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Mini-Disc (MD) vs. CD sound quality


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#1 of 40 OFFLINE   Yoshi Sugawara

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Posted August 06 2001 - 09:00 AM

Didn't know where to post this, so I decided to ask here...

My g/f is thinking of getting either an mp3 player or an MD player. My question is, does MD music use compression to fit on the disc? Is it the same as regular CD quality?

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#2 of 40 OFFLINE   Kevin P

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Posted August 06 2001 - 09:10 AM

MD uses ATRAC compression, which is a 5:1 compression (approx. bitrate of 282K/sec). ATRAC is currently a mature scheme and MD can come very close to CD sound quality. MP3, IMHO, isn't quite as transparent, though at a high enough bitrate and using a decent encoder, they can come close too (though most MP3s out there don't).

Given the choice between a portable MD or a portable MP3, I would go with the MD. It's more flexible (easy to record from analog or digital sources), sounds better (99% of the time), and the media is cheaper (74-minute MDs are available for under $3 each--try to find equivalent memory for MP3 players that cheap!) The advantages of MP3 are no moving parts, smaller size, and ability to download from a PC at high speed (MD recording is real time).

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#3 of 40 OFFLINE   Burke Strickland

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Posted August 06 2001 - 09:14 AM

MiniDisc uses the Atrack compression scheme, which "throws away" sounds that we supposedly cannot actually hear in the mix, and comes very close to CD quality. Certainly far closer to CD than MP3, but MP3 compresses into much smaller files. The newer Atrack schemes are less likely to have any noticable sound artifacts than earlier implementations. I use MiniDisc now instead of cassette for recording when I want ease of editing (e.g., compilations). Of course, CD-to-CD/R digital is still the best. Many people also like the portability of MiniDisc, which is, of course, another attractive feature of MP3 devices as well. So in essence it comes down to sound quality vs quantity.

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#4 of 40 OFFLINE   Nicholas A. Gallegos

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Posted August 06 2001 - 12:57 PM

Quote:
the media is cheaper (74-minute MDs are available for under $3 each--try to find equivalent memory for MP3 players that cheap!)

That statement is true only for flash-based MP3 players. No budget-conscious buyer in his right mind would want a player using costly flash memory anymore. There has been an explosion of new models over the last year that can read MP3s off of CDR/RWs. Even CHEAPER than MD, but admitedly, not quite as flexible (i.e. no editing features).

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#5 of 40 OFFLINE   Kevin C Brown

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Posted August 06 2001 - 01:06 PM

If you look around, you can find MDs approaching $1 each, for 74 min. And don't forget, you can get 80 min MDs now.

I wonder if we'll ever see MP3 as a compression technology for recording and playback on MDs... (Instead of ATRAC.)

I personally would never do it, but it could open up a new market for Sony.

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#6 of 40 OFFLINE   KeithH

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Posted August 06 2001 - 02:08 PM

Yoshi,

As people have said, minidisc uses a compression scheme, but the current minidisc players can sound very close to CD. Minidiscs on my Sony MDS-JA555ES deck sound incredibly close to CDs. I would certainly go with minidisc over MP3. The minidisc format sounds great and is incredibly easy to work with. Recording is very easy, as is editing. In my opinion, no other format combines the sound quality and flexibility of minidisc.


Kevin P,

You said:

Quote:
The advantages of MP3 are no moving parts, smaller size, and ability to download from a PC at high speed (MD recording is real time).

You make a good point here, but I only record from CDs to minidiscs. Most of the time, I use a Sony MXD-D3 CD/MD deck that allows recording at 4x speed. The 'D3 was discontinued recently and replaced by the MXD-D40. In addition, Sony has the MXD-D5C that has a five-disc stacked CD changer. These decks are incredibly convenient, though sound quality with CDs and minidiscs is average. I don't use the 'D3 for playback as a result.

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#7 of 40 OFFLINE   Rachael B

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Posted August 06 2001 - 02:44 PM

Yoshi, tell her to go with MD. The latest generation of Sony stuff also suppourts a sub-format MDLP (minidisc long play) that is useful for recording MP3. In LP mode an 80 minute MD is, I think, 560 minutes. See minidisco.com
Best wishes from another satisfied MD user!

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#8 of 40 OFFLINE   Joe_H

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Posted August 06 2001 - 02:54 PM

FYI, MDLP4 mode is 320 minutes long. and MDLP2 mode is 160 minutes. Both of these use a joint-stereo scheme.


#9 of 40 OFFLINE   Glenn

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Posted August 06 2001 - 03:33 PM

Hi,

I have both Minidisc and MP3 players. I used to use Minidiscs a lot until a few months ago when I bought a Nomad Jukebox with a 20 GB drive. Now I have over 100 CDs stored on a portable music player and I LOVE it. Even with Minidisc players being very small they cannot come close to this storage capacity in a small package.

Minidiscs are good but they never got very popular and now I think they have missed their chance with MP3s coming into play big time.

Both Minidisc and MP3s are not as good of quality as CDs but both can sound pretty close to CDs. Close enough for most, if not all, portable users. IMO

I also think that Minidiscs could have been great for car stereos but once again MP3s are in the spotlight there as well.

I think that Minidiscs are a little like Laserdiscs were. A very good format that never became popular due to one reason or another. To bad because I liked them both. Posted Image

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#10 of 40 OFFLINE   Jeff

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Posted August 06 2001 - 07:00 PM


Does anyone know if MP3's would sound the same or worse if they were put on to MD instead of CDR's? I have a burner and an MD deck, and I'm not sure which to use. Would MD's further compress them or are they compressed sp much as it is, that it wouldn't matter?

And a slightly unreleated question, but is there a difference in audio when copying an original CD (for backup purposes only of course) to CDR, using a program like Nero or Clone CD?


Thanks,


Jeff

#11 of 40 OFFLINE   Kevin P

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Posted August 07 2001 - 12:25 AM

Quote:
The 'D3 was discontinued recently and replaced by the MXD-D40
What's the differences between the D3 and the D40, besides the MDLP feature? I just looked on the Crutchfield site and I didn't see any other notable improvements in the D40. Still no digital output.. WHY???? This deck would be a no-brainer for me if they'd just put a digital output on the thing.

But I've still been eyeing the D3 as a handy piece for copying CD to MD, as an extra CD player, etc. Maybe I can get one discounted now that it's discontinued. But I'll probably go for the MDS-JB940 or its successor for my main system.

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#12 of 40 OFFLINE   KeithH

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Posted August 07 2001 - 01:17 AM

I agree that the lack of a digital output on the 'D3, 'D40, and 'D5C is utterly ridiculous. It's one thing for Sony to have left at least an optical digital output off the 'D3 as the first CD/MD player released in the US (the 'D1 and 'D2 were available overseas previously), but to have left it off the 'D40 and 'D5C is inexcusable, in my opinion.

The 'D3 and 'D40 also lack PC keyboard inputs for disc and track naming. I find that using the remote is inconvenient. Sony absolutely should have at least added a keyboard input to the 'D40. That was a major omission in the 'D3. The 'D5C has a keyboard input on the back panel, which I think is stupid. Unless you want to keep a keyboard plugged in at all times, which may not be convenient if you are using an audio rack, you have to reach to the back each time you want to connect a keyboard. What was Sony thinking?

As for differences between the 'D3 and 'D40, inclusion of MDLP with the latter is obvious. I'm not sure if the 'D40 uses ATRAC Type-R compression, which is Sony's most recent algorithm. The 'D3 uses ATRAC 4.5, which I have read is similar is Type-R. Crutchfield's web site makes no mention of the version of ATRAC used by the 'D40. I know the 'D5C still uses version 4.5. Anyway, Crutchfield's web site makes mention of a "PC Link" on the back panel of the 'D40:

"PC Link: 6-pin female jack for use with the optional PCLK-MN10A PC connecting kit (allows the unit to be connected to a computer)"

The 'D3 does not have this feature. Since I only record from CD to MD, it doesn't matter to me, but I could see others making good use of it.

If you were to buy one MD deck, I would go with the 'JB940. It is better for playback than the 'D3, 'D40, or 'D5C. Sure, with the 'JB940, you can only record at 1x from an external CD player, but that's not hard to do. Sony actually makes recording from an external CD player, including non-Sony players, very easy.

I have an MDS-JA555ES in my main system connected to a Denon DCM-370 CD changer via a coaxial digital cable. The external changer adds convenience when I want to record with the 'JA555ES. In my second system, I have a 'JB930 for playback (the 'JA555ES replaced it in my main system) and the 'D3 for recording. More often that not, I will use the 'D3 for recording instead of the 'JA555ES due to the convenience of 4x recording on the former. This also saves wear and tear on the 'JA555ES. I don't have the 'JB930 connected to a CD player, though it works well for recording, as I have used it in that way in the past. Finally, the 'JB930 is the only MD deck of the three I have with a keyboard input, so I use it for naming MDs after recording on the other two.

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#13 of 40 OFFLINE   Westly T

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Posted August 07 2001 - 01:47 AM

I find that MD sometimes sounds better on small stereos, portable audio, and car audio systems. They seem to have less trouble reproducing the simplified (sounds that can't be heard removed)sound that the MD has. On my main system I notice MD lacks something and seems to have less detail and fullness. It's still very good, much better then MP3's I've listened to. I use MD in my car changer and for portable use, and the original CD's stay in my home changer all the time. I've not noticed any difference between MP3's recorded to CD and MP3's recorded to MD, both formats are better then most MP3's by a good margin.

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#14 of 40 OFFLINE   Andrew 'Ange Hamm' Hamm

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Posted August 07 2001 - 02:05 AM

Quote:
I wonder if we'll ever see MP3 as a compression technology for recording and playback on MDs... (Instead of ATRAC.)

You see this now. The new generation of MD recorders usually includesa PC kit. MDs can record ATRAC audio and also store a few hours of MP3 music. So it's a non-issue, in my opinion. MD all the way. You no longer have to choose.

And to answer the question, if you can hear the difference between modern ATRAC-compressed MDs and CDs, then you need to talk to Mike Knapp about cables.

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#15 of 40 OFFLINE   Eugene Hsieh

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Posted August 07 2001 - 02:13 AM

??? I don't believe one can truly compare MD and MP3 without knowing what type of files one is talking about. For MP3, there are several bit rates and encoding algorithms, and they don't sound the same.

Quality: MD is consistently pretty good. Average MP3 downloaded from the net is pretty mediocre and worse than MD. However, I feel the best quality MP3 is slightly better than MD.

Ease of use: MD takes a fair bit of time. Who wants to wait 60 minutes to compress a CD to MD (or at best 15 minutes)? Using Xing and a fast computer at good bit rates it takes 5 minutes to encode a CD, and it saves the artist, album, and song information automatically. Xing is not the best, but it is the fastest, and perfectly fine for portable players and cars when one uses the highest quality settings and close to MD. What IS problematic however, is the ripping quality from CD and recording from analogue sources. Ripping quality is dependent upon the CD-ROM drive. Fortunately, good CD-ROM drives cost less than 50 bucks. If you want MP3 with better quality than MD then you can't do it in 5 minutes, though.

Cost: Flash memory is expensive, but CD-Rs are not. I buy "expensive" CD-Rs and pay about US$1 apiece. Each one holds about the equivalent of 5 MDs. $0.35 discs work fine however.

Portability. MD is better since the form factor of both the player and the media is smaller. However, there are 3" CD/MP3 players available, although the 3" CD-Rs are more expensive.

I have the AVC Soul MP3 CD player which is otherwise known as the Rio Volt and iRiver. These will read CD, CD-R, CD-RW and will play CD-audio, MP3, and WMA files. They have a 120 sec anti-skip memory. My player will not skip ever on AC power, DC power, or full batteries, but will skip on very low batteries. It will play MP3 files from bit rates of 32 (which some books are recorded at) to 320, and work with variable bit rate files. (I encode most of my stuff with VBR up to 320, not the 128 people on the net use.) One can navigate directories and subdirectories, and the on-screen readout will display song and artist information while the song is playing.

With the highest quality Xing VBR, I can fit about 110+ songs per CD, and the quality is just slightly shy of MD. With the highest quality Fraunhofer, the quality is better than MD, and I can fit more than 75 songs per CD.

My suspicion is that those who say MP3 sounds bad have been listening to MP3 encoded at 128, and MP3 that has been downloaded off the net, often on sub-par portables or on computers with mediocre speakers.

My MP3/CD player isn't for everyone (and probably not good for joggers), but it's definitely an option.

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#16 of 40 OFFLINE   Zakariah

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Posted August 07 2001 - 02:45 AM

Both ATRAC and MP3 sound very close to PCM 14.4khz (CD format). The only thing with ATRAC is that it needs a real time recording. So when you have an 80 min MD, that's at least the amount of time you have to wait to put songs on it. It would be nice if they come up with an ATRAC compression technology that uses a drag and drop kind of thing, until then I still prefer a real CD player or MP3/CD player.

MP3 song can sound the same or even better than MD when you encode it with 250kbps or 320kbps and use a proper (commercial) encoder.

To my view, if you change songs or listen to a different set of songs everyday and you do not have much time spending on a real time recording, MP3 is perhaps, the better way, whether an MP3 with a flash card or MP3/CD player or MP3 JukeBox. As well if you use a portable just for work out at the gym or running then a portable MP3 player, especially one with flash card, is perhaps the one for you since it is so light.

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[Edited last by Zakariah on August 07, 2001 at 09:49 AM]

#17 of 40 OFFLINE   Kimmo Jaskari

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Posted August 07 2001 - 07:14 AM

Well, I'll be the first to admit I'm no real audiophile, nor do I claim to be able to hear differences between CD and CD-R like some of my friends, but MP3 can come darn close to the original CD recording - if properly encoded.

In my personal opinion the best way right now is to use the free Lame encoder and create VBR (variable bitrate) files. They will wind up at a bitrate of about 160-180 for MP3's that sound very very good. There is no real need to go higher than that, but if you really want you can create CBR files with the bitrate set to 256. Tests have shown that people cannot tell the difference between that and CD's... not that I care, since the variable bitrate (ie bitrates from 32 up to 320 depending on the amount of sound data being compressed) files I mention up there already sound darn near perfect to me.

The web site http://www.r3mix.net is a very interesting one in case you want to read more about this stuff. That's what steered me to Lame and Exact Audio Copy - both free. Lame however does require a frontend to become nice to use, and a program called RazorLame does that. Those three programs are all you need to create really great MP3's.

In my opinion an MP3 player can have sound quality that can hold its own quite nicely compared to any MD - but that does of course require that the MP3 files are created properly. It's easier to get crappy sounding MP3's since people in general just encode at 128 CBR - which of course sounds horrendous.

Ease of use? Depends on what you get and how you use it. An MP3 player with a huge hard drive is probably easiest since you don't have to pick and choose what to bring with you. You can also get a player that uses memory cards, but then you do need at least a few of those cards (64MB ones aren't all that expensive anymore) and a card reader connected to your computer via USB or, better yet, Firewire, so you can transfer the MP3's to the cards quickly.


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#18 of 40 OFFLINE   Jonathan Burk

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Posted August 07 2001 - 07:18 AM

I'd vote for the MP3 route. It's much more flexible, and economical, and if done right, will sound the same as a CD in any real (i.e. portable) environment.

First, go to www.r3mix.net and read everything there. Use Exact Audio Copy (freeware) to rip your CD's, and Razorlame (freeware) to compress to MP3. Your CD burner should have come with free software.

Pick up a portable MP3 CD player ($50+ on ebay) and you're in business.

Buy your blank CD-R's in bulk, and using rebates, and they'll be $0-.30. I've got a drawer full of CD'R's (+200) that were all free after rebate. I only stopped buying because I ran out of room, and just wasn't using them.

If you are interested in editing, pick up a cheap .wav editor like Cool Edit 2000 ($39 or $69), and you've easily surpassed the MD in editing features.

Some may call MiniDisc "mature", but every time a new MP3 CD player comes out, it matures a little closer to being obsolete.

While Minidisc is certainly a good format for what it is (as is Laserdisc, which I still have lots of), and it certainly has its uses (i.e. for people who don't have a good enough computer or computer skills to take full advantage of MP3, or for people who have lots of $$), I would be very wary of diving into the technology at this time.

When you do an honest cost/benefit comparison between the two formats, MP3-CD will win every time.

But to answer the original question: A properly recorded MP3-CD shouldn't sound any different than a properly recorded Minidisc, in a real environment. There may be theoretical differences, but you won't hear them in a car, or with any realistic background noise. If you can hear a difference, odds are you did something wrong, or your equipment is malfunctioning.

And I know it was a typo, but...
Quote:
Both ATRAC and MP3 sound very close to PCM 14.4khz (CD format).
CD's are PCM 44.1Khz.
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[Edited last by Jonathan Burk on August 07, 2001 at 02:33 PM]

#19 of 40 OFFLINE   Joe_H

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Posted August 07 2001 - 07:19 AM

I have to totally disagree with a lot of whats been said. First of all, who cares if you have to wait 80 minutes to record 80 minutes worth of minidisc? Aren't you going to listen to the music anyway? What does it matter if you listen to it one extra time during the recording process? Second of all, I think that the ATRAC compression of my 2-3 year old minidisc deck doesn't sound any different from my cds, so I can't imagine anyone hearing any differences with a newer deck. Also, the newest generation of portable players make the discs virtually skipless. Another point is that i've heard that certain CDR mp3 players are slow to load up the song (confirmation?) I know for a fact that unless the disc is badly damaged, that MDs load almost instantaneously. MD media, while not as cheap as CDRs, can be as inexpensive as 1.50 per disc (www.minidisco.com) or in bulk i believe they have some for 95 cents per disc.

Jeff, when recording MP3s to minidisc, the system will decode the mp3 format and then re-encode it, this time using atrac or mdlp compression.


KeithH, does the JB940 include mdlp? the sony website doesn't mention it, but i'm not sure since the minidisco.com website says it does.

Eugene, I heard that all Xing encoders screw up in the process of encoding in mp3 format. Someone showed me a website that had tests graphing the xing encoders as very inaccurate compared to a few other programs.

Zakariah, if you change songs often, why not just buy a set of 5-10 minidiscs and record them in mdlp4 for 320 minutes per disc.. depending on the quality, thats about half the time to maybe even more of a cdr recorded with mp3s. Minidisc players are also very light. Many players are not much bigger than a disc itself, and all come with a remote with an lcd so even when the player is in your pocket you can see the song thats playing or change it.

Ok now i'm finally done with my long post. If anyone sees any points where i'm wrong, be sure to tell me, because i like to be properly informed.

Edit: sorry when i say the 95 cent / disc, it was a 500 pack that was on sale or something.. most prices there are in the 1.50/ disc range.

[Edited last by Joe_H on August 07, 2001 at 02:40 PM]

#20 of 40 OFFLINE   Eugene Hsieh

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Posted August 07 2001 - 07:39 AM

quote:
First of all, who cares if you have to wait 80 minutes to record 80 minutes worth of minidisc? Aren't you going to listen to the music anyway? What does it matter if you listen to it one extra time during the recording process? [/quote]Yep, some do. I personally don't usually listen to the whole CD every time though. I would go insane too recording all 300 of my discs this way too.
quote:
Second of all, I think that the ATRAC compression of my 2-3 year old minidisc deck doesn't sound any different from my cds, so I can't imagine anyone hearing any differences with a newer deck.[/quote]Well, I think that is subjective. Often I cannot tell either, so it is good. But it ain't perfect to my ears on all material, and I am by no means a golden ears type.
quote:
Another point is that i've heard that certain CDR mp3 players are slow to load up the song (confirmation?) I know for a fact that unless the disc is badly damaged, that MDs load almost instantaneously.[/quote]That is a potential benefit of MD. Usually the MP3 CD-R players will search the entire disc for mp3 or wma files. That may take a little while, like 10 seconds, depending on how full the disc is. Speed varies with the machine too. The newer MP3/CD machines are much faster, but not instantaneous. On the other hand, once it's loaded, you have over 100 songs to choose from.
Quote:
Eugene, I heard that all Xing encoders screw up in the process of encoding in mp3 format. Someone showed me a website that had tests graphing the xing encoders as very inaccurate compared to a few other programs.
Correct. Xing sacrifices quality for speed. I believe the screw up occurs in the highest frequencies of the audible range, and on some tracks at least to my ear the brights sound a tad harsh. The latest ATRAC algorithms are superior to Xing, even at its best settings. That said, Xing is still pretty damn good when set at its highest quality settings. On many tracks I cannot differentiate between Xing at the highest settings and the original CD. MD is better sometimes, but like I said, it's only some tracks, and it becomes pretty much irrevelant on portable systems and in the car. (On my home system I use the original CD.) With other encoding algorithms at the highest settings, I definitely cannot distinguish between the orignal CD and the MP3 file on the vast majority of tracks. It's not surprising that this is the case, since at the highest bit rates, the compression is even less than ATRAC compression. I tend not to use them often though, since the software tends to be less user friendly.


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[Edited last by Eugene Hsieh on August 07, 2001 at 02:42 PM]


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