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What comes after AAC?, Is there a successor to AAC?
polemon
post Mar 25 2014, 11:21
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I guess it is fair to say, that AAC is a successor to MP3.

But now that a several years have passed, what's the successor to AAC? Or is there one at all?
I haven't come across a lot of information about that.

h.265 (HEVC) is a successor to h.264 (AVC), so is there no such successor to the audio side of things?


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Maurits
post Mar 25 2014, 11:41
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Some would probably say it is Opus. I would disagree with that, though, as Opus would perhaps be a successor from a purely technical point of view, that's not enough. To be a true successor to AAC the technical characteristics would be the least of the hurdles.

Large scale adoption in both the professional world and consumer world, being so ubiquitous in many devices that nowadays you can generally expect audio hardware or software to support AAC and the high chance that, whenever you turn on a radio or tv, part or all of what you hear has been recorded or transported as AAC at some point is not something that is easily surpassed.

It took AAC ages to get to same level of adoption as various forms of MPEG 1 and even they are still around everywhere, most online music stores still only sell MPEG 1 because it's good enough for most purposes. I think it can take quite some time before a true successor to AAC will appear and it will need significant improvements over AAC to persuade the industry to replace it as it won't be cheap. Transparency at very low bitrates or significantly reduced required processing power might do it. However, a mere 20% improvement will probably not be enough, it would need to be a step change.

This post has been edited by Maurits: Mar 25 2014, 11:46
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polemon
post Mar 25 2014, 12:02
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Well, I meant successor, in the actual meaning. AAC was designed to be the successor to MP3.

Opus is something completely different, it was designed to be the successor of Vobis - fair enough, but that's not what I'm asking. I'm asking if or what is designed to be the successor to AAC.
The same way as HEVC is designed to be the successor to AVC, etc.


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Maurits
post Mar 25 2014, 12:15
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I see. I don't believe in that sense there is a successor yet. You could argue that to some extent HE-AAC is the successor to LC-AAC although they have different objectives (respectively low bitrate and transparency) which makes them more complementary rather than one replacing the other.

It is also a question of branding of course. There have been a number of different audio compression technologies that all share the "AAC" name, from LD-AAC and LC-AAC to HE-AAC. If the same engineers would work on an improved version and call it XD-AAC it would still be AAC whereas they could decide to give it an entirely new name. Where you draw a line and give something a new name makes a difference to whether it will be regarded a successor or just a new flavour.
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C.R.Helmrich
post Mar 25 2014, 12:17
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QUOTE (polemon @ Mar 25 2014, 12:02) *
I'm asking if or what is designed to be the successor to AAC. The same way as HEVC is designed to be the successor to AVC, etc.

Well, Wikipedia says it all: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MPEG-H 3D-Audio is being standardized this year and will, of course, also allow mono and stereo coding. Furthermore, HE-AAC has been extended a few years ago (called - surprise! - Extended HE-AAC), so there already is a successor to AAC. How fast these new codecs will reach the market is, of course, a completely different story.

Chris


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2Bdecided
post Mar 25 2014, 12:22
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For the reasons Maurits suggested maybe you can't call it a successor yet, but the folks who developed mp3 and AAC haven't stopped work...
http://www.iis.fraunhofer.de/en/bf/amm/for...multi/usac.html
http://www.iis.fraunhofer.de/en/bf/amm/pro...ecs/aaceld.html

It would be interesting to test against Opus.

Cheers,
David.

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includemeout
post Mar 25 2014, 15:04
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Not wanting to wander off-topic but when it comes to succession we can be forgiven to think about a certain group of blue-blooded people who are possibly more than fed up to speculations of that kind. And which other place is better known than Great Britain when it comes to it?

So, let's say MP3 is Queen Elizabeth II, AAC His Royal Highness Prince Charles, Ogg Vorbis Prince William and the other formats are the other possible successors to its throne. Under this line of thought, there can simply be no single end-all answer:

AAC (AKA here Prince of Wales) may possibly be the probable successor but MP3 (Queenie) has been around for sooo long that one wonders if the earlier will ever take the latter's place in time to still be around himself. Perhaps Prince William (Ogg) might be in better shape (or be the only one around) by the time MP3/m'am finally kicks the bucket or then the newest in-line to the throne and kid on the block: Opus (in this analogy, Prince Royal-Baby George himself) - assuming MP3's sucessor won't be up to the task when it's time to fill its shoes.

Or, incognito can also play a huge role in this:

One never knows, there may be a referendum one of these days and the British decide that there simply is no use for monarchy(lossy encoding) anymore and kick the hell out of Her Majesty (MP3) and a new form of government (lossless, perhaps) takes over and lives happily ever after!

So I hope this analogy helps understanding that, when it comes to succeeding such popular an audio format/monarch, (I believe many over here will agree with me on that) there simply is no single, precise answer, just speculations and I wouldn't put my money on any bookie for that.




Edits: sorry: too many mistakes to be left as they were.

This post has been edited by includemeout: Mar 25 2014, 15:30


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includemeout
post Mar 25 2014, 15:18
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PS: formats and their respective analogies above are not exactly in order of importance when it comes to the less popular/newest formats.

In those cases, please feel free to choose whatever format rocks your boat in order to read it accordingly.


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Maurits
post Mar 25 2014, 15:41
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To subtly skip your analogy, I think there will remain a desire to use lossy encoding for quite some time. I agree, for music listening technological improvements and cost reduction might mean that FLAC will be the dominant music format within 10-15 years.

However, I doubt foreign correspondents will do their 'piece to the camera' over a satellite link from the other side of the planet using a lossless codec by then. Same goes for memo recorders, voicemail and answering systems, phone/VOIP applications, PA systems etc. etc.

This post has been edited by Maurits: Mar 25 2014, 15:43
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includemeout
post Mar 25 2014, 15:50
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QUOTE (Maurits @ Mar 25 2014, 11:41) *
To subtly skip your analogy, I think there will remain a desire to use lossy encoding for quite some time. I agree, for music listening technological improvements and cost reduction might mean that FLAC will be the dominant music format in 10-15 years.

However, I doubt foreign correspondents will do their 'piece to the camera' over a satellite link from the other side of the planet using a lossless codec by then. Same goes for memo recorders, voicemail and answering systems, phone/VOIP applications, PA systems etc. etc.


I also share your belief of lossy not leaving us any time soon. But since there are lots of people giving ears to this, though subtle, lingering threat of it happening someday, I thought it opportune to mention it too.

The same I guess, goes to some of the British who love whining about their form of government: I can't see said referendum happening any time soon, but may be also wrong on that.


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polemon
post Mar 25 2014, 17:56
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I'd say HE-AAC focuses on getting the best quality from the lowest bitrates possible and vice versa (getting the lowest bitrate for a given quality constraint). LC-AAC focus is more on low-latency and feasability on limited hardware, such as on embedded players, etc.

I'd say all the AAC codecs combines, make up what Opus is in comparison. I don't know for sure (otherwise I wouldn't be asking...) but I'd say the various (mainstream) AAC codecs are complementary to one another.

I didn't know about the branding issue, though. I though that HE-AACplus V2 was an official variant of the AAC family. Hmm...


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DVDdoug
post Mar 25 2014, 18:35
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Do we really need another dang format?

Almost every portable player can play MP3 and AAC, and usually one lossless format.

You've got Opus/Vorbis for the open source crowd.

Bly-Ray officially supports something like 8 different audio formats with variations of each, some lossy and some lossless.

...And more if you don't like any of those!
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saratoga
post Mar 25 2014, 18:36
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I don't think anything replaces AAC in most of the niches where it has been successful. Its good enough that for most applications it won't be worthwhile to update to something newer except in areas where AAC is specifically lacking (e.g. low delay).
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DigitalMan
post Mar 25 2014, 19:00
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Agree w/DVDdoug - what problem are you hoping to solve with a new format that isn't adequately addressed already with existing formats?


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polemon
post Mar 25 2014, 20:22
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Includemeout: When I was talking about succession, I wasn't meaning replacement. I still use MP3 and I know there's still people working on it, which is great. But from a more "oversight" standpoint - and what developers usually target - is that AAC is meant to be the successor to MP3. If that's successful or not, that's out of the question right now. I'm talking about design decisions, etc.

Vorbis wasn't meant to replace MP3 either, it was just a free codec that was "kinda like" MP3, quality wise. Now, Opus is by design, the successor to Vorbis. This doesn't mean that people will abandon Vorbis immediately.

DVDdoug: I'm afraid you're missing the point of this thread. It's not why we need another codec, the idea is to see where development and research is going. Every codec will exhaust its range of capabilities sooner or later, and things have to move on eventually.

C. R. Helmrich pretty much answered my question.

This post has been edited by polemon: Mar 25 2014, 20:22


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Porcus
post Mar 25 2014, 22:21
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If I had to put my money on any successor for 2-channel sound, then there would be two candidates:
- Ogg Vorbis. Because Spotify uses it.
- HE-AAC. Because of DAB+.

IOW, whatever the successful market agent chooses for whatever reason, and streaming can much easier change format/codec than the download market. When it comes to HE-AAC, bear in mind that the broadcasting industry has succeeded in pushing two new generations with new hardware on the consumers, in not so many years.



QUOTE (polemon @ Mar 25 2014, 20:22) *
Every codec will exhaust its range of capabilities sooner or later, and things have to move on eventually.


Do they really? And if/when, does it have to be a lossy? In a few years, your movie collection will fit in your hand.




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includemeout
post Mar 25 2014, 22:49
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QUOTE (Porcus @ Mar 25 2014, 18:21) *
In a few years, your movie collection will fit in your hand.


Or, as much as it looks far-fetched now, it will just be sitting in the cloud.

This post has been edited by includemeout: Mar 25 2014, 23:04


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polemon
post Mar 25 2014, 22:57
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QUOTE (Porcus @ Mar 25 2014, 22:21) *
If I had to put my money on any successor for 2-channel sound, then there would be two candidates:
- Ogg Vorbis. Because Spotify uses it.
- HE-AAC. Because of DAB+.

In a practical sense, sure. But I was thinking more on the conceptual level, etc.

QUOTE (Porcus @ Mar 25 2014, 22:21) *
Do they really? And if/when, does it have to be a lossy? In a few years, your movie collection will fit in your hand.

Yes, well sure. The idea is to look for better codecs for research's sake.


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eahm
post Mar 26 2014, 03:18
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QUOTE (Porcus @ Mar 25 2014, 14:21) *
If I had to put my money on any successor for 2-channel sound, then there would be two candidates:
- Ogg Vorbis. Because Spotify uses it.
- HE-AAC. Because of DAB+.

I'd go with AAC, not even Opus. AAC and its variants 100% for me.

Spotify uses Vorbis because it's open source and in north EU they love open, also they don't have to buy any license? People don't actually touch the files, I didn't even know which codec they use. iTunes though, everything is AAC, you can BUY the files, donwload it, touch it, keep it. People see a different extension from MP3 and they realize it's something new, when they discover M4A is MP4 they are hooked to the new format.

People don't care about open or closed, they don't care which codec is actually better, they go with the flow, they want to use what the cool kid uses, the cool kid is Apple. "Amazon and Google Play use MP3? Eh, iTunes has the new one."

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2Bdecided
post Mar 26 2014, 10:36
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QUOTE (Porcus @ Mar 25 2014, 21:21) *
If I had to put my money on any successor for 2-channel sound, then there would be two candidates:
- Ogg Vorbis. Because Spotify uses it.
- HE-AAC. Because of DAB+.

IOW, whatever the successful market agent chooses for whatever reason, and streaming can much easier change format/codec than the download market. When it comes to HE-AAC, bear in mind that the broadcasting industry has succeeded in pushing two new generations with new hardware on the consumers, in not so many years.
TV has. Radio has failed to do this so far. Most people are still listening to FM.


QUOTE (eahm @ Mar 26 2014, 02:18) *
QUOTE (Porcus @ Mar 25 2014, 14:21) *
If I had to put my money on any successor for 2-channel sound, then there would be two candidates:
- Ogg Vorbis. Because Spotify uses it.
- HE-AAC. Because of DAB+.

I'd go with AAC, not even Opus. AAC and its variants 100% for me.

Spotify uses Vorbis because it's open source and in north EU they love open, also they don't have to buy any license? People don't actually touch the files, I didn't even know which codec they use. iTunes though, everything is AAC, you can BUY the files, donwload it, touch it, keep it. People see a different extension from MP3 and they realize it's something new, when they discover M4A is MP4 they are hooked to the new format.

People don't care about open or closed, they don't care which codec is actually better, they go with the flow, they want to use what the cool kid uses, the cool kid is Apple. "Amazon and Google Play use MP3? Eh, iTunes has the new one."
That sounds like a techie's view of what normal people think, rather than what normal people actually think. The only time "normal" people think about audio codecs/formats at all is when they have a (new) device and find that some audio tracks won't play on the (new) device. For normal people this is a very very rare occurrence.

Cheers,
David.
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kornchild2002
post Mar 26 2014, 12:19
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QUOTE (2Bdecided @ Mar 26 2014, 03:36) *
The only time "normal" people think about audio codecs/formats at all is when they have a (new) device and find that some audio tracks won't play on the (new) device. For normal people this is a very very rare occurrence.


I would say that is true. That wasn't the case when iPods exploded in popularity along with the release of Windows XP. When that happened, many people would simply open up Windows Media Player, rip a CD without changing any settings, and call it a day. They would either buy an iPod or get one as a gift a year or two down the line, install iTunes, and see that their entire music library would either not work with iTunes (because the DRM option was selected in WMP) or they had to convert all their files (as WMP used WMA as the default ripping format). Again, that was a good 8-10 years ago but I imagine those people didn't change any of the encoding settings in iTunes so now their libraries are made up of 128kbps AAC and 256kbps AAC files (since iTunes changed the default encoding setting to match "iTunes Plus" encoded files). The process will repeat itself if a new player/phone/whatever comes along, takes over everything, and doesn't work with LC-AAC (doubtful but then again, many picked WMA as the next successor to mp3 and look how that turned out).
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Maurits
post Mar 26 2014, 13:16
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QUOTE (polemon @ Mar 25 2014, 22:57) *
QUOTE (Porcus @ Mar 25 2014, 22:21) *
If I had to put my money on any successor for 2-channel sound, then there would be two candidates:
- Ogg Vorbis. Because Spotify uses it.
- HE-AAC. Because of DAB+.

In a practical sense, sure. But I was thinking more on the conceptual level, etc.

QUOTE (Porcus @ Mar 25 2014, 22:21) *
Do they really? And if/when, does it have to be a lossy? In a few years, your movie collection will fit in your hand.

Yes, well sure. The idea is to look for better codecs for research's sake.

If we look at it from a high level I think we can divide the reasoning behind codec improvements in three groups, quality vs bitrate, processing power requirements and features.

Quality vs. bitrates is a straightforward one. Somewhere in the 90's probably the first practical lossy technologies were able to produce transparency. After that point the developments were focused on reaching transparency at an ever lower level. From 320 kbps then to around 96 kbps now. The goal here could be to further lower this level.

Processing power requirements are focussed on making smaller or cheaper devices possible and extending battery life on portable devices. The goals here could be to further reduce power requirements and are theoretically endless until they use an infinitely small (but never zero) amount of power.

Features is the most flexible one. I am ignoring metadata features as they not strictly part of the codec. Newer codec features we have seen include increasing support for more than 2 channels. The question is where that will end. Is more than 48 channels (as AAC supports) necessary?
You could argue that extremely high (for music) frequencies are a feature. However, AAC supports up to 96 kHz per channel. Is higher necessary?
Low delay is a feature but generally quite good thanks to the special Low Delay version "AAC-LD". Even lower delay could be a goal but you reach a phase of diminishing returns where further improvements are increasingly less worth it.

For any of these variables, the improvements need to be big enough for many stakeholders (consumers, professionals, industry etc.) to replace the incumbent codec for something else. Probably at big cost. To be honest, I can only think of the power requirements variable to be important enough to warrant a change.

Then again, I might be overlooking something.

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saratoga
post Mar 26 2014, 14:41
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QUOTE (Maurits @ Mar 26 2014, 07:16) *
To be honest, I can only think of the power requirements variable to be important enough to warrant a change.


Actually, newer formats generally have much higher computational complexity than older. MP3 -> AAC/Vorbis/WMA was somewhat of an exception because of how strange MP3 was with its hybrid filterbank. Aside from fixing that, you don't really get a free lunch if you want better compression. Newer features like SBR, arithmetic coding, etc are much more complex and require a lot more processing power. Fortunately Moore's law has made this basically irrelevant.
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Maurits
post Mar 26 2014, 14:47
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QUOTE (saratoga @ Mar 26 2014, 14:41) *
QUOTE (Maurits @ Mar 26 2014, 07:16) *
To be honest, I can only think of the power requirements variable to be important enough to warrant a change.


Actually, newer formats generally have much higher computational complexity than older. MP3 -> AAC/Vorbis/WMA was somewhat of an exception because of how strange MP3 was with its hybrid filterbank. Aside from fixing that, you don't really get a free lunch if you want better compression. Newer features like SBR, arithmetic coding, etc are much more complex and require a lot more processing power. Fortunately Moore's law has made this basically irrelevant.

Agreed. I was referring to what goals developers could have to improve. As you say, in reality the balance has shifted towards more complexity and thus more power as lower bitrates are more important than low power. Made possible by Moore's law. I remember that around the year 2000 I couldn't launch MS Word on my PC without Winamp stuttering through an MP3. How things have changed.
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allnoyz
post Mar 26 2014, 22:36
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It's a good question.

I can't hear the difference between a 256kbps VBR AAC and a CD, so IMO where else is there to go? I guess there's the whole Pono thing, but that just strikes me as bunk.

Then again, I don't have "golden ears". AAC (or even MP3, for that matter) at a decent bitrate does the trick for me personally, so can it really be improved upon?

I'm all ears, but of a skeptical mind.
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