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OT ... audio

Discussion in 'Security Alarms' started by Jim, Dec 2, 2008.

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  1. Jim

    Jim Guest

    I guess this is OT unless someone out there is installing audio
    video.

    I regularly install home theater systems for my clients. Install flat
    screens, surround speakers, receivers and integrate all their hardware
    and teach them how to use it.

    Every once in awhile someone asks me about MP3 players and downloading
    music, which I personally, have never had the desire to do. What
    little I've heard of it ..... it sounds like pretty poor quality
    audio ... to me. But, I guess some people just want the music,
    regardless of what it sounds like.

    Anyone out there know about or can direct me to some of the basics
    about downloading, use and installation of MP3(?)
    ....... "stuff" ? Is there anything other than MP3?

    And ...... are there "better" sounding music downloads? Better
    computer recording programs/applications? Better players ..... etc,
    available?

    Just need a little handle on the basics.
     
  2. Matt Ion

    Matt Ion Guest

    Well first of all, the main factor in MP3 quality is the level of
    compression - the more compression, the smaller the file, but the lower
    the quality. Typically you'll see MP3s listed with a "bitrate" -
    128kbit is generally considered to be the lowest acceptable for decent
    music reproduction and provides approximately 10:1 compression; 320kbit
    is usually about the highest you'll see on downloaded material and
    reduces the ratio to about 5:1 (exact compression ratio will vary with
    the material).

    Quality can also be somewhat affected by the codec
    (compressor/decompressor) used to create the file, and to a smaller
    degree by the codec used to play it back.

    The player itself is pretty much a non-factor except where it may add
    other effects or processing to the playback.

    There are better-sounding compression formats... WMA (Windows Media
    Audio) can often be "cleaner" while allowing lower bitrates (and thus
    smaller files); FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) is another common codec
    that in theory at least causes no loss of quality, but generally only
    compresses by about 2:1. If you're jamming stuff onto a portable player
    or "ripping" CDs to hard disk, you can also just rip straight to
    uncompressed WAV format, with no quality loss but no space reduction either.

    As to why... when you figure that CD-quality audio, at 44.1kHz, 16-bit,
    two-channel sampling, requires 176,400 bytes *per second*, or just over
    10MB per minute (not including overhead), a 10:1 space savings can be
    substantial, which was the original attraction of MP3 in the days when
    just about everyone was still using dialup. A full 640MB/72-minute CD
    can be reduced to <60MB; 10 CDs' worth of music can be fit on a single
    CD-R, or upward of 65-70 full albums on a DVD-R.

    As far as installing playback devices, well, it really depends on the
    type of device. If you're plugging in a portable, most can just use a
    standard 1/8"-stereo-headphone-plug-to-RCA adapter cable plugged into a
    stereo line input on the receiver. Some receivers now have a 1/8" input
    jack in the front to allow easy plugin of portable players. There are a
    few "component" playback units out there, but they're rare, since they
    generally don't provide any better quality or functionality than their
    portable cousins, without the benefit of being portable.

    More popular are streaming-media receivers that will connect to your
    home network (usually via wireless) and pull music and video files off
    your PC or a media server. Some also have the capability to connect to
    streaming "internet radio" stations. These are generally designed to
    not be portable, and to integrate better aesthetically with a home system.
     
  3. G. Morgan

    G. Morgan Guest

    I don't get them from file sharing protocols like Kazza because they are virus
    laden. Generally BitTorrent is okay (use Peer Guardian with it and a private
    tracker). Also there are some search sites that are decent for finding music:

    http://www.espew.com/
    http://mp3realm.org/?home
    http://www.exploseek.com/
    http://www.mp3000.net/

    As far as it being "stealing", well, that is a matter beyond the scope of this
    thread. :-O
     
  4. Jim

    Jim Guest

    Thanks Matt,

    At least now I'll have a little bit of information under my hat so
    that I'll sound a little bit knowledgeable.

    At this point, I just need to know enough to set up an MP 3 player for
    someone. I don't even know how to use one, so I was thinking maybe I
    should buy a cheap one so I can learn how to handle it.

    These "streaming media players" are they considered a computer device
    or an audio device? I've never seen one advertised but of course, not
    being interested in one myself, I may have just not noticed them. I'll
    start looking now. That sounds like it might be something I personally
    would be interested in, if the sound quality were there. I'd guess
    you'd need a "better" sound card in your computer to be able to
    reproduce better sound (?) Or would you think the computers streaming
    outputs basic quality is( what I consider bad) the same a MP3? I've
    got probably about 2000 records going back to the time of the Victrola
    forward to about the 70's or so. I've got a Victrola and a couple of
    good record players also. I don't get to listen much anymore but maybe
    someday I'll put them on CD / DVD disk ..... if I ever decide to
    retire. And nowdays it looks like you can download just about anything
    that was ever recorded.

    Again, thanks for the preview.
     
  5. Jim

    Jim Guest

    Over the past few years, as time has allowed, I've been "creating" a
    home theater room out of a portion of my garage. Got all the wiring
    layed in to allow for just about every contingency. Front projection,
    wall mount flat panel, dropdown screen .... so whatever I wind up
    with, I wont have to break sheetrock to do it. Got my speaker layout
    and acoustic treatments all planned. Think it's gonna be pretty neat.
    I put up crown molding but left it dropped about 3/4 inch from the
    ceiling. Going to put fiberoptic rope lighting all away around the
    room behind the crown. Set up for two sub-woofers and wires under the
    floor, incase I want to fool around with those "shaker" drivers some
    day. I figure I'll get a media server but I've got to look into that
    more. It just may be overkill for what I want to do. Mostly I just
    want to be able to control lighting, temperature, audio and video from
    my seat. Video wise, I'm figuring the biggest Pioneer plasma that
    they're making at that time, that'll wall mount and then after it's
    all set up, if I'm not satisfied with that ...... a 6 or 7 foot diag,
    dropdown screen and a front projector for movies etc. Maybe that media
    PC like you got is all I'm going to need. I figure if that's not
    enough, maybe there's a way I can add external hardrives if I need
    more space. The Tivo space that I use now usually only maxes out at
    about 40 hours and that only rarely. But I don't permaently save any
    of the movies I watch either. And Blue Ray HD is a whole other video
    spectrum, along with FIOS that is yet to come.

    We don't party as much as you aparently do, so most of what I want is
    for personal enjoyment. The main thing that I do want however, is good
    sound. (I'm by far a full fledged "Audiophile" but bad sounding music
    is just not something I can listen to. It just grates on my nerves and
    I find my self not listening to it like an annoying backround sound
    that you just tune out)

    Along with the new room, I'm putting whole house audio too, so I want
    it to sound good for that also. Anything I've heard so far off the
    computer sounds "hashey" like it's not clear sound. I know it takes a
    lot more storeage space, but I've wondered if there are websites that
    have "better" downloads. I'll give this Pandora you mentioned .... a
    try.

    Thanks
     
  6. Matt Ion

    Matt Ion Guest

    Just enough to be dangerous :)
    If you've ever used a Walkman-type portable cassette, or portable CD
    player, then your 90% of the way there, as the controls are typically
    very similar, and the icons/pictographs haven't generally changed at
    all: "play" is a >, "fast forward" and "fast reverse" are >> and <<,
    "track-skip forward" and "back" are >| and |<, "pause" is ||, and so on.
    Some add various "tricks" to the concept, such as the iPod's
    "Click-Wheel", but the basic controls are still there as well.

    The main difference is that you typically have a full display of track
    name, artist, and so forth, and some support playlists, subfolders,
    sorting by artist or album, etc. But once again, the basic controls are
    still there and work the same as what you're used to. For that matter,
    most are no different than any home-component cassette, CD, VCR, or DVD
    player.
    Well, both... generally they're using an embedded operating system, but
    are given simplified interfaces.

    Here are a few examples:
    http://www.logitech.com/index.cfm/speakers_audio/wireless_music_systems/
    http://www.dlink.ca/products/category.asp?cid=127&sec=0
    http://www.linksys.com/servlet/Sate...nksys/Common/VisitorWrapper&lid=3314796164B01
    (bottom section)
    That would only apply if you're plugging your computer's output directly
    into the stereo system... the sound card has no effect on the quality of
    "ripping" CDs to MP3 or other formats. Plus, most these days are
    capable of far beyond "CD-quality" anyway. Streaming receivers are
    essentially just small standalone computers that read the digital files
    over the network from the machine they're stored on, so again, your PC's
    sound card has no relevance.
    Audio is always a weakest-link medium, and in this case, the MP3 format
    itself is almost always the weakest link.
    There are some devices that can help in that pursuit as well - a
    USB-connected turntable, for example:
    http://www.thinkgeek.com/electronics/digital-conversion/90a0/

    You can always plug your turntable into your computer's line input,
    running through an appropriate pre-amp, but there are also specialized
    interfaces for that, that take care of the pre-amp and equalization:
    http://www.thinkgeek.com/electronics/digital-conversion/b06c/
    http://www.thinkgeek.com/electronics/digital-conversion/85fb/

    There's also software available (and some of these devices ship with it)
    that have special functions for removing clicks, pops, hiss, and other
    such unwanted noises associated with analog music :)
    There's always that option as well :)
     
  7. Jim

    Jim Guest

    Thanks Matt.

    I'll follow up on all this. It's just that I don't have as much time
    as
    I'd like to do these things. (The reason why this room of mine has
    taken so long. I'm doing it all, myself) Fortunately it's separated
    from the rest of the house, otherwise my wife would be off the wall
    by now ..... looking at it. I'm always coming up with another wire
    to add or something, over the last few years. I look at it sort of
    setting up a hobby for me to fiddle with should I decide to retire.

    Figure I'll wait till the last minute to buy all the electronics,
    rather than now, so that something doesn't go out of date
    by the time I actually get to use it. And .....anyway, I told
    my wife that if I don't get to use the room, she can have me
    laid out in it for the funeral and she can have her choice of
    music too.

    Thanks again.
     
  8. Bob La Londe

    Bob La Londe Guest

    I would like to say first off your response to Jim have been pretty much
    spot on and very thorough. I can't really add much, and I even learned a
    few things. Back in the day when MP3 was the thing we used to hear claims
    that 128bit was considered near CD quality. Most of the loss to my ear was
    in the high and low range. A range where many people have trouble
    discerning subtleties, and some do not hear at all. I think some processers
    may even have cut the bass (low range) into partial waves so as not to
    damage the small speakers used with most PCs. I could hear the difference,
    but since I am a rocker where most of my instrumental sounds are in the mid
    range it was not a huge loss to me.

    At 128bit compression for MP3 files you get record files sized at about 1
    meg per minute. I have noticed that with better quality rippers those
    pieces of music with lots of detail subtley and multiple simultaneous tones
    and sub tones will still generate slightly larger files. My favorite ripper
    for years was Music Match. It was slow, but did a very good job and it also
    integrated with the CDDB to automatically generate Song Artist and Album
    information in the files.

    With MP3s ripped at 256bit I can still hear (or imagine I hear) a slight
    difference, but I have been told that I should not be able to.

    For Jim's applications a few questions to the customers should answer his
    clients needs quite easily. In many cases it might be as simple as putting
    up a small shelf below an electrical outlet, and putting a jack plate next
    to it that goes to an aux input on the clients sound system. They can then
    put any MP3 player they want right there and plug it into their sound
    system. My wife has a docking station for her iPOD that is always left
    connected to our living room amplifier and television. She can listen to
    audio files adnaseum, or even play videos on the TV that she has downloaded
    to her iPOD just by setting the unit on the docking station and playing it
    like she would when using it as a portable.


    Dear Client,

    1 Place MP3 player (with or without docking station) of your choice hear.
    2 Plug headphone jack patch cord from player to wall.
    3 Press Play.
    4 Select Aux Input 1 on your sound system.

    Sincerely,
    Installer

    The only thing I can add is that you need to know if your client is an
    audiophile or just somebody who wants what other people have. If an
    audiophile have them select their own MP3 playback device and explain to
    them that playback is no better than the quality that they record it at.
     
  9. Matt Ion

    Matt Ion Guest

    If you want to make it even easier on them, upsell them to a Logitech
    Harmony or similar type of "advanced" remote... then you just program
    the appropriate macros to do everything.
    I know one person that has put his entire music library onto an iPod...
    but all using Apple's own lossless codec, then running through the dock
    port to an outboard D/A converter and into his ridiculously expensive
    stereo system. It sounds... well, spectacular.
     
  10. Jim

    Jim Guest

    Now THAT sounds like something that I'd like for my personal use.

    This "lossless codec" .... do you have to subscribe to this as a
    service or do you just download the codec and use it for your personal
    recordings?
     
  11. Matt Ion

    Matt Ion Guest

    iTunes has an option, under CD Import Settings, for Apple Lossless
    Encoder, as well as MP3, AAC, AIFF, and WAV encoders. Comes included
    with my bone-stock install of iTunes 8.x.
     
  12. Jim

    Jim Guest

    Thanks Matt, I'll check it out.

    Just out of curiosity, which format is the best? I would imagine if
    one recorded their favorites on a Terabyte external drive, or two, in
    the best lossless format, they could always down convert them to
    lesser formats for other devices ..... Yes?

    I just saw an external terabyte hardrive on sale for 169.00. So with a
    couple of those, it seems that one could have a pretty good size
    collection even using lossess format. I've also seen these hardrive
    racks that you can add 6 or eight hardrives, as you need them and for
    a mirror drive set up too.

    So lossless audio storage doesn't seem that hard a thing to do. Or am
    I missing something? How about management? I'm presuming that the
    I-tunes application will do that, or that there are other music file
    management tools that are available?
     
  13. Matt Ion

    Matt Ion Guest

    Quality-wise, ripping to WAV at 44.1kHz, 16-bit stereo (which is what
    your CDs are recorded at - well, technically they're 14-bit, so you're
    already ripping at a higher resolution) will give you NO loss of
    quality, but will also use the most space.

    Figure 44,100 samples per second, 16 bits (or two bytes) per sample,
    time two audio channels, that's 176,400 bytes per second of audio...
    give or take. Factor in a bit of overhead, round it up to 180,000 and
    convert that to kbytes, and you can call it 175kB/s. Multiply by 60,
    that's about 10.5MB/min... 630MB/hour... 1000 hours of music becomes
    "only" 630GB.

    And yeah, from there you can convert to MP3 or whatever other supported
    format if you need to load some music on a smaller device (Smartphone,
    iPod Nano, etc.)
    I've set up a couple now for additional storage for high-traffic DVRs.
    $3000 or so for a rack-mount, 8-bay system with hardware RAID (including
    RAID 6). $200 each (a few months ago) for eight 1TB SATA drives to load
    it up... configure for RAID 5, and I have 6.5TB of usable space with
    parity and hot-swappable drives. Very nice.
    Lots, I was just using iTunes as an example because my friend was doing
    this with his 80GB iPod. And I personally like iTunes (I know a lot of
    people don't), largely because of how it automatically manages the files
    and folders. But there are certainly others that will use WAV, and most
    of them will also use FLAC if you want to go that way.
     
  14. Jim

    Jim Guest

    You say that as if you think I know what you're talking about. :)

    But ..... that's ok, I've got the basics. I'll look it up to see if I
    can find out what the differences are. But, it's like too many things
    now. There's just so freekin much information on the subject that
    after reading for an hour, you've got so much info that you can't
    remember what the hell you wanted to know to begin with ..... because
    NOW you've found out about a hundred more NEW things that you didn't
    even know existed ..... that now you want to know about ........
    too!!!!!
     
  15. Matt Ion

    Matt Ion Guest

    Hahahah, no worries, I'll still be here if you have more questions :)

    For now... yes, a 1TB drive will be LOTS of storage... and yes, you can
    rip your CDs and LPs to WAV format for highest quality, and still store
    a ton on that drive, with room to spare for smaller MP3'd versions...
     
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