No file compression is used. There is no need to decompress
(Like a BMP).
ALAC, FLAC and
little known WMA* are lossless compression formats.
The result after compression/decompression IS identical to the original. (Like
*WMA has different types and WMA lossless is one of the firsts Lossless
compressions that I’m aware of. I ripped my whole CD collection in WMA
lossless, because it was the only one that is supported by many media players
and DJ softs, including Traktor.
I currently still use WMA Lossless, I buy WAV and convert them to WMA lossless
so I can tag them using a script and the Beatport API. And ofcourse because I
win about 10 to 20% of diskspace.
I’m not fond of using ALAC or FLAC because it is still badly supported by
Almost every tool I know can handle MP3, WMA and WAV.
Pioneer CDJ’s for example do not support lossless compression file formats because
of hardware limitations.
clearly, you do not understand the nyquist-shannon sampling theorem. otherwise you wouldn’t make such false statements.
Are you refering to my stament that all audio files are lossy because of the digitizing process of an anologue signal?
The nyquist-shannon sampling theorem confirms what I am stating.
“Perfect reconstruction is mathematically possible for the idealized model but only an APPROXIMATION for real-world signals and sampling techniques, albeit in practice often a very good one.”
It uses aliasing, and aliasing is NOT a exact reproduction of the original signal.
It can be close, but it’s not.
we’re only interested at the part of the signal that’s in the audible range. sure, we don’t capture content above 20kHz or so when recording at 44.1kHz. the ADC’s low-pass filter removes those frequencies to avoid aliasing. but that’s not a problem unless you have a pet bat. (and if you do, you can simply record at a higher sampling rate.)
quantization error isn’t a problem, either. if using dither, 16 bit audio reaches a dynamic range of roughly 120dB. as monty notes, “120dB is greater than the difference between a mosquito
somewhere in the same room and a jackhammer a foot
away.” in other words, while 16 bit is an approximation, that approximation is practically perfect considering the dynamic range of human hearing.
See this video of an AES round table with Ethan Winer (among others) for a discussion of dither. The dither discussion starts about 34:30 and lasts about 7 minutes. The whole hour is awesome, and a good listen for anyone who wants to really understand sound and audio on a practical level.
The high quality examples with and without dither can be found here:
The gist is that the effects of dither are at about -90dB and inaudible for any sound recorded at reasonable levels.
Also, “big systems” tend to offer LESS clarity than smaller systems, all things being equal. Larger rooms are difficult at best to put sound into, and outdoors is it almost impossible to build a good system for critical listening. The very best Funktion 1 system installed in a club with 1000 people will not provide the same level of quality as my $100 headphones in a quiet home studio. Big systems are LOUDER…and that is about all that can be definitively said about them. The changes in the human perception of sound with volume will dominate any other effects relating to the “quality” of the initial sound.
The differences in lossless or lossy (MP3 320 or better) is going to be simply a subjective perception, the bigger the sound system gets?
Meaning….that the general bias that “big system” == “higher quality sound” is NOT really reliable. Have you ever been in an empty club with the music off? Do you notice just how noisy the environment is? There are air handlers, fans, running water, blender, and so on…and that’s when the club is empty. Add in 100 or 300 or 500 or 1000 people who are talking, drinking, yelling, drinking, flirting, drinking, and generally making a LOT of racket. That background noise can be 80dB or higher!!! ALL of this noise is still present when the music is playing, and you hear some of it.
The difference in the perception of sound between mp3@320 and any “CD equivalent” (e.g. CD, WAV, FLAC, etc) will typically have more to do with the normalization of the resulting waveform, and the signal to noise ratio through the full sound system. When I switched from a sound card with a consumer output reference level (-10dBu) to a sound card with a pro output reference level (+4dBu), I received no end of compliments on the improvement in the quality of the sound. The net result of that change was that I could turn the mixer channel down, and avoid introducing noise into the signal chain. The perception was that I moved from “crappy mp3’s” to “lossless” source files…and I am sure that an audio myth or two was reinforced that day.
Regardless of anecdote, in double blind (and even single blind) tests, the perception of differences between mp3@320 and “CD equivalent” requires a quite listening environment, known reference speakers, and typically multiple listening attempts with each sample. When comparing samples, as little as 0.1dB difference in sound level creates a statistically significant preference for the louder sample…despite the fact that 1dB is the smallest change in signal level that is “consciously” noticeable.
The weaknesses of the mp3 compression scheme are well known. Quite, acoustical pieces with many instruments in overlapping frequency ranges and long reverb trails are particularly vulnerable to the introduction of noise….so the next time you are in a club on a big system, hit them with a little Bach Sonata for piano, flute, and violin….as a WAV and mp3…you should be able to hear the differences. 😉
All that said, I am not one to throw away bits (haha) of audio carelessly. But, I am much more apt to be reasonable in my approach and understand what is and is not under my control, and the pay close attention to the points of diminishing returns.
And when talking about clubs etc., most clubs don’t have superb acoustics so very good loudspeakers will mostly suffer from acoustics that are not as perfect.
Good post, but that’s not quite how you spell quiet.
Thanks. The “wrong word” that is “correctly spelled” has always been a difficulty for me. 😉
Ethan Winer is the MAN. I love this video and show it to people all the time. He also has videos where he tests stock soundcards VS big name cards and nobody can tell the difference. Great Post cause i was thinking of replying with the same thing.
Quick side note, AAC (mp4) is the standard format for Macs and iTunes. I wouldn’t call it “less-supported and/or older” format.
This article reminds me of a test they did a few years ago comparing bit rates on Fabric’s sound system: http://www.djmag.com/news/detail/445
99% of my music is compressed. I would prefer to go lossless but my hard drive is not big enough and I don’t have the money right now to upgrade. Also, all of my gigs are on smaller systems that don’t have the clarity of a Function 1 or Avalon PA.
But even with high quality files most DJs are destroying the sound themselves when they play either by pushing the system too hard or screwing with the EQs. In practice we all know that pushing a mixer into the red will distort the sound. However, in reality we all tend to creep. Last weekend I DJed a party and I constantly found myself turning down the gain on the other DJs (I provided the system) when I heard the speakers distort. Every time the DJ was 14dB into the red.
As far as the EQing, when I set up my PA I set the master EQ (part of my amp stack) so that the speakers and their arrangement sound their best within the space that they are operating. During the set-up I test this with a well mixed, full range song at neutral EQ on the mixer. Clubs are set up to work this way also. So as DJs, if we completely fuck with the EQs to make it sound “better” we are most likely adding distortion to the system and making them sound worse to the audience.
neil young was purportedly in talks with the late steve jobs about developing an mp3 format that sounded as good as lossless audio. who knows what will happen with it now, but i hope that is where mp3 tech eventually goes.
Seriously, 320 mp3’s are good enough for performing, and i’l bet ya, that if van doorn or loco dice are standing in the crowd, they will not be able to hear the difference between 320 or wav.
when you slow down the pitch of a track, the software cleverly multiplies the
available samples to FILL the extended time. And then try to do that with a
fourth/fifth of available data.
About non processed music mp3 320 vs WAV 1440, audible differences… there are
many intervening factors that may mask those differences, just note that
ProAudio equipment manufacturers are starting to shift their specifications to
revealing levels.Top of Form
PLUS, it is very likely your DJ set may contain very differently mastered
files, then you will need to EQ and effect the farthest ones in order to ease
the mix or to regulate the flow… then the resulting audio quality will be
quite different if you start with 320 or with 1440 kbps files.
Also just to add, if you spend 15 hours in a wear-house with a funktion one rig after a couple of hours everything just sounds the same. I could swear Visionquest just played a kick drum for the two hours of their 7 hour set…
The actual price of sending and storing data (not the price someone decided to pull out of the air) is so low it is almost non existent. Mobile phones are a perfect example of this. The mark up on a txt message or phone call per minute is something like10000%
I think the most important thing to take from this article is to stop ripping songs off youtube if you are some disco bar dj or a new dj starting out that doesn’t know any better. Allot of us will never play on a high end enough system to notice the difference between 320 and losses and the punters are usually so spangled that they dont notice either. So 320 will be just fine for a very long time yet.
There is also so many other factors that can ruin the audio. I often go to a student night in town that has a funktion one rig and its got the worst sound I have ever heard in a club. The DJ’s always crank the absolute fuck out of the mixer and they never have anyone there doing the sound. Its in a basement so the tops are literally at head height and if your tall you have to duck under them. It doesn’t matter how good the files are if you clip everything on the mixer your ears are still going to be killing you.
Did the site change again? What happened to the “my.djtechotools.com,” I actually really like that feature…
I mentally replace “audiophile” with “complete moron”…and at that point I feel no need to alter or change anything else that is said. 😉
The largest effect of a “big system” is that the sound is LOUDER. There is no general effect on anything effecting the “quality” of the sound. In most cases “big systems” are in “big rooms” or “outdoors”…with little to no acoustical treatment or consideration given to the acoustical design of the space…hardly a quality listening environment. Funktion 1 certainly sounds better than Pyle Pro. But Funktion 1 in a bumpin club will NOT allow me to critically listen nearly as well as my quiet home studio with a pair of headphones.
Looking at changes to the human perception of sound as a function of overall SPL…this change in response is many times larger than any other factor in anything that is in the actual sound waveform. A SPL difference of 0.1dB has been shown to generate a STRONG preference for the louder sample….even with different bitrates.
I have never found anyone who can actually spot the effects of dither….despite near infinite discussions on chat boards. See this panel with Ethan Winer for more. It is well worth the hour for anyone who is interested in actually learning about sound. Ethan is pragmatic, and very easy to follow in his presentation.
Thanks for a good read! I hope it will inspire many of the readers.IMHO, from a DJ’s point of view, it should never be a question how much or little other people care about audio quality but how much WE care about it. We work with music and those of us who take our work seriously enough, don’t have problems to invest our resources and time into improvement of what we do. I am trying to get the new stuff in lossless quality and from time to time upgrading my “classics” library. That’s my way 😉
as always, DJTT provides a great forum for discussion and quality information.
as for my input – buy some beyerdynamics DT770 pro’s (or high end sennheisers / etc) and benchmark your ears to tracks which pop. thats how you tell if an mp3 is good. not bitrate or whatever. its your ears silly. true, 128k is low end for a legit mp3. The difference above 192k is negligible though in my professional experience.
that said – here is some jedi advice to contribute… choose the file which causes the least strain to be processed by your software. for ableton, that is WAV files ONLY.
Pros and Cons all around. As DJs, sound is our main product and should be concerned with the audio quality of the tracks. One of the issues here is the cost of a lossless file, which gives a headache to a DJ struggling to get by with his/her income.
Upgrading little by little? Yeah, sure. Soon enough you’ll start to sound like a broken record while you feel compelled (or guilty?) to play only those few lossless files you could manage to buy. If you’re a DJ working hard to go upwards in whatever scene you’re in, there’s at least one person who will demand to stay fresh and showcase the latest music trends, starting by yourself.
In raw terms, many will prefer to get 2 lossy files for the price of one lossless, that will give them more to play with and more chance to be spontaneous at the mix. Yeah, you may play in a large and really nice soundsystem, I bet you when you manage to get to that moment, a lossy format track will be the least of your problems/concerns…
I would say control what you can, and buy within reason. If you can, listen to the cards live to get the best idea with the same mix playing (controlled variable) and see what sounds best. Oh yeh, and don’t listen to things on Youtube for audio quality as they’ve already compressed the audio, and it can’t be seen as reliable variable as far as I know. I go into a club and I play what I have. I don’t worry about what I can’t control. I assume the person whom set up the sound system had an idea of what they were doing. Unless it’s someone whom has a huge and very fragile ego (very unhappy with being disproven as it would harm their hard-earned reputation).
I watched the video but knew that I probably wouldn’t be able to tell even the slightest difference in quality. 320k is great for most people whom listen on consumer-level audio equipment. You begin to go to professional and that’s where you begin to notice differences (if any exist).
I listened to the same AIFF format file from my old iPhone on Adam Audio A7Xes and then on Rokit 6es and there was a massive difference, mainly in the highs, some mids, and few lows. Sadly the A7Xes weren’t in my budget. Rokit 6es are still higher in sound quality than most consumers will use.
Of course, beatport charges Brits £1 extra, not $1.
I pay 1€
Altough this article give a good picture, there are some serious faults in some statements.
I’l post my comments as soon as I can.
ill say one thing…..once you move up from you dell PC speakers you will def notice the diffrence between FLAC / WAV and a MP3
yep, no doubt about that.
Can you convert already existing mp3 files to wave format,and still retain the same quality audio?
You can convert a MP3 to a WAV and keep the same quality (as the MP3).
But you will not get WAV quality, but you will get filesize of a wav.
There is no point in converting MP3 to WAV, unless your device/gear does not support MP3.
oeps, to fast.
There is a point in dooing that, if you want to edit/manipulate the file without loss when you save it.
Please note that when you save it again to MP3 after editing, the quality of the MP3 will be worse than the original MP3.
Each time you decode/code you loose quality.
Yes. It will be a WAV at the same audio quality of the mp3
great read up!!
If I may throw something up for discussion here – iPad DJing. With multi-channel becoming a reality, and the subsequent adoption by DJ manufacturers of the platform as a real alternative to lugging laptops and HDs, lossy formats will continue to be popular and necessary, unless DJs are happy to juggle playlists.
WAV and AIFF are uncompressed PCM files, not lossless. Lossless files typically are categorised by utilising data compression similar to ZIP folders and can be reversed.
ah, thats one of the things I wanted to point out.
Another reason to use lossless is due to ear damage. It is confirmed by doctors that mp3 damage hearing because mp3 is compressed so much that it becomes too much noise for the ear to work with. This also applies to low volume because the ear is working hard to code sounds. Even 320mbps is too bad. That is why many more today struggling with tinitus than before. This is something I notice myself. Before I could play music in my headphones for hours without getting tired in my ears. Now it does not take long before I need a break when I listen to mp3 …
Tinittus is related to many things, but not so much about being an mp3 driven world. I think it comes back to the loudness war and people being lazy with protecting their ears.
That’s utter nonsense, and it certainly has not been ‘confirmed by doctors’.
I remember reading it in a science mag for a couple of years ago. They had scientific proof that compressed audio was much more damaging than lossless. As I wrote, the ear work much more when music is compressed. Something inside the ear starts to vibrate a lot more than usual. I rely much more on doctors than one who thinks he has knowledge of sound.
@Roy Van Dahl, it would be very nice if you could trace that article up, since it is coherent with non-attentional focused audio quality research that sometimes shows up. One example I found years ago, measured the time attendants stayed on a local listening to compressed music versus the same set up but with uncompressed music, and the lapse was significantly shorter for compressed.
//I try not to use this as an argument because I don’t have a link, but surely documented findings are going to pile up, backing something attentive ones have noticed for long already.
If I remember correctly, the compression logic of mp3s is based on audio-psychology. The data is compressed at specific points in the music where a human ear is less likely to hear the difference (basically after loud peaks). Given this, ear damage caused by mp3s doesn’t really make sense. Damage from the loudness wars does.
The picture above is too small to make anything clear about lossless and lossy.
Thanks for the AIFF tip though, didn’t knew it could write ID3 tags. I was about to convert my WAV collection to FLAC for this but I might as well go for AIFF as it seems a more common format.
Sponsored by Beatport.
My government only allows us to spend 400 USD on Internet purchases. I spent all my money on beatport lossless wavs XD
Cesar? Marico no puede ser jaja..
I play for anywhere between 40 people on boat parties to 4000 people at concerts and I’m 320 kbit all the way. I know and realize the sacrifice of audio quality but it’s so marginal, especially when you add alcohol into the mix. Even if you hear the difference, chance is tiny that anyone else does.
Even if we’re in a future where SSD is standard and we’re rocking terabytes like nobody’s business, I think it will take a few technological revolutions in storage and bandwidth before anyone feels it’s worth the upgrade in audio quality. Also, I guess the most used headphones in the world are Apples, that says a lot about how much or little people care about audio quality.
+1 for the Apple headphones statement. Throw them away. NOW!
And, pretty please, don’t by Monster Beats to replace them…
“Also, I guess the most used headphones in the world are Apples, that
says a lot about how much or little people care about audio quality”
Just…. Amen 🙂
An extra quid for lossless is very tedious. Nonetheless, 99.5% of my collection is lossless (ALAC, for ease of tagging and file size concerns) and I can really hear the difference when I start playing with the tempo. Timestretching algos like Elastique Pro behave a lot better when they’ve got more data to play with, at least to my ears.
Yeah. but that’s a matter of the timestretching algorithms themselves, and not the source file.
Amazing that we are talking about this. I miss the day’s of worrying where to find a specific song on vinyl. Or begging the dude at the Record Store to open up some of the Euro Imports. I am a faithful Traktor user now, but this digital shit gives me a headache sometimes =]
i agree i went the same way as you vinyl, cd, torq, traktor to midi do we really have to care beyond CD quality if we just DJ if we produce then BY all means quality counts but at gigs do the public care the only real people that know are the DJ’s and audio guys, I mean this kind of talk really is crap Imagine turning up at gig with just vinyl now and being shuned by other DJ’s just cuz of crackles n pop’s… XD
yes indeed! The stuff I play, is still not available on digital, unless me or a small group of other collectors release it to the world as a digital rip.
is there to much obsession with the audio quality of files??? a thing to remember that most working DJ’s are not on funktion 1 or martin audio but lower grade audio systems… and dose Joe public really care as long as they get their tunes??? how many times at a gig has a punter gone sorry mate can you not play this it’s not 320k????
As a DJ you should be an audiophile – they are mutually exclusive. There are few things in this industry we do for ourselves; in that, I mean we are constantly playing to crowds demands and sacrificing all over the place. Audio quality should never be sacrificed.
Simply stating my opinion, this is an elitist POV and they are not mutually exclusive. What you say holds true for audio engineering/production, but not DJing. True 320kbps is perfectly acceptable for 99% of readers on this blog. I will never play anything above or below 320 at the clubs, bars, and mobile gigs I perform, and the audience will not be able to (nor will they care to) decipher otherwise. If you disagree, you probably need to get off your high horse.
I thought the same till I played an a larger than normal system. My mp3s sounded crap compared to the DJs who played before and after me. They were using WAV. I see it as one extra thing to step above the competition. Especially seeing everyone seems to be djing now.
That just tells me that you’re part of that 1%.
I played an outdoor festival earlier this month and only used WAVs burned to CD. It was only a 45 minute set so it didn’t break the bank, but I couldn’t imagine doing that for every single gig/bedroom mix.
part of what 1%? he’s probably a placebophile!
do i need larger MB for playing at club????
audiophile as a term sucks, but to understand these concepts is no where near elitist. it’s called knowledge.
You SHOULD.. But nearly noone are. But listening to most mixtapes, it’s clear that quality is of no interest to many dj’s. Be it artistic or technical specs.
you do realize that ‘mutually exclusive’ means the two things they reference cannot occur at the same time, correct?
you should care about the audio signal for sure, if that’s what ‘audiophile’ means. Some people really dislike that term. the DJ is the prime motivator for dancing.
No. Definitely not. Supposed you want to record and post-produce your set, you would actually need at least 24bit/44.1kHz for serious mastering. Even with uncompressed audio you’ll mostly be stuck at 16bit. (Recording processed 16bit-MP3s at 24bit does not help. It will even make things worse because of quantization artefacts!)
no there is not. education and understanding is key then there will not be obsession.
I agree with Freaky, charging for 1$ for AIFF is a real rip-off…
I’ve been buying more and more wav files but it’s eating up hard drive space like crazy. Thanks for the tip about ID tags in AIFF, I didn’t realize that. Very helpful!
People should run away from the beatport who are real thieves to Charge 1$ each track for wav.. totally insane!!( come on at this rate they could store the music tor the next 3 millennium on their servers) !! place like digital tunes or soundium charges the same price for MP3 or WAV…way to go..
a small extra cost is logical due to the massive storage it takes.
But beatport wav rates are insane
I don’t know if you ever heard of a thing called vinyl, but when I was still roaming the local record stores I paid around 10 EUR per record, giving me anywhere between one and about 5 tracks per record, of which usually one or two were playable. The records provided excellent audio quality. Considering the two and a half dollar I pay per track at Beatport for the same audio quality, I think Beatport gets the price quite right.
AS much fun as playing vinyl is, it’s so far from excellent audio quality you can get.
you do realise that mastering for vinyl is different than for a digital release? I’ll take the warmth of a vinyl record any day over mp3, wav or the others. wavs are close, but vinyl is still best sound quality on a good club system.
Alf has no idea what he’s talking about.
It’s 2nd to the top of the best audio ‘you can get’ You obviously know nothing about the format. “fun” playing vinyl is your approach but you spread disinformation. Vinyl is analogue format – it is akin to a 3rd generation master tape. Vinyl can handle frequency extension of at at least up to 36khz PER channel and tops out at an unknown bit rate as if you know anything, bit rate is an approximation of the pure sine wave which vinyl is capable of playing back. That is why people who love classical and Jazz (which tend to have extended frequency range) buy it on vinyl and sometimes reel to reel tape, not digital because Digital is like taking a polaroid picture of a hasselbad 6×6 and then photcopying it. A retarded comment by Alf.
perhaps consider that the extra money is going towards the artist. If you are playing it out (and thus demand the higher quality) or just love the sound, either way it seems fair to pay the artist a bit more. Think of the burritos.
Does it actually go to the artist though? I know a guy who runs a small record label / shop and he gets paid 40 cents (euros not dollars) per track on juno downloads, no matter whether someone paid 2.50 for a single wav copy of his song or 6.50 (or something like that) for his whole ep that includes 4 tracks.
I’m not so sure why a piece of the wav fee need to go to the artist.
Why, he doesn’t have any morecost to produce it!
Why do we have to pay more, for quality we have since decades on cd?
Storage and bandwith use is a direct impact on the cost of an WAV…
what artist? no one is in control these days except those jewish run record corporations.