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Music Media

AAC vs. OGG vs. MP3 843

asv108 writes "Yesterday, Apple unveiled their new music service claiming that the AAC format "combines sound quality that rivals CD." Here is a little comparison of lossy music codecs, comparing an Apple ripped AAC file with the commonly used MP3 codec and the increasingly popular OGG codec. Spectrum analysis was used to see which format did the best job of maintaining the shape of the original waveform." Wish they had WMAs in there too. And for the spoilage, it looks like OGG comes out on top.
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AAC vs. OGG vs. MP3

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  • by Ffynon ( 599139 ) * <jake@jakewa[ ]r.com ['lke' in gap]> on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @08:55AM (#5833033)
    I've got a nice pair of Bose headphones, and I listened to an Apple Store AAC file and an OGG version of the same song. I don't consider myself a real audiophile, but it's damn near impossible to tell the difference between the two; though I can definitely hear the improvement from MP3 to AAC or OGG.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      how are you encoding your mp3s?
      try lame with --alt-preset extreme
      can you tell the difference then?
      • by BrokenHalo ( 565198 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @10:22AM (#5833704)
        You would probably notice the difference if you try the test with certain kinds of classical music...

        Even then you would probably have to be selective. Rich orchestral works (say, Janacek, Mahler, Sibelius) won't show an obvious difference, but something more spare (e.g. Debussy string quartet or a good recording of baroque strings) will show a big difference that should be evident even on poorer quality equipment.

    • by glesga_kiss ( 596639 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @09:07AM (#5833108)
      To do a true test, you need to encode the files, decode them to PCM wav format, then burn to an audio CD.

      Then, you have to do a blind test with all of them. You also need to use a variety of source material, because different genres of music compress better under some encoders.

      • by blixel ( 158224 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @09:20AM (#5833184)
        To do a true test, you need to encode the files, decode them to PCM wav format, then burn to an audio CD. Then, you have to do a blind test with all of them. You also need to use a variety of source material, because different genres of music compress better under some encoders.

        If you have to do all that to tell the difference, doesn't that kinda tell you something?
        • by Vann_v2 ( 213760 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @09:23AM (#5833205) Homepage
          That's there value in ruling out variables when trying to objectively compare things?
      • by slothdog ( 3329 ) <(slothdog) (at) (gmail.com)> on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @10:33AM (#5833796) Homepage
        To do a true test, you need to encode the files, decode them to PCM wav format, then burn to an audio CD.

        Then, you have to do a blind test with all of them. You also need to use a variety of source material, because different genres of music compress better under some encoders.

        Or you could just use ABX [pcavtech.com]. That's actually the de facto standard for comparing audio compression. (See HydrogenAudio [hydrogenaudio.org].)
      • by squiggleslash ( 241428 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @12:41PM (#5835189) Homepage Journal
        That may be good for you and I, but a true audiophile can tell the difference between a pressed CD and a CD-R... ;-)

        Well, I'm off, I have to get some gold cables.

      • by Wavicle ( 181176 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @02:28PM (#5836324)
        Then, you have to do a blind test with all of them. You also need to use a variety of source material, because different genres of music compress better under some encoders.

        I don't disagree with you, but I just wanted to throw in my own 2 cents worth of informal experimentation:

        I recently discovered the sourceforge cdex ripping software, so I finally had a chance to rip all my music to the superior sounding ogg format instead of mp3. Before doing so, my wife and I ran a couple double blind tests with one another to see where the best encoding was.

        The only pair of speakers I had to test this was a pair of old Yamaha YST-M7's. These are Yamaha branded $20 single driver computer speakers that came with some computer I bought a while ago. They are pretty bad speakers. For the test, I selected a reasonable genre swath of music:

        Dixie Chicks "There's your Trouble"
        Oingo Boingo "On the Outside"
        Samuel Barber "Adagio for Strings"
        W. A. Mozart "Queen of the Night's Vengeance Aria"
        REM "Nightswimming"

        Each piece was selected because of particular aspects of song such as use of strings, use of horns, or use of voice. Each song was tried in a variety of encodings in both ogg and mp3, constant and variable bit rate, with the original CD wav file thrown in amongst the samples. The mp3 encoder was Lame v 1.27 engine 3.92 Alpha 1 MMX, the ogg encoder was Ogg Vorbis DLL Encoder v 1.09 enging 1.05.

        The results strongly disagreed with conventional wisdom. In every case, across genres, on these low end speakers, 320Kbps mp3's were the only ones that fooled our ears. Low bit rate ogg and mp3 recordings were different, but we didn't take time to notice which was better... they were both unquestionably inferior to the source material. Ogg's 350Kbps encoding was good, but inferior to the smaller 320Kbps mp3 files of the same work.

        Reading some of the posts on this article, I am rather shocked how many people find sound reproduction to be anywhere between "very good" and "excellent" on mid end equipment listening to 192Kbps encoded audio.

        After running this experiment, I ripped about 30 of my CDs to 320Kbps mp3's and noticed another benefit to CD quality rips: I could listen to the music longer without my ears feeling fatigued. I had always thought that it was pumping sound directly into my head from my headphones that caused my ears to become tired of the music. For whatever reason, it takes much longer now. Perhaps 3 or 4 hours compared to 1 to 1 1/2 before.
    • by afidel ( 530433 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @09:17AM (#5833159)
      Well your first problem is your headphones, they are distorting the crap out of any music source, go get some Sennheisers, they start around $60 for a good pair of open cans. Also if you are using anything but Fraunhoffer or better LAME for mp3 its just not fair. Btw, I've found high range problems with OGG that were not present in my Lame mp3's (I did A,B,C blind tests on a variety of samples and found a couple of problems with OGG which I reported with samples). AAC at 128kbit sounds like trash just like every other codec at 128, get around 200kbps VBR or 256 CBR and thats where the differences start to really show up (ok they show up at the very low end like 90kbps too but I don't even want to think about that)
    • by treat ( 84622 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @09:48AM (#5833406)
      I've got a nice pair of Bose headphones, and I listened to an Apple Store AAC file and an OGG version of the same song. I don't consider myself a real audiophile, but it's damn near impossible to tell the difference between the two; though I can definitely hear the improvement from MP3 to AAC or OGG.

      One, your headphones suck. Bose sells overpriced junk. People think it is good because it is well marketed. If you compare Bose speakers with equally priced speakers from any quality manufacturer, the difference is amazing.

      Bose is a scam, and the fact that they are so popular shows how easy it is to run a massive deception against the American people.

      • by sigemund ( 122744 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @10:20AM (#5833677)
        I completely agree that Bose isn't all its cracked up to be. However, their mediocre sound quality is a more recent thing -- up until the early 80s, Bose speakers were well-built with excellent sound. I have a set of 601s from 1976 that have the best sound of any speakers I own. They're fantastic, but I wouldn't even consider any other Bose speakers.

        I have the Bose headphones as well, and they aren't so bad. They're not $150 good, but they're pretty good for mass-market headphones. They're great for gaming -- comfortable and well-articulated sound, just not audiophile quality for music.

        Then again, audiophiles wouldn't be listening to MP3s or AACs or OGGs anyhow :)
      • by MmmmAqua ( 613624 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @10:57AM (#5834041)
        After spending an hour in the listening room in the Bang & Olufson store in my local mall, I gave up and went to the Bose store. Ten minutes later I walked out with a Lifestyle 25 system.

        For the record, the tiny Bose Acoustimass speakers are able to hit both highs and lows that were unreachable with anything in the Bang & Olufson store. People think Bose is good because Bose is good. No, Bose does not produce the best speakers in the world, but neither do they claim to - they claim to provide clear, room-filling sound with a good range. And they do. Oh, and the Bose Tri-Port headphones suck. They're a cheaper (and lower quality) knockoff of Bose's own QuietComfort noise-cancelling headset, which is a great product.

        [asbestos underwear]
        Don't give me any crap about how the QuietComfort headphones raise the noise floor for listening, either. They are one of the best active noise-cancelling sets on the market, and *no* passive system can beat them. Why? Passive systems can't even *begin* to fight bone conduction. Neither can the Bose, but it can produce limited cancelling frequencies to mute bone conduction. And the headphones sound just *great*. Speaker snobs, flame away...
        [/asbestos underwear]
        • by Zathrus ( 232140 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @01:28PM (#5835658) Homepage
          After spending an hour in the listening room in the Bang & Olufson store in my local mall, I gave up and went to the Bose store. Ten minutes later I walked out with a Lifestyle 25 system.

          Uh... imagine that. You went from possibly the worst, most highly overpriced speaker/electronics line to the second worst... and it was better!

          Now go try Paradigm, B&W, PSB, NHT, or any other good but reasonably priced speaker line and you'll see why Bose has such a crappy reputation. Be aware of sound levels too -- the most common trick Bose stores pull is demoing the Bose speakers at one sound level and other speakers at another (lower). The louder system will almost always sound better due to psychology.

          Bose isn't inherently shitty... it's just shitty for the price. You can get much better stuff at the same price, or the same quality stuff at about half the price.
    • Hey, guess what (Score:3, Informative)

      by autopr0n ( 534291 )
      bose actualy sucks [intellexual.net].
  • To be fair... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Gropo ( 445879 ) <`moc.oohay' `ta' `opoorg'> on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @08:56AM (#5833038) Homepage Journal
    Don't forget that Apple's AAC's aren't ripped from 48.8 16-bit AIFF's, but re-mastered directly to AAC.
    • Re:To be fair... (Score:4, Informative)

      by Jeremy Erwin ( 2054 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @10:40AM (#5833870) Journal
      CD-DA isn't AIFF. CD-DA contains either 2 or four channels of 16 bit audio, sampled at 44.1 kHz, organized into blocks of 2352 bytes. It's big endian (unlike *.wav).
      AIFF is a rather more involved format [swin.edu.au]. One of those formats is 16 bit, 44.1 KHz audio.
      The only benefit I could see to encoding directly from masters is that it is possible that the "master" could be less prone to jitter. It is concievable that higher resloution masters would be available (96Khz/24 bit) and the encoding process could take advantage of this extra data somehow.
  • by Sad Loser ( 625938 ) * on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @08:57AM (#5833041)
    Some decent quality properly blinded listening tests would be more interesting than a graph though.
    When VHS established dominance of the video market, there were high barriers to change - your player and media were committed to that format.
    There are far less barriers to change in the ripped audio format, although there will still be some inertia, but there is nothing* to stop ogg vorbis becoming the dominant format.

    Where's my ogg pod then?

    * apart from the silly name.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @09:09AM (#5833115)
      Ogg is a container format. I could in theory put an ACC audio file into an Ogg container.

      The audio format you're babbling about is Vorbis. Usually .ogg because it is inside an Ogg container.

      Hell, it's not just a silly name problem, it's an entire naming convention issue.
    • your ogg pod is here (Score:4, Informative)

      by morcheeba ( 260908 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @09:34AM (#5833275) Journal
      You can get an ogg pod here [sourceforge.net]. ok, it's a little rough, but it's getting better.
    • by jc42 ( 318812 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @09:58AM (#5833490) Homepage Journal
      A few years back, Consumer Reports did an interesting set of listening tests. The usual blinds, of course. But the interesting part was that in addition to random staffers, they had two extra groups: sound engineers and musicians. They reported that these two groups differed radically in their rankings of sound quality. The difference was fairly straightforward: The sound engineers gave a high rank to equipment that produced the sound accurately. The musicians gave a high rank to equipment that made the music clear. These are not at all the same thing. In particular, musicians generally liked "distortions" that removed non-musical information, strengthened the fundamentals, and so on.

      From a musician's viewpoint, one of the real frustrations with just about anything published about sound quality is that it's always written from the engineer's viewpoint. But what I want to know is which gadgets do a good job of reproducing the music. They never seem to tell you that.

      • by norton_I ( 64015 ) <hobbes@utrek.dhs.org> on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @10:55AM (#5834023)
        If the musicians like it that way, they should record it that way. Sound reproduction equipment should do just that -- reproduce as accurately as possible the sound on the CD (or other source)

        If people deliberately want to alter the sound, that should be done by effect processing that can be turned off, but not built in by inherent limitations in the reproduction equipment.

        Now, if you are interested in sound production, that is another matter entirely. The sound of a (say) guitar amplifier is as much a part of the musician's instrument as the guitar, though it would still be nice if a lot of that load could be taken off of unreliable power amplifiers and placed on reproducable, removable low level effects processing.
    • by The Original Yama ( 454111 ) <lists.sridhar@dhanapalan. c o m> on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @10:35AM (#5833827) Homepage
      A decent, but simplistic article. Unless you're a fussy audiophile, this analysis should be sufficient for you.

      [rant] I wish the author would present his graphs in a more readable way. A screen dump of Photoshop in WinXP is not a professional way to show data. It's ironic that while reviewing lossy audio formats he opts to use a lossy image format (JPEG) for the graphs. I had to double their size on my screen just to make some sense out of them. [/rant]

      It's not difficult to gain better-than-CD quality. CDs have been around since the early 1980s, and their main drawback is that they have a low sample rate, 44.1KHz. This is why many sound engineers prefer vinyl. because it's an analogue format, vinyl has a potentially infinite sample frequency range (although it's obviously limited by the recording and playback equipment, and by the physics of the media itself). Apple has used original masters (not CDs) to create much of its song library, so all they have to do is encode at a higher frequency than 44.1KHz. At a guess, they're probably using 48KHz, which is on par with DAT and MiniDisc.

      I'm not surprised that Apple is using AAC. For one thing, it is clearly better than the decade-old MP3 format in all respects, and the licensing costs are probably the same or better. Technically, it may not be as good as Ogg, but most people don't even know what Ogg is so it doesn't matter. As long as Apple can say "our format is better than MP3 and CD audio" (the two prevailing formats), they will have the attention of consumers. AAC is a more mature format than Ogg (Ogg isn't bad, but AAC is more tried-and-proven), and is probably more compatible with existing DRM technologies. DRM is important to keep the recording companies happy and to ensure that the files will only play on devices that Apple specifies (like on Macs and iPods).

      A major stumbling block for Ogg is that until fairly recently it was necessary to use a floating point processor to play the format. In the arena of portable devices, only PDAs have floating point capability, which is why you can play Ogg files on your Zaurus and not on your iPod. AAC is already supported by many devices, so Apple has a larger potential market (although at present only iPods can play the files).
      • A major stumbling block for Ogg is that until fairly recently it was necessary to use a floating point processor to play the format. In the arena of portable devices, only PDAs have floating point capability, which is why you can play Ogg files on your Zaurus and not on your iPod. AAC is already supported by many devices, so Apple has a larger potential market (although at present only iPods can play the files).

        Actually the Zaurus DOESN'T have any floating point either, the ogg player is all integer. Det
  • by Fefe ( 6964 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @08:57AM (#5833045) Homepage
    And it's more efficient than MP3.

    Their encoder is not particularly good, and AAC is covered by a ton of patents, so there probably are other reasons why they chose it.

    For anyone else but Apple I see no reason to use AAC when you can have Ogg Vorbis.

    PS: Shameless plug: I wrote a vorbis patch to add SSE support [www.fefe.de] for enhanced encoder and decoder speed. It also contains some 3dnow! optimization for you K6 users, decoder only.
    • Two points:
      1) Apple does not explicitly mention how their Music Store songs are encoded (neither what the source is nor what encoder they are using)---they very well could be using a higher quality AAC encoder than what ships with QuickTime, which has reviewed poorly. There exist, it should be noted, other professional level encoders that have reviewed much better.

      2) That being said, Apple released QuickTime 6.2 at the same time as iTunes 4 yesterday, and one of the headlining new features is an enhanced A
    • by RoLi ( 141856 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @10:22AM (#5833706)
      And it's more efficient than MP3

      At low bitrates, AAC is very weak, at 128kbps it was the worst of all:

      Study [infoanarchy.org]

      I was one of the 3000 participants, btw. And my ranking which I gave (blind, I did not know which sample was which) confirms pretty much the results, at 64kbps, AAC was unbearable, while ogg was not distinguishable (by me anyway) to the original.

      The only test where AAC didn't fail miserably was the "expert test" with only 8 listeners.

      OGG has beaten all other codecs consitently at all bitrates.

      • The quality of an AAC file very much depends on the encoder (it's the same with mpeg4 video or mp3 audio). The test you are refering to only shows that the encoder they used (the one present in Quicktime at that time) was quite bad. It doesn't mean that AAC in itself is bad.
  • by ObviousGuy ( 578567 ) <ObviousGuy@hotmail.com> on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @08:59AM (#5833055) Homepage Journal
    Nothing will every beat Ogg in PhatAudio's eyes. They seem to find evidence of Ogg's superiority where there is none. It's like the lovers of vacuum tubes rather than transistors.

    "It sounds warmer!"

    Sure. And the incandescent lights in my house have a better smell than the fluorescent ones at work.
    • by rm -rf /etc/* ( 20237 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @09:04AM (#5833085) Homepage

      Tubes and transistors are different though. With Ogg vs whatever, it may be more subjective, who knows. But at least with tubes there is a known difference between how they amplify and how transistors amplify. Tubes produce more even order distortion, which to our ears sounds warm and pleasing. Transistors produce more odd order distortion, which tends to sound harsh and stressing.

      Subtle difference? Perhaps, but it's there.
  • Hmmm (Score:4, Funny)

    by akpcep ( 659230 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @08:59AM (#5833056) Journal
    What about if I tell someone I'm off to trade some OGGs with my friends, and they think I'm going to throw little plastic discs about?
  • by borgdows ( 599861 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @09:00AM (#5833063)
    "the increasingly popular OGG codec."

    sadly, I don't think OGG is *currently* known to anybody except nerds or IT pros.
  • by Jon Abbott ( 723 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @09:01AM (#5833068) Homepage
    Spectrum analysis was used to see which format did the best job of maintaining the shape of the original waveform.
    Furthermore, "ping analysis" was used to see if the webserver survived the /. effect, and tests conclusively show that this is not the case. :^)
  • Ogg (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 91degrees ( 207121 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @09:02AM (#5833078) Journal
    Most people who use ogg do not use it for it's quality. All that matters in that respect is that Ogg is comaprable to other formats at similar bitrates.

    The important aspect of it is that it's free. There are no patents (at least as far as we know of) preventing anyone from using it, and it's made quite clear that the code can be included in open and closed source software without royalty payments.
    • Re:Ogg (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Agent Green ( 231202 ) *
      Well, I switched because of it's better quality, particularly in the low bitrate arena for lectures...and for all my CDs. Yes...I re-ripped everything I owned once I got a taste for the format.

      Using a Winamp vorbis encoder plugin, I was able to achieve significant crunches on classroom lectures, that were close enough to the original to be useful. Bear in mind too, that this was before Speex became part of the project.

      MP3 on the otherhand was totally useless at anything less than 64k. The loss drove me
  • by jolyonr ( 560227 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @09:02AM (#5833079) Homepage
    I agree that Ogg is a better format, better quality sound for similar bitrates to MP3, but until the portable devices I use, in-car CD/MP3 players, etc. accept the Ogg format as readily as they do MP3, then I (like most people) are stuck with the MP3 format. At least nowdays storage is cheap, so I whack everything to MP3 at a high bitrate.
    • The only sane option, and one which is becoming increasingly viable (cost / storage etc) is having a pda, pda's will run any software by their nature and there are now able to provide enough power and storage to become your portable music player, all you then need is a line in on your car radio and your happy.

      And them you can play all your music whatever the format! (remeber a lot of "players" put restrictions on bitrate / vbr)
  • by tgd ( 2822 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @09:09AM (#5833116)
    I spent some time last night playing around with the new Music Store feature in iTunes 4. Besides the fact that iTunes crashed on me twice, and 3 never crashed on me, it seems like a very well put together feature.

    What kept me from buying the dozen or so tracks I found that I thought were worth a buck a pop was the fact that my Rio Receivers need MP3 or, via "upgraded" software, FLAC, etc... Although the AAC->CD->MP3 route is possible, and I intended to buy a track and see how the quality comes out, has anyone seen anything about how the DRM works on the Apple files?

    I'm wondering if there are any libraries out there for decoding them, even within the confines of the DRM... just so I can get them into either a raw data stream or something so I can play them on my Rio Receivers... I'd probably switch to buying all my music (where possible) from them, if thats the case... but if I can't get them into a format I can play using my existing equipment, I'll have to pay the five buck "CD"-tax to get them in a format I can rip to high-bitrate MP3.
    • by s.o.terica ( 155591 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @09:22AM (#5833199)
      Although the AAC->CD->MP3 route is possible, and I intended to buy a track and see how the quality comes out, has anyone seen anything about how the DRM works on the Apple files?

      Regarding the AAC->CD->MP3, I burned a couple of Music Store tracks to CD, then re-ripped them (using iTunes, no less) using VBR High, and they sounded indistinguishable from the original Music Store files (albeit being significantly higher average bitrates).

      Regarding DRM, it appears that your Music Store file is locked to your Apple ID, and you have to Register up to three computers that you want to be able to play songs associated with your Apple ID. If you sell a computer, you have to unregister it before you can register a replacement computer. This appears to be the only restriction on usage -- you can still burn the songs to as many CDs as you want, copy them to as many iPods as you want, and streamthem to as many other Macs (and TiVo) as you want using Rendezvous.

      • Note that you cannot stream AAC's directly to TiVo -- there is no support (and I doubt support will be forthcoming). You'd have to re-rip them to MP3 first or do it on the fly - TiVo can only play MP3's natively since that's what's supported on the MPEG decoder.

        I suppose that someone will get around to writing a wrapper to do this on Macs... it's a shame that TiVo didn't just release the source to the TiVoServer (for both Windows and Mac) so people could just hack support into it directly.
      • by dschuetz ( 10924 ) * <<david> <at> <dasnet.org>> on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @09:48AM (#5833409)
        I burned a couple of Music Store tracks to CD, then re-ripped them

        A coworker recorded a few songs to CD last night. This morning, I ripped them to q7 Ogg Vorbis, and downconverted those Ogg files to MP3 (VBR, 160 to 256 kbps).

        Listening to them (on decent speakers, but still computer speakers nonetheless, and also through headphones), they all sound pretty good. I'm listening mostly for "bad artifacts" -- pumping, popping, clicking, phasing/flanging, stereo movement, etc. I can't hear anything of the sort, even on the MP3.

        So, we've got WAV -> 128 AAC -> q7 Ogg -> 160+ MP3, and it's still quite listenable. Certainly, it's not studio quality, but for listening at home, on a typical system with typical speakers, it's pretty good, to my ears.

        I'm still sort of annoyed, philosophically, at not being able to get a full-bandwidth .WAV file. I mean, you're paying for the track, you should get the exact same data as you can when you purchase the CD outright. But as a "best of evils," this is very good. And, truthfully, I'm not convinced that other similar services (like Listen.com's Rhapsody) don't do essentially the same thing.

        Can anyone suggest a good 'test pattern' file? Something with lots of dynamic range, easy-to-identify instruments (especially with lots of layers of detail), variations in note types / waveforms, etc.? Basically, an Indian Head for audio. Because it'd be great to be able to say "download this .wav, and as you decrease the bitrate listen for the flutes at 0:35 to start sounding weird" or somesuch. Just a thought.

        Anyway, I'm satisfied with the quality, at least on the minimal sample set I've heard.

    • by MasterVidBoi ( 267096 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @09:40AM (#5833318)
      I'm wondering if there are any libraries out there for decoding them, even within the confines of the DRM...

      While I'm not sure, I would say yes.

      I noticed last night that the protected AAC files played both in the Finder's preview pane and in Quicktime 6.2 itself. I assume the actual AAC-Protected decoding is done in quicktime, and no modifications were made to the finder to allow it to explicitly play AAC-Protected files. This implies that any program that can use quicktime can also play protected AAC files.

      I'd be suprised if may of the other mp3 players on the mac didn't already support playing via Quicktime, and by extension, playing AAC-Protected

  • by velouria ( 34439 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @09:09AM (#5833123) Homepage
    I don't think graphs are all that useful for comparing lossy sound compression.

    Microsoft likes to show how their wma looks better than the other compression methods... it does look beautiful in graphs, but it sounds all tinny and horrible.

    I don't care if the compressed frequency response graph looks nothing like the original frequency graph, as long as my ears are unable to tell the difference between the two.
  • Arggghh! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @09:12AM (#5833142)

    Will people please stop talking about Ogg as though it were an audio compression scheme. It is not - it is a wrapper format.

    I don't care what kind of tests were done, but anything comparing Ogg to a lossy compression scheme is bound to be unfair, as the Ogg family includes a lossless encoding scheme [sf.net]. Not only does Ogg include FLAC and Vorbis, but it also includes Speex, targetted at voice, and Theora, a video codec.

    So please, stop trying to compare Ogg to MP3. It's like comparing AVI or Quicktime to MP3.

    • Re:Arggghh! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Don't be a twat. Especially, don't be a pedantic twat. You know full well that when someone refers to "Ogg" they are usually refering to the Vorbis coded. When they want to talk about FLAC, Speex or Theora they say FLAC, Speex or Theora. So the names have become confused. Tough noogies.
    • Re:Arggghh! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by bigpat ( 158134 )
      Ogg is easier to say than Ogg Vorbis. Ogg is easier to write than Ogg Vorbis. Ogg is a lot catchier a name than Ogg Vorbis. It is very natural that Ogg Vorbis would be known as Ogg and that files would be known as ogg files.

      No problem here, nothing to see, please move along.

  • by kriegsman ( 55737 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @09:15AM (#5833149) Homepage
    My portable HD music jukebox, and my car stereo, and tons of other devices out there ONLY play MP3s.

    But any new music I buy through Apple is AAC encoded, in an m4p "protected" file.

    So here's a purely technical question: What's the shortest path to convert these shiny new "protected" ACC files into plain MP3s so that I can take the music that I've just paid for and listen to it on my Archos MP3 Jukebox? I've already successfully gone from AACs to audio CD, and then re-ripped and re-encoded the album as MP3 but ... ew. There's got to be a better way.

    And yes, I know Apple and Big Music and the RIAA and Homeland Security don't want me to be able to do this (easily, or maybe at all) but at this point I'd like to sidestep the politics and focus on a technological solution that works for me- a legit, paying user.

    So: what's the closest we can get to "acc2mp3", or better yet "m4p2mp3"?

  • Poem. (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @09:22AM (#5833191)
    There once was a codec named Ogg,
    It's name was peculiar and odd,
    It replaced MP3,
    Because it was free,
    Hey, what the fuck is an Ogg?
  • Two Words (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @09:24AM (#5833212)

    Ogg = Too little, too late, overmatched and unknown to the masses. Also, too geeky. No hardware support to speak of. Walk down a street anywhere in the world and ask them what Ogg is, then ask them what MP3 is..... I guarantee you 1000 more people will know what a MP3 is compared to Ogg. It may be smaller, but in the age of 200 Gb harddrives for $200 size is no longer an issue.

    MP3 = Widely known, was first on the scene, its everywhere, tons of hardware on the market, good quality, reasonable size ... hell my grandma even knows what it is.... that means Ogg is screwed!

    AAC = Already has an installed user base, sounds just as good as Ogg or MP3, plays nicely with the best known\most widely sold MP3 player on the market. Promising, but probably the lesser of the three unless this thing takes off.

    You may not like what I have to say, but it is the truth.... and you all know it!
    • Re:Two Words (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Lxy ( 80823 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @09:43AM (#5833357) Journal
      Yes, until someone gets sue happy and starts suing MP3 and AAC users. Maybe it will happen, maybe it won't.

      Look at GIF, JPEG, and PNG. GIF is used for its quality, JPEG is used for its size, PNG is used by geeks. Unisys started suing webmasters, now the patent holder for JPEG is ruffling feathers, PNG is slowly becoming the accepted format. All it takes is some greedy SOB to make Ogg an attractive format.
      • PNG (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Ender Ryan ( 79406 )
        Yeah but, people aren't really switching to PNG because IE doesn't support it. The same is true of Ogg, no hardware support.

        So, instead of people doing the intelligent thing and switching to something that is unencumbered by patent liability, people stand around with their pants down and get bent over.

        It sure is painful to watch...

  • by Compact Dick ( 518888 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @09:25AM (#5833218) Homepage
    Arguably the best resource for audio compression information can be found at Hydrogen Audio [hydrogenaudio.org]. Visit the various forums, check out the excellent Foobar2000 [hydrogenaudio.org] win32 multiformat audio player, and learn.

    I have also written a guide on ripping high-quality MP3s using CDex [iprimus.com.au], aimed towards beginners. If you know people who use Musicmatch, help them switch to a decent, easy-to-use CD ripper [sourceforge.net].

  • by Ruri ( 203996 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @09:28AM (#5833238)
    The Xiph folks have signed up to add Ogg support on the Neuros audio handheld. Its a firmware upgradable handheld which currently supports mp3, but will probably have Ogg support by mid-late summer.

    Check out the highlights.

    • Neuros rocks. About the same cost as an ipod, but includes FM receive and FM broadcast that actually works.

      Expansion is via backpacks, so as technology changes you only need to buy new backpacks instead of an entire new unit.
  • by Jack Comics ( 631233 ) * <{jack_comics} {at} {postxs.org}> on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @09:35AM (#5833284) Homepage
    MP3 this, OGG that, AAC somewhere in the middle... Sorry, I don't use any of the above. I encode all of my music into Musepack. At high bitrates, it's the best lossy audio codec, period. For more information on Musepack, see <a href="http://www.saunalahti.fi/%7Ecse/mpc/">Case's Musepack Page</a>, or <a href="http://www.hydrogenaudio.org/index.php?act=S T&f=11&t=1927&">List of Recommended Musepack Settings</a>.

    Musepack encoders and decoders are available for both Windows and Linux, with Winamp plugins available. The only real downside to Musepack is there is currently no hardware support. But having tried each of the codecs mentioned in this article as well as Musepack at the Quality 8 setting, Musepack is music to my ears each time.
  • by prestidigital ( 341064 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @09:39AM (#5833309) Journal
    Understandably, most of the discussion here is about the pros & cons of various compression formats. But the first thing that jumped out at me when I clicked on the apple.com link was:

    "Preview any song for free, when you find a song you want, buy it for just 99... It's what music lovers have been waiting for: a music store with Apple's legendary ease of use, offering a hassle-free way to preview, buy and download music online quickly and easily."

    FINALLY, a business model for downloading music that makes sense! (Now if only I could afford to switch to Apple products.)
  • Next up... (Score:5, Funny)

    by cygnus ( 17101 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @09:40AM (#5833322) Homepage
    let's compare video codec image quality by streaming the data thru a hex editor in realtime. :)
  • by JudgeFurious ( 455868 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @09:58AM (#5833501)
    Last night I downloaded a bunch of tracks off of Apple's Music Store Service. I then played them (along with several tracks I already had in OGG and mp3) through my computers $9.95 speakers while holding my portable cassette recorder very, very close to the speaker (For the technical out there I was holding it close to the LEFT speaker and even turned the TV down some to get the best possible sound) and then replayed them all back on the same portable cassette recorder.

    My conclusion is that all three sound like complete shit.
  • Useless Comparison (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nathanh ( 1214 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @10:09AM (#5833574) Homepage
    AAC/MP3/OGG are all based on psychoacoustic models. Comparing their decoded spectrums is pointless. The spectrum isn't supposed to be faithfully reproduced. Frequencies that your brain wouldn't fully hear aren't fully stored.

    The only value I can see in a spectrum comparison would be to find obvious errors in the encoder or decoder. Like the 16kHz spike in the Xing encoder. But how likely is that going to be these days?

    The only proper comparison involves a good hi-fi, a sensibly furnished room, and a comfortable chair. It is called "golden ear" testing and it's the ONLY way to compare psychoacoustic models.

    Or at least it's the only way until the research scientists work out how the human brain works.
  • by Compact Dick ( 518888 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @10:16AM (#5833640) Homepage
    Learn why you shouldn't use spectral analysis to determine lossy codecs' quality [hydrogenaudio.org].

    The most respected technique is double-blind testing using an ABX tool such as PC ABX [pcabx.com], WinABX [arrakis.es] or ABC/HR [ff123.net].

    More info on conducting blind tests can be found at the PC ABX site [pcabx.com].
  • by autopr0n ( 534291 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @10:19AM (#5833675) Homepage Journal
    Modern compressions schemes are supposed to make sound that sounds as much like the original as possible, not looks like the original on an FFT.

    The only way to test this is to use double-blind listening tests. The spectral analysis stuff is absolutely useless for finding out how good the music actually sounds.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @10:20AM (#5833681)
    all 15 ogg listeners are getting together to 'rally' at apple trying to get them to support ogg. they have each committed to buy at least 5 ipods each if ogg is implemented, so then apple would sell at least 15*5 ipods, and it will definately be worth the effort to port ogg to ipod.

    fools. its a 'mass-market' device. no one in the mass market even knows what ogg is. (do you use ogg? yeah i like em over-easy.)
  • by nxs212 ( 303580 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @10:22AM (#5833707)
    CDs have flat sound to begin with when compared to analog masters. So in order to get "better than CD" quality you would have to rip from the master tape. Also, file size would have to be less than 60mb per song. (size of a 5 minute uncompressed song from a CD)
    While most master-to-CD transfers sound fine, classical music tends to lose its "warmth." I am no audiophile but I noticed a big difference when I listened to Crux Shadows live and on CD. Speaking of audiophiles, by the time they can afford to buy their must-have equipment, they've already lost their hearing. Give them 128kps mp3 file stamped on vinyl and will swear it sounds better than your original CD :)
    • by norton_I ( 64015 ) <hobbes@utrek.dhs.org> on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @11:30AM (#5834389)
      Are you sure that the problem isn't in the mastering engineers, not the CD format? Almost all pop music is dynamically compressed within an inch of its life to make it sould louder on cheap equipment. I am told that this is much less of a problem with classical music, but classical music also tends to have a much higher crest factor than pop, and is therefore more sensitive to compression as well.

      The noise floor and dynamic range of a CD with a high quality DAC should be better than almost anybody's ears, if correctly mastered. DVD-Audio should be even better than CD, with multi-channel to boot, and also gives recording engineers a lot of headroom in the ultrasonic to avoid aliasing while using low order filters that are in principle somewhat gentler on the sound. SACD on the other hand is a travesty, superbly wasteful of bandwidth, while having less resolution and more noise in the highest octave of the audio range and much, much more noise in the ultrasonic, which is inaudiable, but can have negative effects on the audible spectrum because of effects in the tweeter.
  • AAC works for me... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by berniecase ( 20853 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @10:36AM (#5833833) Homepage Journal
    I bought about 10 songs from Apple's music service yesterday, and they all sound great. When I got home, I ripped Would? from Alice in Chains's Dirt and compared it to the 182kbps VBR MP3 I already had. The AAC sounded about the same as the MP3. It didn't sound worse, and I was running this through my iMac G4's audio system and then a pair of Polk bookshelf speakers I have on my desk (and a Pioneer receiver/amp). I'll stick with AAC, and I'll stick with the iTunes Music Store. For my money, it's a good deal.
  • from macslash:

    AAC comes with a significantly lower number of b*tching [\.] users than ogg
  • In my workflow, I want to keep a big bunch of high data rate files on the home server (about 140 GB of 320 Kbps MP3 files), and then recompress to more portable formats to carry around on the PowerBook or whatever. This used to work fine. I'd use the Import feature of iTunes, and would convert from the 320 Kbps master file to ~150 Kbps VBR MP3 files for the road. While the lower data rates wouldn't work on my home Paradigm speakers, they were fine for listening to on airplanes.

    However, this doesn't seem to work in iTunes 4. I see the Import option, but all the MP3 files in my current library are grayed out. Is this operator error, or does this not work anymore? If not, what is the Import function for?

    Obviously I'd like to switch to 128 Kbps AAC-LC for my mobile music. But heck, I'd live with being able to make my old MP3 files!

  • by jmv ( 93421 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2003 @11:44AM (#5834551) Homepage
    Spectrum analysis was used to see which format did the best job of maintaining the shape of the original waveform

    Will people ever stop doing that. It's complete bullshit and certainly not the way to evaluate a codec. These codecs use perceptual weighting of the noise. That means that the idea is to distort the signal as much as possible in any region of the spectrum where it won't be heard at a certain time. That means that you see a big distortion in the spectrum and think the codec is worse than the others when in fact it's better because it realized that it doesn't matter.

    The only way to correctly evaluate a codec is to listen to it. I write codecs (see sig), so I know a bit what I'm talking about. I use spectral analysis sometimes, but only to identify problems which I've already heard before, not to say that my codec is good.

    As a aside, I'd say it probably wouldn't be hard to write a codec that does better than any other on those spectrum analysis. They would sound like crap because their psycho-acoustic model would be all wrong.
  • by Russellkhan ( 570824 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @03:45AM (#5841172)
    While googling for the name of a magazine I haven't picked up in years in order to refer to it in my previous posting, I ran into this comaprison of OGG vs. MP3 vs. WMA vs. RA [ekei.com]. I thought it seemed relevant an might be interesting to some of you guys.

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