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These are some comments on the difference between the 'regular' and audiophile versions of BIAB for Windows. It is only my opinion. Sorry for the length. If anyone finds fault with what I've written, please explain and I'll make corrections and updates.

Originally written December 1, 2016. Last revised: December 13, 2023
To my knowledge, most of this information still applies with BIAB version 2024 but there are some important changes about Regeneration speed, and the type of supplied external drive. I have made a few clarifications based on improvements to BIAB in the last seven years since the original version of this post.

This topic comes up frequently and you should be able to find plenty of opinion in posts within the last few years, and those opinions will vary.

I've used the audiophile version of BIAB for Windows for many years and highly recommend it with the following understanding: you will need good equipment, a good listening environment, and good ears to hear the differences. In other words, if you listen to MP3s in a car and you have long lost your high-frequency hearing like some musicians, you will not be able to notice any difference.

The 'regular' Windows version uses .WMA files. The specs on these are often 128 Kbps, some less so. The sound seems to me to be comparable to a 198 Kbps MP3. The compression is about 11 to 1, so they are the same smaller size of a 128 Kbps MP3 but sound better than that.

Some instruments (such as acoustic guitar, acoustic grand piano, and cymbals) show compression artifacts more than others and thus are particularly better sounding in the audiophile version.

The audiophile version uses .WAV files of 44.1, 16-bit, or in other words CD quality. Because they are not compressed, the .WAV files will take up about 11 times more space than the corresponding .WMA files (and you still have the complete set of .WMA files taking up the same space they did before).

The audiophile Windows version runs slightly faster, which might not sound intuitive, but it does so because BIAB doesn't have to first uncompress the .WMA files. The way BIAB works is, if there are .WAV files available, it uses those; if there are none, it uses .WMA files, uncompresses them (which takes a bit of time and CPU power), then plays the song. This scheme makes it possible to have a combination of .WAV and .WMA files in your RealTracks and it works fine.

EDIT: While I believe the above explanation about speed is still true, a substantial improvement to regeneration speed has been made with BIAB 2024, and I doubt that there is any significant speed difference any longer.

Be aware, the annual upgrade price for the audiophile version will be more.

At this time, PG Music ships the audiophile version on a very nice external drive that uses USB 3.0. EDIT: Up until BIAB 2023, the supplied drive was a 2 TB Samsung drive. For BIAB 2024, the drive is now a somewhat thicker 4 TB drive by Seagate. There is enough content that the audiophile version, with all the new WAV files, will no longer fit on a 2 TB drive. Since not everyone will have space in their internal drives for over 2 TB of date, it is important that BIAB performs well using the external drive, and it does.

I have noticed that the difference in quality between the audiophile and regular versions seems to be getting less over the years. In the early days of RealTracks (2007), there were easily recognizable differences. I suspect improvements in the BIAB program using the Elastique algorithm have made this difference harder to detect, but that's just a guess. This year for BIAB 2017, PG Music has re-recorded a number of RealTracks for better sound. [EDIT: more updates were added this year (2023) and the last two years]

Regardless of whether you have the audiophile version or not, the farther you stray from a recommended tempo, and the harder the Elastique algorithm must work, the more you risk hearing artifacts. Also, try unchecking some of the speed-up options in Preferences, RealTracks. I have a fast i7 [EDIT: well, it was fast in 2017, ha ha] and I turn some options off to get the best quality I can for my final mix.

If you are producing commercial recordings, the audiophile version also makes a difference because noise in a mix is cumulative. If you have a little noise on each track, but add many tracks, you may notice it more. [EDIT: with the addition of many more tracks (Utility Tracks) this may be more of a consideration as of version 2022.] Therefore, my guideline is, if you are doing commercial work, you should get the audiophile version. For anyone else, it depends on how much you value having the best sound you can get. For me, as a composer, I get inspiration just from great sound, and that is reason enough to go audiophile.

If you have just purchased BIAB and like what you hear but want the best possible sound, call PG Music Sales and see if they can work something out to upgrade to the audiophile version.

If you have songs saved that were developed in the regular version, frozen or not, and you upgrade to the audiophile version, your songs will now use the WAV files.

All comments about RealTracks in BIAB also apply to RealBand, which uses the same RealTracks [EDIT: and also apply to the PlugIn version].

PG Music has not approved (nor so far, disapproved) of anything I have said here. As mentioned, I welcome and will make corrections. [EDIT: PG Music does approve, and decided to make this a sticky post. I can only edit this first post to keep it up to date.]

There is good information from other posts in the following comments.

Matt Finley
Kingsmill Music
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Last edited by Matt Finley; 12/13/23 01:47 PM. Reason: updated to include new 4 TB drive in BIAB 2024, and faster regeneration speed.

BIAB 2024 Win Audiophile. Software: Studio One 6.5 Pro, Swam horns, Acoustica-7, Notion 6; Win 11 Home. Hardware: Intel i9, 32 Gb; Roland Integra-7, Presonus Studio 192, Presonus Faderport 8, Royer 121, Adam Sub8 & Neumann 120 monitors
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Excellent appraisal Matt, and I concur with all said.

PGM should consider to make this a sticky.

The subject is raised often (I certainly investigated it in detail too before upgrading to Audiophile), and it would be a valuable resource to users exploring the benefits and differences between versions.


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Thanks for that Matt.. good information...

and it validates my choice to skip the audiophile version because I'm certain that after years of working in loud industrial settings and playing in bands my impaired hearing could not discern the difference.

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Your thoughts are a great summary, Matt.

All I'll add is that should it turn out that a completed song is going to be compressed, and the quality of that final stage compression is important, then the Audiophile edition could be beneficial.

I'll explain.

Some more thoughts on audio quality...

When the original Realtrack and Realdrum wav files are converted to 128 kbps wma, there is some minor reduction in audio quality. Even though these wma files are reconstituted as wav files when BIAB plays, the quality losses from the initial conversion of wav to wma are still present.

The above means that when a final mix is assembled and then compressed as part of the final stage of presentation (for example, publishing on Soundcloud where Soundcloud automatically compresses everything uploaded), the Realtracks and Realdrums in the final mix will undergo the equivalent of a second compression. This could potentially reduce sound quality even more noticeably.

With the Audiophile edition, it's possible to work entirely with the original wav files without any loss of audio fidelity. Then, when the final mix is compressed, only a single compression is undergone.

  • With the previous thoughts in mind, when I upload a song to Soundcloud, I always create a final wav file mix and then upload that wav to Soundcloud. Because I use the Audiophile edition of the software, when Soundcloud compresses the uploaded wav, that's the only compression the Realtracks and Realdrums undergo. As a result, the audio quality of my streaming song on Soundcloud is the best that I can achieve using 16/44.1 original wav files.

  • Radio broadcasting is another area where music is compressed prior to being used. So if songs are likely to be played back by radio transmission, it's possible that the Audiophile edition will be useful in obtaining a better quality final sound.

The above thoughts stand outside of an individual user's ability to hear the high fidelity sound of Audiophile Realtracks and Realdrums. It is the overall hearing ability of the final audience that is considered.

Quote:
To test what compression does to an audio file, try the following.

1. Create a small song.

2. Save the final mix as:

  • (a) wav (at least 16 bit, 44.1 kHz);
  • (b) 128 kbps stereo mp3;
  • (c) 96 kbps stereo mp3.

3. Upload all three versions to Soundcloud (keep the tracks Private if you don't want the world to hear them).

4. Play the tracks back and compare.

During its preparation process, Soundcloud will compress each of the uploaded files. While some instruments survive this compression better than others, it's usually possible to hear audio artifacts creeping into to the published audio as a consequence of Soundcloud's compression.


Hope this makes sense.
Noel

December 3, 2016


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This is very solid information, Noel. Yes, it is critical to avoid compressing a compressed file. While I don't use SoundCloud, I have encountered severe artifacts on YouTube. My video guy would make the original file as large as YouTube allowed before it would employ a worse compression level.

Radio stations can really destroy the quality (and dynamic range) of a song also. I have learned not to try to out-think a radio station, because whatever they do will mangle the sound anyway. The only thing you can do is what you say, stay in a non-compressed mode as long as possible.


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I only use BIAB audiophile edition now a days because of the high quality audio tracks it provides and the fact I like being able to have every real track avalibe with out having to install all the tracks on to my Mac. The fact that they are only 16 bit 44.1k does not really bother me since most people can't tell the difference in aduio higher than 320k mp3. As someone who went to school for audio, it would be nice to have at least 24bit 44.1, as I use that a lot when mixing in my DAW, and I hope the 2017 BIAB for Mac will be able to have the RTs at 24 bit, but again, it's not that big of a deal to me.


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Very informative info. Thanks to all.

DE


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New to the Audiophile here.
I notice that the the Audiophile has both WAV & WMA (as mentioned earlier.
When installing to a HHD do you need both the WAV & WMA?
If not, do you go through a nd remove the WMA's?
If you don't remove the WMA's does BIAB just default to the WAV's?
If BIAB defaults to WAV can you, for example install WAV files to the Realtracks you use the most and leave WMA's for other instruments? (If you need to save space on your HDD)?

Last edited by Beachboy; 12/12/16 08:42 PM.

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When installing from the PG Music USB drive to a hard drive on your computer (which you don't have to do), yes, you will get both a .WMA and a .WAV of each sound but you just need one or the other to use that sound.

Yes, you could write a batch file to go through and remove all the .WMA files if you wanted, but I don't think it's worth the effort since they are only 1/11 the size of the .WAV files.

Likewise, to save space, you could delete some .WAV files of sounds you don't plan to use, but you would have to do that manually within each folder you choose, which would take quite some effort.

What I do instead is use a file manager and copy only the folders that are new each year that I know I want from the USB drive over to my hard drive. And I bought a hard drive just for RealTracks and RealDrums.


BIAB 2024 Win Audiophile. Software: Studio One 6.5 Pro, Swam horns, Acoustica-7, Notion 6; Win 11 Home. Hardware: Intel i9, 32 Gb; Roland Integra-7, Presonus Studio 192, Presonus Faderport 8, Royer 121, Adam Sub8 & Neumann 120 monitors
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One other tip. When an update for RealTracks is announced, wait until they also release the audiophile version of that same update.

Sometimes they come together and there is a different link in the announcement. Sometimes the audiophile update comes in another post a few days later.


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Thanks for the advice Matt.
Like you, I'm going to store the Realtracks & Drum WAV's on a backup drive.
So, if you leave botht he WAV & WMA's in their folders does BIAB just default to the WAV's?
Also, thanks for the headsup regarding the updates, I was wondering how that worked.
Yes, I think I'll do similar to you and satart be moving the WAV's I need as I need them to my HDD and then just add as new versions are released.
Col

Last edited by Beachboy; 12/13/16 01:09 AM.

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Yes, BIAB defaults to using the .WAV files. Go back and read my explanation of how that works in my first post. It's pretty cool how they do it. I explain that about six paragraphs down, the one that starts with "The audiophile version runs faster".


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Matt,
Yes, see it now.
Thanks for all the info.
Col


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It really is cool, how PG Music manages to do any of this.

There is a lot of info to take in here. I hope you found it clear and that this thread helped you.


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Yes Matt, all very helpful.
Thanks
Col


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Thank you for this great post Matt. Not only interseting but It has enabled me to make a wiser buying choice of the pak I need.


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One thing I have always wondered about: If I buy the audiophile version, and add to that what usually is offered as the "bonus-49 pack", will it also be in the uncompressed wav format, or wma-only?

All the best!

Antonio


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Originally Posted By: doctormidi
One thing I have always wondered about: If I buy the audiophile version, and add to that what usually is offered as the "bonus-49 pack", will it also be in the uncompressed wav format, or wma-only?

All the best!

Antonio

Hi Antonio,

When this question was asked a year or so ago, Callie said that it's necessary to mention that one would like the Audiophile edition of the bonus package at the time of purchase. The package will then be added to the Audiophile's USB drive prior to shipping.

Regards,
Noel


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This is a great breakdown, Matt. Definitely going to be sending new customers to this so they can get a veteran user's opinion in the future!


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Thanks, Will. I'm glad to have the opinion of a PG Music employee. I wrote this the day BIAB version 2017 was released for the PC. Potential customers always ask, and I had written parts of this info for many years, over and over. I'm pleased you find it helpful.


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