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Author Topic: How well do we hear?  (Read 1283 times)
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timothy42b
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« on: Jan 05, 2017, 08:05PM »

I listened to this quiz on decent speakers from a stereo amp and still didn't do very well.

http://www.npr.org/sections/therecord/2015/06/02/411473508/how-well-can-you-hear-audio-quality


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Tim Richardson
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« Reply #1 on: Jan 05, 2017, 08:20PM »

I just tried the first one and I got it wrong.
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Robert Holmén

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« Reply #2 on: Jan 05, 2017, 10:38PM »

Got 4 out of 6 right, but I think that was a flue.  I used headphones.
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« Reply #3 on: Jan 05, 2017, 10:59PM »

I got 4 out of 6, and guessed the other two completely wrong.

Basically, if you have good enough equipment, you can hear sibilance in high compression MP3s. Cymbals, strings, Ss in vocals, whatever. If there's only midrange to listen to (like a female voice solo, cello, etc) then there's few clues to get the bitrate from.

You can also hear congestion in heavily orchestrated tracks, like the Coldplay. That was cake.
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« Reply #4 on: Jan 06, 2017, 04:55AM »

My daughter came in and listened to the last one, and she got it wrong too. 

She suggested I get out the good headphones and try that way.  Good idea, I'll do that tonight, but!  I think the point is made.

If I'm not hearing the difference on decent speakers, then the difference is going to vanish completely in most listening environments.  mp3 is good enough. 
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« Reply #5 on: Jan 06, 2017, 05:12AM »

I used good-quality headphones and I got a perfect score! I got them ALL wrong. lol Not only did I get them ALL wrong, every choice I made was THE file with the least fidelity, or lowest rate of compression.

What does that tell me? It tells me that I am used to listening to crap so much that I have gotten to like it <sigh>. OR maybe it explains why I like used vinyl albums over crisp, clean CD's! I like the noise and clutter. It's a lot more organic than cold, sterile perfection. Perhaps that is why - of all the albums I have - I like the live performance recordings the best.

...Geezer
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« Reply #6 on: Jan 06, 2017, 05:28AM »

I used good-quality headphones and I got a perfect score! I got them ALL wrong. lol Not only did I get them ALL wrong, every choice I made was THE file with the least fidelity, or lowest rate of compression.

What does that tell me? It tells me that I am used to listening to crap so much that I have gotten to like it <sigh>.
...Geezer

That's one possible conclusion, but it wasn't mine. 

My conclusion was that they are so close to each other I wasn't capable of reliably telling them apart. 

Did you really prefer those?  and could hear a clear difference?  if so, you hear much better than I.  I was guessing.  I guessed mostly wrong. 
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« Reply #7 on: Jan 06, 2017, 05:33AM »

That's one possible conclusion, but it wasn't mine. 

My conclusion was that they are so close to each other I wasn't capable of reliably telling them apart. 

Did you really prefer those?  and could hear a clear difference?  if so, you hear much better than I.  I was guessing.  I guessed mostly wrong. 

You ignored the more important conclusion I made and made it seem like the first conclusion was the important one. That's how things get spun in the media.

...Geezer
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« Reply #8 on: Jan 06, 2017, 06:57AM »

That was fun, only got one right, but pretty slick....Thanks for posting.

I remember hearing an interview many years ago with Neil Young where he said the Digital technology never developed the quality it promised...I happy to see vinyl is big with the youth today...
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« Reply #9 on: Jan 06, 2017, 07:34AM »

That was fun, only got one right, but pretty slick....Thanks for posting.

I remember hearing an interview many years ago with Neil Young where he said the Digital technology never developed the quality it promised...I happy to see vinyl is big with the youth today...

I don't know that there actually IS a "right" or "wrong" answer. It's not a hearing test. It's a perception test to demonstrate - apparently - what we prefer - one over the other(s).

I have no remorse over choosing mostly the low-compression answers. If it's what I like, who is to say that I am "wrong"? There's no accounting for taste. lol

...Geezer
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« Reply #10 on: Jan 06, 2017, 07:46AM »

I don't know that there actually IS a "right" or "wrong" answer. It's not a hearing test. It's a perception test to demonstrate - apparently - what we prefer - one over the other(s).

I have no remorse over choosing mostly the low-compression answers. If it's what I like, who is to say that I am "wrong"? There's no accounting for taste. lol

...Geezer

I may have explained myself badly.

If you prefer one format over another, I'm fine with that.  (I can even accept that some people like the clicks, hiss, distortion, poor noise floor and lack of dynamic contrast of vinyl.)

That assumes you can tell the difference between the three formats in this test. 

I am skeptical that most people can.  I could not, at least under the conditions I tested them in - a normal living room with the output of a laptop through a decent but not audiophile level stereo. 

If you listened to this on laptop speakers and claim to tell the difference, and prefer one over the other, well, I hate to offend but I'm going to call you a liar. 

If I repeat the test with good headphones and I can tell the difference, I'm going to conclude that for all practical purposes there is no difference.  In fact, I am pleasantly surprised at how good mp3 is, even the low sampling rate version. 
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« Reply #11 on: Jan 06, 2017, 07:57AM »

I may have explained myself badly.

If you prefer one format over another, I'm fine with that.  (I can even accept that some people like the clicks, hiss, distortion, poor noise floor and lack of dynamic contrast of vinyl.)

That assumes you can tell the difference between the three formats in this test. 

I am skeptical that most people can.  I could not, at least under the conditions I tested them in - a normal living room with the output of a laptop through a decent but not audiophile level stereo. 

If you listened to this on laptop speakers and claim to tell the difference, and prefer one over the other, well, I hate to offend but I'm going to call you a liar. 

If I repeat the test with good headphones and I can tell the difference, I'm going to conclude that for all practical purposes there is no difference.  In fact, I am pleasantly surprised at how good mp3 is, even the low sampling rate version. 

I believe that is a fair analysis. And I believe this test serves some proof that the vast majority of people can not tell the difference. That said, my wife consistently chose the wave file. OBTW: she always tells me what a nice sound I have when I play and can hear a big difference in mouthpieces when I do a test. Lol So it's reassuring to me that she has agreed with my mouthpiece/horn combo choice.  :D

...Geezer
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« Reply #12 on: Jan 06, 2017, 08:20AM »

And we can't see straight either.

I recall a study where, at typical viewing distances, most people couldn't tell the difference between HD and SD television.
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Robert Holmén

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« Reply #13 on: Jan 06, 2017, 09:24AM »

My daughter came in and listened to the last one, and she got it wrong too. 

She suggested I get out the good headphones and try that way.  Good idea, I'll do that tonight, but!  I think the point is made.

If I'm not hearing the difference on decent speakers, then the difference is going to vanish completely in most listening environments.  mp3 is good enough. 

Only one of those was classical music.  I found that one easy to pick.  The more electronic bits there are in the signal, the less my ear has to go on.  I do not listen to much of the kinds of music this had most samples of.  I listen to whatever big band I can find that is NOT over mic'd (very little of that out there), classical music, with a good deal of that chamber music.

For 75% of the time I'm listening to these, I would be hard-put to finger an mp3 version from wav.  The remaining 25%, though, is all the high-contrast stuff I REALLY care about.  Subtle pianissimo, sudden fierce piano chords, orchesral tutti's surrounded by quiet soli's... THESE are the places I can almost ALWAYS tell an mp3 from the rest.  Recently I've been surprised by how much difference is clearly audible in SACD higher-bitrate vs "redbook" CDs on my modest speaker setup.  I have Rachael Podger leading her group on Vivaldi's "La Stravaganza" in both formats.  The SACD keeps the excitement but is less tiring to listen to. 

Sorry.  MP3 is NOT good enough.  Not for what I care most about. 

BTW: most Windows laptops do not have very good digital to analog converters.  That can filter out a lot of aural clues before you even get to the stereo system.
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« Reply #14 on: Jan 06, 2017, 09:57AM »

...
If you listened to this on laptop speakers and claim to tell the difference, and prefer one over the other, well, I hate to offend but I'm going to call you a liar. 
...
I'm going to pick a nit here...  I've been playing with this quite a bit on several different setups and the track selection does matter a bit.  I can repeatably nail the vocal only track on every device I have.  It is hard, but I can repeatably identify that one without error.  Next best for me are the classical track and the coldplay.  The Jay-Z and Katy Perry?  I have yet to find a readily available setup that I can correctly identify all three versions of each on.  In fairness, I don't have my recording headphones with me nor a good set of monitors.  I find myself easy to trick on the Neil Young.  Not sure why, but I keep mis ordering that one, but not because I don't think there is a difference.

That said, I long ago determined that MP3 was good enough for 99% plus of the music I take in.  I have a near constant soundtrack to my life, and unless I'm sitting down to study something, MP3 works for that purpose.

Cheers,
Andy
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« Reply #15 on: Jan 06, 2017, 10:54AM »

I know the high frequencies of my hearing are shot, probably from years of sitting in front of Trumpets.  I was really unable to tell a difference between the 3 formats. In many cases I picked the lowest bit rate (but I was really guessing).  I did use a good set of headphones, but I'm guessing that even with Studio monitor quality speakers I wouldn't be able to tell reliably. 
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« Reply #16 on: Jan 06, 2017, 11:40AM »

there seems to be debate about whether hearing range loss is normal as you get older or merely very common due to our noisy environment.

But here's a scary chart




Too many jazz band rehearsals with trumpets in your ears.



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Robert Holmén

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« Reply #17 on: Jan 06, 2017, 11:41AM »

BTW: most Windows laptops do not have very good digital to analog converters.  That can filter out a lot of aural clues before you even get to the stereo system.

Bingo.

An online test is probably the worst way to compare this.

The way to compare this properly:

Get Vinyl, CD, SACD AIFF, AAC, MP4, AAC, and MP3 versions of the song or songs you want to compare.  Different bit rate versions of files (like for MP3 for example) can be compared if you want. I recommend an album like "Kind Of Blue" because of it's easy availability in all formats. It needs to be something you're extremely familiar with. You'll also want the same version/remaster of each one.

Listen to each one through the same set of high quality speakers - some studio quality flat response speakers will be best, but as long as you're playing everything through the same good quality set it'll be okay. You may want to run each through an amplifier or mixing board to make sure you're playing all the tracks at the same level.
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« Reply #18 on: Jan 06, 2017, 07:23PM »

Got 3 out of 6 on crappy computer speakers.  The classical one was easiest.  On the 3 I got wrong, I only picked the MP3 once.
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« Reply #19 on: Jan 06, 2017, 08:07PM »

I used some basic plug in headphones, not earphones. I got 2 out of 6, but I could always pick out the lower quality mp3, but the higher quality and the uncompressed were so similar that I could barely hear a difference. My conclusion? If it sounds good then I will add it to my playlist, and if I was looking for any of these 6 songs, I would be happy finding any of the 3 versions, mainly because even the low-quality one isn't poorly made. It's not covered in static or taken on a cell phone in the audience at the back. So I suppose I learned that my tastes lean more towards production quality than actual audio quality.
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