This paper reports the results of double-blind subjective tests conducted to examine the audio quality of several state-of-the-art 2-channel audio codecs against a CD-quality reference. Implementation of the MPEG Layer 2, MPEG Layer 3, MPEG AAC, Dolby AC-3, and Lucent PAC codecs were evaluated at the Communications Research Centre in Ottawa, Canada, in accordance with the subjective testing procedures outlined in ITU-R Recommendation BS.1116. The bit rates varied between 64 and 192 kilobits per second per stereo pair. The study is unique in that this is the first time in which these codecs have been compared in a single test. Clear results were obtained for comparing the subjective performance of the codecs at each bit rate. All codecs were software based and constituted the most current implementation at the time of testing. An additional hardware based MPEG Layer 2 codec was included in the tests as a benchmark.
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