Author Topic: Editing MP3s losslessly — Who needs FLAC?  (Read 1432 times)

kimhill

  • Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 138
  • instagram.com/kimhill
    • Instagram
Editing MP3s losslessly — Who needs FLAC?
« on: April 29, 2020, 02:47:34 AM »
Ok, that was a provocative title. The fact is, *I* need FLAC.

But the point is — I've started using a lossless MP3 editor to trim & clean up MP3 tracks, and so far, it's been great.

It sounds impossible to edit MP3s losslessly, considering that MP3 is a lossy format. But it seems that software can manipulate individual MP3 file "frames" such that trims, normalization and fades are accomplished without altering the underlying audio data. An explanation is linked below. I've never used WavePad; they just had the best brief explanation that I easily found. I've been using another Mac app — "Fission," from Apple's App Store. EDIT: Cut, Copy, Paste, Delete, Amplify, and Normalize can be done losslessly. Fades are re-encoded only for duration of the faded segment.

To demonstrate how it works, I uploaded a 10-second MP3 to Uloz.to — also linked below. The file contains two copies of the first 4-seconds from "Gringo" in "Keeping It Loose" (Amphonic Music ‎– AMPS 1012). The original file was a 320 kbps CBR MP3 encoded with LAME 3.98. The first 4-second segment has been fixed with lossless MP3 editing. Next is a brief silence. After the silence, is the original first 4-seconds from "Gringo," complete with ugly ground loop noise. The workflow is all MP3; start to finish.

The main reason I've preferred FLAC in the past has been the ability to fix imperfections without multi-generation encoding loss. Now, I've found that MP3s can usually be fixed as effectively, if the original quality is good. Note I'm not disputing the general advantages of lossless, and I will ALWAYS prefer getting lossless files. But I've found that the listening experience for losslessly fixed MP3s (of good bitrate & quality) is subjectively the same as FLACs listened to on typical consumer (non-audiophile) systems.

Explanation of lossless MP3 editing:
http://help.nchsoftware.com/help/en/wavepad/win/losslessmp3.html

My audio comparison (10-second MP3):
https://ulozto.net/file/qsFog2QwDz2W/gringo-2-mp3
« Last Edit: April 29, 2020, 06:20:03 AM by kimhill »

digdeeper

  • Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 352
Re: Editing MP3s losslessly — Who needs FLAC?
« Reply #1 on: June 14, 2020, 01:17:56 AM »
Hi kimhill,

Who needs FLAC? Are you out of your mind?? You want yourself get killed?  ;D

I'm somewhat of a skeptic as well when it comes to the purported qualities of FLAC vs. MP3. I have made a test with my Sennheiser HD 595 headphones and Asus dedicated soundcard (don't ask about the speakers), and while I could successfully identify the FLAC (sounded a little bit clearer), the perceived difference was minor (comparison was FLAC vs. 320 CBR). Of course it doesn't change the fact that FLAC is undeniably better, even more so when you consider editing in general, and I have thus been preferring it for a while now and also been slowly replacing some of my collection.

But until a moment ago I did not know lossless MP3 editing exists! So thanks for your post, very interesting!

The true horror are of course 128 kbps or even lower MP3s from the earlier days! Or wait, there is one thing worse than that: WMA...
« Last Edit: June 14, 2020, 01:24:49 AM by digdeeper »

Greta

  • Administrator
  • *****
  • Posts: 3850
Re: Editing MP3s losslessly — Who needs FLAC?
« Reply #2 on: June 14, 2020, 02:48:27 AM »
What's all this about?
Editing mp3? It sound simply meaningless to me. Come on, editing a source devoid of much data? It will result in an edited sound devoid of much data, again.
What is lost is lost, editing a mp3 is just a palliative.
My humble opinion.
« Last Edit: June 14, 2020, 03:40:49 AM by Greta »
G.

kimhill

  • Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 138
  • instagram.com/kimhill
    • Instagram
Re: Editing MP3s losslessly — Who needs FLAC?
« Reply #3 on: June 14, 2020, 03:04:07 AM »
What's all this about?
Editing mp3? It sound simply meaningless to me. Come on, editing a source devoid of much data? It will result in an edited sound avoid of much data, again.
What is lost is lost, editing a mp3 is just a palliative.
My humble opinion.

Under most real-world listening conditions, a good MP3 is indistinguishable from lossless. Even under most better-than-typical real world conditions, the same is true.

Greta

  • Administrator
  • *****
  • Posts: 3850
Re: Editing MP3s losslessly — Who needs FLAC?
« Reply #4 on: June 14, 2020, 03:16:22 AM »
On my home stereo (handmade valves preamp and final), and to my ears, the difference is clear, and it couldn't be otherwise.
Excellent speakers, capable of reproducing high ranges of frequencies, simply don't reproduce mp3's certain frequencies because they're not there.
Experienced many times already, with the same records and the two formats. The difference is there, clear. And I don't have superhero ears.


For car stereo reproducing, or iPod, or stuff like that, mp3 is enough, I agree [but I use the better Apple aac (.m4a)], and flacs maybe almost useless. But only because of the quality of the hardware.


So, the point is: the difference exist and it's undeniable. It's all about having the right tools to listen to it.
Fois gras and caviar could also be horrible if you don't know how to cook them, but they posses the quality of delicacy, regardless.
« Last Edit: June 14, 2020, 03:39:07 AM by Greta »
G.

tuneboy

  • Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 245
Re: Editing MP3s losslessly — Who needs FLAC?
« Reply #5 on: June 14, 2020, 09:54:40 AM »
Well said, Greta!

kimhill

  • Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 138
  • instagram.com/kimhill
    • Instagram
Re: Editing MP3s losslessly — Who needs FLAC?
« Reply #6 on: June 14, 2020, 11:13:17 AM »
So, the point is: the difference exist and it's undeniable.

For almost everyone, under almost all real-world listening conditions, the difference does not exist. And I'd like to see you do an AB-X test comparing against well-produced lossy files. I'm sure you wouldn't succeed 100% of the time. Needless to say, your "handmade valves preamp and final"-type features put your gear at least into the upper 1/2 percent or so of all audio systems.

For those who use Bluetooth audio, the lossless audio chain is gone anyway — for 95% of the gear out there. Most BT uses lossy codecs to deliver audio material wirelessly.

And there's a certain amount of irony arguing about these issues wrt library music, considering that so often, the weak link is a ripping process or other limitations in older source material.

I still prefer FLAC, because I know I can do cleanup without even theoretical generation-loss. And with FLAC, I get to choose which lossy encoder, and how it's configured. I also use AAC. When I write "MP3" here, it's as a stand-in term for lossy delivery in general.
« Last Edit: June 14, 2020, 11:16:23 AM by kimhill »

Greta

  • Administrator
  • *****
  • Posts: 3850
Re: Editing MP3s losslessly — Who needs FLAC?
« Reply #7 on: June 14, 2020, 11:17:36 AM »
As I said, it's only a matter of reproducing hardware. Not a matter of difference existence. Lossless qualities are not in question.
G.

kimhill

  • Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 138
  • instagram.com/kimhill
    • Instagram
Re: Editing MP3s losslessly — Who needs FLAC?
« Reply #8 on: June 14, 2020, 11:24:25 AM »
As I said, it's only a matter of reproducing hardware. Not a matter of difference existence. Lossless qualities are not in question.

That also depends on how one defines "existence." Human experience vs. audio spectrum analysis. As an engineer, I tend to like quantitative approaches, but as a music fan, I believe in the primacy of experience.
« Last Edit: June 14, 2020, 11:26:01 AM by kimhill »

[(Sub)]

  • Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 294
Re: Editing MP3s losslessly — Who needs FLAC?
« Reply #9 on: June 14, 2020, 02:56:26 PM »
I have ears that squeak suddenly!
Greta is not a sound engineer (as far as I know),
but she understood better the problem than you Kimhill.

I think that above all, it's more a cultural problem that you raise:
if you only educate your ear with mp3, your brain will no longer make a difference with a wav
much like these people who today prefer industrial chickens to farm chickens
It's everyone's choice, but don't say there are no differences!

To understand, there is no software that guesses and fabricates the lost frequencies of an mp3!
An mp3 can be converted to FLAC / WAV that it will not give back its lost frequencies
Worse declicker crush the dynamics of a sound and especially that of percussion (a bit like compression does)
And even worse the denoiser which suppresses them certain frequencies as it occurs when we changes the resolution
(it's a bit the same as going from flac to mp3, ... we lose frequencies)
No choice, you want to keep the dynamic so you have to de-click manually
And you want quality sound, start with a cleaning of the record, a good stylus needle , and don't touch anything!

We will find the same debates between those who prefer reissue to the original (or the opposite) ... these are choices that are not comparable!

Porn Library

  • Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 296
Re: Editing MP3s losslessly — Who needs FLAC?
« Reply #10 on: June 14, 2020, 03:02:31 PM »
On my home stereo (handmade valves preamp and final), and to my ears, the difference is clear, and it couldn't be otherwise.
Excellent speakers, capable of reproducing high ranges of frequencies, simply don't reproduce mp3's certain frequencies because they're not there.
Experienced many times already, with the same records and the two formats. The difference is there, clear. And I don't have superhero ears.


For car stereo reproducing, or iPod, or stuff like that, mp3 is enough, I agree [but I use the better Apple aac (.m4a)], and flacs maybe almost useless. But only because of the quality of the hardware.


So, the point is: the difference exist and it's undeniable. It's all about having the right tools to listen to it.
Fois gras and caviar could also be horrible if you don't know how to cook them, but they posses the quality of delicacy, regardless.

Thank god for the above from Greta! Saved me from getting up on the soap box and breaking it all down technologically for the original poster.

digdeeper

  • Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 352
Re: Editing MP3s losslessly — Who needs FLAC?
« Reply #11 on: June 14, 2020, 04:43:09 PM »
To be fair, the post by the OP was merely a heads-up that lossless MP3 editing exists. If an MP3 is all you have, and the sound needs editing, then this is a very valuable tip indeed. My response was also meant as an acknowledgement of that.
« Last Edit: June 14, 2020, 04:44:56 PM by digdeeper »

kimhill

  • Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 138
  • instagram.com/kimhill
    • Instagram
Re: Editing MP3s losslessly — Who needs FLAC?
« Reply #12 on: June 14, 2020, 06:00:37 PM »
Thank god for the above from Greta! Saved me from getting up on the soap box and breaking it all down technologically for the original poster.

I'd like to sit you down for a well-designed AB-X test, and then break down the results for you. ;)

kimhill

  • Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 138
  • instagram.com/kimhill
    • Instagram
Re: Editing MP3s losslessly — Who needs FLAC?
« Reply #13 on: June 14, 2020, 06:13:17 PM »
…much like these people who today prefer industrial chickens to farm chickens…

This in itself is enough to establish that you're not serious about addressing the topic.

kimhill

  • Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 138
  • instagram.com/kimhill
    • Instagram
Re: Editing MP3s losslessly — Who needs FLAC?
« Reply #14 on: June 14, 2020, 06:34:00 PM »
It's interesting that I, as someone who values a lossless workflow, and prefers it — end up cast in the role of the MP3 audio apostate.

In video production, there's a concept of post-production codecs and distribution codecs. Post-production codecs involve larger files sizes (i.e. less compression) that preserve enough information for manipulation in the digital realm without excessive generation loss. OTOH, distribution codecs use more compression, for delivering the end product to consumers. Encoding with a distribution codec is conceived as a final step — a one-way trip where higher compression is acceptable.

For me, FLAC is like a post-production codec (actually FLAC via AIFF) that allows me to do whatever manipulation (clean-up, etc.) I need, without code/decode generation loss. When that process is complete, I (like video producers) encode with a more highly-compressed distribution codec. In my case, that's 256kbps AAC, and I'm "distributing" to myself.
« Last Edit: June 16, 2020, 04:11:21 PM by kimhill »