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'[OT] sound cards, spdif, etc'
1999\07\19@005106 by Steve Ridley

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I would like to use a PC to play MP3. Is there a sound card that is better
suited for this purpose. I am aware that MP3 is 16 bit and sub-CD quality. I
just wondered if there are sound cards and sound cards. Even at this
distance from professional quality.

Steve

{Original Message removed}

1999\07\19@014131 by Thomas Brandon

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NB: The following is all my opinions. I am not a master on MP3 compression.
I understand none of the details of it. Most of this is from my friends
experiences.

MP3 isn't stored as individual samples and thus bitrate and sample rate are
not directly relevant. But yes,
MP3 decodes to 16bit. As to whether or not it is sub CD-quality that is
another question. Yes there is less audio information than CD quality
(16-bit 44kHz) but MP3 uses psychoacoustical rules for it's compression. The
basic premise of this is to analyze the way ears work and send enough
information of the right type so the ear gets the same info. i.e. you may
only send a 1/4 of the information on a CD but that's enough for the ear to
get 90% of the sound.

In my opinion two major things that effect MP3 quality are the bit rate and
cutoff. The bitrate is analogous to the quality of the sound. According to
most info 128 MP3s are labelled as CD quality. From experience I would
suggest you use at least 160. 160 provides a fair increase in quality for a
small size increase. That's not too say I can tell the difference easily
between 128 and 160 but I'm convinced it's there. One of the main
differences is 160 has much better stereo than 128. Most of my MP3s are in
160 and I find them to be of highly acceptable quality. I rarely if ever
notice a major difference between 160 and CD. Cutoff is what is going to
butcher the quality of your MP3s. Cutoff is largely determined by the
encoder you use. DO NOT use the Xing 1.0 codec it has horrible cutoff. Go
for the Fraunhofer Professional codec or for speed the new Xing Codec
included in Audio Catalyst, it is fast and of fair quality).

In terms of soundcard it shouldn't matter too much. There will be a decrease
in quality of course but you are unlikely to notice it. My friend has an
SB16 which ain't exactly high quality yet he is able to pick the cutoff of a
given MP3 by ear. Thus, I would suggest the SB16 is high enough quality (if
you can ever use quality and SB16 in the same sentence) for MP3 playback.

If sound card quality is an issue then I would suggest you don't use MP3 as
if the difference between 2 low end soundcards bothers you, the difference
between MP3 and CD will almost certainly bother you.

Tom.
----- Original Message -----
From: Steve Ridley <spam_OUTsteverTakeThisOuTspamINSNET.COM.AU>
Subject: Re: [OT] sound cards, spdif, etc


> I would like to use a PC to play MP3. Is there a sound card that is better
> suited for this purpose. I am aware that MP3 is 16 bit and sub-CD quality.
I
> just wondered if there are sound cards and sound cards. Even at this
> distance from professional quality.

1999\07\19@021421 by Ross Bencina

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From: Steve Ridley wrote:

>I would like to use a PC to play MP3. Is there a sound card that is better
>suited for this purpose. I am aware that MP3 is 16 bit and sub-CD quality.
I
>just wondered if there are sound cards and sound cards. Even at this
>distance from professional quality.


There are soundcards and soundcard even at this level... I have seen
comparisons in magazines.. Perhaps German CT magazine would be a good place
to look if you can grok German. A low-price soundcard from someone who makes
high-end gear (EMU, Ensoniq, TurtleBeach) would probably be better that a
high-end card from a low-end manufacturer. Emagic are now making a 2 channel
card with spdif that would most likely sound good.

A common rule of thumb is that having a matched system is good practice
unless you're in the process of upgrading. So if your source is poor, don't
wast money on a $2000 soundcard/amp/speakers/speaker cables. I'm not a
supporter of mp3 for audio, but I would say that with a better soundcard it
will sound better than with the lowest common denominator - a better
soundcard _might_ make the shortcomings of mp3 more noticable though.

Ross.




>Steve
>
>{Original Message removed}

1999\07\19@022043 by Steve Ridley

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Thanks Thomas. I learnt a lot from your reply. I am particularly interested
in which encoder to use. I would like to be able to "rip" CD's and encode
these. I have the paranoia ripper which outputs a wav file. Those encoders
you mentioned they wouldn't happen to be utilities that I can run on Linux
and you wouldn't happen to know any web addresses for them. Would you ?

Steve

{Original Message removed}

1999\07\19@030645 by brad

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Steve Ridley wrote:
>
> Thanks Thomas. I learnt a lot from your reply. I am particularly interested
> in which encoder to use. I would like to be able to "rip" CD's and encode
> these. I have the paranoia ripper which outputs a wav file. Those encoders
> you mentioned they wouldn't happen to be utilities that I can run on Linux
> and you wouldn't happen to know any web addresses for them. Would you ?
>

go to freshmeat and do a search for bladeenc
It's a pretty good .mp3 encoder, or at least, the .mp3's I make with it
rival the quality of the old l3enc with the -hq switch on.
I also use cdparanoia for ripping from an atapi cdrom in linux..

Good luck, and happy ripping..
Brad....

1999\07\19@113742 by Bob Blick

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On Mon, 19 Jul 1999, Steve Ridley wrote:
> I would like to use a PC to play MP3. Is there a sound card that is better
> suited for this purpose. I am aware that MP3 is 16 bit and sub-CD quality. I
> just wondered if there are sound cards and sound cards. Even at this
> distance from professional quality.

Hi Steve,

I may be in the minority, but I like the Soundblaster Vibra 16. It is
their cheapest card. If all you are doing is playing mp3, you don't want
all the other stuff adding mixer noise and being an antenna for bus
sounds. I have one in my car and it gets a lot of high volume use. The
signal-to-noise ratio is excellent.

Of course, I also like the Xing 1.0 compressor best, because of the
cutoff. I've never felt that 20khz was an acceptable cutoff for 44ksps
audio, and the 16khz cutoff of the Xing compressor works well. Note that
the current Xing compressor(with VBR) does not have this cutoff.

If you want a test of your compressor, try encoding the Beatles "Nowhere
Man". It shows up flaws in most compressors. This test only works if you
have the Beatles collection on CD :-)

For playing mp3 on Linux I recommend mpg123. It is the best sounding.
Under Windows the 2.04 version of Winamp is the best(not the new one).

These opinions are just my .02

Regards,
Bob

1999\07\19@115356 by Richard A. Smith

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On Mon, 19 Jul 1999 15:42:14 +1000, Thomas Brandon wrote:

>NB: The following is all my opinions. I am not a master on MP3 compression.
>I understand none of the details of it. Most of this is from my friends
>experiences.

I have been using audio mpeg since layer II.  Slowly building a
collection on my HD.

I have a little script that runs as a cron job that starts playing a
random song for an alarm clock.

>In my opinion two major things that effect MP3 quality are the bit rate and
>cutoff. The bitrate is analogous to the quality of the sound. According to
>most info 128 MP3s are labelled as CD quality. From experience I would
>suggest you use at least 160. 160 provides a fair increase in quality for a
>small size increase. That's not too say I can tell the difference easily
>between 128 and 160 but I'm convinced it's there. One of the main

The encoder I use (LAME) has a cutoff of 16khz at lower thatn
160kbit/s which I think you will find in most encoders..

160kbit is the way to go.. I even use Varaible Bit Rate (VBR) which
can increase the bit rate on the fly if it thinks it needs to.  A
160kbit/s VBR stream is very difficult to determine from the
original.  In some headphone tests I did back and forth sometimes I
thought I could tell that there was a difference somewhere but I
could not tell what it was.

IMHO LAME is the best non-commercial enocder out there and it just
keeps getting better. I am on the LAME mailing list and there is a
lot of developement being done be people who seem to know what they
are doing... Its audio quality is MUCH better than any other free
encoder and is very close to the commercial FGH encoder.

It's pretty fast as well.. a 266 can do faster than realtime
encoding..

>In terms of soundcard it shouldn't matter too much. There will be a decrease
>in quality of course but you are unlikely to notice it. My friend has an
>SB16 which ain't exactly high quality yet he is able to pick the cutoff of a
>given MP3 by ear. Thus, I would suggest the SB16 is high enough quality (if
>you can ever use quality and SB16 in the same sentence) for MP3 playback.
>
>If sound card quality is an issue then I would suggest you don't use MP3 as
>if the difference between 2 low end soundcards bothers you, the difference
>between MP3 and CD will almost certainly bother you.

I have had lots of soundcards SB,gravis,sb16,SB clones,Echo
DSP,Ensonic Audio PCI and 2 or 3 chipsets that came with my laptop or
built onto my motherboard.

2 things I generally find stick out...

1) as already mentioned thier cutoffs.. A card with no high end
sounds like its under water and one with no low end sounds tinny...
one without either end sounds like an AM radio news cast.  I found
that the worst were the built in chipsets on my Laptop and MB and the
knockoff sb clones. Pay $25 for a sound card and expect low quality
results.  The execption to this rule is the Ensonic Audio PCI.
(Creative bought Ensonic I think so it may be Creative Audio PCI now)
I found the Ensonic card while searching for compatible cards for
linux I came across a web page (sorry I didn't save the URL) where
the author had a suite of tests that he ran on various cards that
measured the S/N, cutoff and other parameters.  The Audio PCI scored
2nd in almost every test.  It's $40 and supported under Linux.  The
top card was a Turtle Beach product at around $300.  My choice was
fairly easy.
I highly recommend the Ensonic Audio PCI. I have been quite happy
with it. (I can only speak for Linux though)

2) How quiet are they when no sound is playing and the HD is
chunking?  This is kinda a real world S/N ratio.  I have yet to find
a sound card that I thought did an adequate job of this.  Even the
Audio PCI.  When the volume is turned up and no signal I is present I
can hear lots of background noise. Especially when the HD is working.
It really dosen't affect the sound quality much since even quite
passages drown the noise out just annoying.  Perhaps this is what
seperates the Turtle Beach products from the rest of the pack.


--
Richard A. Smith                         Bitworks, Inc.
.....rsmithKILLspamspam@spam@bitworks.com               501.521.3908
Sr. Design Engineer        http://www.bitworks.com

1999\07\19@151833 by Bernhard Kraft

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On Mon, 19 Jul 1999, Steve Ridley wrote:

>Thanks Thomas. I learnt a lot from your reply. I am particularly interested
>in which encoder to use. I would like to be able to "rip" CD's and encode
>these. I have the paranoia ripper which outputs a wav file. Those encoders
>you mentioned they wouldn't happen to be utilities that I can run on Linux
>and you wouldn't happen to know any web addresses for them. Would you ?
>
>Steve

Xing mp3 encoder is available for Linux. And it's lightning fast.
http://www.xingtech.com

grtz,
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1999\07\19@153036 by Bernhard Kraft

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On Mon, 19 Jul 1999, Bob Blick wrote:

>For playing mp3 on Linux I recommend mpg123. It is the best sounding.
>Under Windows the 2.04 version of Winamp is the best(not the new one).
Which version of mpg123 ? I had problems with mpg123 ... making strange
noises. So I use the program "sajberplay" which comes with the "Sajber
Jukebox" if I want to play mp3's from a shell or "xmms" (old name was
"x11amp") if I'm under a graphical environment.


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