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Old 01 July 2017, 08:44 am   #1
dev
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Default a bit of background

Hi

Lately it's quiet here, and since I've been using Musepack I wanted to ask about it, I think the time is right to finally do it.
Who is Andree Buschmann, Frank Klemm and people behind MDT?
I know the story is that Andree was dissatisfied with mp3's quality and He decided to do something about it.
But it's not like reading some books and writing a bit of code on pc
This type of work requires a lot of knowledge and know how-to, to achieve this quality software.
So who are people behind it and how did we get to where we are with Musepack?
And where did the name came from?
No story is to long, please don't be shy and share... how it all happend


Thx
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Old 02 July 2017, 01:46 am   #2
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Hi, dev.

Andree Buschmann started working on Musepack long before graduating from Hannover university, with electrical engineering and digital audio signal processing among his degrees. Although he's been working in major companies as a software engineer, senior manager, and director of system integration, his main interests are still acoustics, audio signal processing and complicated things like that and in recent years he has made contributions to the Rockbox project, greatly improving Musepack decoding performance, among other things.

I wasn't among the earliest testers or users, so I can't tell any nice stories about that period. I've heard some things about the stages of the development and obsessive (in a good way) people who contributed to improving it, but it wouldn't be appropriate to tell half-stories, so I'll leave it to others in case they ever feel like sharing it.

Frank Klemm is a man who many people would call a DSP guru. He has had many years of experience with advanced signal processing, psychoacoustics, circuit optimization, etc. before he came in to help with Musepack development. He worked on integrating and optimizing an advanced psychoacoustic model, and much of the tweaking was based on listening tests done by himself and users. With each update or few, there were noticeable, big improvements, until it slowly reached a point where changing things further was not necessary or resulted in other things becoming worse instead.

The current state is that anyone who dares to touch anything in the audio-related code quickly realizes they're way over their head and that every tiny change can amazingly degrade everything. Anyone who looks at the audio-related code and isn't a world-class DSP guru thinks they're looking at an extraterrestrial language. After some further browsing, the response is basically "wow, I have a lot to learn", we've been getting comments like that from very experienced programmers. Well-intentioned, hoping to be able to contribute something, but we have yet to hear back from anyone but that's never a surprise. There's a funny yet true recurring quote by Frank that we like: "You have very little knowledge." followed by an explanation that makes you realize just how true it is.

For over a decade, Frank Klemm has been working at Zeiss, engineering extremely advanced devices related to life sciences. A job he had always wanted and is very happy with. A bit more important than our puny audio format .

Nicolas Botti, who did most of the work on the SV8 update to Musepack and subsequent patches, has had experience with DSP coding in the past, and even designed and released an experimental Wavelet-based video codec (called rududu). He has made great improvements and optimizations to the Musepack format, which only a person who is obsessed about optimizing things and making sure it's done right, could have done. I can't expand on more personal details.

Peter Pawlowski, known mainly as the author of foobar2000 (and of Winamp's main components, before that), has made big contributions to Musepack, migrating between programming languages, arrangement, bug and security fixes. He's a very experienced programmer who does things right and kills you if your code is bad. Well not really, although he is nicknamed "DEATH". And he's a great friend. It's funny that I think fondly of that name when I see it. It's derived from an internal joke by a great early Musepack contributor called Filburt .. (goes a bit like "MPC IST DEATH! VQF IST GOD!" )

People have come and gone, and we haven't heard from some of them in a long time, but we'll always appreciate their years-long ongoing support. Mainly Lefungus (who did plugins and other things for years) and Ganymed (the man behind Mp3tag, great guy). We get patches from people occasionally, mentioned in our SVN. We're always open to any contribution.

Seed (Meni Berman) had been a Musepack tester from the early days, and there's no one whose taste in music and sound in general I appreciate more. He and I are musicians, and I'm a sound engineer, mastering engineer, and audio production software algorithm designer, so yeah, good sounds is what we're all about . Along with him, I had fought to save Musepack back in 2003 when business people with interests in competing as well as unrelated formats were trying to get rid of Musepack by means of taking over other software projects, and web domains (including this one) and trying to bury it while promoting other things. I won't expand on that terrible time, but I'll just say we have all the info, logs, everything we'd ever need, in case anyone ever decides to open that shameful chapter in open-source software. Being lovers of music and fine sound quality, it has always been in our interest to make sure support for Musepack grows and is available to everyone in the software and hardware they use. To a large extent, we've had great success since then, and today it's possible to play MPC files on any mobile device that's worth anything, and many other devices.

I've been providing info/answers to all kinds of people, from users to students to journalists to developers who want to integrate Musepack in their production-oriented software, and I've been hosting the site and software since 2004 and making sure that we always have stellar uptime, without asking for support from anyone and without putting a single ad on it, and that's how it's always going to stay, completely free of any "special interests". grimmel (real name private), another great old friend of ours has been a great help with SVN and Trac hosting.

There is indeed not much happening these past years, but definitely that doesn't mean anything is wrong, we're always here and MPC is working great and making people and their batteries happy .

Nice to hear from you.

Ah and I'm not sure exactly how the name "Musepack" was reached, but it was meant to be a short for "Music Packer" and of course a replacement to the old, less appropriate name, and it correlates with the "MPC" file name extension.
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Old 02 July 2017, 09:19 am   #3
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Hi Shy.

I knew i could count on You replaying
"please don't be shy and share..." - this was intentional

You speak of things that's impossible to find out in any other way than directly talking to the people from that time, thanks.
Reading about fight to save Musepack reminds me about eMule, but unfortunately that fight was lost and it happened because of people's ignorance.
This is what i thought, that Andree and Frank had to be a lot more than just an audio enthusiasts to be able to do this work.
Since SV8 official release, MPC is my religion when it comes to making my music library
It was harder in the beginning with portability; but now with android and f2k mobile.
And maybe one day being able to stream lossless signals from f2k mobile to other devices - it's getting more beautiful each year
From where i sit it's great that there is a final version of Musepack, maybe it's dumb of me but i would prefer if it stayed like that
In the past i hoped for MPC to use it as a quality multi channel track in concert videos with mkv but for that now we have apple's aac with tvbr.
And i think it would be a waste of time to implement it, probably i would only use it
I hope this topic stays open for anyone who like to share a bit of history about Musepack, thank You Shy for Your great response, it's nice to talk to You again.
If Musepack ever needs anything, i know that I'm here to help.


Cheers
dev
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Old 02 July 2017, 11:08 pm   #4
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Yeah, having a stable, pretty much "finalized" version of the format, which fixed the problems with the previous version, has been really important and relieving. It's definitely a big reason for the widespread, ever-growing support. We spent years raising awareness to Musepack, cleaning things up and getting support, much thanks to our influential friends in the audio software world, and people like you who spread the word. We were lucky to have Nicolas show up and do lots of great, very professional work for a long time, got the SV8 beta Slashdotted , did lots of testing to make sure everything works right under all conditions, got everything going. Paid off.

Although SV8 does allow multichannel and support by containers such as MKV, it hasn't happened yet, because the video world is completely dominated by formats owned by huge corporations. Even FLAC, which by now has pretty significant industry support behind it and is supported in MKV, is struggling to find a place in video. Truthfully, the error-correction-code considerations in video are great, and some formats offer a greatly superior "complete package" that neither Musepack nor other formats ever aimed to offer, so this gives them an advantage, even though having a universal external ECC solution would have been a much better solution. But that goes against business interests .

Also, as much as multichannel MPC would have been nice, it has the same problem that AAC and others have, which is: no one really does multi-channel coding properly, it's basically a very lame hack of multiple stereo pairs and mono channels. A proper multichannel perceptual audio encoder would have to have true multichannel coding that takes advantage of the info in all channels, to reduce bitrate as much as possible, which is the whole point of efficient audio coding to begin with. Without this, we just get a huge waste of bits, and files which may be several times bigger than they could have been had the coding method was true multichannel. The problem, of course, is that it would be incredibly hard to design, and no one in the world would invest the resources needed to upgrade an existing format like Musepack or even AAC which has all the support in the world, not to mention design something new aimed at high sound quality, which would be senseless of course, and which I don't expect to happen in the next decades. Luckily stereo will always remain the dominant format, as we have two ears, and people will keep using headphones and two speakers in most places, and headphone usage will greatly increase in the future, as "virtual reality" and "augmented reality" in every aspect of entertainment, media and life in general keeps increasing.
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Old 03 July 2017, 06:26 am   #5
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Hi Shy

Yes it was, i remember I had audio in all available formats and only official SV8 convinced me to make something out of that mess.

"A proper multichannel perceptual audio encoder..."
In general, You think it would be technically possible?
Encoder that makes multi channel audio sound transparent on headphones and different home speaker systems in different rooms?
Psychosoacustic model that takes input from all channels, it would be pretty amazing work.
But like You say it would be a lot of work and probably later only handful of people would use it for personal use.


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Old 04 July 2017, 02:18 am   #6
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There are probably at least several ways that multichannel lossy audio coding could be implemented in such a way that it would be much more efficient than stereo-optimized coding, but I suppose the difficulty of actually implementing it, and the fact that there are many multichannel configurations, none of which is close to being a guaranteed future standard, not to mention in any way an agreed upon "proper" configuration, means that no one will bother any time soon.

The psychoacoustic considerations in the multichannel audio field, even by the most experienced and professional people in the world, such as Doctor David Griesinger, are really mainly derived by "practicality" and partial backward compatibility, rather than accuracy and science. There are many problems with speaker configurations in general, and a good example is the fact that even simple stereo has great acoustic and psychoacoustic problems, starting from the fact that unless an advanced "phase cancellation" technique is applied during playback, everything you hear from a pair of speakers has a greatly incorrect stereo field that hardly matches the source audio's stereo field, as heard with headphones or earphones which ensure that sound from each channel only reaches one ear. Existing implementations of phase cancellation methods (such as "transaural") are greatly limited because although they do sometimes work amazingly well with some synthetic signals in some frequency ranges, they don't really have anything that simulates real speaker-optimized HRTF (head-related transfer functions), so it sounds mostly weird and fatiguing. So even stereo that we get through two speakers is somewhat decent at best, but when more speakers are introduced, the multiple problems that are added are much too complicated, and really it doesn't seem like anyone will ever have any incentive in the next decades or probably much later than that, to take multiple speaker setups "seriously" enough so as to provide a psychoacoustically correct representation of an audio source.

Multichannel setups were "hacks" from the start, meant for large spaces, to enable a more even audio representation. Even today, there isn't a single widely accepted multichannel recording method, and definitely not one that really adheres to principles of psychoacoustics, because there isn't even a true-to-source way to play back more than two channels, so there can't even be a way to know how to record correctly. Multichannel recording and mixing and playback in general is fundamentally, deeply different than stereo because it aims at placing sounds in virtual field, rather than attempt to simulate a listener's perspective. It aims to bring sounds "from the outside to the inside (you)" whereas in stereo it's possible to get the opposite, which is an actual listener's perspective, with the signal in each channel being a substitute for the signal that each ear would capture in a real environment, as opposed to a simulated environment created by multiple speakers. A nice analogy is for example how you view things: you put your hand close to your face, you also see your desk a meter or two beyond it, and you also see the view from beyond your window, all of those at the same time. How would a video playback system be able to simulate that? Not through multiple screens, all placed at different distances from you, but using a virtual reality system, which takes advantage of the fact that each of our eyes doesn't see the exact same image the other one does. Although it is possible in theory to have a setup with multiple screens, it would of course be unfeasible in general and even when working fine for a specific image, it would still be nowhere near as good as those two screens projecting images right into our eyes. It's similar with audio: you could take the lame approach which is multiple speakers, or you could take the right approach which is two speakers, or in large places, multiple speakers used for left and right. A simple "binaural recording" (an earphone-like microphone in each ear) gives anyone who plays it back through headphones or earphones an amazingly accurate and realistic sound which greatly resembles the original sound in the original surroundings. Degrees of success vary, but even through a couple of speakers, such a recording can sound very immersive and "real". If an advanced phase cancellation was applied, it would sound nearly as good through the speakers as it sounds through headphones. We just don't have that yet.

In the case of an audio codec optimized for stereo, we know exactly what is correct and optimal, because there is relatively little ambiguity in the properties of the audio signal, and no ambiguity in the way it can be optimally played back. Known and reproducible psychoacoustic effects are easily taken advantage of. In order to reproduce an audio signal in a way that actually adheres to the source, we have the simple, problem-free condition which is: signal from the left channel goes only to the left ear, and signal from the right channel goes only to the right ear, which is enabled by headphones or earphones, or the yet unavailable speakers with advanced, adaptive phase cancellation applied. Mid/Side stereo processing can easily be taken advantage of, to reduce bitrate, along with a panning rule that works very well because it adheres to real-world acoustics as well as artificially mixed audio, and there's much less occurrence of big differences in sound levels and separation as there is in a channel configuration that doesn't adhere to the simple binaural rule of nature, and which aims at producing a "creative" outer field rather than simulating a listener's point of reference, which is what most stereo does.

I'm really just mentioning too many things because this field is something I have a great interest in, specifically in developing good virtual sound field processing for audio production, virtual reality and standard playback systems, that works well with both headphones and speakers. Hopefully it won't take too many years, but I have great hopes for achieving this holy grail .
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