Audio Quality On ALL Devices

Discussion in 'Off Topic Forum' started by oldblackcrow, May 8, 2012.

  1. oldblackcrow
    Offline

    oldblackcrow Member

    Joined:
    May 12, 2010
    Messages:
    64
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    6
    Location:
    Athens, GA
    Ratings:
    +0
    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
     
  2. jimmyco2008
    Offline

    jimmyco2008 Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2010
    Messages:
    1,024
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    38
    Location:
    3G Florida
    Ratings:
    +1
    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?
     
  3. oldblackcrow
    Offline

    oldblackcrow Member

    Joined:
    May 12, 2010
    Messages:
    64
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    6
    Location:
    Athens, GA
    Ratings:
    +0
    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
     
  4. jimmyco2008
    Offline

    jimmyco2008 Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2010
    Messages:
    1,024
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    38
    Location:
    3G Florida
    Ratings:
    +1
    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!
     
  5. jimmyco2008
    Offline

    jimmyco2008 Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2010
    Messages:
    1,024
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    38
    Location:
    3G Florida
    Ratings:
    +1
    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.
     
  6. DreamOperator
    Offline

    DreamOperator Member

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2010
    Messages:
    96
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    6
    Ratings:
    +0
    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.
     
  7. DreamOperator
    Offline

    DreamOperator Member

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2010
    Messages:
    96
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    6
    Ratings:
    +0
    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. :)
     
  8. DreamOperator
    Offline

    DreamOperator Member

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2010
    Messages:
    96
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    6
    Ratings:
    +0
    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.
     
  9. FoxKat
    Online

    FoxKat Resident Novelist...LOL! Staff Member Premium Member

    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2010
    Messages:
    9,993
    Likes Received:
    1,567
    Trophy Points:
    258
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Ratings:
    +1,625
    Current Phone Model:
    Droid Turbo, and Nexus 6!
    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.
     
  10. DreamOperator
    Offline

    DreamOperator Member

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2010
    Messages:
    96
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    6
    Ratings:
    +0
    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).
     
  11. DreamOperator
    Offline

    DreamOperator Member

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2010
    Messages:
    96
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    6
    Ratings:
    +0
    Awesome!! Thanks for the heads up on Jamcast, I had not heard of that. Streaming FLAC, here I come!
     
  12. oldblackcrow
    Offline

    oldblackcrow Member

    Joined:
    May 12, 2010
    Messages:
    64
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    6
    Location:
    Athens, GA
    Ratings:
    +0
    Thanks for the kind words and additional info guys! Great to know we audiophiles are lurking around here.

    As stated above, your phone probably isn't the best device to listen for the differences. I've heard some pretty good reviews on the Beats cans, but even the best cans will sound like crap if the amp is not good quality. Probably better for you to listen on a home stereo setup. We can go through the numerous makes and models here, but I urge you to go to a dedicated audio store and bring a CD of your mp3s and of the original CD or FLAC files to hear the difference. Even if you can't afford the equipment you're auditioning, it's important to hear what you are missing.

    For example... I have a pair of Magnepan MMGs (which are not expensive or the best speakers) that I enjoy. My wife hated them for a long time because they are "too big". However, a few years ago I had them sent out to get re-imaged and temporarily substituted them for an old Sony set. One evening, we were listening to some tunes and she said, "what's wrong with the stereo, it sounds like ****". When I explained it was the speakers, she didn't believe me. But then the Maggie's came in and I set it up so she can hear the difference side by side. Now, she loves the Maggie's and decorates the room around the speakers.

    Enough emphasis cannot be given to the idea "quality in=quality out". And this goes for every part of the audio chain. But we with wives and budgets must do much homework to find the best balance of quality and price. To relate this back to smartphones, it's important to audition your smartphone's sound capability as well as other functions.... if sound quality is important to you. Remember, you chose to invest a decent amount of money on a good pair of headphones.... if you can't hear the difference between an mp3 and FLAC... then either the headphones are not as good as they seem to be or your device is not as clean as it can be... or some other part of the audio chain. I can almost guarantee it's not your ears or imagination (assuming you have no physical deficiencies).

    Keep us posted on your journey... I'm curious what you discover!

    Droid X2 CM7
     
  13. FoxKat
    Online

    FoxKat Resident Novelist...LOL! Staff Member Premium Member

    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2010
    Messages:
    9,993
    Likes Received:
    1,567
    Trophy Points:
    258
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Ratings:
    +1,625
    Current Phone Model:
    Droid Turbo, and Nexus 6!
    It was written by a buddy of mine, I was a big part of the beta team, spent many months working with him to iron out everything. I got so used to him responding with something like..."Nobody else had mentioned that", or "I've never seen that before". Each time we worked to reproduce the problem on his end and then he'd come back with a fix a day or so later.

    Many of the features you'll find on it were my suggestion and a couple were put in just for me specifically, like being able to control the buffer sizes based on what communication protocol (i.e. 3G versus 4G versus WIFI) and still being able to tweak them in those various settings. I also requested the ability to tweak the pre-buffer size (how much if loaded before the music starts), and being able to increase the pre-loaded list size (items per page), specifically since I have some 60,000 tracks.

    He even had to change the database indexing method to support my library. I also have the server running on a Windows Server 2003 operating system and he made the software compatible for the server, and further enhanced it to pull from my RAID5 on that box.

    We also made it compatible with my SONOS and my two ROKU SoundBridges. The biggest fun was getting it to stream audio from the sound card (Virtual Soundcard). I can actually "listen in" on my home by leaving the microphone on the computer on and streaming the soundcard monitoring the microphone, or check out what my wife is listening to on the computer while I'm at work and freak her out when I repeat what she was playing!

    I hope you like it! :D

    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.
     
    Last edited: May 23, 2012
  14. oldblackcrow
    Offline

    oldblackcrow Member

    Joined:
    May 12, 2010
    Messages:
    64
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    6
    Location:
    Athens, GA
    Ratings:
    +0
    Man, I can't wait to try this! This is exactly what I was talking about in relation to creative apps for we audiophiles! I travel frequently, so I have to wait til I get home.... I'm drooling. :)

    Droid X2 CM7
     
  15. xxwabbit
    Offline

    xxwabbit Member

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2010
    Messages:
    367
    Likes Received:
    4
    Trophy Points:
    18
    Ratings:
    +4
    :shocked: You mean people still buy cd's? Most people I know think it's a waste of money. I still prefer to have the original copy stored in cases in my office. I will look into this flac format some more as I am an audiophile. Thanks for the heads up.
     
Search tags for this page
audiophile razr hd
,
droid a855 audiophile
,
droid x2 sound quality
,
hd tracks for android
,
hdtracks android
,
how to improve music sound on droid x
,
kindle fire hd media player
,
odroid audio quality
,
odroid u3 audio quality
,

razr maxx dac