An observation about some purchased FLAC Files.

One of the ideas which I’ve blogged about often – a pet peeve of mine – is how lossy compression is not inaudible, although some people have claimed it is, and how its use degrades the final quality of modern, streamed or downloaded music.

And so if this is taken to be real for the moment, a question can rise as to what the modern methods are, to purchase High-Fidelity, Classical Music after all. One method could be, only to purchase Audio CDs that were mastered in the 1990s. But then, the eventual problem becomes, that even the best producers may not be mastering new recordings in that format anymore, in the year 2019. We may be able to purchase famous recordings made in the 1990s, but none from later, depending on what, exactly, our needs are. But, an alternative method exists to acquire such music today, especially to acquire the highest quality of Classical music recorded recently.

What people can do is to purchase and download the music in 16-bit, FLAC-compressed format. Ideally, this form of compression should not insert any flaws into the sound on its own. The sound could still be lacking in certain ways, but if it is, then this will be because the raw audio was flawed, before it was even compressed. By definition, lossless compression decompresses exactly to what was present, before the sound was compressed.

I have just taken part in such a transaction, and downloaded Gershwin’s Rhapsody In Blue, in 16-bit FLAC Format. But I made an interesting observation. The raw 16-bit audio at a sample-rate of 44.1kHz, would take up just over 1.4mbps. When I’ve undertaken to Flac-compress such recordings myself, I’ve never been able to achieve a ratio much better than 2:1. Hence, I should not be able to achieve bit-rates much lower than 700kbps. But the recording of Gershwin which I just downloaded, achieves 561kbps. This is a piece in which a piano and a clarinet feature most prominently, and, in this version, also some muted horns. And yet, the overall sound quality of the recording seems good. So what magic might be employed by the producers, to result in smaller FLAC Files?

(Updated 8/27/2019, 14h45 … )

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My First Digital Audio Player

One of the facts which people have been aware of for several decades now, is that we can buy a portable player, specifically for MP3 files, and that if we do, the sound quality will not be so great.

But in more recent years, Digital Audio Players have emerged on the consumer market, that promise lossless playback of high-fidelity sound, the last part of which is just referred to as “High Resolution Sound” by now. This lossless playback-capability does not come, when we listen to MP3-Files with them, but rather, if we actually play back FLAC, or ALAC -Files.

I just bought This sort of device, which is a Fiio X1 II. One of the remarkable facts about this device is, that its Digital-Analog conversion can run at up to 192kHz, and it sports the possibility of 32-bit sound. What I assume in such a case is, that even if I was to listen to a 48kHz -sampled audio file, 4-factor oversampling would in fact take place, because the D/A converter would continue to run at 192kHz, and I’d also assume that the analog filter would stay as-is, with a cutoff-frequency around 20kHz. But because I am in fact listening to 44.1kHz -sampled sound, I also assume that the whole D/A converter is being slowed down to 176.4kHz. ( :1 )

I have this working with My recently-purchased headphones, and am listening to a mix of MP3, OGG and FLAC -compressed music. I would say that this combination has significantly better sound, than the sound-chip in my Samsung Galaxy S6 phone does. ( :2 )

When I received this DAP, it had firmware version 1.6 already installed. But, I updated the firmware to the latest, v1.7… In fact, formatting the SD card with ‘exFAT’, as well as applying the firmware update, worked easily for me, even from Linux computers. The SD Card is a Sony.

My only regret is, that I personally, don’t have the manual dexterity which would have been needed to install the supplied screen-protector properly. I had the presence of mind to pull it back off, when it did not align correctly, and to dispose of the screen-protector. So I can expect some scuff-marks in the future. :-)

Happy, with Music,

Dirk

(Updated 07/09/2018, 14h55 … )

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