256 kbps AAC or MP3?
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3lusiv3

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Is there a difference in sound quality between 256 kbps AAC & 256 kbps MP3? I can't tell the difference, can you? I'm not sure which of these two settings I should use? Is it worth going to 320 kbps AAC or MP3? I want to encode at the best setting so that if I get better equipment in the future I don't need to re-encode.

It seems to me that 256 kbps AAC would be the best setting. I play from an iPod or from iTunes on my laptop.
 
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cosmopragma

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3lusiv3,
do yourself a favour and encode in a lossless compression format like flac.
Multigigabyte harddiscs are affordable nowadays and this way you will never be forced to rip and encode again.
I'm sitting here with about 25000 MP3 files (and a few hundred flacs yet) , and now through my decent gear there's a audible difference between lossy codecs and lossless.Damned.
IMO it makes no sense to purchase fine gear using lossy compression because the difference between mid-fi and "real" hi-fi are subtle, and lossy codecs are disturbing that subtleness.
 
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Joe Bloggs

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slchang

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cosmopragma is right; the best choice, if you have the disk space, is of course to rip losslessly. You might even be able to store your entire collection losslessly (using the new Apple Lossless encoder if you want to keep using iTunes), and, if you can't get enough lossless music onto your iPod for your tastes, down-sample your iPod tunes set to 128 or 160 kbps AAC. Obviously this is not the most efficient in terms of your time, but maybe the most flexible scheme.

If you can't afford to go lossless, then AAC is, bit-per-bit, a better codec imo, so I would definitely choose that over mp3.
 
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ted_b

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If you can't go lossless (and unless you have few cd's and a 40 gig iPod, how could you) I think 224 aac is a nice compromise. I can hear the difference below 224, and aac is better than mp3 at these bitrates, in my opnion.

I use flac for archiving, but the person who said to use it as your compression of choice obvioulsy doesn't have an iPod. It's not supported
 
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FLAC is not supported on the iPod, but Apple now has a lossless audio codec which is supported. It's not FLAC, but it's not an Apple proprietary codec, either, I believe it's the MPEG-4 Audio Lossless Coding (ALS). See http://www.nue.tu-berlin.de/forschun.../mpeg4als.html

But, as noted, it's much bigger than even 224 bitrate (I've been getting between about 500 and 1000 kbps with it) and if you have a lot of music, you'll bury your iPod this way.

I mostly use 192 kbps AAC on my iPod, which works for me in most of the places where I use the iPod (e.g., airplanes). As has been mentioned, AAC is commonly considered superior to MP3 at that kind of bitrate.
 
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Is Ogg Vorbis an option? It's reputed to sound better than MP3 (higher quality for comparible file sizes, lower file size for comparible quality levels) and doesn't have the same licensing issues.

This is apparently an article about the German magazine c't doing listening tests to compare the quality of Ogg Vorbis to MP3 and finding in favour of the former. Don't know how much weight to give it, though, since I remember hearing about them doing listening tests comparing the quality of MP3 to that of straight CDA and finding in favour of the former...

If you can manage to go the lossless route -- despite the high file sizes -- FLAC is an absolute treat. It compresses quite well (for a lossless codec) so that with the highest compression setting (flac -8) it takes a fairly big bite out of the size of the original WAV file. It is fairly slow to encode at that level, though. Well, at least on my Duron 800. Supports ID3v2 tags as well.

It shouldn't be too long before someone writes the required plugin to get FLAC support out of the iPod.
 
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3lusiv3

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Ogg & Flac aren't an option because I either play from iTunes on my Mac or from my iPod. There's a beta for Ogg that should play on iTunes/Quicktime but I'm not really interested. I'm also not interested in re-encoding 2500 songs from MP3 to a better format but I'm looking for the best compromise for computer use. The new Apple Lossless codec is tempting but I think I'll move to AAC for new encodes. I'm not sure whether to go for 256 or 320kbps AAC because the difference seems small. I think I'll go for 320 AAC from now on. It seems to be a great compromise between quality and file size.
 
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Apples ALAC, is likely not MPEG-4 Audio Lossless Coding (still not locked until at least late this year), and Ogg obviously isn't an option on the iPod.

Hydrogen is going to tell you to test both and see which you prefer. AAC and MP3 are going to have slightly different characteristics (in how they compress), so a test is best.

But if you want an answer... LAME is the only MP3 encoder to really compete with QT/iTunes AAC. Assuming the are roughly "equivalent" in quality, I give it to AAC for speed. Encoding is MUCH quicker if you use iTunes than LAME alt presets.

I'd stay away from the iTunes MP3 encoder is you're serious about sound and using high bitrates.

Also if as suggested, you encode to ALAC on your laptop and then encode off them to AAC for your iPod (if you want to save space or have an older non-lossless supported model), you have a nice work flow. There are similar options for MP3/FLAC on the PC side, but not at this point for the Mac (mentioned since we don't know your OS), or for ALAC.

If compatibility is a issue for sharing, or for DVD player/car stereo/etc. usage, MP3 should be the way to go.

I'd say at this point (and these options), it's about the non-sound issues.

I use ALAC for a good chunk of my home listening, and 224 AAC for iPod (1st gen) use.

EDIT: Ahhh held off sending. Although the MP3 encoder is iTunes (so don't use comparison if you're considering LAME), and 256 isn't tested, this page is good to hear what you're missing at the different AAC bitrates. It's part of the reason I settled on 224.
 
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3lusiv3

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Thanks for the info blessingx and everyone else. This site is a great site.
 
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ChiasticSlide

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Quote:

Originally Posted by 3lusiv3
I'm also not interested in re-encoding 2500 songs from MP3 to a better format but I'm looking for the best compromise for computer use.


I would hope that you wouldn't re-encode anything from MP3 as the quality will get no better if you re-encode with a lossless codec, and would be worse than the original MP3 if you re-encode with another lossy codec.
 
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I've found mpc to be the best compressed format available. Of course, your ipod won't support any of the quality formats available.
 
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Stephonovich

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I just want to point out to ChiasticSlide, who mentioned -8 level encoding with FLAC that the size savings you'll gain from going from the default -5 to -8 is minimal. Literally, you're going to save at most 2-3MB on a CD. Not song. FLAC's comparison chart is showing 413.46MB for a -5, and 411.88MB for -8. This is a compilation CD that's 77:19.89 long, and 780.56MB uncompressed. Oh yes, the encode times for those two... 12:54.19 for -5, 55:02.38 for -8. (on a PII-333 w/ 256MB RAM) 4x as long for a savings of less than 2MB? Uh, no thanks.

BTW, I just tested Dream Theater's Scenes From A Memory (77:12, 779MB uncompressed) on my XP 2000+ w/ 512MB DDR, and at -5, it took 2:26 to encode, with a 536MB final size. This was with Foobar, mIRC, Trillian, and some background stuff like anti-virus active, so let's assume maybe 10 seconds faster with nothing. 2:16. Multiply by 4 for -8 times (rough estimates based on above tests), and you get 9:04. And I'd save 2MB?

(-:Stephonovich:)
 
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3lusiv3

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Quote:

Originally Posted by ChiasticSlide
I would hope that you wouldn't re-encode anything from MP3 as the quality will get no better if you re-encode with a lossless codec, and would be worse than the original MP3 if you re-encode with another lossy codec.


I meant re-encoding from my CD's.

I'm not convinced by lossless codecs because I would run out of hard drive space and would have trouble with the iPod because all my music wouldn't fit on it. One of the conveniences at the moment is beeing able to fit all my music on the iPod, which also becomes a backup. If I re-encoded my 200 CD's to a lossless format it would take up about 150GB, I think? That's way too big so I think I'll stick with 320kbps AAC.
 
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Stephonovich

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200 CD's with FLAC at -5, assuming .6 of the original on average, and assuming 600MB uncompressed on average, (most CDs aren't full length) that's 360MB per CD, so 72GB. Even making more liberal assumptions, like .7 and 700MB, that's still 98GB.

In any case, with PC hard drives so dirt cheap right now, ($1 per GB once you get around the 100GB mark, and cheaper once you pass it. 250GB drive will run you about $170-$200 depending where you get it) why not just get a nice big 'un and enjoy? Imagine never having to re-rip when the next-gen lossy codec comes out...

(-:Stephonovich:)
 
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