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Holering

audio compression come to a halt?

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It doesn't seem like audio compression has improved. It seems MP3 and ogg are still primary options.

Why don't we have anything better? It's not like we have smartphones that can't record and playback compressed video and audio.

What about mp5 or mp6? SuperOGG? What about 32-bit 44.1khz audio (isn't DVD over a decade old?)?

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In the 90s and early 00s, making files as small as possible was cool. Now, it's all about needing a dedicated 2 terabyte hd for your lossless FLAC files!!!!!

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AAC? Speex? Opus? All of those came after MP3 and Ogg Vorbis, if I'm not mistaken. As Ralphis mentioned, it's not so much of a space problem these days. It's about quality, and probably also still bandwidth to some degree.

32-bit 44.1KHz... well technically FLAC can already do that, though I think the reference implementation only supports up to 24-bit. Technically, however, the end-listener shouldn't care about 24-bit vs 32-bit. Current hardware probably doesn't have the dynamic range or SNR to really handle 32-bit depth, playback or recording.

EDIT: The average human ear has a dynamic range of about 120dB, between the threshold of hearing (quietest possible sound) and the threshold of pain (a Manowar concert). 24-bit has a theoretical range of 144dB, but high-end audio systems usually get to about 124dB (21-bits). Plus there's that whole "20Hz-20KHz" range.

And before anyone asks... 32-bit (and higher) in DAWs basically gives you more headroom. Yep, that's an over-simplification, but that's the gist. This translates to more accuracy when you finally convert the bit depth later on, either with software or simply with a DAC. That's why most DAWs and audio software work with 32-bit files, and why some DAWs (like I know SONAR does this) have an internal signal chain of 64-bits.

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Holering said:

SuperOGG?

Yes, it's called opus: http://opus-codec.org/ Which is reportedly the best lossy audio codec out there.

Holering said:

What about 32-bit 44.1khz audio (isn't DVD over a decade old?)?

As long as we're talking about lossy codecs, they'll never really go above 48khz 16-bit. With dithering the dynamic range and representable frequencies covers the hearing range of humans, thus the psycho-acoustic model will throw out any additional depth to save space.

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There's only so much you can do to compress audio, and the technology to do it has been mature for a long time. Video compression, on the other hand, is still very much progressing, with VP8, HEVC, Daala, etc.

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MP3 made the biggest inroads in the late 90s and it's diminishing returns from then on. Given increases in bandwidth and storage capacity over time, the need for better compression is less important than the usefulness of standardising on a single common file format. For analogies you can also look at formats like JPEG/GIF, also unchanged since the 90s. Arguably ZIP is another example of a file format that remains dominant even though better alternatives now exist, though there have been some extensions to it over the years.

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MP3 goes even further back, as it's essentially part of the MPEG1 standard (in fact, MP3 stands for "MPEG, Part 3"), and Sony's MiniDisk and Philips' Digital Compact Cassette were essentially MPEG streams stored on a MO disk and on a digital tape, accordingly, even if Sony called it ATRAC and Philips called it PASC.

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fraggle said:

For analogies you can also look at formats like JPEG/GIF, also unchanged since the 90s.

GIF is pretty bad as an image format nowadays, sure, but JPEG is still highly competitive with even the latest advances in image compression.

HEVC sets the bar high for image performance, but it turns out that just improving performance over the decades-old JPEG is surprisingly hard. As Daala's lead researcher Tim Terriberry likes to say, "JPEG is alien technology from the future". It's an example of the kind of implausibly good performance that results from getting the minute details of a standard just right.

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All kinds of audio, image or video compression, in the end, have to contend with the limits imposed by lossless data compression, as they all use some form of conventional lossless compression in their final stage, with the true "art" residing in the selective retention (or rejection) of data from the original signal, in order to make it more compressible. The end result is data that is highly random and non-repetitive.

And as we know, random data compression can be extremely tricky.

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yukib1t said:

32-bit 44.1KHz... well technically FLAC can already do that, though I think the reference implementation only supports up to 24-bit. Technically, however, the end-listener shouldn't care about 24-bit vs 32-bit. Current hardware probably doesn't have the dynamic range or SNR to really handle 32-bit depth, playback or recording.

FLAC is kind of old isn't it? There's optimfrog which is also kind of old but much more efficient. Then there's wavpack and APE. I think FLAC is great, but I think portable devices are capable of more cpu intense codecs. Don't understand why there's no mp3 players with rechargeable watch batteries that last 30,000 hours, especially with CD's still common; why not one like a watch with built-in amp (wouldn't fall off when jogging like those stupid clips they all have!)?. Supposedly mp3 directly encodes 24-bit audio without dithering to 16-bit first hand (if true I think it makes mp3 even more cool).

Wasn't aware of opus and aac. Both seem great but MP3 still seems very useful.

Also, I don't want to spend $100+ dollars on a tablet with all this internet browsing and things I'll never use. What if I want the most generic music player with a mere LED display (like those ones from 80's VCR's)?

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Holering said:

Also, I don't want to spend $100+ dollars on a tablet with all this internet browsing and things I'll never use. What if I want the most generic music player with a mere LED display (like those ones from 80's VCR's)?

How about seeing what you can do with Rockbox on an old mp3 player.

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Holering said:

FLAC is kind of old isn't it? There's optimfrog which is also kind of old but much more efficient Then there's wavpack and APE. I think FLAC is great, but I think portable devices are capable of more cpu intense codecs.


Regardless of how old or new a lossless codec is, so far there has been none with significant and consistent performance improvements over the others, regardless of how much hardware one is willing to throw at the problem. Getting 1% better compression sometimes at the cost of 1000% longer encoding time is not really a good ROI. As with any kind of data compression, there are some theoretical limits over how much compression can be achieved. TBQH, I'm surprised anyone is still trying to develop a "better" codec. The only aspect which can be "new" is which format will have the "best" built-in DRM for majors to adopt it. FLAC is "old" only because it wasn't built with this shit in mind.

Source:

http://www.bobulous.org.uk/misc/lossless_audio_2006.html

Notice how all codecs are pretty much in the same ballpark, regarding final size (within a few %). Even if some result in consistently higher compression than the other, that simply shows that they are closer to the theoretical lower size limit.

OptiFROG in particular, is not even consistently THE smallest, but is by far THE slowest.

Holering said:

Don't understand why there's no mp3 players with rechargeable watch batteries that last 30,000 hours, especially with CD's still common


Those same watch batteries that can last for years in a digital watch, wouldn't last even for half an hour if they were to power a digital player at audible levels.

Holering said:

why not one like a watch with built-in amp (wouldn't fall off when jogging like those stupid clips they all have!)?


There already are wrist-players, only that they use the same batteries as any MP3 players.

Holering said:

Supposedly mp3 directly encodes 24-bit audio without dithering to 16-bit first hand (if true I think it makes mp3 even more cool).


Internal processing is done at better-than-16-bit precision, indeed, but it's not a given that a specific encoder will be able to handle 24 or 32-bit input audio data without mangling it to 16-bit.

Holering said:

Also, I don't want to spend $100+ dollars on a tablet with all this internet browsing and things I'll never use. What if I want the most generic music player with a mere LED display (like those ones from 80's VCR's)?


You mean something like this? These are so generic that they run off AAA batteries, so you can even use scrap alkalines or zinc-carbon to power them, apart from rechargeables. Be the envy of all you iBuddies, by bringing with you practically unlimited listening time ;-) Too bad such players are limited to 2 or 4 GB capacity though....but they are as basic as they get.

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Maes said:
FLAC is "old" only because it wasn't built with this shit in mind.

I'm assuming you mean 1000% more cpu for only %1 gain in compression right?

Maes said:
Those same watch batteries that can last for years in a digital watch, wouldn't last even for half an hour if they were to power a digital player at audible levels.

Can you explain why? I think that sucks.

Maes said:
Internal processing is done at better-than-16-bit precision, indeed, but it's not a given that a specific encoder will be able to handle 24 or 32-bit input audio data without mangling it to 16-bit.

Can you provide a link with proof? I looked for evidence for lame mp3 but I couldn't find anything.

Maes said:You mean something like this

Almost; except one with a sdcard slot (you know because you want unlimited storage and life right?).

BTW I didn't know flac could do 32-bit 44.1khz audio.

Too bad we don't have analog laserDVD audio. That would kill vinyl while being small I think.

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i'd advise against getting an MP3 player like the one Maes linked. at least get one with a sensible GUI and RockBox support, they don't cost a lot of money at all, and will give you much less of a headache to use, seriously. and while you're at it, make sure it has SD-card support, too, so you can buy a huge fuck-off card and stick it into there. you'll never have to worry about space ever again, especially if you compress the files so that you can have thousands of them on there.

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Doomhuntress said:

i'd advise against getting an MP3 player like the one Maes linked. at least get one with a sensible GUI and RockBox support, they don't cost a lot of money at all, and will give you much less of a headache to use, seriously.

A gui gives me the worst music player experience. If I'm riding a bicycle or walking in a park, I need something that can be used blindly. A gui is the worst way to let me play music, unless I can sit my ass on a hill just to make sure it does what it's supposed to. The link Maes provides gives a waaaay better music experience.

Holering said:

Too bad we don't have analog laserDVD audio. That would kill vinyl while being small I think.

People would probably waste a lot less discs too.

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Holering said:

A gui gives me the worst music player experience. If I'm riding a bicycle or walking in a park, I need something that can be used blindly. A gui is the worst way to let me play music, unless I can sit my ass on a hill just to make sure it does what it's supposed to. The link Maes provides gives a waaaay better music experience.

then just shuffle all the tracks and that's it? do you like owning an MP3 player where all your songs get thrown in a complete random order, making it impossible to listen to just one album, if that's what you wanted to do at some point? owning one of those things was the worst music experience i had ever had with a player, and i'm glad i don't use such a thing anymore.

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Doomhuntress said:

then just shuffle all the tracks and that's it?

Well that does work. But sometimes my mood changes, or I'm in a environment that makes me crave something specific maybe. I don't know for sure and maybe you're right. I think I used to listen to the radio too much.

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Maes said:

Stuff about encoding complexity.

To me, encoding time makes no difference (to a point) since it only needs to be done once (I encode all my music to maximum compression flac). What does make a difference is decode time/complexity. Although it might not be the case for the codecs mentioned there, after a certain point in order to get higher compression ratios the format must resort to being symmetrical (as hard to decode as it is to encode). I seem to recall that Monkey's Audio (APE) and OptimFROG is very slow to decode, but my information could be old. Good for archival, but useless for playback unless you want to kill your battery.

FLAC is asymmetrical, so for the most part the compression ratio doesn't affect the decode speed, and it's really fast to decode.

Holering said:

Too bad we don't have analog laserDVD audio. That would kill vinyl while being small I think.

Storing analog signals takes a lot of physical space. Although I do personally find the idea of Laserdisc audio interesting. They're the same size as vinyl with about the same storage capacity for analog audio. Plus they can have a digital PCM track simultaneously. But in any case people like vinyl either because they typically use a better master or because they have some kind of nostalgia for the format. One group would switch back to CD the moment labels stop with the loudness war, the other won't switch no matter what you present them with.

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Holering said:

I'm assuming you mean 1000% more cpu for only %1 gain in compression right?


No, I meant that discographic majors will only support a format built with DRM in mind, so "open" formats like FLAC etc. are out right off the bat.

Holering said:

Can you explain why? I think that sucks.


It may have something to do with their small size.

Holering said:

Can you provide a link with proof? I looked for evidence for lame mp3 but I couldn't find anything.


That is left as an exercise for the reader.

Holering said:

Almost; except one with a sdcard slot (you know because you want unlimited storage and life right?).


I have a model which has a SD slot and no internal storage, but even those are limited to 2-4 GB sizes. There are several reasons for that, the first being that they all use the same 8-bit chipsets/microcontrollers, which only implement support for the FAT filesystem (which is simple enough to implement on them). If you want more space, you need to graduate to more complex players, which also means built-in batteries, larger screens, GUIs etc.

Holering said:

Too bad we don't have analog laserDVD audio. That would kill vinyl while being small I think.


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http://www.tunequest.org/a-big-list-of-mp3-patents/20070226/
Tomorrow, one of the nine remaining MP3 patents expire. In total, four will expire this year, one will expire the next year, and the last four will expire in 2017. In 2018, MP3 will be a public-domain standard. (The two non-US patents expired in 2006 and 2007.)

And for just the decoding part, it should be patent-free on September 22 of this year.

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Maes said:

Source:

http://www.bobulous.org.uk/misc/lossless_audio_2006.html

Notice how all codecs are pretty much in the same ballpark, regarding final size (within a few %).

This is kind of what I was getting at in my previous comment. The difference between FLAC and OptimFROG really isn't that big, while at the same time there are real, tangible benefits to using a dominant, well-supported format. Lots of software supports FLAC now and there are even a decent number of MP3 players that will play it.

If for example you decided based on this evidence to encode your entire music collection in OptimFROG, you might save a bit of space on your hard drive. But in the long term I think you'd see it as a mistake, as you see how practically nothing supports playing it back. The only good side to this is that it's losslessly compressed, meaning that you can convert it all to FLAC later on, but if you made the same mistake with a lossy format like MP3 the results could be disastrous.

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That page's comparisons seem kind of pointless though.

FLAC (.flac)
dBpowerAMP codec release 5.3, using FLAC 1.1.2.
Compression mode: 4 (medium).

Monkey's Audio (.ape)
dBpowerAMP codec release 7, using Monkey's Audio 3.99.
Compression mode: High.

OptimFROG (.ofr)
Using OptimFROG 4.506.
Compression mode: Fast.

Okay, so details from the first three, and none of them use comparable settings.

They should have done their comparisons with similar settings: either use maximal compression for all, or fast compression for all; not max for some, fast for others, and medium for yet others.

Or make three runs for each codec: one in max compression, one in max speed, and one in default/medium settings.

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Even with those asymmetries, the test is quite telling: if OptiFROG's "fast" mode is twice as slow as the other codec's average, I'd hate to see its "slow" modes, which would probably result in 0.5-1% better compression.

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I think Ape looks much better than optimfrog in this case, and support doesn't seem cryptic. I think wavpack has an extra high custom mode that uses lots of CPU for encoding, but decoding stays the same (not much CPU use). I'd agree FLAC is very good.

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It's pretty telling that OptimFROG has been around since 2001 and there don't exist any free decoders for it, not even in ffmpeg which is fairly famous for supporting really obscure codecs.

Realistically, FLAC is the only lossless format to consider. It has very good compression ratio, generally light on the CPU, and extremely wide hardware and software support. ALAC might be an alternative (which has free decoders and encoders) if you own Apple devices.

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packing bits has its limits and a look up table has its limit. unless some gigantic mathematical mastermind discovers a long missed point it would become rather hard to get audio smaller with the same quality.

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