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Showing 26-50 of 58 posts in this discussion
Posted on 9 Jul 2012 17:02:10 BDT
Malx says:
"Help!"- Part two.

May I request further information from my fellow posters about technical matters.
Today I had a bit of time on my hands and I downloaded Audacity with a view to finally transferring some old cassettes to file/cd before my ageing tape deck finally packs in. I have managed to record a test track, successfully and have managed to export it to WMP in MP3 format but noted that it was only at 128kbs is there some simple way of improving the bit rate, with the emphasis on simple! Or if I'm after better quality do I have to invest in better software?

Posted on 9 Jul 2012 17:40:19 BDT
Malx, I am a bit bemused by all this "bit" techno. Surely logic has not been the victim in today's world. i.e. if an item is recorded at 32 bit rate as nearly all analogue recording was, it is totally pointless replaying at even 128 as the sound heard is still the original 32. By the way, digital recording is mostly at 64 - if not, then the Sussex and London University courses in recording techniques have got it seriously wrong. Or have I?

In reply to an earlier post on 9 Jul 2012 17:45:15 BDT
Roasted Swan says:
Malx - it is indeed very simple. In audacity under the edit tab (2nd from left) click "preferences" on the sub-menu - its at the bottom. On that sub menu 3rd tab from the left is called "file formats". On THAT menu the bottom area is called MP3 export setup. There there is a dropdown list of bit rates of which 320 kps is the highest option. Of course within audacity you can export as lossless WAV files should you wish. Hope that helps.

In reply to an earlier post on 9 Jul 2012 17:48:54 BDT
MacDoom says:
Mr Biss,

Sadly, you have it spectacularly wrong. Where in heaven's name did you get the idea that analogue equals 32? Analogue is analogue and has no bit-rate (which only applies to digital). Digital recording being 'mostly at 64' is as massive a misconception. The university doubtless knows better, so there's probably been some miscommunication along the way.


I've only ever used Audacity to create WAVs, and if neessary use other software to convert. Each software has its strengths (and most have weaknesses). Audacity can't save as mp3 out of the box; it needs 3rd-party stuff anyway (most people install the Lame mp3 encoder). I never went that way.

Posted on 9 Jul 2012 18:48:31 BDT
Last edited by the author on 9 Jul 2012 18:55:08 BDT
Malx says:
Excuse my lack of knowledge but will lossless WAV files play in Windows media player? I usually use wmp to burn discs but I also have NTI media maker which I think may handle WAV files.

MacDoom I did indeed install the Lame mp3 encoder, I do however want to record old cassette tapes and convert with the minimum of fuss and if possible without having too many additional programmes to install/use.

Posted on 9 Jul 2012 19:29:41 BDT
MacDoom says:

In that case, it SHOULD be as simple as:
but I can only hope it is. Sometimes, when things don't work as advertised, frustration can run havoc on even the most relaxed people...

BTW: I haven't tried this.

And yes, wav-files will be playable in WMP.

In reply to an earlier post on 9 Jul 2012 19:41:46 BDT
Roasted Swan says:
Malx: simply put, bit rate = information. Higher bit rate = more information therefore it will sound "better" whether you perceive that as soul/depth of musical field/dynamic range whatever. Different streaming systems handle different lossless formats better or worse. WAV files are - as MacDoom says - basically what you have on your CD's so they are by definition lossless but take up a lot of room. If, like me, you have a stupidly large collection I would need up towards 10 terrabytes of storage to hold them all as lossless. My answer is to have them all ripped as good MP3's but to have a 'select' top 1000 CD's to hand for proper listening to. This top 1000 swaps around as my tastes and mood dictate. I have to say I feel that 320 kps is a very good balance point between ease of storage and audio quality. If I really want to hear something at its very best I'll take the time to dig out the CD.

Posted on 9 Jul 2012 19:47:03 BDT
Roasted Swan says:
Malx: don't be put off - follow my instructions for saving as a higher bitrate to MP3 using Audacity and that is IDEAL for cassettes which were never exactly super hi-fi in the first place! You are on the right path - Audacity is one of the best pieces of free download (along with Open Office!) that the web has to offer. I use it all the time and the results are excellent. The hardest bit is integrating the LAME plug-in but you've done that!

Posted on 9 Jul 2012 21:38:55 BDT
Malx says:

Thanks to both for first class advice, I have now managed to change the default bit rate for exporting MP3's to 320kps. I will try a WAV file to see if the source material is good enough to merit the higher quality format if there is no noticable difference then I will perservere with the MP3's.
Nick, the cassettes are decent by cassette standards as they were on the whole recorded on a Nakamichi deck, but I accept that the tape itself is likely to have deteriorated to some degree over the last twenty years or so.

Posted on 9 Jul 2012 21:59:07 BDT
Last edited by the author on 9 Jul 2012 22:18:09 BDT
JayJayDee says:
I would suggest that - although you may not notice the difference between CD (at 1411 kbps) and mp3 @ 320 kbps, you will find that you become fatigued and/or not so engaged with the music after a fairly protracted listening session. I believe most of us here are prone to extended listening sessions.
And it gets progressively worse as you go down in the bitrate league.

I gather that this is because our brain attempts to 'fill in' the sampling gaps in the same way as it does when watching TV (which is also a set of sampled frames). So personally I would only use mp3 as a cheap way of finding out if you are going to like a piece of music or an interpretation, with the intention of buying the CD later! Or to explore repertoire that you would not otherwise tackle - as I did with the Tubin and Rubbra recently.

Often the marketplace or used CDs are barely more expensive than the downloads (and often cheaper) so that's my first choice if possible.

If the download quality were to be improved to CD quality I would go for it big time, but the cost will have to come down to less than half the CD cost before it's attractive to me.

By the way guys 'n gals... google << ConverterLite >>. It's also free and it gives you a Babylon toolbar (Search Engine) which you can deny if you don't want it. The ConverterLite software can convert almost anything digital to almost anything digital. I've ripped the sound tracks off Sky Arts concerts (DvDs are even higher than CD bitrates) and even created acceptable audio files off YouTube downloads. It's only free because they hope to recoup costs through the Toolbar being associated with the download.

For example I have created a mobile phone ringtone for my daughter off a Catherine Tate TV show (you know the catch-phrases).
Great fun - and keeps me off the streets.

Posted on 9 Jul 2012 22:49:50 BDT
Malx says:
JJD, what type of system do you listen on? I having been using my downloads burned to CD on my second system which is reasonable, whilst nothing like as good as the main hifi. I often listen for a couple of hours at a time and have never noticed any significant signs of fatigue.
I do agree with your main point, I still buy CD's when I know the work/performance is of importance to me. The other thing to take into consideration is if the downloads were of sufficiently high quality the time taken to download them with current broadband speeds would be horrendous, and the size of hard drives required huge.

Posted on 10 Jul 2012 01:25:07 BDT
Last edited by the author on 10 Jul 2012 01:28:23 BDT
JayJayDee says:
Perhaps the fatigue is subjective, Malx. I was reporting others' findings. I have never listened to mp3s domestically for that long to find out - except the Haydn Fischer set from Nimbus (which they issued on mp3 discs lasting 5 hours each) which I have to admit was used more as a background music while doing other household things. I noticed a very slight shallowness but it was such delightful music and recorded within a warm acoustic that I didn't get any fatigue (except from the household chores I was doing!). Basically I was hearing it , as distinct from listening to it, I suppose.
I use a Marantz MCR 603 as a pre-amp, through an NAD amp to power up my B&W 704 speakers but rarely use my Sony CD recorder since getting the Marantz. Everything is now on .wav files at 1411 kbps stored on a 2TB hard drive which I suppose has now replaced my turntable over a thirty year period of tech. advances. The few downloads I have within the overall collection generally sound a trifle 'glassy' in comparison with the higher bitrate copies, but I'd MUCH rather have that than be putting on LPs.

Hard drives will inevitably get bigger and cheaper as the years go by. My 2TB hard drive cost exactly the same last year as the Western Digital 150 GB hard drive I bought in 2006. These hard drives shouldn't be filled beyond 75% so I have filled it now - with the equivalent of 2500 CDs. It's about 100 minutes per gigabyte.
By the end of next year I am sure that a 4 or 5TB hard drive will be on the market - the size of a bible, and for about £100.

In reply to an earlier post on 12 Jul 2012 13:24:32 BDT
MacDoom - "spectacularly wrong" - maybe! Let me quote from the technical info on the back of many CDs - "This recording was mastered using 20-bit tecnology to maximise sound quality." Example date 1997. Original recording 1959 to 1962.

My case rests.

Austen Biss

In reply to an earlier post on 12 Jul 2012 22:24:54 BDT
MacDoom says:
Dear Austen Biss,

Please unrest the case, because there is definitely a misunderstanding. The 20 bit is nothing to do with the bitrate (this is a lie, but at the moment it is a good lie because it facilitates the explanation which will later show why it was a lie). It is the sampling resolution (this is NO lie!). Bear with me. Digitising goes in two dimensions. In time, and in amplitude. That is what caused the confusion.

The 20 bits refers to the amplitude ONLY. And of the digital master, not the CD. At any sampling point, the amplitude is measured with a precision of 2 to the power of 20 (i.e. many :-) ) possible steps. These are the vertical steps if you look at a digitised waveform.

How quickly the sampling points follow one another is another factor altogether. These are the horizontal steps, the sampling rate. On a CD, this is 44100 times per second. These two combined give a number of bits of information. That is the bitrate. Multiply by 2 for stereo. That yields 1722 kilobit per seconds. The bitrate of a CD master in 20-bit technology.

Now the earlier lie is exposed: the 20-bit sampling rate is *present* in the bitrate. But it isn't the bitrate, which encompasses much more.

Now we get to our first loss: the CD does not have 20 bits. It is limited to 16. A CD has, by the same calculations, a bitrate of some 1411 kilobits per second. Already, quality is thrown away! Does that make 20-bit technology rubbish? It most certainly does not. The higher precision of the master means that sound-editing can be done with a more precise signal before the final mix-down to the CD sampling rate. That means the signal is much cleaner (a good comparison is when editing photographs; pictures edited in raw give much cleaner images at the end of the editing chain, even if they are ultimately jpgs in the same resolution).

So what have we got on a CD? A WAV file, with for every second of sound 44100 samples of signal amplitude per channel.

Now for compression. Mess with the bitrate (by whatever means, but the popular ones selectively get rid of higher frequencies because that's where the most gains are to be made), and quality gets lost. Remember that it is samples that are in the wav (or mp3, or ogg, or flac) file. Sample precision is thrown away in the case of non-lossless compression, and when rebuilding the wave from those samples (this is during playback), the missing ones will cause the resulting wave to be less precise then it would have been when built from the original samples. That is the crux.

Also remember that even a wave rebuilt from the original 20-bit samples would not be a precise representation of the original analogue signal; any digitised signal reconverted to analogue has faults. Tiny ones, but faults all the same. It's inherent in digitising. The art is in choosing a precision that causes errors smaller than the human ear can distinguish.

And finally once more: an analogue recording has no bitrate.

I hope I've been able to clear the some of the bit-mess up!

Posted on 13 Jul 2012 09:34:00 BDT
Malx says:
Well presented explaination, for the first time I now have a much better understanding of the process. One thing does elude me: if the bitrates on some of the downloads on Amazon go down to 128kps why does it still sound reasonably acceptable? I have stated elsewhere on this thread that I can hear the differences between varying bitrates but even the lowest still has some musical substance. I accept that a lot of the downloads I have bought have been of recordings from the fifties and sometimes earlier, presumably as the source tapes are not of as a high a quality the differences are less as a result(?).
I have also downloaded a number of recordings from the Chandos site at 320kps of more modern recordings and they sounded perfectly ok, but now i'm starting to think I am missing some minor detail that may be removing a special something about performances.

On a slightly different note, most of my listening is now done on an a not much more than adequate second system in the office/study (grand title for a glorified boxroom). Denon M38DAB through Wharfedale Diamond 10 speakers. I was toying with putting an inexpensive DAC of some sort between the output from the sound card and the input to the stereo, will this make any difference to the quality of the sound on Cds and downloads played ?

In reply to an earlier post on 13 Jul 2012 10:42:49 BDT
Last edited by the author on 13 Jul 2012 10:44:14 BDT
MacDoom - Thank you for your patient and lucid explanation which went some way in enlightening my misguided understanding, obviously you gathered my technical shortcomings. I fully accept your account, I feel that you must be something of a sound engineer yourself with considerably more patience than my student grandson whose explanations were far from lucid.

I shall content myself with my thousand strong CD collection, Denon Hi-Fi and iPod. My Brahms, Bruckner, Dvorak and Szell sections still sound pretty fabulous to me - quite obviously, my ears do not have the same degree of sensitivity as my wine-tasting palate.

Many thanks again (I shall show your posting to my grandson and suggest that it should be inwardly digested for clarity purposes).

Whilst writing, do you or anyone know where to get the Elisabeth Soderstrom version of the Eugene Onegin Letter scene - disappeared without trace.

Austen Biss

Posted on 13 Jul 2012 10:49:26 BDT
MacDoom says:

The reason why even low bitrate files still contain recognisable music is that the compression software used to reduce the bitrate is really, really clever. Eventually, compressed but lossless will win the day. History will look back on lossy formats as a necessary evil at the time, if not a waste of effort. The further time moves on, the less interesting small files become. For instance, I now have individual photographs from my digital camera that, at 20Mb+, far exceed the size of the first hard disk I ever bought...!

With regard to the second question: I don't think you'll hear much difference. I take it the sound card has digital and analogue outputs? In which case, the analogue one is already powered by a low-cost DAC on the sound card internally, so the point of what you're trying to do probably eludes me.

Posted on 13 Jul 2012 11:24:13 BDT
Malx says:
My probably flawed logic was - If I take the feed from the digital output and put it through a better quality DAC the resulting sound would be improved.
I suspect from your comments the difference would be marginal at best. Perhaps the money would be better spent on a number of lossless downloads.

If a lossless download is burned to a CD with the on board burner in my laptop will it effectively be the same as a purchased original CD?

In reply to an earlier post on 13 Jul 2012 11:34:55 BDT
MacDoom says:
Ah - with the change to 'a better quality DAC' the logic is no longer flawed, and you might experience improvements. Others might know more - I have no experience here, as I don't use the computer for listening to music.

Lossless downloads burnt to CD is another area where misunderstandings may occur. Yes, the sound quality of the files will be every bit (hah) as good as the ones on the CD. There is a drawback, though, and that is that it isn't a CD. Traditional CD players will not know what to do with it. It will be, in fact, a data CD and not an audio CD. It very much depends on the players involved whether it works for you. You'd need to look at the specs - or try it out!

Posted on 13 Jul 2012 13:56:14 BDT
Malx says:

I may be missing something here, I downloaded, sometime ago, a "CD" quality version of MacKerras SCO Mozart Symphonies from Linn they descibed as "WMA lossless". I burned this to CD and have played it succesfully on my main Rega Apollo player (which also plays MP3 files) so I guess I should be ok burning Flac lossless to CD?

After this little discussive diversion back to listening to the music, that's what it's all about after all.

In reply to an earlier post on 13 Jul 2012 14:41:34 BDT
MacDoom says:

Very probably, but the proof of the pudding remains there to be eaten! Supporting one format unfortunately does not guarantee support of all (or indeed any) others.

Posted on 19 Jul 2012 22:37:33 BDT
JayJayDee says:
Animal Farm comes to mind...

Four legs (1411) Good

Two legs ( 320) Bad

One leg (192) - Revisionist

Posted on 21 Jul 2012 00:13:46 BDT
JayJayDee says:
Probably worth considering that any recorded musical experience is no better than the weakest part of the chain of reproduction. So if you have 'speakers that are 'better' than the rest of your system you won't get the best out of them, but you will definitely get the best out of the other of which is the source (whether low or high bitrate download, or compact cassette, or vinyl LP or CD). And if you have a fabulous £10,000+ system there's no point in using 256 kbs (or lower) downloads as your preferred source of music.

While train-commuting I used to listen to .mp3s at 320kbps through excellent headphones , and enjoyed the experience greatly, hearing detail that I would possibly have missed at home through loudspeakers. Because the headphones were so good. At home I wouldn't dream of using the same mp3 files because I had the CD available.

And so on!
It's horses for courses. But I personally don't like the retrograde step that is being foisted upon the public whereby low bitrate downloads are being promoted as the preferred means of making music available.
Nordgren's 2nd/4th Symphony is available for a pittance, but I can't buy the Finlandia original for any price less than a king's ransom!

Posted on 15 Dec 2012 21:06:08 GMT
Malx says:
I am resurrecting this old thread to see if someone can give me a specfic answer to a little probelm I have:

I have recorded a download from the Pristine website on to Audacity to try and insert individual tracks - the download from Pristine comes as one large track - I thought it would be easy enough to do but as is usual with technical stuff I am proving to be a bit inept. Would someone be kind enough to explain simply how I can go about it.
I believe Pristine have links to additional software to achieve this but I'd rather not add more and more software to my laptop if possible.
It would also be useful to understand how to label/seperate tracks on Audacity as I intend converting some of the cassettes I still have to CD.


In reply to an earlier post on 15 Dec 2012 22:23:20 GMT
Last edited by the author on 15 Dec 2012 22:24:52 GMT
MacDoom says:

Don't you hate it when people say 'oh, that's really not complicated'? Well, it's really not complicated. What you do is load the stereo audio track into audacity - which from your post you've already been able to do. I take it you have also been successful in determining where you want the breaks. Now, starting at the beginning, make a selection of the entire part that you want to be track one. So you put the cursor at the very start, and shift-click to a bit before where you want the track to end. Then manoeuvre to the exact position by hitting the cursor-right key while holding down shift. Do not overshoot, because if you do, the cursor-left key isn't your friend (it will expand the selection to the left, which is not what you'll be expecting). If you do overshoot, reposition with the mouse, before the intended split point while holding shift, and repeat the process.

Now you have selected the entire first track, go to the file menu and select 'export selection'. A file pop-up will, erm, pop up, and you type the name you wish to use for track one. You'll probably want to keep it as a WAV file, as you can always convert later, if need be.

To start with the next track, you will want to start where the first track ended. At this moment, you still have a selection active. Without shift, hit the cursor right key just once, then the cursor left key just once. The selection is now gone, and the locator is exactly where you need it for track two. Continue as you did for track one, and so on until the end.

If this is not clear or does not work, do let me know.
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Initial post:  11 Mar 2012
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