Recently, on another forum, I was in a heated debate with someone who was trying to tell me that it was impossible to hear a difference between lossy 320kb/s MP3 and lossless audio formats such as FLAC. While googling for a quick and dirty blind test to be sure I wasn’t just talking out of my ass (as I told him I was sure I could based on my system, but not from real world tests), I found this:
(once you click on the link you need to scroll down past the video playing)
It was relatively easy for me to hear the difference between the three tracks. The 160kb/s was obvious to me each time. I will admit if I hadn’t been listening particularly close, the 320kb/s could have been mistaken for lossless audio. But I was listening close and with only a second play-through after figuring out which was the 160kb/s file, it was obvious to me which was which. The lossless audio simply sounded cleaner with faster transients and it just sounded more tonally correct. It really wasn’t guessing. I was certain every time I chose a track out of the three. He thinks I’m lying to him and that I was guessing.
My argument with him was that yes, sure, most people probably can’t hear a difference based on their hearing acuity and/or speaker setup (or just plain old headphones), but with the right system and fresh ears, the differences should be easy to tell and they were. Obviously he falls into the former category, not the latter. That’s fine, but I just take offense when people try and make it seem as if I were crazy for spending so much on audio equipment.
Can you guys hear the differences easily too? I don’t have crazy expensive speakers like many here do, but they’re most definitely resolving enough for such a test.
I do want to add that they were using MP3 for the lossy encoding. Services like Spotify who offer lossy 320kb/s audio, encoded with a much more efficient encoder known as OGG. Other streaming services use AAC which is also a step up over MP3 at the same bitrate. This means with the same 320kb/s information, more audio information from the lossless source can be kept. I would like to set up a test to see if I can hear the difference between FLAC and OGG @320kb/s too. I think I’d still hear the difference but the gap would narrow even more.