(This question was asked on the Strathspey list by Eike Urke.)
I have digitized half of our SCD CDs and now discovered that the MP3 quality I chose was higher quality - 192 kbps. My son says that he could also digitize them to 320 kbps. What has been your experience with larger halls? Or is the highest quality too much time and room consuming when working with it later at the class? What did you chose as quality setting in I-tunes?
I am wondering if I should start from the beginning or continue as before.
asked 16 Nov '12, 18:02
There are lots of myths surrounding the comparative quality of MP3 files at various bitrates vis-à-vis the corresponding CDs. Many people will claim that of course they can »hear« whether a recording is MP3 or CD, and that MP3 recordings, being »lossy«, will always sound way worse than the corresponding CDs. (The hi-fidelity audio scene is full of such myths, which is good if you're a company selling $100-per-foot speaker cables and similar gadgets.)
However: In 2000, c't, the leading German-language computer magazine, conducted »blind tests« between MP3 files encoded at various bit rates and the original uncompressed CDs that served as the source for the MP3 encodings. The jury consisted of professional sound engineers, musicians and other people whose ears ought to be up to the task of telling whether a given sound emanating from the speakers originated from CD or an MP3 file. The result – which many people at the time did not like at all, but which was statistically significant and stood after various replications of the test – was that, regardless of musical genre, an MP3 file with a reasonable bit rate (and 192 kbps is quite reasonable in this respect) is indistinguishable from a CD even for audio professionals using superb equipment. Even 128-kbps MP3 files were sometimes considered »better« than the original CDs. With over a decade of incremental improvements to MP3 encoders between then and now, it is reasonable to assume that, if anything, the quality of MP3 files has only increased further in the meantime.
In the real (SCD) world, we do not use the type of top-of-the-line amplifiers and speakers that will tease out the highest achievable sound quality upon playback in a dedicated sound studio (and ostensibly leave the inferior MP3 files in the lurch), and our listeners, instead of concentrating hard in order to identify minute tell-tales in the audio that might possibly allow them to say whether it was MP3 or CD, have other things to do that will distract them from listening too closely to the music. (As a dance teacher I must say that at times I'd be more than happy if they listened to the music at all.)
In other words, if I were you I'd keep encoding my music using 192 kbps (and save myself encoding time and disk space in the process). It is overwhelmingly likely that nobody in your audience will be able to reliably tell the difference between 192-kbps MP3 files and 320-kbps MP3 files, or for that matter the original CDs – not even in an otherwise quiet room on audio equipment that is probably a few tens of thousands of Euros more expensive than what you're using, and most emphatically not while doing Scottish country dancing in a crowded ballroom or class venue at the same time. In particular, when getting together audio playback equipment for a larger hall, you have a few dozen vastly more important things to worry about than whether your MP3 encodings are 192 kbps or 320 kbps.
answered 16 Nov '12, 18:03