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iTunes versus Amazonmp3 versus 320 kbps
666dondraper
post May 5 2012, 00:23
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I was wondering which digital music retailer offers the highest quality being itunes versus Amazonmp3 and also how their 256 kbps compares to 320 kbps.
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Aaron74
post May 5 2012, 00:43
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QUOTE (666dondraper @ May 5 2012, 01:23) *
I was wondering which digital music retailer offers the highest quality being itunes versus Amazonmp3 and also how their 256 kbps compares to 320 kbps.

They all sound the same to me on my equipment. All should be transparent for most folks.
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eahm
post May 5 2012, 00:59
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iTunes = Apple claims it's CBR, iTunes does VBR but some say it's actually ABR 256Kbps

Amazon = LAME VBR -V 0

Google Play Music = LAME or Fraunhofer CBR 320Kbps


The quality is high, they sound all the same to me. I was more obsessed few months ago with encoders, I now say if it's not for archival purposes over 160Kbps LAME and AAC are both good.

This post has been edited by eahm: May 5 2012, 01:54
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skamp
post May 5 2012, 07:19
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Amazon offered me a 5 rebate on MP3s so I downloaded Feels Like Home from Norah Jones for free. The MP3s were encoded with LAME 3.97 and had a rather low bitrate for -V 0: they range from 191kbps to 217kbps. 3 of the tracks have numbers of samples that are not multiples of 588, indicating possible transcodes from MP3. I didn't hear any particular artifacts, though I wasn't paying much attention.


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666dondraper
post May 5 2012, 08:39
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QUOTE (skamp @ May 4 2012, 23:19) *
Amazon offered me a 5 rebate on MP3s so I downloaded Feels Like Home from Norah Jones for free. The MP3s were encoded with LAME 3.97 and had a rather low bitrate for -V 0: they range from 191kbps to 217kbps. 3 of the tracks have numbers of samples that are not multiples of 588, indicating possible transcodes from MP3. I didn't hear any particular artifacts, though I wasn't paying much attention.


So would you recommend iTunes then skamp??? Since it doesn't sound like amazon offers the 256 kbps definitely as advertised if they were lower. Unless that's what -V 0 means.
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skamp
post May 5 2012, 09:11
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LAME 3.97 is almost 6 years old. My own LAME 3.99.5 encodes at -V 0 seem to yield higher bitrates (by 40-50 kbps), closer to 256 kbps. My gripe with Amazon is both that they're using a seriously outdated encoder, and they're possibly transcoding lossy to lossy.

I only have 3 iTunes Music Store files, 2 of which are from the same album, and again, one track is a multiple of 588, the other isn't. Maybe both were sourced from a "high quality" master derived from a CD master (that divides by 588), and one track was altered in a way that resulted in a change in the number of samples, while the other was not. In other words, the number of samples alone is not conclusive evidence of anything, except that they're not straight up encoding lossless CD rips.

FWIW those 3 iTunes files are 265-270 kbps. But I can't recommend any store that only sells lossy in the first place. I'm sticking to CDs for now.


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dhromed
post May 5 2012, 11:30
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QUOTE (skamp @ May 5 2012, 09:11) *
they're possibly transcoding lossy to lossy.


Is that a rumour, or a confirmed fact for X percentage of Amazon's offering?
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Frankie
post May 5 2012, 14:48
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QUOTE (eahm @ May 4 2012, 15:59) *
Amazon = LAME VBR -V 0

Amazon doesn't use the same setting (and same encoders) all the time. Most albums I bought were 3.97 V0 but not all. For example "Stalingrad", the new Album from ACCEPT:






It's CBR256 and regular stereo and I was a bit pissed after I bought it. It's not really a problem since it still sounds fine to my ears but I don't get it why they don't use the same settings for all files (AFAIK Amazon makes all MP3-files themselves) or at least put the bitrate in the description of the albums.



Oh yeah: I never bought from iTunes (I don't even have it installed) so I can't say anything about the quality of their files.


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Kohlrabi
post May 5 2012, 15:40
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QUOTE (skamp @ May 5 2012, 10:11) *
and they're possibly transcoding lossy to lossy.

If this is really true, there is something seriously wrong in the digital music market, that pirating files is more reliable than buying music from a shop like Amazon.

This post has been edited by Kohlrabi: May 5 2012, 15:42


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skamp
post May 5 2012, 16:02
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The truth is, I have no idea what they're doing, except that they're not selling straight up CD rips.


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db1989
post May 5 2012, 16:11
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QUOTE (Frankie @ May 5 2012, 14:48) *
I never bought from iTunes (I don't even have it installed) so I can't say anything about the quality of their files.
All of their files are 256 kbps AAC from a well-tuned encoder, and thus they are likely to be transparent in almost all non-exceptional cases.
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IgorC
post May 5 2012, 16:16
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QUOTE (skamp @ May 5 2012, 05:11) *
LAME 3.97 is almost 6 years old. My own LAME 3.99.5 encodes at -V 0 seem to yield higher bitrates (by 40-50 kbps), closer to 256 kbps. My gripe with Amazon is both that they're using a seriously outdated encoder, and they're possibly transcoding lossy to lossy.


LAME 3.97 -V0 has lower bitrate than 3.98/3.99 -V0. So, it is not because Amazon transcodes.

In my consideration 3.97 isn't outdated at all. The only benefit of using 3.98 and 3.99 is speed and higher bitrate/quality for V0.
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Porcus
post May 5 2012, 18:43
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QUOTE (Frankie @ May 5 2012, 15:48) *
[img ]http://i.imgur.com/OIGPd.png[/img]


(What application is this?)


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lvqcl
post May 5 2012, 19:09
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(Encspot: http://web.archive.org/web/20071211044231/...t/download.html . Or try to find ver. 2.1 somewhere).
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eahm
post May 5 2012, 19:32
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QUOTE (lvqcl @ May 5 2012, 11:09) *
(Encspot: http://web.archive.org/web/20071211044231/...t/download.html . Or try to find ver. 2.1 somewhere).

...and http://www.portablefreeware.com/?id=1103
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stephan_g
post May 6 2012, 18:06
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QUOTE (skamp @ May 5 2012, 07:19) *
3 of the tracks have numbers of samples that are not multiples of 588, indicating possible transcodes from MP3.

Or MP2, for that matter. As I understand, the big labels like to work with masters in this format. The clipping sensitivity of this format may be a reason for noticeable sonic differences between CD and lossy download versions (occasionally noted for both iTunes and Amazon MP3), though in the days of watermarking and "Mastered for iTunes" the number of potential causes has grown.

Overall, if you want to make sure it sounds like the CD, you still are best off with ripping the CD yourself, or otherwise a FLAC download (not official UMG stuff...). Then you can encode it to whatever you want.
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666dondraper
post May 7 2012, 19:18
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So what's the final verdict? Both retailers are good? Or is Amazon worse because they don't use the same encoding for all their music whereas iTunes does? I always believed that the LAME encoder was superior despite what's been said about AAC being superior to an mp3 file.
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db1989
post May 7 2012, 20:24
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QUOTE (666dondraper @ May 7 2012, 19:18) *
I always believed that the LAME encoder was superior despite what's been said about AAC being superior to an mp3 file.
Why is that?

Hypothetically superior, mind you: at bitrates such as these, it is very unlikely that any given combination of listener and sample will reveal an audible difference.
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666dondraper
post May 8 2012, 05:20
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QUOTE (db1989 @ May 7 2012, 12:24) *
QUOTE (666dondraper @ May 7 2012, 19:18) *
I always believed that the LAME encoder was superior despite what's been said about AAC being superior to an mp3 file.
Why is that?

Hypothetically superior, mind you: at bitrates such as these, it is very unlikely that any given combination of listener and sample will reveal an audible difference.


Sorry to ask, but I must; the OCD part of me just has to know, which digital music retailer would you recommend then? Amazon mp3 or iTunes? Or from my interpretation, correct me if I'm wrong; both equally good with no discernible difference?
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eahm
post May 8 2012, 08:15
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QUOTE (666dondraper @ May 7 2012, 21:20) *
Sorry to ask, but I must; the OCD part of me just has to know, which digital music retailer would you recommend then? Amazon mp3 or iTunes? Or from my interpretation, correct me if I'm wrong; both equally good with no discernible difference?

iTunes 100%. The music will always be there for you to be redownloaded whenever you want to after you delete it. If they upgrade the quality, you get the better quality.

I bought a lot of classical albums from Amazon and I always try to have them reenable the download just to simulate a scenario where all my music is gone. Since it's not a service/feature they offer you always have to email them few times and they don't even give you the original AMZ file so you can get the full albums, they enable song by song only for one download session. They are not ready for an online music store that competes with iTunes.

Google Play Music. Still have to play with it, they probably have the redownload service/feature enabled.

This post has been edited by eahm: May 8 2012, 08:17
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tedgo
post May 8 2012, 08:26
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I know its not the answer to the question but here in germany i first look at "musicload" for downloading music, since they offer "high quality" downloads (PCM in WAV container) for selected albums/tracks and most other files in 320kbps MP3.
If i can't find on musicload what i've been searching for i buy on iTunes.
I never bought music from Amazon, downloaded only some "free of charge" downloads they offer from time to time. So i can't say anything reliable about differences in sound quality between iTunes and Amazon...

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db1989
post May 8 2012, 09:40
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QUOTE (eahm @ May 8 2012, 08:15) *
QUOTE (666dondraper @ May 7 2012, 21:20) *
Sorry to ask, but I must; the OCD part of me just has to know, which digital music retailer would you recommend then? Amazon mp3 or iTunes? Or from my interpretation, correct me if I'm wrong; both equally good with no discernible difference?

iTunes 100%. The music will always be there for you to be redownloaded whenever you want to after you delete it. If they upgrade the quality, you get the better quality.

But I doubt that they will upgrade it any further. That they did once, from 128/DRM to 256/DRM-free, does not indicate that any further upgrade is at all likely.

In fact, despite my question about your assumption that MP3 is technically superior, I now tend to prefer it myself due to its (hypothetically/historically) higher compatibility (while still being transparent in almost all cases). This is probably not likely to be an issue, as AAC is forcing its way into almost all new hardware, and perhaps I am being excessively cautious, but there it is!

QUOTE
Or from my interpretation, correct me if I'm wrong; both equally good with no discernible difference?

Pretty much.

FWIW, in relation to eahm discussing the ability to re-download previously bought files, I have bought from Play.com several times, and this has always been simple to accomplish. I am unsure whether Play sells its MP3 files at 320 kbps or V0, but either is likely to be more than adequate.
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kornchild2002
post May 8 2012, 10:38
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Even if Apple were to start offering higher quality music downloads (i.e. lossless), consumers would likely have to pay an upgrade fee to re-obtain the same content at the new setting. That is what Apple did back when 256kbps was adopted for a small set of record companies and then when it was widely adopted. People had to pay $0.30 per song and $3.00 for each album to upgrade from the 128kbps DRMed files to the 256kbps DRM-free versions. Fast forward many years later and Apple now offers that same functionality through iTunes Match at $25 a year. I highly doubt Apple would let iTunes Match subscribers download everything through again at the lossless setting and instead rely on the older setup: charge users an upgrade fee.

Then again, I don't think Apple is going to adopt lossless as a norm for a long, long time. A major provider hasn't stepped up to offer it and public demand is rather low. Most people I know who buy music from the iTunes Store don't even know that it is encoded at 256kbps, doesn't have any DRM, and uses the AAC format. They just want their music and don't care about the ins and outs. The people who actually know about and use lossless are a small niche compared to the general consumers who just buy music.
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RobertoDomenico
post May 8 2012, 11:46
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Keep in mind that Lame encoded files do not play back gapless over Home Sharing on iPod Touches and iPhones. We can only hope Apple fixes this some day as on the iPad and Apple TV gapless works as it should.

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666dondraper
post May 9 2012, 06:46
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QUOTE (RobertoDomenico @ May 8 2012, 03:46) *
Keep in mind that Lame encoded files do not play back gapless over Home Sharing on iPod Touches and iPhones. We can only hope Apple fixes this some day as on the iPad and Apple TV gapless works as it should.


So I take it that iTunes is the best digital music retailer out there? Compared to Amazonmp3 that is?
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