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Thread: Audio Quality On ALL Devices

  1. oldblackcrow's Avatar
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    #1

    Audio Quality On ALL Devices

    After talking to numerous people about how to improve the sound quality on their particular device, it seems this is an appropriate venue.

    Maybe this can save some time for current and new developers. I wonder how many new developers attempt to "fix" an audio problem without knowing that a fix is either not necessary or futile. In particular, with Beats Audio being the new fad. This post is for everyone... newbies, moderate and advanced users/developers. I hope this helps.

    First, file format is the number one factor in sound quality. MP3s basically suck... and Apple's file format is not much better. So much audio information is lost due to compression that no matter how good the amp or headphones one uses, they do nothing to improve the inherent quality.

    2. Always use .FLAC or .WAV for lossless and best sound possible.

    3. Beats Audio is not much more than a gimmick. To hear the intention of the artist, one should listen to the music 'flat ' with no equalization at all. Otherwise, if you really like to enhance the bass, then just use the basic bass tone control on your favorite audio player.

    4. I recommend the Sennhieser Headphones with the best frequency response you can afford. This is just a recommendation, so use what ever company you favor. Just look for frequency response to ensure you are hearing all the music is outputting. If you love bass, then the low end of frequency should be around 25 or 30 Hz. High end should not be below 15kHz. Optimally, your cans should reproduce 20Hz to 20kHz.


    5. I use Power Amp app on my X2 because it plays all audio files... I don't know all the apps available that play WAV and FLAC, but ensure it does.

    6. The headphone jack is the best quality save the HDMI port... unless someone finds a way to export audio from the USB port. This can be a legitimate goal for developers!

    Bluetooth or any over-the-air method degrades the audio to at least some degree (Bluetooth is probably the worse).

    7. For super audio files, get your music at www.hdtracks.com. This is the only place I've found that sells super audio files online.

    Otherwise, rip directly from CD or DVD to WAV or FLAC. NEVER move from an MP3 (or other compressed format) to WAV or FLAC. Just remember, quality in = quality out.

    I hope this helps those who care about music quality and inspires developers to improve upon the technology available. Thank you for your time!

    Droid X2 CM7

    Droid X2 CM7
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  3. Droid Ninja
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    #2
    Generally good tips, though I have to vouch for Beats headphones. They probably lose some quality if you're talking about the Bluetooth ones (which came out RIGHT AFTER I bought my 3.5mm wired ones....), but I have the Solo HDs, and I mean Rap isn't the only thing that sounds great with 'em. I think that's the problem, Dr. Dre "makes" the headphones, he preaches about how people aren't hearing "all" the music, everyone assumes it has an EQ for Rap music built in, but really, that's why you can try them out with your phone or MP3 player at BestBuy. Anyways, no regrets haha.

    I used to have a Bluetooth surround sound setup, but it just sounds so crappy compared to headphones, I don't bother using it anymore.

    As for using FLAC and WAV over MP3 and AAC, yes, the former are better for lossless quality, but it is VERY hard to notice a difference. And many programs cannot play FLAC or WAV, so their formats aren't exactly widespread. That's not to say what you're saying isn't true, very accurate info!

    Oh, and never heard of hdtracks.com, but it looks interesting. Are most songs $1.29 or $0.99 there?
  4. oldblackcrow's Avatar
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    #3
    Quote Originally Posted by jimmyco2008
    Generally good tips, though I have to vouch for Beats headphones.

    Oh, and never heard of hdtracks.com, but it looks interesting. Are most songs $1.29 or $0.99 there?
    My apologies .... I wasn't speaking of the headphones themselves... I was speaking about the "beats technology" marketed in the newer smartphones. From what I've heard about Beats cans... they rock.

    As for HD Tracks, I believe they sell only full albums. They are a bit more expensive, but the files are audiophile quality and contain no digital rights management.

    Finally, I respectfully disagree that it is difficult to hear the sound quality difference between mp3 and lossless formats. If one owns a respectable set of cans and a decent amp/receiver, the difference is obvious.

    On that note, with bandwidth and storage space increasing immensely, I truly hope lossy compressed formats go where 8 tracks and 45s have gone.... away!

    Droid X2 CM7
  5. Droid Ninja
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    #4
    Oh yes, the Beats equilizer, my Beats are better without it.

    I suppose I should give FLAC a try, if only for one song just to see if I can hear a difference, it's just not practical since the size of FLAC files is so great. If memory serves, compared to 256kbps AAC, we're looking at approximately 2X the storage space required to house FLAC, and if you're like me crunched for space on a SSD, well I need all the free space I can get lol.

    But if you say I can hear a difference, I believe it, I'm looking into FLAC right now!
  6. Droid Ninja
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    #5
    I compared a FLAC (320kbps) album to AAC at 256kbps variable, I couldn't tell a difference with Beats Solo HDs.

    I mean looking through the forums, the concensus seems to be that most people can't tell the difference, and that those who can are just imagining it. I'm not saying you're imagining it, perhaps some songs do sound better, all I'm saying is that I personally cannot tell the difference.

    I compared using Linkin Park's A Thousand Suns, which includes a pretty diverse array of sounds, both musical and they have a song with artillery fire or something like that in the background...

    I'd love for other people to chime in and talk about their experiences with FLAC, though.
  7. DreamOperator's Avatar
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    320kbps is not FLAC, that's the highest bitrate for mp3. The default for FLAC is 768kbps, but different compression levels can be used (1-8), yielding different bitrates.

    I absolutely hear the difference between FLAC and mp3. Granted it's much closer to FLAC if the mp3 is 320kbps, but it's all pretty obvious.

    One of the most obvious qualities I tend to notice with mp3 is grain. Cymbals don't sound smooth, silky or shimmery. Instead, they sound dry, dull and rough. I also notice a mushyness to the entire sound. Take a song with a real solid bass drum, compare FLAC against 128kbps mp3 and compare the punchyness, I expect you'll find mud. Granted 128kbps shouldn't even be considered, but that is really just to highlight what is going on there. The higher the bitrate, the less noticable the issues are, but they are there.

    Though, until I can keep 100+GBs of FLAC on my phone, I prefer to keep the FLACs at home and use SubSonic (or Audio Galaxy) to convert the files to mp3 on the fly and stream them to my phone. I certainly notice the quality, but it's very convienent.
    Thanks to all that make this Android community so great!
  8. DreamOperator's Avatar
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    Also, great thread, OP!

    There's simply not enough awareness of sound quailty these days. I truly wish people didn't have to think about it. They shouldn't need to as technology has allowed us to have convienence and great sound, but it's been a slow process to move beyond mp3.

    I will add that frequency response is not enough to go on when buying headphones. Many poor sounding cans have great specs. If one is not certain that they can trust their ears to know if the headphones are good or not from listening, or simply cannot listen (buying online, etc), I recommend going with reviews. Amazon reviews are pretty good and they carry a pretty good selection. If you really want to get down and dirty, check out head-fi.org. They geek on headphones like people do on phones here. Lots of threads there like "recommend me a pair for $xx". Great resource.

    Also, a little rant on terminology. The files at HDTracks should be referred to as hi-res. Super Audio reminds me Super Audio Compact Disc (SACD), and while similar in concept, are very different (obviously). I know, I'm nitpicking.
    Thanks to all that make this Android community so great!
  9. DreamOperator's Avatar
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    Back to sound quality discussion.

    Not only is the file quality of concern, and the speakers/headphones, but also the playback device.

    My buddy has a Thunderbolt and it doesn't matter what file format you use, it always sounds like crap. Very, very grainy. Not sure if something odd is going on in the software (PowerAmp was used, direct volume control enabled), or if it's just poor hardware, but it's terrible.

    I have a Galaxy Nexus, which sounds damn good, for a phone. Very clean and open sounding, compared to my the Tbolt or my old DX (which was better than the Tbolt, but a . A touch dark in the upper midrange, but overall very good.

    Something to be considered when trying to make comparisons of file quality, or when buying a new phone. I will be bringing my headphones with me the next time I buy one.
    Thanks to all that make this Android community so great!
  10. Super Moderator
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    #9
    Quote Originally Posted by oldblackcrow View Post
    After talking to numerous people about how to improve the sound quality on their particular device, it seems this is an appropriate venue.

    Maybe this can save some time for current and new developers. I wonder how many new developers attempt to "fix" an audio problem without knowing that a fix is either not necessary or futile. In particular, with Beats Audio being the new fad. This post is for everyone... newbies, moderate and advanced users/developers. I hope this helps.

    First, file format is the number one factor in sound quality. MP3s basically suck... and Apple's file format is not much better. So much audio information is lost due to compression that no matter how good the amp or headphones one uses, they do nothing to improve the inherent quality.

    2. Always use .FLAC or .WAV for lossless and best sound possible.

    3. Beats Audio is not much more than a gimmick. To hear the intention of the artist, one should listen to the music 'flat ' with no equalization at all. Otherwise, if you really like to enhance the bass, then just use the basic bass tone control on your favorite audio player.

    4. I recommend the Sennhieser Headphones with the best frequency response you can afford. This is just a recommendation, so use what ever company you favor. Just look for frequency response to ensure you are hearing all the music is outputting. If you love bass, then the low end of frequency should be around 25 or 30 Hz. High end should not be below 15kHz. Optimally, your cans should reproduce 20Hz to 20kHz.


    5. I use Power Amp app on my X2 because it plays all audio files... I don't know all the apps available that play WAV and FLAC, but ensure it does.

    6. The headphone jack is the best quality save the HDMI port... unless someone finds a way to export audio from the USB port. This can be a legitimate goal for developers!

    Bluetooth or any over-the-air method degrades the audio to at least some degree (Bluetooth is probably the worse).

    7. For super audio files, get your music at www.hdtracks.com. This is the only place I've found that sells super audio files online.

    Otherwise, rip directly from CD or DVD to WAV or FLAC. NEVER move from an MP3 (or other compressed format) to WAV or FLAC. Just remember, quality in = quality out.

    I hope this helps those who care about music quality and inspires developers to improve upon the technology available. Thank you for your time!

    Droid X2 CM7

    Droid X2 CM7
    Its nice to read someone who actually knows what they're talking about. Bravo! I have over 3800 CDs ripped to FLAC using Exact Audio Copy, with a calibrated CD ROM, and with no error correction. If the CD had an error, it didn't get ripped. Period.

    I have all that music on a 2TB NAS drive, and stream out to my phone while driving or walking at full FLAC (upto 1000kbps), using Jamcast (it's on the Play Store) on 4G. It's incredible to be able to listen to true CD quality while driving or walking and not to have to carry any of the music on my phone.

    To those who don't understand, FLAC is a true bit for bit reproduction of the CD, and since it's being read by a CD ROM as data while being ripped, rather than being "played" by a CD player, it is a 100% digital copy of the CD, and stored in FLAC, it's data is preserved as a true bit copy.

    I have burned CDs from FLAC to compare with the original CD, and a data comparison tool confirmed they were exact bit copies. You can not do that with even 320kbps MP3. Lossy is Lossy and Lossless is Lossless. It's just that simple.

    Sent from my DROID RAZR MAXX using Xparent ICS Tapatalk 2 using Google voice to text translation. Please excuse any minor spelling, punctuation, capitalization or grammatical errors.

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  11. DreamOperator's Avatar
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    Last post for a bit.

    EQ quality. Not only can using an EQ affect the quality based on it's settings, but simply involving the EQ in the signal path can (and most often does) reduce the quality. I use PowerAmp and even just turning the EQ on flat sounds worse than with it off. I try to keep it off, but sometimes it's worth the trade to get the frequencies balanced better (live recordings taped by someone in the audience, for example).
    Thanks to all that make this Android community so great!
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