Can my ears hear the difference between a lossless and lossy song?

Can your ears hear the difference between a lossless and lossy song?

When you hear mp3 tracks their bitrate differs from 128 Kbps up to 320 Kbps, even ша you’ve purchased them through online services like Amazon or iTunes. With lossless audio (flac, wav, etc), that bit rate typically lives in the vicinity of 700 to 1100 Kbps — a range well above the human ear’s ability to discern differences. With lossy audio, however, the standard these days is 320 Kbps CBR or 256 Kpbs VBR, a rate that produces audio well within the human ear’s ability to notice differences when compared to the lossless analogue.

The question is, can most people really hear the difference between lossless and lossy audio — say 320 Kbps, since it’s the current standard? The answer is a bit more complex, but before we start explore into that sometimes touchy subject, let’s talk about what is called an “ABX test.” That is a double-blind way to compare an A and B source with a random X source selected from A or B that you then try to match to the original source. In an audio ABX test, you first listen to the lossless and lossy versions of a song, then attempt to match random playbacks (X) of one or the other with the correct version (A or B).

You can find several free utilities that offer this test for both Windows and Mac. My favorite for Windows is a plugin for the free audio player foobar2000 called ABX Comparator. You pick the audio files for the A and B sources, then the player plays (or lets you play) either sample at random and asks you to match it with its source.

A little note before testing: What you listen to the audio samples on matters just as much as things like the sample’s bit rate. Your laptop speakers aren’t going to cut it. Neither are your computer’s desktop speakers if they’re your garden variety Labtec or Bose or Insignia. You’re going to want a pair of reasonably high-end, over-the-ear headphones, ideally. That’s for the audiophile listening test.

Usually audiofreaks able to hear the difference between 320 Kbps and lossless audio in the audiophile version of these ABX tests. So try yourself and see the results - this will be interesting.