Lose the pejorative 'Low Quality' for MP3 and similar

I have taken this NPR test before and still have so much trouble with this. I just cannot tell. I try it with headphones, with speakers, with multiple DACS and still they are so close. I’ve even gone to have my hearing tested to be sure I can still detect the majority of the frequency spectrum!!

BTW my headphones, my DACS and amps are all on “Stereophile’s” list of rated equipment so they are quite capable of producing proper tones as far as I am concerned. This will of course take the thread to a tangent of whether the audio magazines know how to review things or not ha ha.

At the end of the day, at least for me, it is not worth agonizing over the differences. I just tap my toes and enjoy the music. I know others greatly obsess over their ability to hear the differences however.

I have a DSP setting to make MP3 sound worse so they fit the wording :wink:


Andy wins the thread :laughing:

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Thanks all for responding to this - especially to the Roon guys who (although we may not agree on the detail) certainly have a point-of-view that is thought through and they have argued it with conviction and good temper. I certainly do agree with the aim of encouraging everyone to source their music carefully to achieve greater listening pleasure, and I certainly don’t think we should abandon lossless and just listen to MP3.

The length of this thread and my beliefs on some of this audiophile stuff don’t change my opinion that this is an awesome product (I voted with my wallet on a lifetime subscription).


5 posts were split to a new topic: UI Discussion, Signal Path Indicator Light misleading

I prefer the orange light that comes on with lossy. I have few MP3’s that are part of compilations. I also have those tracks in lossless. So it’s nice to know whether I’m listening to the lossy or lossless version when it’s playing music randomly.

I am a newbie audiophile, and not long ago I could have sworn that no one could tell the difference between 320 kbit MP3 and CD. Today I proved myself wrong; when I played Losing my religion by R.E.M I immediately thought that something was off, the higher frequencies sounded dirty. Then I maximized Roon (it was minimized so I could not see it), and saw the reason, it was MP3.

And I don’t have very high end stuff, $1500 speakers and DragonFly Red dac, the only high-end stuff I have is the room correction :slight_smile:

Lol, if you need the indicator light to tell you that you hear a lossy track, MP3 can not be so bad :smile:

That’s a stupid inference to make. :joy:

In some cases, for a given track, I have up to 4 versions. One could be the 16 bit lossless version from the album, the other could be the 24 bit version from the album, another could be a 16 bit lossless version from a compilation album where the levels may have changed. Finally, there can also be a MP3 version that I’ve accumulated in the past and it necessarily may not have come from my own lossless source.

So having the orange light is just a faster way for me to assess and confirm which version I’m listening to. This is only relevant in random playing mode.

The orange light has never bothered me - it’s generally useful to know.

The only time I’ve ever thought I was unsure about it is when listening to internet radio. I know the quality is low, but, it’s the highest you can get! So is it actually low quality, or is it ‘standard’ quality for internet radio.

I’m messing around obviously, it doesn’t bother me but I did think about it.

The other case I’ve never been sure about is when I’ve downsampled and got the green light. Say I start with DSD source but downsampled to pcm192, I get a flat boring old green dot. Yet the source was really high quality, and it’s still arguably better than redbook even though it’s downsampled. But it’s such a bland light - should CD with or without DSP both be more remarkable than a DSD that’s knowingly downsampled?

Maybe we just need some more colours and more shining stars? Would orange that glowed and twinkled be less offensive for MP3’s? I think so :laughing:

I have converted MP3 to FLAC. Then it’s no longer Low Quality lol it is what it is. This is for Audiobooks recorded from cassette.
As for Music, the brain does a lot of work in the background to create your experience. I find lossless music through quality equipment is an effortless experience. I’m not convinced what throwing data away would bring to the experience? It certainly cannot improve things.
The sporting analogy is that having the best equipment doesn’t give you an advantage but it assures your not at a disadvantage.

Thoughts, I must get out more… Chris

This is not a realistic solution to this issue .

@Malcolm_Percival’s problem is that Roon’s SUBJECTIVE coloring/labeling is not something he agrees with. He has no problem with the signal path items, just the coloring/labeling of each.

we have:


  • blue == you did something to change the sound on purpose, probably because you felt it enhanced the sound
  • purple == bitperfect
  • green == not bit perfect, and not something you chose to do for enhancement, but something that was done for you and the Roon Team felt that it was for compatibility of playback and done in a way that was “good enough” for the situation at hand
  • yellow == not bit perfect and not one of the above

the problem is that we label “source” material with the above categories, and the only 2 that make sense are “lossy” or “bit perfect”. Obviously some things we are unable to detect, such as audio compression or a bitperfect encoding of a previously lossy compressed stream. We went ahead and made bitperfect purple here (flacs, alacs, wavs, aiffs, etc…) and made the rest yellow.

You might disagree with them being yellow, but as @brian pointed out, we would like the world to stop throwing away content when bandwidth/storage is so cheap. It doesn’t matter if you can’t hear the difference – we just feel it’s not a wise thing to do. It’s one of the reasons we support TIDAL, and not one of the lossy services we supported in previous iterates of Roon (at Sooloos and HP).


i gave up long ago trying to hear objective differences between formats. I have found that on an emotional level I enjoy music more via lossless. It just engages me more, draws me in. Likewise between DACs and sources, eg pc out, phone out, Mojo, Ifi, i find the Mojo the most engaging hands down, but listening a/b always has me tripping up. Weird.

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I think the OP makes a good point even if the audiophile attack detracts from the message. I will take a well-mastered iTunes AAC album over a saturated high-res FLAC album any day. In that case the AAC is a higher quality than the FLAC. Of course the difference in quality in such a case can’t be attributed to the codec. But, I can see how the “low quality” label Roon assigns, for such a case, does not work.

It’s also true that well-mastered AAC is very hard to distinguish from lossless versions. A good example is King Crimson’s Lizard “Mastered for iTunes” compared to 40th anniversary version on DVD-A.

If the intent is to nudge the user to improve sound quality then a more targeted, and accurate, label like “low quality codec” would be better.


I still can’t see how removing data from a music file no matter how good or bad the mastering helps. A great master is exactly that and you may as well have it lossless from now on.
If you already own Lossy files, then all you can do is enjoy them.


First, MP3 comes in different levels of quality. I won’t argue your point in principle. If you’re convinced you’ll never under any circumstances hear the difference between lossily compressed and uncompressed music, audio snobbery is a poor motivation for going with the uncompressed. I wouldn’t claim to be able to hear the difference consistently under all conditions with all program material. But for those of us interested in the best possible quality, and in an era when mass market PC’s typically come with terabyte sized hard drives, sticking with uncompressed offers pretty good bang for the buck. $10,000 speaker cables, interconnect cables or AC line cords, not so much.

While I agree with your sentiment, compression is good as long as it isn’t lossy.

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I agree “low quality” and “high quality” can be fairly objective. “MP3 compressed at 320 MBPS” is far more descriptive, but far more verbose. Ambiguous because it is relative–by some standards Red Book CD is low quality. But no more pejorative than low quality motor fuel or video displays or anything else. If you need the quality you pay, otherwise not.

Sometimes spending a little more can get you significantly more quality, and that was my original point. 6TB drives for my NAS are running just over $200 these days. Right now I’m using two in parallel RAID. My FLAC library barely makes a dent in the space compared to video files (movies, operas, etc.) For me, using MP3 instead of FLAC would be false economy. The only disadvantage is the extent to which it is swimming upstream. Apple still doesn’t acknowledge it, most popular software like iTunes defaults to MP3, etc.

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Agreed this is a flawed methodology. You would no more expect people on the street to detect the difference between uncompressed and lossily compressed recordings than the difference between a piano tuned in Wecrkmeister II and modern equal temperament.

I haven’t played MP3 in a while, and I saw “Low quality” in my signal path. Nice to see someone already raised this issue. “Low quality” is not the correct term here; that would be “Lossy”. Apparently I’m the only voter, so I guess I’ll have to live with this utter and contemptuous mischaracterization of my MP3s.