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mp3 audio output

Posted on 1999-01-23
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Last Modified: 2013-11-09
Hi,
I have just bought the altec lansing Acs 48 speakers (two satellites, 1 subwoofer). I am about to use it mainly for mp3 output and some cd audio. I am currently using Old ISA sound blaster 16. My question is if there is a big different in quality of mp3 output (which is in fact, the wave channel), or almost no difference?

Please answer from experience, and not from a guess. Also, if I should replace my sound card, would you recommend me the Diamond sound impact s70/90, or maybe creative labs sound blaster pci64/128, or maybe even the sound blaster live value?

Please note I am not really intrested in 4 speaker support (I am having only two and a subwoofer, which does not need 4 speaker support), Games or midi, but I am do intrested in mp3 output (the wave channel output).

Thanks Alot,
Avi Shava
Avi_Shava@bigfoot.com
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by:jhance
ID: 1137939
There _CAN_ be a big difference between 16-bit "sound Blaster" audio and MP3, BUT there doesn't have to be.  There are many variables mostly having to do with the original source material to the MP3 encoding process, the quality of the encoding, and the the bandwidth of the transmission medium.

MP3 (a.k.a MPEG-3) was developed by the Motion Pictures Experts Group, who also developed MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 for use with VIDEO.  It was specifically designed to work well on compression of music.  As with the other forms of MPEG, it is a "lossy" compression scheme.  This means that it is not possible to recover the original data that was encoded.  The type of loss, however, is designed to be inaudible.

Normal CD-AUDIO is encoded in 20-bit format as compared with 16-bit capability on an SB16 sound card.  While this is only 4-bits, it's a LOT when it comes to sound quality.  With 16-bits, you can describe only 65,535 different levels on the output.  with 20-bits, however, you can describe 1,048,576 levels.  More than an order of magnitide improvement.  If you encode a CD-AUDIO 20-bit data stream into a 16-bit format, obviously, you are losing a lot of information and therefore sound quality.

If you are planning on doing anything serious with this new setup, you should upgrade to a 32-bit capable sound card.  This will provide you with the capability to reproduce sounds with the maximum possible fidelity.
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by:jhance
ID: 1137940
By the way.  I don't like either of the sound cards you mentioned.  In my experience, the Turtle Beach Montego is the best on the market.  But any of these will give you great sound with your new speakers.
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by:avi_shava
ID: 1137941
If it matters, my card is an original creative labs Sound Blaster 16.
If we forget about cd-audio, Is there such a big difference between the cards? (I am talking about mp3's encoded at the maximum possible quality, Absolutely no audible (to anyone) difference between the mp3 and the wave file).

If I am buying a new card, which do you recommend ? Although games are not very important I still want to have compatabilty to sound blaster for old games.

Which Turtle beach card do you recommend? (and if I can't find this card in israel, as I never seen it here - What do you think about sound blaster pci 64?)

BTW, aren't standatd mp3's encoded at 16bit?

Avi Shava
Avi_Shava@bigfoot.com

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by:jhance
ID: 1137942
MP3 doesn't have to provide any minimum level of encoded bits.  If you're using it on a low bandwidth medium, then it could be 16-bit.  These days most recording equipment is setup to do 20-bit audio encoding (both wav and MP3) since the vast majority of the content is ending up on CD audio.  Most MP3 you find are 20-bit but they can be less or more depending on the production method used.  I like the Turtle Beach but the Creative AWE series (64 or 128) are really nice as well.  I'd suspect that since they are by far the biggest in the industry, your availability in Israel are better with them.

I've found the SB compatibility these days to be pretty good.  Only the oldest and most primitive MSDOS or Win3.1 games should have any trouble.  Usually these are accessing the SB hardware directly and some won't work with anything but an original Sound Blaster...

(BTW, "standard" MP3's are 20-bit)
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by:joopv
ID: 1137943
Since when is cd-audio 20 bits ?

The signal-to-noise ratio of most normal 'consumer-grade' sound cards oudio output is so bad that even 16 bit is utterly useless, 13-14 bit would be more than enough.  If you are going to listen to classical music you will have to dig deep in your wallet.

mp3's, as seen on the web, are mostly encoded on 128kbit/sec streams, representing the compressed 44.1 kHz/16 bit / stereo data.

Personally i don't have a high opinion about these computer sound systems.  I simply connect the line-out to my hifi tower with some very old but large 3-way speakers connected.

Some people think they have to but 'digital' speakers because of their new cd player, and sell or give away their old speakers.  Buy them !  They are absolutely good enough for just about every use, including computer use.

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by:avi_shava
ID: 1137944
I am not an expert in this area, but as joopv, I never seen that cd-audio is 16bit, and I hanv't seen even one mp3 encoder/decoder that support bitrate higher than 16. Also, in windows, cd quality is described as 16bit stereo 44khz. Please comment where you saw/read that cd-audio/mp3 is  20bit.

Thanks,
Avi
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by:avi_shava
ID: 1137945
Joopv,
Would you suggest to replace an ISA sound blaster 16? and if you do, to which card?

Please note I am not intrested in midi/games features, so a3d or such features are not important, however, price is important...

Thanks Alot,
Avi Shava
Avi_Shava@bigfoot.com
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by:joopv
ID: 1137946
Under some circumstances mp3 audio is much worse than wav audio.  The quality of the card does not affect this.

There are several places where audio data can be influenced :

- at the analog input of the sound card :
  If you play cd-audio directly from the cdrom player, through the analog output of the cdrom drive -> sound card -> speaker system.  The input ampifiers and analog/digital converters add noise and distortion to the signal.

- at the software compression level :
  If you play MPx / RA / etc files from cdrom/harddisk/internet/etc to the sound card.  Audio compression algorithms are 'lossy', non-vital information is thrown away.  But hey, what can be non-vital in the programmers ears, can be vital in your ears.

- at the output level : the distortion and noise added by the digital-to-analog converter and output amplifiers.

Replacing the sound card for a better one will only have effect on the analog stages described above, not on the quality of the mp3 decoding.  This is done by software like winamp, not on the sound card.

I think that for playing mp3 audio you don't need a much better card than the one you have now.

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by:joopv
ID: 1137947
avi_shava,
Please evaluate the answer given, and if you are not satisfied reject it so someone else can give it a try and we can close this question or continue the discussion.  If you have any more comments please let us know.

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by:avi_shava
ID: 1137948
I think JOOPV should suggest and answer, as his comment helped me the most.

Avi
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joopv earned 350 total points
ID: 1137949
Ok, thanks.
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by:avi_shava
ID: 1137950
Sorry it took me so much time to evaluate the answer.
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