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Linn music downloads. FLAC vs MP3 comparison.
2012-12-11, 10:56 (This post was last modified: 2012-12-11 10:58 by ColinF.)
Post: #61
RE: Linn music downloads. FLAC vs MP3 comparison.
(2012-12-11 10:03)steve_1979 Wrote:  I can hear a difference between Linn's MP3 and FLAC files.

Looking forward to seeing your Foobar ABX reports.
Don't forget to let us know the equipment you use for the comparison.

LP12, Ittok LVII, Benz Micro Ace S, Cirkus, Lingo 2, MDSI, A4200, Sonus Faber Venere 2.5
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2012-12-11, 11:00
Post: #62
RE: Linn music downloads. FLAC vs MP3 comparison.
Steve, While I find your studies and findings very interesting, I think we should now just accept the situation as it is: The MP3s are derived from the existing CD master (which have a 'compressed' dynamic range - loudness war - not Linn's fault if the CD master came from somewhere else, which I suspect). The FLAC version has been created from the studio master (more work is probably involved since not every raw studio master audio data is suitable 1:1 for an end product sound file).

Could the Linn MP3 version potentially have better quality? - Yes, but I also understand Linn's policy/procedure as above. This is also a marketing decision and not only a technological one. And we all want Linn to be a successful company (also economically).

Everybody is free to create his own MP3 from the hi-res FLAC.

I have very much respect for Linn communicating their procedures openly here in the forum. This is excellent customer support. I think many other companies would not do this.
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2012-12-11, 12:12 (This post was last modified: 2012-12-11 12:15 by Wilseus.)
Post: #63
RE: Linn music downloads. FLAC vs MP3 comparison.
While I agree with Steve when he says "there is no need for the CD and MP3 versions to have less dynamic range than the studio mastered FLAC versions" I think it's very unwise to accuse Linn of deliberately doing so.

I don't actually see this as a distinction between MP3 and FLAC, it's more a distinction between "consumer" versions of recordings and "hifi" versions. I'd gladly pay extra for an "audiophile" version of a commercial CD, even though it's still at 16/44 resolution. The fact that the "audiophile" tracks that Linn sell are 24 bit at high sample rates is just a bonus. It's the better mastering that I'm more interested in. Of course I am somewhat influenced by the fact that I don't have the equipment to play these files, but I'd still rather have a well produced CD than a rubbish high res download even if I did.

Now if Linn can just do a deal with Metallica so I can hear Death Magnetic properly Big Grin
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2012-12-11, 12:48
Post: #64
RE: Linn music downloads. FLAC vs MP3 comparison.
Hi Folks,

I'd like to just pick up on a few points here, as there seems to be a little confusion:

(2012-12-10 23:11)steve_1979 Wrote:  Jim said that both the CD and MP3 versions have been remastered.

Actually, what I said was that, in the case of this particular Trashcan Sinatras recording, the CD version and the Studio Master version are the product of two different mastering sessions.

The CD and MP3 versions have most definitely not been remastered.

The CD quality file is identical to what you will find on the physical CD if you bought the album in a high street shop. The 320k MP3 has been encoded from that version.

(2012-12-10 22:25)steve_1979 Wrote:  I think that the issue here is that Linns MP3s have been deliberately remastered to sound worse than the FLAC versions.

Again to reiterate, Linn does not do any remastering, nor any mastering at all of any third party content delivered to the download service.

We do not hamstring any products in order to 'up-sell' ... that's just really really bad business. It would be terrible to do it to our own products, and even worse to do it to someone else's.

I should probably clarify things further … the initial track being discussed, that opened up this thread, was the Trashcan Sinatra's 'Orange and Apples' from the album In The Music. It was released by a record company I founded some eight years ago, before I started working for Linn, so I feel I am qualified to talk about this recording and hopefully bring some insight.

It should be noted that there are albums on our download service the we, Linn, have recorded, produced and released on our own label Linn Records. Naturally we're involved in every aspect of these records including mastering them.

Then there is content which is made available from labels such as Island, Chemikal Underground, Decca and hundreds of others. We do not do mastering — or "remastering" — of any kind on these albums, for that is the preserve of the label and artists themselves. I think it would be quite outrageous if we started dabbling in such an important part of the production of a record not our own — it's a process that can change the aesthetic and have a dramatic effect on quality.

The recordings we sell on behalf of these labels are delivered to us in two parts, the CD master and the Studio Master (or in three parts if they have a 192kHz Studio Master).

The CD master is the same file that gets distributed to the other download service, usually through a digital distributor — or aggregator. These aggregators serve thousands of download services (like iTunes, Amazon, 7digital etc), streaming services (Spotify et al), as well as web radio services and even on occasion traditional radio and promotional channels too.

So, we encode our files for 16-bit FLAC and MP3 from these delivered CD master files*, just like every other download service. A consumer wouldn't expect a physical CD to sound different if bought from two different high street shops. Likewise, they wouldn't expect a 320k MP3 of the very same album to sound different if bought from two different download stores.

There are, however, digital products out there that are different from the rest and they are clearly marketed as such. 'Mastered for iTunes' for example. It should be noted though that it's not iTunes that does the mastering, but the label of course, and they have the opportunity to master their record to make the most of it, knowing the limitations of the iTunes format and having typical listening environment in mind. Apple actually give quite good guidance on how to do this, but they certainly don't take the aesthetic decisions for the label or artist.

It's the same for Studio Master. We allow, and encourage, the labels and their engineers to produce the best master, the same as their original vision for the record — what the band signed off in the control room — knowing the limitations of the CD master just don't apply. They no longer need to cater for a one-size fits all distribution that needs to sound good on ear-buds; jump out of the speaker on a Spotify playlist; or punch above its weight on a CD jukebox. There need be no loudness war with Studio Master.

It's ultimately their decision on how much audio compression or limiting they apply, and how 'loud' they want it. We can't force them into mastering best practice, but we can encourage and inform.

There are some labels that already do a great job for their CD master, and there are labels and engineers that relish the opportunity to work with a 24-bit format that has inherently more dynamic range; no possibility for a radio war; and has a customer base that appreciates the richness of a well mastered recording.

Jim




*It's also worth noting that we firmly believe that any work that involves 'down-sampling' from say a 24-bit file to a 16-bit file should remain the preserve of the label's mastering engineer. There are different processes and algorithms to achieve this which can have results that vary in quality. As an experiment, why not let a mediocre PC sound card do this on the fly, and take a listen — it sounds pretty awful. So, it's something that should be handled by the label's engineer who will throughly listen, quality control, and sign off the master. The record company can then be assured that the files delivered to the download service, and the end consumer, accurately represent their precious recording.
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2012-12-11, 22:04
Post: #65
RE: Linn music downloads. FLAC vs MP3 comparison.
Jim,

Thanks a lot for your interesting additional information- greatly appreciated!
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2012-12-11, 22:47 (This post was last modified: 2012-12-11 23:06 by steve_1979.)
Post: #66
RE: Linn music downloads. FLAC vs MP3 comparison.
Wilseus Wrote:While I agree with Steve when he says "there is no need for the CD and MP3 versions to have less dynamic range than the studio mastered FLAC versions" I think it's very unwise to accuse Linn of deliberately doing so.

Yes I agree. To say that Linn have remasterd the MP3 files was wrong and I take it back. I also apologise for the bad way that sentence was worded. Re-reading it today I can see that it must have come accross as sounding aggressive and argumentative which isn't my intention. Sorry.



JimC Wrote:We do not do mastering — or "remastering" — of any kind on these albums, for that is the preserve of the label and artists themselves. I think it would be quite outrageous if we started dabbling in such an important part of the production of a record not our own — it's a process that can change the aesthetic and have a dramatic effect on quality.

The recordings we sell on behalf of these labels are delivered to us in two parts, the CD master and the Studio Master

Thank you for your complete and in depth reply Jim. Smile

I now understand that Linn doesn't actually do the mastering of the files themselves and that you are in fact given two different versions of each track (the CD master and the studio master).

You say that the MP3 and 16bit FLAC files that Linn offers from their online store are the CD mastered versions of the tracks. Do you think that it would also be possible for Linn to offer MP3 and 16bit FLAC files that have been converted from the original studio versions?

I think that given the choice, many of your customers would prefer to buy MP3 and 16bit FLAC files that have been converted directly from the original studio files. I doubt that anybody would want to buy a lower quality verson with reduced dynamic range if there was a better quality version available that has the full dynamic range of the studio version kept intact.
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2012-12-11, 23:59
Post: #67
RE: Linn music downloads. FLAC vs MP3 comparison.
I think here the problem, as Jim said, is that consumers expect one MP3 version to sound the same as any other from another source, and that means working from the CD version.

Those people who appreciate the better dynamic range of mastering which avoids the loudness war are more likely to have kit which can handle FLAC anyway.
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2012-12-12, 01:26
Post: #68
RE: Linn music downloads. FLAC vs MP3 comparison.
Please correct me if I'm wrong here but as I understand the situation there are usually two different versions of each album available. There's the highest quality studio master version that has the full amount of dynamic range and there's the slightly lower quality CD master version that's had the dynamic range compressed a bit.*

Irrespective of whether people want to buy their music in FLAC, ALAC or MP3 format shouldn't they have option to buy their music in the highest quality studio master version with the full dynamic range?

I can see no reason why people who want to buy their music in 16bit FLAC, ALAC or MP3 format should be limited to having the lower quality CD master version with the compressed dynamic range.


* I realise that in some cases the CD master can have the same dynamic range as the studio master.
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2012-12-12, 09:40
Post: #69
RE: Linn music downloads. FLAC vs MP3 comparison.
ColinF Wrote:
steve_1979 Wrote:I can hear a difference between Linn's MP3 and FLAC files.
Looking forward to seeing your Foobar ABX reports.

If you're genuinely interested then I'll be happy to post the results from a Foobar ABX test that show I can reliably hear a difference between the Linn MP3 version and the Linn 24bit FLAC versions of the track 'House On The Hill' by Emma Pollock. However my spare time during the week is very limited and I won't get the opportunity to do this untill the weekend.

When I converted the original 24bit FLAC file into an MP3 myself I was unable to hear any differences between them. But When comparing the Linn MP3 and 24bit FLAC versions I can hear a difference. This suggests to me that the difference I hear is due to Linn using two differently masterered versions for their MP3 and 24bit FLAC files.
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2012-12-12, 09:47
Post: #70
RE: Linn music downloads. FLAC vs MP3 comparison.
ColinF Wrote:Isn't that what the loudness war is all about

You my find this website interesting. http://turnmeup.org/index.shtml

It has some interesting points about dynamic range, the loudness war and how it effects the sound quality of music.
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