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Author Topic: Why 24-bit/192kHz music files make no sense - and may be bad for you!  (Read 19919 times)
TaoPhoenix
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« Reply #25 on: March 09, 2012, 05:30:18 AM »

I am not sure of my Khz settings, but the kbps side I have willingly dropped down to at least 128 kbps and even 96, because I use a bunch of sorta throwaway mp3 players to shuffle music back and forth between home to work, etc, and it's just ambient-noice-masking techno anyway, so I'm not trying to find that perfect flat seventh chord in some song.
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40hz
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« Reply #26 on: March 09, 2012, 08:51:38 AM »

I'm not trying to find that perfect flat seventh chord in some song.

Most musicians trying to play one don't either. So no worries! Grin Thmbsup
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40hz
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« Reply #27 on: March 09, 2012, 08:55:22 AM »

one think I am picking up from this is that I probably should re-encode all my CDs - that it is likely that the ogg encoder I used in 2000 could have been of lower quality than the one I could use now (although it was not the one in ffmpeg). And I have much better processing power now so it should be less painful.
Who am I kidding, this would take months - there's between 300 and 500 CDs in that basement, if not more :S
That sort of tedium would be makework akin to sharpening a mountain of pencils.       cheesy



@iphigenie - If you do in fact decide you absolutely must re-encode 500 CDs, I can give you the name of an excellent psychologist I know. She specializes in the treatment of OCD.
 Grin
« Last Edit: March 09, 2012, 09:03:40 AM by 40hz » Logged

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Innuendo
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« Reply #28 on: March 09, 2012, 09:50:03 AM »

one think I am picking up from this is that I probably should re-encode all my CDs - that it is likely that the ogg encoder I used in 2000 could have been of lower quality than the one I could use now (although it was not the one in ffmpeg). And I have much better processing power now so it should be less painful.

Your logic is sound. LAME is a much better encoder than it was just 3 or 4 years ago. I'm sure other encoders have had similar strides in quality.

Quote
Who am I kidding, this would take months - there's between 300 and 500 CDs in that basement, if not more :S

That's why a lot of people initially rip their collection to something lossless (like FLAC). Then when they want to do another lossy encode (maybe going from MP3 to OGG or advances in lossy encoding) they can just fire up a program that will automate the task overnight for them. You save a lot of time with this method, but of course the trade-off is maintaining two sets of your music & the huge amount of space the lossless set will consume.
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superboyac
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« Reply #29 on: March 09, 2012, 09:53:23 AM »

^^It's funny, I know...but  embarassed , I have done stuff like that and probably will do it again!

When I first graduated from college, I would give myself an hour every thursday night to meticulously burn, tag, and organize my music.  I've learned (only recently) how to let some of that go.  On one hand, I'm finding the experience taught me a lot of things about myself (in a weird way that I can't describe).  On the other hand, I could have been doing other things with the time...but I can say that for a ton of stuff I've done.

But I am an archivist.  
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superboyac
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« Reply #30 on: March 09, 2012, 09:57:35 AM »

That's why a lot of people initially rip their collection to something lossless (like FLAC). Then when they want to do another lossy encode (maybe going from MP3 to OGG or advances in lossy encoding) they can just fire up a program that will automate the task overnight for them. You save a lot of time with this method, but of course the trade-off is maintaining two sets of your music & the huge amount of space the lossless set will consume.
I resisted flac for years.  But with the huge hard drives now, and the upcoming abilities to pool drives easily can take care of that concern.  And that strategy is probably the best if you are unsure of how music formats are going to evolve.  It's interesting that mp3s are STILL the most robust, bang for the buck format after all these years.  I love mp3s, they changed my life starting in 1997.  I hadn't touched the piano for 10 years, and in 1998 I was back playing again.  And, of course, all the wonderful music I discovered since then.
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40hz
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« Reply #31 on: March 09, 2012, 10:41:20 AM »

I swear by Exact Audio Copy for ripping. Kiss

 And my archive files are all FLAC. I'll convert something to MP3 if I need it in a tighter format. But at least with lossless formats all the music is there to begin with. Which gives you much more running room if you ever decide to re-encode.

And with the advent of mufti-tetrabyte drives (at affordable prices) filesize isn't the issue it used to be.

I'm sold on flac. Thmbsup
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superboyac
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« Reply #32 on: March 09, 2012, 11:19:01 AM »

I swear by Exact Audio Copy for ripping. Kiss

 And my archive files are all FLAC. I'll convert something to MP3 if I need it in a tighter format. But at least with lossless formats all the music is there to begin with. Which gives you much more running room if you ever decide to re-encode.

And with the advent of mufti-tetrabyte drives (at affordable prices) filesize isn't the issue it used to be.

I'm sold on flac. Thmbsup
EAC is rock solid.  I used it for years.  Now I use dbpoweramp because it's basically one-click...done.  But it costs a little bit.  I think I checked at some point if dbp was as good as EAC, and I think it was.  Or else I'd still be using EAC.
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IainB
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« Reply #33 on: March 09, 2012, 05:01:08 PM »

But at least with lossless formats all the music is there to begin with.
I'm not sure whether that is true.
I could be wrong, of course, but I think I recall reading somewhere that, if you ripped your music from CDs, then it was a rip of sampled music, where the loss from sampling was inaudible/undetectable by the human ear.
That is, the analogue copy is apparently the only copy that could actually contain all the music and thus be the closet approach to the original sound.
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TaoPhoenix
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« Reply #34 on: March 09, 2012, 05:26:31 PM »


@iphigenie - If you do in fact decide you absolutely must re-encode 500 CDs, I can give you the name of an excellent psychologist I know. She specializes in the treatment of OCD.
 Grin

But does she specialize in re-encoding CD's?  cheesy
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40hz
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« Reply #35 on: March 09, 2012, 06:32:11 PM »

I think I recall reading somewhere that, if you ripped your music from CDs, then it was a rip of sampled music, where the loss from sampling was inaudible/undetectable by the human ear.
That is, the analogue copy is apparently the only copy that could actually contain all the music and thus be the closet approach to the original sound.

That is correct. But with MP3s there are different ways to handle what gets lost. Apple uses a variable lossy algorithm which most double-blind studies seem to indicate sound marginally better than those that use fixed lossy approaches. So not all MP3s are equal.

What I should have said was that at least all the music on the source being ripped (as opposed to the real world analog source) was actually there.

Depending on the playback device I'll sometimes deliberately lower the audio quality of a re-encoding to match the playback capabilities of the device itself.

I may be kidding myself, but on lesser fidelity playback devices, having music matched more closely to the actual playback capabilities seems to my ears (or my imagination  Grin) to sound clearer and "fuller" than a file whose fidelity broadly exceeds them.

But there's a very good chance I'm fooling myself about that too. Wink
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40hz
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« Reply #36 on: March 09, 2012, 06:33:14 PM »


@iphigenie - If you do in fact decide you absolutely must re-encode 500 CDs, I can give you the name of an excellent psychologist I know. She specializes in the treatment of OCD.
 Grin

But does she specialize in re-encoding CD's?  cheesy

That would be a match made in heaven if she does! Grin
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iphigenie
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« Reply #37 on: March 10, 2012, 08:37:32 AM »

That sort of tedium would be makework akin to sharpening a mountain of pencils.       cheesy
(see attachment in previous post)
@iphigenie - If you do in fact decide you absolutely must re-encode 500 CDs, I can give you the name of an excellent psychologist I know. She specializes in the treatment of OCD.
 Grin

LOL

I know a pair of kids who love sharpening pencils and would happily go around and do dozens and dozens, perhaps I can convince them they want to swap CDs every 5 minutes for 3 days... Nah.

THe problem with digital files is that they need to be managed - tagged, arranged, backed up, and, well, played. Else they are just waste of space. I waste far too much time managing my media as it is. (I see the attraction of Spotify -if it had the diversity and had international tunes, not just one market, that is- as you just don't manage anything anymore...)

Re-encoding would be a slow, on the side thing - some kind of have-a-box-of-CDs-around and swap CD now and then while the program encodes.

Another issue here which brings us back to software features: I am not aware that any piece of software allows you to say "re-encode this cd" (i.e. encode this CD and save the files over this CD's older files, keeping the tags). Re-inheriting all the badly tagged crap from CDDB, and re-inheriting the waste-of-space songs I deleted from many, and having 100% duplicates... just not worth it.
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« Reply #38 on: March 10, 2012, 12:58:49 PM »

A FLAC file is a good as the CD from which it was ripped. No better, no worse.  CD data is 16 bit/44.1 kHz (Redbook), so the actual sound is never going to be better than that.  That said, the sound you hear from the CD will often sound more natural if it is mastered at higher bit and sample rates, which is why I sometimes buy re-mastered CDs of music I already own.

SACDs definitely have better sound than regular CDs, but you’ll only hear those improvements on a high quality surround sound system. SACD tracks can’t be ripped to a digital format for listening on music players, but since headphones are inherently binaural and have limited dynamic range, a Redbook track from the same master as the SACD track is just as good for that purpose.

I mostly listen to music on an MP3 player these days, but I have thousands of CDs - about 2/3 Classical and 1/3 Jazz - accumulated over more than 30 years, and I’ve probably given away nearly as many over that time. When I buy a new CD, I rip it to FLAC and then convert it to MP3 for listening. Most of the older CDs only get ripped when I want to listen to a specific one.  The FLAC files get archived onto DVDs for storage (about 10-12 CDs to a DVD). The MP3 files stay on a hard drive.  I keep everything organized by using one folder for each CD or multi-CD set.

I use Easy CD-DA Extractor for both ripping and converting. The final product of my own rips is HQ VBR (EZCDDA uses the latest LAME encoder), but I have MP3s obtained from other sources which can vary from 128kbs to 320kbs. Given the same source, higher bitrates sound better, but in my experience, the quality of the original source is more important than the bitrate. MP3 encoders also vary in quality – LAME has improved greatly over the years, but I have been surprised at how well music encoded some 7 years ago with the Mediasource software bundled with my first Creative player still sounds today.  Variable bit rates save space over constant bit rates and don't seem to affect the sound quality on any player I've owned.

The most reliable online CD database today is Musicbrainz, but the quality of data retrieved is still variable. I use Mp3Tag to edit tags.  Among other things, it lets me export and import tags to and from text files. I often find it faster to export a lot of tags and edit them in a text editor, then re-import them. That also makes it easy to re-use tags from one rip to another of the same material, or copy them from other versions of the same works (particularly useful for classical music).
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IainB
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« Reply #39 on: March 10, 2012, 02:55:13 PM »

@xtabber: What you wrote is interesting. Thanks.
I use Mp3Tag to edit tags.  Among other things, it lets me export and import tags to and from text files. I often find it faster to export a lot of tags and edit them in a text editor, then re-import them. That also makes it easy to re-use tags from one rip to another of the same material, or copy them from other versions of the same works (particularly useful for classical music).
I use DrTag. I had tried Mp3Tag a few years back, found it wanting and so discarded it, but after what you wrote I am trialling it again. It looks like it may have been considerably improved.
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superboyac
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« Reply #40 on: March 11, 2012, 12:05:22 AM »

What is the real truth behind the common phrase: "Records sound better than digital music."

I've hear records played on very expensive record players with crazy expensive needles, and if I'm being honest, they actually DO sound better.  I'm specifically thinking of Stevie Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life.  Now, it wasn't the greatest experiment in the world...I didn't do a double-blind test or anything, but what I heard actually confirmed that belief.  The record sounded more organic and full of life.  But again...it's not something I'm very convinced of.

But there is that idea that the analogness of records contains certain imperfections that create a more soulful, living sound.  especially if the scratchiness of cheap record players is removed, although a lot of people find that charming in itself.
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40hz
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« Reply #41 on: March 11, 2012, 01:18:45 AM »

I personally think LPs sound better because what you're hearing is the actual music and not a digital resynthesis of it. I think there are subliminal qualities and cues in analog music reproduction (that certain 'breathiness' or 'air' as it's been called) that make LPs sound more natural to our ears. I don't really know how to describe it other than to say when you first cue an LP, just before the music starts you can hear "the room." That empty but not totally silent "space" that the music starts playing in a second or so later. That ambient space is something digital recordings don't have. Digital is pristine. Almost too pure at times. (Which is why some noise often gets added to a digital mix just to remove some of that "too clean" quality.)

The other thing that I think makes a big difference is the mastering. With analog multitrack tape, there was always some slight "bleed" between the tracks. Nothing can be totally isolated on an analog master tape. Digital, on the other hand, totally isolates each track. I don't know if everybody hears it this way, but to me CDs have this odd effect of making each track sound like it's in a separate "layer." Almost like there's separate "planes" that each of the tracks are on. And they're "stacked." You don't get a normal sense of 3D in the audio space. On some level you have to connect the dots and create it yourself.

If analog's soundspace can be imagined as a cube, digital (again to my ears) sounds more like stacked 2D layers.

Something like this:



I don't know if it makes any sense the way I'm describing it, but to me it's almost like you're missing that continuous Z-axis with digital. I'm aware of discreet layers in the Z-axis of the sound when I pay attention to it. It doesn't "mush together" like an analog recording does. And like sound does in the real world.

And I think that on a largely subconscious level, a part of your brain detects it and thinks there's something wrong until you learn to ignore it. Much like you learn to ignore parallax when you wear glasses. You learn to look through them rather than focus on the front or back of the lens surface.

I think you teach your brain to do something similar when listening to digital music playback.

Hope some of this makes sense. I have a hard time trying to communicate something as subjective as this. smiley
« Last Edit: March 11, 2012, 01:27:44 AM by 40hz » Logged

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IainB
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« Reply #42 on: March 11, 2012, 03:35:09 AM »

Well, if our sense of hearing did not develop/evolve in an environment where there were any digitally re-created noises, then analogue sounds could perhaps be more likely to sound "right" or natural to our sense of hearing. Assuming the sense is fully-functional.
Anyway, if God had intended us to listen to digital music, then we would have 64-bit neural pathways from our hearyholes to our brain, or something.
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« Reply #43 on: March 11, 2012, 11:01:58 AM »

I use DrTag. I had tried Mp3Tag a few years back, found it wanting and so discarded it, but after what you wrote I am trialling it again. It looks like it may have been considerably improved.

mp3Tag will fool you with its deceptively simple out-of-the-box appearance, Iain. It's the tagging equivalent of either foobar2000, Total Commander or Directory Opus. Right after installation they all look like very simple, basic, no-frills programs, but once you start exploring scripts, plugins, etc. the possibilities start to really open up.

Dig around mp3Tag's support forum. You'll find lots of scripts that will make it easily the equal of Dr. Tag.
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« Reply #44 on: March 11, 2012, 12:11:43 PM »

I've hear records played on very expensive record players with crazy expensive needles, and if I'm being honest, they actually DO sound better.  I'm specifically thinking of Stevie Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life.  Now, it wasn't the greatest experiment in the world...I didn't do a double-blind test or anything, but what I heard actually confirmed that belief.  The record sounded more organic and full of life.  But again...it's not something I'm very convinced of.

There's no doubt in my mind that you heard a difference in sound, but when you talk of the "very expensive record player" with the "crazy expensive needle" the first question in my mind is how expensive were the speakers these expensive things hooked up to? It's been my experience that the quickest way to improve the sound of music you are listening to is to up the quality of the speakers it is coming out of.

If the speakers were "crazy expensive" as well they may have played a large part in the increase in music quality.
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40hz
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« Reply #45 on: March 11, 2012, 02:54:54 PM »

If the speakers were "crazy expensive" as well they may have played a large part in the increase in music quality.

They would. As long as the cartridge was up to what the speakers could deliver. Best speakers in the world won't sound much better that standard quality ones if the cartridge is middle of the road spec-wise. The ultra-delicate and expensive "floating magnet" designs commanded a premium - and were well worth it IMHO. Best way to waste an investment in expensive speakers was to plug a turntable with a cheap ceramic cartridge into the tuner. Whereas upgrading the turntable almost always resulted in a nicer sounding system. Usually that's what made you realize you needed better speakers.

Poor quality in = poor quality out. Even before the advent of digital that was true. Grin

That's the challenge of creating a good audio system. You can't isolate any single element in a signal chain and ignore all the others. They're all heavily dependent on each other. That's why half the time you went out to buy a new component - you came home with most of an entirely new stereo system.

Boy did the audio shops (remember those?) love that! Cool
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« Reply #46 on: March 11, 2012, 07:57:36 PM »

40, your digital vs. analog analogy (never realized how close those two words were...who's the latin expert here? what's the relation?) is actually very clear.  There is a discreteness in digital music that removes whatever it is that I call the soulfulness of real life.  It's really not noticeable unless you A/B really high end stuff...but I sometimes wonder what the conditioning has done to my ears.  I do enjoy listening to a record once in a while, but it's probably just the nostalgia more so than anything technical.
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superboyac
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« Reply #47 on: March 11, 2012, 08:59:45 PM »

I personally think LPs sound better because what you're hearing is the actual music and not a digital resynthesis of it. I think there are subliminal qualities and cues in analog music reproduction (that certain 'breathiness' or 'air' as it's been called) that make LPs sound more natural to our ears. I don't really know how to describe it other than to say when you first cue an LP, just before the music starts you can hear "the room." That empty but not totally silent "space" that the music starts playing in a second or so later. That ambient space is something digital recordings don't have. Digital is pristine. Almost too pure at times. (Which is why some noise often gets added to a digital mix just to remove some of that "too clean" quality.)

The other thing that I think makes a big difference is the mastering. With analog multitrack tape, there was always some slight "bleed" between the tracks. Nothing can be totally isolated on an analog master tape. Digital, on the other hand, totally isolates each track. I don't know if everybody hears it this way, but to me CDs have this odd effect of making each track sound like it's in a separate "layer." Almost like there's separate "planes" that each of the tracks are on. And they're "stacked." You don't get a normal sense of 3D in the audio space. On some level you have to connect the dots and create it yourself.

If analog's soundspace can be imagined as a cube, digital (again to my ears) sounds more like stacked 2D layers.

Something like this:
 (see attachment in previous post)
I don't know if it makes any sense the way I'm describing it, but to me it's almost like you're missing that continuous Z-axis with digital. I'm aware of discreet layers in the Z-axis of the sound when I pay attention to it. It doesn't "mush together" like an analog recording does. And like sound does in the real world.

And I think that on a largely subconscious level, a part of your brain detects it and thinks there's something wrong until you learn to ignore it. Much like you learn to ignore parallax when you wear glasses. You learn to look through them rather than focus on the front or back of the lens surface.

I think you teach your brain to do something similar when listening to digital music playback.

Hope some of this makes sense. I have a hard time trying to communicate something as subjective as this. smiley
Actually, I think you described it rather well!
It's a weird thing.  The discrete-ness of digital...it does remove some gray area stuff.  Like pulse width modulator...it can approximate functionally well enough, but it's not true continuity.  And while we may not be aware of whatever is "missing", I can't shake the feeling that I can "feel" it.
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« Reply #48 on: March 12, 2012, 04:58:52 AM »

There is a discreteness in digital music that removes whatever it is that I call the soulfulness of real life.  It's really not noticeable unless you A/B really high end stuff...but I sometimes wonder what the conditioning has done to my ears.  I do enjoy listening to a record once in a while, but it's probably just the nostalgia more so than anything technical.
It's a weird thing.  The discrete-ness of digital...it does remove some gray area stuff.  Like pulse width modulator...it can approximate functionally well enough, but it's not true continuity.  And while we may not be aware of whatever is "missing", I can't shake the feeling that I can "feel" it.
I think the term for this is "ambience":
Quote
1. the mood, character, quality, tone, atmosphere, etc., particularly of an environment or milieu: The restaurant had a delightful ambiance.
2. that which surrounds or encompasses; environment.

When I had near-perfect hearing, I could easily detect the difference in ambience between (say) attending a BBC recording session of a choral work, and hearing that recording played back in analogue either on FM stereo or a vinyl LP record in stereo. The LP usually had some recording or playback noise from the medium used as well (which I never got on a digital CD recording.)
I also could hear the difference in real sound quality between cassette tape playback and 8-track cartridge playback. The former was rubbish, and the latter was usually superb.

For real sound quality I also preferred stereo FM playback to vinyl LP, but since the LPs were ubiquitous and could be played at will, I ended up mostly listening to LPs.

Similarly, with CDs, there was a definite and detectable difference between attending a BBC recording session of a choral work, and hearing that recording played back via CD, and I attributed that to a lack of the ambience that was there. A good example would be where the organ notes climb downstairs into the bass realms during parts of Brahms' Deutsches Requiem. If you were there, then you could actually feel your body resonating with the bass tones from those huge organ-pipes - vibrating in your skull and your body generally. I'm unsure whether it is possible to ever capture the full effect of the lowest and highest musical registers in any kind of recording, even now - except (arguably) vinyl LPs.

To capture the ambience best, I suspect you probably need something like a binaural recording, but even that probably has limitations.
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40hz
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« Reply #49 on: March 12, 2012, 05:59:16 AM »


I think the term for this is "ambience":

1. the mood, character, quality, tone, atmosphere, etc., particularly of an environment or milieu: The restaurant had a delightful ambiance.
2. that which surrounds or encompasses; environment.


Thank you IainB!  Thmbsup Thmbsup That was the word I was looking for. (And which is funny, because I alluded to it in my earlier ramble - even though I didn't pick up on it!):

Quote
I don't really know how to describe it other than to say when you first cue an LP, just before the music starts you can hear "the room." That empty but not totally silent "space" that the music starts playing in a second or so later. That ambient space is something digital recordings don't have.

Sad when general memory loss also starts affecting your ability to recall vocabulary. Grin

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