Hearing test

This was in the Wheatstone newsletter a few months ago. NPR has an interesting test to see if one can hear the difference between various quality .mp3 and .wav files.  There are six cuts with three versions each; a 128 kbps .mp3, a 256 kbps .mp3, and a .wav file in no particular order.

That NPR article can be found here: How Well Can You Hear Audio Quality?

I listened to all of them and found the 128 kbps .mp3 was pretty easy to pick out.  On the newer material, it was sometimes difficult to tell the difference between the .wav file and the 256 kbps .mp3.  Keep in mind that most radio stations stream at 64-128 kbps.  Online music services like Pandora (64 kbps for free listeners, 192 kbps for subscribers), Spotify (96-160 kbps for free listeners, 320 kbps for subscribers), and Apple (256 kbps for everybody) offer slightly better quality, especially for paid subscribers.

It is too bad one cannot simulate 15 IPS analog tape.  I would bet that a well-mastered recording on analog tape would stand out above anything even remotely compressed.

Others have compared streaming audio to analog FM audio and found that fairly high bit rates are needed to make the quality equal: What bitrate is needed to sound like analog FM?

One more thing to keep in mind, HD Radio runs 96-144 kbps on the main channel and 20-60 kbps on the sub-channels.

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6 thoughts on “Hearing test”

  1. Just a brief comment. Except for a occasional tape print thru, I like the sound of my half track Technics Pro 10″ reel to reel @ 15ips. Even without Dolby processing the sound is clean and natural. MP3’s are no match.

  2. I understood the HD to be 96kbps total in unextended hybrid mode. When the 2,3,4 comes along they slice up the pie to give the main 48-64kbps and then divide up the rest.

    Also Apple and Spotify are AAC streams and not MP3, for a given bit rate AAC will usually win over MP3.

  3. Interesting test. I picked 4 out of 6 just by using the built-in speakers of my Mac Book Pro.

    Thanks for sharing that article Paul!

  4. It’s unfortunate thing is quantity is more important than quality. They want to jam in so many streams now it’s painful to listen to an HD-2,HD-3,and hell even stations that have a HD-4 stream. Nothing beats a good quality, properly processed audio on analog FM. Some of us are real proud on how well our stations sound. HD does not stand for “hybrid digital” but “HIGH DOLLAR” radio.

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