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by on May 25, 2010 at 2:20 pm in Web/Tech | Permalink

1 TomHynes May 25, 2010 at 2:32 pm

The compression story buried the lede – in blind testing compressed files were preferred to uncompressed .wav files. Also, the more highly compressed files were preferred to the less highly compressed files.

2 John Thacker May 25, 2010 at 3:06 pm


Not quite right. In blind testing essentially everything above a certain minimum bit rate (higher needed for mp3s than for newer compression schemes) was indistinguishable. Sometimes the higher bit rate or uncompressed files scored better, sometimes worse.

Even “uncompressed” files aren’t really perfect, since there’s still a sample rate. At high enough bit rates of compression, the errors introduced by compression are small enough compared to other sources of error anyway.

3 Andrew May 25, 2010 at 3:18 pm

3. Someone posted that here I think a couple years ago. Maybe Barkley Rosser.

4 DK May 25, 2010 at 4:01 pm

Re #4, 3m libor exceeded the two year treasury rate by over 100 basis points for two weeks in December 2008, without the world coming to an end.

5 William May 25, 2010 at 4:14 pm

I’m not entirely surprised about mp3/wma/wav thing. This type of data compression can add some “crunchiness” to the songs that some find pleasing (to use the words of Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood.) I didn’t see it mentioned in the article but this type of compression shelves significant quantities of higher frequency sound – this means the listener may be focusing more on the sound that “matters”, that is the mid-range. (see: If I’m right, it’s a bit of a slap in the face of hi-fi nuts who spend 1,000$ on power cables and such in order to squeeze their beloved ultrasonic frequencies (not that audiophile theory is on terra firma in the first place.)

mp3 has an option for variable bit rates, where the compression is contingent upon the data at the moment – if the algorithm judges that more bits are needed ATM it will compress less, and vise versa (wma may but I never use it so I dunno.) I wonder how this would have performed? On one hand it may have a higher overall bit rate, but you can also hear the effects of the compression fluctuating – I find it un-listenable sometimes, incredibly distracting.

They also didn’t check ogg vorbis, which is supposed to sound better than mp3 (and doesn’t require the same licensing mp3 does.)

6 tkehler May 25, 2010 at 5:48 pm

I read Moxham’s fine book a while ago. The hedge has disappeared to such an extent that thousands, indeed tens of thousands, living right where it used to be have no idea about it. And yet it was enormous and impenetrable.

7 lucs May 25, 2010 at 8:54 pm

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8 Paul N May 25, 2010 at 10:32 pm

The audio compression article is BEGGING for some p tests or at least standard deviations. Just painful to read.

9 Vehical Driver May 26, 2010 at 1:19 am

People are missing the point of using high bitrates, or no compression at all:

Artifacts are cumulative. And compression algorithms choke on the artifacts of previous compression algorithms.

Take a 128kb mp3, convert it to a lossless wave file, then to a 128kb ogg.

Take a 320kb mp3, convert it to a lossless wave file, then to a 128kb ogg.

Even if a 320kb mp3 and 128kb mp3 provide negligible sound difference, when you do the conversion, the source with the fewer artifacts sounds better.

10 dearieme May 26, 2010 at 10:00 am

On the science biz, the most stimulating note I’ve ever read is Bruce Charlton’s.

You’ll see that he suggests that “the science selection process ruthlessly weeds-out interesting and imaginative people”. I wonder where such people go now? Not, present company excepted, into Economics, I suspect.

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