any chance of AAC support?

@tempusfuzit wrote:


@marvin_martian wrote:
Is it really SanDisk’s fault that some people were misinformed or uninformed enough to buy music from iTunes in that format? The phrase “caveat emptor” comes to mind:wink:


 

I was certainly aware of the limited support for AAC when I made my iTunes purchases, but I really had no choice. Firstly, I hate the sound quality of mp3 files - I certainly would not pay money for them. Secondly, I hate DRM, and iTunes is now DRM free, whearas the WMA ones in my neck of the woods still had DRM on them. I actually prefer the sound of WMA to AAC - I convert my CD collection to this codec for the sound quality. But the stuff I got from iTunes I could not buy as a CD, and there was no where else to go.

The newest version of the LAME “mp3” codec is transparent (indistinguishable from lossless) at its highest quality setting for the vast majority of people. The older mp3 encoders, as you stated, did not sound so hot. I will agree with you that the newer WMA VBR on Windows Media Player 11 can produce good quality sound. And yeah, I understand there is some music you can’t find anywhere else but iTunes…I’d like that to change, but there’s nothing I can do about it…I’m just one poor music fan.

@tempusfuzit wrote:


@peregrine wrote:

Instead of pressuring Sansa, MS, Creative and everyone else to adopt AAC maybe the people shoulod pressure Apple to embrace MP3 or FLC. (Of course I know that won’t happen. Just saying…)

 


AAC is the successor codec to MP3 - designed by more or less the same people. It is a modern codec, like WMA, intended to improve sound quality and/or increase the compression ratio. Sooner or later one would hope that mp3 could be laid to rest - its had its day, and frankly to me sounds substandard, even at 320kbps.

 

Obviously Sansa thought they ought to support a modern advanced codec, hence their support of WMA. It just rather unfortunate they chose to support the codec that has the least market support. Though it may change in the future, at present there are more AAC files out there than WMA. The obvious sensible decision would be to support both if possible.

 

I am rather forming the opinion that there might be pressure from Microsoft not too support their arch rivals codec. Perhaps Sansa get a good licensing deal from Microsoft if they drop support for AAC. I don’t know if this is true, of course, but it sounds plausible. Microsoft has behaved this way in the past on many occasions.

 

Well, its one of many would be successor formats to MP3.  The only thing special about AAC from this stand point, is that many of the same people behind MP3 also get paid when you license AAC.  Since their MP3 patents are expiring as the format becomes free, they won’t get paid much longer unless you switch to AAC.  Of course, if you don’t switch, soon people won’t have to pay anything at all :slight_smile:

 

Regarding WMA, they presumably chose it so they could support music stores.  MS sells that with their codec license, the MPEG-LA does not, so unless you’re got your own music store, AAC is quite a bit worse of a deal.

Don’t forget that WMA format is the ‘de facto’ standard with audio books you ‘borrow’ from the library. Yes, they have DRM encryption (which is why that format was probably chosen) so that a time limit can be imposed. If they didn’t have this, then the library systems across the country would basically be ‘giving’ the books away instead of ‘loaning’ them.

@marvin_martian wrote:

Actually, the Zune players do support AAC. Sansa would have to pay a licensing fee to support AAC, which a Sansa employee here said they would not do.

Good point about the Zune. Microsoft would still have a motive for deterring others from supporting AAC, since it gives the Zune an advantage.

As to the licensing fee, evidently they must pay it for the View, since that supports AAC. Perhaps then the reasoning behind lack of AAC on the Fuze is a marketing ploy to get people to spend the extra for a View?

@marvin_martian wrote:

 

The newest version of the LAME “mp3” codec is transparent (indistinguishable from lossless) at its highest quality setting for the vast majority of people. The older mp3 encoders, as you stated, did not sound so hot. I will agree with you that the newer WMA VBR on Windows Media Player 11 can produce good quality sound. And yeah, I understand there is some music you can’t find anywhere else but iTunes…I’d like that to change, but there’s nothing I can do about it…I’m just one poor music fan.

Not transparent to me though. I find it quite amusing when people talk about codecs reaching CD quality. For one thing, most CD’s to me sound pretty awful - there are very few really good recordings. Secondly none of the codecs sound as good as CD’s to me - the term “transparent” in this context says more about the limitations of the people used in the tests than the quality of the sound. 

I have yet to hear any lossy codec, no matter how high the bitrate, that I cannot easily tell from the lossless version, even on relatively poor (by hi-fi standards) MP3 players with cheap headphones. MP3 does something to the sound that I can detect at any bitrate. I have on one occasion put an mp3 encoded MicroSD into my player by accident, rather than the AAC encoded card I had intended, while shopping. Even though my attention was not on the music as I wandered around the shopping centre, I began to notice that I was not enjoying the music very much. It was when I got home I discovered the error. This was not an A-B comparison situation, comparing the sound with the original. There were no placebo effects in operation in this case. I could tell the music was somehow “strangulated” and unsatisfying even when not giving it my full attention.

If i play AAC or WMA files, I enjoy the music, whearas using MP3 the music fails to hold my attention, and my mind immediately wanders from the music onto other things. Something about MP3 comes accross to me as unfocussed - like looking at a picture through dirty glasses.

Similarly I enjoy the music more with WMA than AAC - the music has more bite, more detail and more articulation, which I believe is because WMA handles transients better than other codecs.

IF I were to list the codecs I have listended to in order of sound quality, the list would be WMA, (MP2, Musepack, roughly even), (AAC, Vorbis, roughly even), then finally way way at the botttom, MP3.

But I appreciate that this is all unusual. People will probably label me as someone with “golden ears” - actually its all down to experience. As someone who has from his teens listened to expensive hi-fi systems, I have become accustomed to high quality sound reproduction. This is why I bought the Fuze and my Cowon D2 - because they had good reputations for sound quality, and why I did not buy the View, which does not, even though it supports AAC.

Message Edited by tempusfuzit on 08-01-2009 06:51 PM

Message Edited by tempusfuzit on 08-01-2009 06:53 PM

@tempusfuzit wrote:


@marvin_martian wrote:


Actually, the Zune players do support AAC. Sansa would have to pay a licensing fee to support AAC, which a Sansa employee here said they would not do.


Good point about the Zune. Microsoft would still have a motive for deterring others from supporting AAC, since it gives the Zune an advantage.

 

As to the licensing fee, evidently they must pay it for the View, since that supports AAC. Perhaps then the reasoning behind lack of AAC on the Fuze is a marketing ploy to get people to spend the extra for a View?

 

The Zune and View both support MPEG4 video+audio, and thus have MPEG4 AAC licenses from the video decoder.  AAC audio files (which are really just MPEG4 video files with no video track) are therefore “free”.  The Fuze does MPEG4 video, but only using MPEG1 Audio, presumably to avoid the expense of having to pay for both MPEG1 and MPEG4 licenses.  

@tempusfuzit wrote:


@marvin_martian wrote:

 

The newest version of the LAME “mp3” codec is transparent (indistinguishable from lossless) at its highest quality setting for the vast majority of people. The older mp3 encoders, as you stated, did not sound so hot. I will agree with you that the newer WMA VBR on Windows Media Player 11 can produce good quality sound. And yeah, I understand there is some music you can’t find anywhere else but iTunes…I’d like that to change, but there’s nothing I can do about it…I’m just one poor music fan.


Not transparent to me though. I find it quite amusing when people talk about codecs reaching CD quality. For one thing, most CD’s to me sound pretty awful - there are very few really good recordings. Secondly none of the codecs sound as good as CD’s to me - the term “transparent” in this context says more about the limitations of the people used in the tests than the quality of the sound. 

 

I have yet to hear any lossy codec, no matter how high the bitrate, that I cannot easily tell from the lossless version, even on relatively poor (by hi-fi standards) MP3 players with cheap headphones. MP3 does something to the sound that I can detect at any bitrate. I have on one occasion put an mp3 encoded MicroSD into my player by accident, rather than the AAC encoded card I had intended, while shopping. Even though my attention was not on the music as I wandered around the shopping centre, I began to notice that I was not enjoying the music very much. It was when I got home I discovered the error. This was not an A-B comparison situation, comparing the sound with the original. There were no placebo effects in operation in this case. I could tell the music was somehow “strangulated” and unsatisfying even when not giving it my full attention.

  

This is a classic example of the placebo effect.   You should do proper ABX tests to see if you can tell the difference.  I really doubt you can.  Very, very few people can on real music (artifical test samples are another thing entirely though).  Of course everyone think they can until they try . . .

tempusfuzit wrote: 

But I appreciate that this is all unusual. People will probably label me as someone with “golden ears” - actually its all down to experience. As someone who has from his teens listened to expensive hi-fi systems, I have become accustomed to high quality sound reproduction. This is why I bought the Fuze and my Cowon D2 - because they had good reputations for sound quality, and why I did not buy the View, which does not, even though it supports AAC.

  

Theres nothing unusal about this at all, and I doubt you have much better hearing then anyone else here.  I’ve heard hundreds and hundreds of people say things like this.   Everyone does when they’re first getting into digital audio.  Then they sit down, actually do a proper test, and find out that its all in their head.  Then either they duck out never to be heard from again, or they come back more knowledgeable about audio.

I find that my ears are pleased with wma at moderate bit rate (160) for a great combination of file size and quality.  WMA is quite pleasant compared against bare bones MP3.  To match the quality, I need to run higher bit rates.

For the critical stuff, there’s FLAC, and this is great as the archival copy too.

Different codecs impart their own respective sound signature, much like repositioning your headphone does.  In fact, the differences made in the physical realm, on the reproduction end, make a larger net difference than a new codec ever will.

I am far more concerned over marketing weenies reaching over the engineer’s shoulder, pushing that master gain slider up to “11”.  Somewhere in the food chain, folks have forgotten about digital’s strongest attributes, namely, signal-to-noise ratio.  I can turn up the volume myself, thank you.

Bob  :smileyvery-happy:

@neutron_bob wrote:

I am far more concerned over marketing weenies reaching over the engineer’s shoulder, pushing that master gain slider up to “11”.  Somewhere in the food chain, folks have forgotten about digital’s strongest attributes, namely, signal-to-noise ratio.  I can turn up the volume myself, thank you.

 

Bob  :smileyvery-happy:

I could not agree with you more…down with the loudness war! :stuck_out_tongue:

@neutron_bob wrote:

I find that my ears are pleased with wma at moderate bit rate (160) for a great combination of file size and quality.  WMA is quite pleasant compared against bare bones MP3.  To match the quality, I need to run higher bit rates.

 

For the critical stuff, there’s FLAC, and this is great as the archival copy too.

 

Different codecs impart their own respective sound signature, much like repositioning your headphone does.  In fact, the differences made in the physical realm, on the reproduction end, make a larger net difference than a new codec ever will.

 

I am far more concerned over marketing weenies reaching over the engineer’s shoulder, pushing that master gain slider up to “11”.  Somewhere in the food chain, folks have forgotten about digital’s strongest attributes, namely, signal-to-noise ratio.  I can turn up the volume myself, thank you.

 

Bob  :smileyvery-happy:

Yeah, Bob…I used to be one of those audio snobs that held my nose in disgust when someone mentioned .wma.  I’m finding that it’s quite musical and use it quite often now.  Just like anything in multiple flavors there will always be arguments and debates…  

I just make my ears happy, and don’t care what others may think…:wink:

@fuze_owner_gb wrote:


@neutron_bob wrote:

I find that my ears are pleased with wma at moderate bit rate (160) for a great combination of file size and quality.  WMA is quite pleasant compared against bare bones MP3.  To match the quality, I need to run higher bit rates.

 

For the critical stuff, there’s FLAC, and this is great as the archival copy too.

 

Different codecs impart their own respective sound signature, much like repositioning your headphone does.  In fact, the differences made in the physical realm, on the reproduction end, make a larger net difference than a new codec ever will.

 

I am far more concerned over marketing weenies reaching over the engineer’s shoulder, pushing that master gain slider up to “11”.  Somewhere in the food chain, folks have forgotten about digital’s strongest attributes, namely, signal-to-noise ratio.  I can turn up the volume myself, thank you.

 

Bob  :smileyvery-happy:


Yeah, Bob…I used to be one of those audio snobs that held my nose in disgust when someone mentioned .wma.  I’m finding that it’s quite musical and use it quite often now.  Just like anything in multiple flavors there will always be arguments and debates…  

 

I just make my ears happy, and don’t care what others may think…:wink:

The 135-215 target range VBR setting works surprisingly well, I found…assuming that your CD’s aren’t scratched. Good sound and not excessively sized files. :wink:

WMA is a modern compression format thats relatively similar to AAC-LC, so I’d expect it to sound pretty good.  Of course the quality of the encoder always matters at least as much as the design of the format.

I used to use WMA, and eventually moved away from it, unimpressed with the sound quality. That was some time ago, and I suppose improvements may have been made. And I’ve never done ABX

I originally encoded nearly everything at WMA, then moved away from it. It seemed to lack a “sharpness”, particularly with steel-string acoustic guitars. I’ll admit, that was some time ago (codecs may have improved), and I never did ABX tests.

I agree with saratoga; LAME MP3 is really at the top of its game right now, and multiple participants in ABX tests score it equal to AAC at bitrates above 192kbps. I’ve seen many people who thought they had “golden ears” humbled by ABX

I’m surprised no one has mentioned Ogg Vorbis. I had never really used it until the Fuze started supporting it, and I was pleasantly surprised.

@bdb wrote:

I originally encoded nearly everything at WMA, then moved away from it. It seemed to lack a “sharpness”, particularly with steel-string acoustic guitars. I’ll admit, that was some time ago (codecs may have improved), and I never did ABX tests.

 

I agree with saratoga; LAME MP3 is really at the top of its game right now, and multiple participants in ABX tests score it equal to AAC at bitrates above 192kbps. I’ve seen many people who thought they had “golden ears” humbled by ABX

 

I’m surprised no one has mentioned Ogg Vorbis. I had never really used it until the Fuze started supporting it, and I was pleasantly surprised.

Vorbis is excellent, you’re absolutely right. I tried it out, and ended up moving away from it, and WMA VBR, because I wanted something universally supported, so LAME it is. Down the line, if I have a different player, I want to still be able to play my tunes.

There’s not really that many players out there that support Vorbis yet, but I thought that Q6 or Q7, which are in the vicinity of  200kbps, sounded equally as good as LAME V0, which is usually higher than that.

@marvin_martian wrote:

There’s not really that many players out there that support Vorbis yet, but I thought that Q6 or Q7, which are in the vicinity of  200kbps, sounded equally as good as LAME V0, which is usually higher than that.

Its true, at the higher bitrates it tends to make less difference what codec you choose, as long as they’re modern codecs (LAME being among the best for MP3). I mostly use Vorbis at Q4 (which ranges around 128-160kbps) for things like acoustic music, and I only do that for things I plan to permanently keep on the Fuze. Then I delete it. I’m sure some people would consider this too time-consuming; I just re-ripped the CDs while I was doing other stuff on the computer anyway so the only time invested was a few seconds to open and close the CD drive every now and then.

if you have a v1 fuze, if its v2 rockbox from what i see is a good bit off.  as to AAC, try Vorbis(ogg) higher quility and faster encode speeds using aoTuV5.7 or newer, AAC is just to **bleep** slow to encode and dosnt sound as good at lower bitrates :confused:

saratoga wrote: 

  

This is a classic example of the placebo effect.   You should do proper ABX tests to see if you can tell the difference.  I really doubt you can.  Very, very few people can on real music (artifical test samples are another thing entirely though).  Of course everyone think they can until they try . . .

 

I don’t think you understand what the placebo effect is. This effect operates when people are in expectation of something, and there imagination works to fullfill their expectations. E.g., you give someone a sugar pill but tell them its a pain killer, and they will think it has an effect because they expect it to, even though it is only sugar. The key to this effect, which you are missing somehow, is that the person is conciously aware of the expectation.

In the case I outlined, I was unaware that I had put the mp3 card i, as I did this by accident. Therefor the placebo effect could not be happening in this case. I had no pre-conditioned expectations. This shows the accuracy of my analysis - I could really hear the difference, rather than imagine I had.

For the placebo effect to have happened in this case, I would have to have known that the mp3 card was in the player, thus conditioning my expectations - its mp3 so I expect it to sound bad. In fact the more classic placebo scenario would have been if someone had told me they put in an mp3 card, but in fact put in the wma, and I said it sounded bad. Thats placebo.

I do not hold these ab comparison in any regard whatsoever, primarily because they ask the subjects to conciously do something that is in essence unconcious. When you listen to music normally, you do not try and conciously analyze it while you are listening. Its an entirely automatic and unconcious process. To be able to compare music in a concious way assumes that the concious part of the brain analyses music the same way that the unconcious part of the brain does - and of course it obviously does not.

In an a-b comparison you can do crude things like ask “is there more bass”, “does the drum sound a bit louded”, “was the cymbal on the previous recording a little bit cleaner”, and other rather crude and simplistic things. But it is almost impossible to compare things like “when the singer sang that phrase, did it sound sadder”, or “did the guitar solo sound more aggresive”, etc. These more complex emotional things and others which we cannot even know about cannot be conciously weighed in your mind.

Its like comparing the faces of beautiful women - you might be able to state which one has a longer face, or which one has eyes that are closer together, but ask “which one has the most soulful looking face”, or “which one has the most reassuring looking face”, and just where do you begin to analyse those kinds of questions?

When you listen to music normally, the brain works in an entirely automatic fashion to process the music, making emotional connections amongst many other things, and I do not believe this is the same kind of thing that happens when you do an a-b comparison. You cannot subject something as subjective and emotional things as music to a scientific anlaytical analysis.

The fact that people in a typical a-b test cannot tell the difference between two sources does not mean they are the equal - it simply means that they cannot, under those, circumstances tell the difference. Normal listening is very different to an a-b, where you are saying to yourself “hmm, did that second one have just a bit more treble”, or “I think that cymbal sounded a little more tinny”.

The unconcious mind exmaines music in much more detail than this, details that the concious mind cannot even begin to know about.

My advice, forget these tests, and go by how much you enjoy listening to the music.

  

Theres nothing unusal about this at all, and I doubt you have much better hearing then anyone else here.  I’ve heard hundreds and hundreds of people say things like this.   Everyone does when they’re first getting into digital audio.  Then they sit down, actually do a proper test, and find out that its all in their head.  Then either they duck out never to be heard from again, or they come back more knowledgeable about audio.

 

Indeed it is in your head - thats where you “listen” to or “experience” music.

I know that I can, and indeed have done, a-b comparisons where i cannot easily tell the difference between an mp3 and a wma. But I also know that if I spend a day listening to a wma encoded version of my music, I enjoy it, and if I listen to an mp3 encoded version of my music, I either don’t enjoy it much at all or enjoy it much less. As I said above, being able to tell the difference between two recordings in an a-b comparison and normal listening are two totally different things.

As to becoming more knowledgable about music, I am 55 years old and have been listening to music through various systems, including a lot of high end equipment, for most of my life.

 

Message Edited by tempusfuzit on 08-07-2009 07:29 PM

Message Edited by tempusfuzit on 08-07-2009 07:31 PM

Message Edited by tempusfuzit on 08-07-2009 07:38 PM

Message Edited by tempusfuzit on 08-07-2009 07:39 PM

@bdb wrote:

I originally encoded nearly everything at WMA, then moved away from it. It seemed to lack a “sharpness”, particularly with steel-string acoustic guitars. I’ll admit, that was some time ago (codecs may have improved), and I never did ABX tests.

 

I agree with saratoga; LAME MP3 is really at the top of its game right now, and multiple participants in ABX tests score it equal to AAC at bitrates above 192kbps. I’ve seen many people who thought they had “golden ears” humbled by ABX

 

I’m surprised no one has mentioned Ogg Vorbis. I had never really used it until the Fuze started supporting it, and I was pleasantly surprised.

At what bitrate for the wma? Codecs usually are optimised to work at a particular range of bitrates - they have sweet spots. Low bitrate wma sounds bad just like low bitrate anything does.

@tempusfuzit wrote:

I don’t think you understand what the placebo effect is. This effect operates when people are in expectation of something, and there imagination works to fullfill their expectations. E.g., you give someone a sugar pill but tell them its a pain killer, and they will think it has an effect because they expect it to, even though it is only sugar. The key to this effect, which you are missing somehow, is that the person is conciously aware of the expectation.

In the case I outlined, I was unaware that I had put the mp3 card i, as I did this by accident. Therefor the placebo effect could not be happening in this case. I had no pre-conditioned expectations. This shows the accuracy of my analysis - I could really hear the difference, rather than imagine I had.

For the placebo effect to have happened in this case, I would have to have known that the mp3 card was in the player, thus conditioning my expectations - its mp3 so I expect it to sound bad. In fact the more classic placebo scenario would have been if someone had told me they put in an mp3 card, but in fact put in the wma, and I said it sounded bad. Thats placebo.

I do not hold these ab comparison in any regard whatsoever, primarily because they ask the subjects to conciously do something that is in essence unconcious. When you listen to music normally, you do not try and conciously analyze it while you are listening. Its an entirely automatic and unconcious process. To be able to compare music in a concious way assumes that the concious part of the brain analyses music the same way that the unconcious part of the brain does - and of course it obviously does not.

In an a-b comparison you can do crude things like ask “is there more bass”, “does the drum sound a bit louded”, “was the cymbal on the previous recording a little bit cleaner”, and other rather crude and simplistic things. But it is almost impossible to compare things like “when the singer sang that phrase, did it sound sadder”, or “did the guitar solo sound more aggresive”, etc. These more complex emotional things and others which we cannot even know about cannot be conciously weighed in your mind.

Its like comparing the faces of beautiful women - you might be able to state which one has a longer face, or which one has eyes that are closer together, but ask “which one has the most soulful looking face”, or “which one has the most reassuring looking face”, and just where do you begin to analyse those kinds of questions?

When you listen to music normally, the brain works in an entirely automatic fashion to process the music, making emotional connections amongst many other things, and I do not believe this is the same kind of thing that happens when you do an a-b comparison. You cannot subject something as subjective and emotional things as music to a scientific anlaytical analysis.

The fact that people in a typical a-b test cannot tell the difference between two sources does not mean they are the equal - it simply means that they cannot, under those, circumstances tell the difference. Normal listening is very different to an a-b, where you are saying to yourself “hmm, did that second one have just a bit more treble”, or “I think that cymbal sounded a little more tinny”.

The unconcious mind exmaines music in much more detail than this, details that the concious mind cannot even begin to know about.

My advice, forget these tests, and go by how much you enjoy listening to the music.
 
Indeed it is in your head - thats where you “listen” to or “experience” music.

I know that I can, and indeed have done, a-b comparisons where i cannot easily tell the difference between an mp3 and a wma. But I also know that if I spend a day listening to a wma encoded version of my music, I enjoy it, and if I listen to an mp3 encoded version of my music, I either don’t enjoy it much at all or enjoy it much less. As I said above, being able to tell the difference between two recordings in an a-b comparison and normal listening are two totally different things.

As to becoming more knowledgable about music, I am 55 years old and have been listening to music through various systems, including a lot of high end equipment, for most of my life.

 

http://www.theaudiocritic.com/downloads/article_1.pdf