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View Full Version : What is the optimum bit rate for encoding?




gocardsfan1
Feb 3, 2009, 04:58 PM
Hi, I am currently copying all of my cd's to my mac, and I was wondering what the best bit rate was for encoding with iTunes. I know that the usual bit rate is 128 kbps, but I have heard that when playing music at that quality on stereo systems can result in bad audio quality. Obviously the higher the bit rate the larger the file size, so I was wondering what the happy medium was for great audio quality on most sound systems but a relatively small file size. What do you guys think?



GGJstudios
Feb 3, 2009, 05:00 PM
In my opinion, 192 kbps is the "sweet spot", balancing audio quality with file size. Of course, I don't use an iPod, where file size can be more of an issue.

gocardsfan1
Feb 3, 2009, 05:16 PM
I have recently been using 256, because that is what iTunes Plus is at and I wanted to keep my music consistent. Is there a big difference in terms of audio quality between 256 and 192 kbps?

GGJstudios
Feb 3, 2009, 05:17 PM
I have recently been using 256, because that is what iTunes Plus is at and I wanted to keep my music consistent. Is there a big difference in terms of audio quality between 256 and 192 kbps?
None that the human ear can detect, AFAIK. I want high audio quality, but with the size of my library, I keep an eye on file size, as well. I can burn CDs with the same audio quality as those I buy, using 192 kbps.

GimmeSlack12
Feb 3, 2009, 05:19 PM
I have recently been using 256, because that is what iTunes Plus is at and I wanted to keep my music consistent. Is there a big difference in terms of audio quality between 256 and 192 kbps?

Mind the encoding your using too. AAC, I have discovered, sounds better than Mp3 VBR at the bit rates you're discussing.

GGJstudios
Feb 3, 2009, 05:22 PM
Mind the encoding your using too. AAC, I have discovered, sounds better than Mp3 VBR at the bit rates you're discussing.
I've tried AAC and haven't been able to hear any difference from MP3. Plus, I wanted to be able to share my files with a Windows PC, which is simpler with MP3.

gocardsfan1
Feb 3, 2009, 05:39 PM
I've tried AAC and haven't been able to hear any difference from MP3. Plus, I wanted to be able to share my files with a Windows PC, which is simpler with MP3.

I won't need to share with a PC, but I do plan on sharing my files with a PS3. Can the PS3 play AAC files? I had originally thought it did, but I want to make sure now that you said that.

GGJstudios
Feb 3, 2009, 05:41 PM
I won't need to share with a PC, but I do plan on sharing my files with a PS3. Can the PS3 play AAC files? I had originally thought it did, but I want to make sure now that you said that.

http://manuals.playstation.net/document/en/ps3/current/video/filetypes.html
From what I can see, the PS3 is not compatible with AAC files.

gocardsfan1
Feb 3, 2009, 05:48 PM
Okay thanks for telling me, I am glad that I asked. If you can't tell a difference between AAC and MP3, then I will probably start encoding them to that format. What can I use to convert the music that I bought from iTunes to MP3? I am running Leopard on an Alum. Macbook.

GimmeSlack12
Feb 3, 2009, 07:32 PM
I've tried AAC and haven't been able to hear any difference from MP3. Plus, I wanted to be able to share my files with a Windows PC, which is simpler with MP3.

Ah, good point. Though don't AAC files come out just a bit smaller than MP3's of the same bit rate? The debate of AAC vs. MP3 isn't something I don't hold a strong opinion about, the bit rate is most important to me.

Teej guy
Feb 3, 2009, 08:05 PM
Okay thanks for telling me, I am glad that I asked. If you can't tell a difference between AAC and MP3, then I will probably start encoding them to that format. What can I use to convert the music that I bought from iTunes to MP3? I am running Leopard on an Alum. Macbook.

Taking the music you bought in iTunes and converting to MP3 will drastically reduce the sound quality. Transcoding between two lossy formats adds artifacts on top of artifacts.

This is one of the reasons I buy all my music on CD. I can encode it in whatever format I want for whatever.

Ah, good point. Though don't AAC files come out just a bit smaller than MP3's of the same bit rate? The debate of AAC vs. MP3 isn't something I don't hold a strong opinion about, the bit rate is most important to me.

AAC files don't come out smaller than MP3s at the same bit-rate. A bit-rate is just that...how many bits per second are being used. 192 bits per second is the same no matter what file format is used. It's HOW the file format uses those bits which is different.



As for the optimal bit-rate for encoding files, look into using VBR. This will alocate bits depending on how many are needed. Use one of the higher settings for more files more transparent to the original. Try a few different VBR settings on a tune you know well that you think sounds good to figure out what settings are transparent to your ears.

Michael CM1
Feb 3, 2009, 08:42 PM
I just use 256k now since that's what iTunes and Amazon use. From what I have read, AAC is a better format, so I use that. MP3's only advantage seems to be compatibility, but that's not important on an iPhone.

I really can't tell a huge difference between 128k and 256k, but I think I could tell when I upgraded the latest Harry Potter soundtrack last night. Seriously, after you've heard audio in all the formats available through Blu-ray, you think any of these other audio formats are sub-par.

I'm also not part of the crowd that thinks the lossless audio from CDs is some awesome thing because 1) the technology is almost as old as I am, so it's not like we're talking audio heaven, and 2) storing all your music on CDs is a complete waste of space. The 256k files sound good enough to my ears, and I have about 20GB of music. I couldn't keep up with CDs to save my life, so iTunes and Time Machine save me a lot of hassle. If I could burn a single Blu-ray Disc to back it all up, that would also save a lot of hassle.

GGJstudios
Feb 3, 2009, 09:00 PM
One thing to remember in choosing file formats is, how are you going to be playing the music? If you play Apple Lossless on crappy speakers, it's still going to sound crappy. If you play 32 kbps on great speakers, it's going to sound crappy. If you're playing on an iPod, iPhone, other MP3 player with average earphones or on desktop PC speakers, I doubt you'll benefit much from 320 kbps or lossless over 192 kbps MP3.

Teej guy
Feb 3, 2009, 09:19 PM
Seriously, after you've heard audio in all the formats available through Blu-ray, you think any of these other audio formats are sub-par.

The audio formats you hear on Blu-ray, whether it's Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio are all just lossless 5.1, nothing special/magical. What IS special is being able to fit lossless 5.1 onto a disc along with HD content. It's great after years of DVDs with only crappy lossy Dolby Stereo and 5.1.

One thing to remember in choosing file formats is, how are you going to be playing the music? If you play Apple Lossless on crappy speakers, it's still going to sound crappy. If you play 32 kbps on great speakers, it's going to sound crappy. If you're playing on an iPod, iPhone, other MP3 player with average earphones or on desktop PC speakers, I doubt you'll benefit much from 320 kbps or lossless over 192 kbps MP3.

The advantage of using lossless/higher bit-rate files than you need right now is future-proofing. If you have a crappy set of speakers now, but upgrade later-on down the road, you might suddenly be unhappy with lower bit-rate files. With hard drive space as cheap as it is these days, it's not that much of a burden. Also, an advantage to ripping/downloading lossless files is that you can convert them into whatever formats you need for multiple devices without the massive losses you get with lossy to lossy conversion (which to my ears and most everybody else's, are unacceptable.)

wbeasley
Feb 3, 2009, 10:35 PM
http://manuals.playstation.net/document/en/ps3/current/video/filetypes.html
From what I can see, the PS3 is not compatible with AAC files.

PS3, most newer Sony Walkmans (not the cheap low end one though), Samsung P2 and Sony PSP all support AAC (non DRM) files. Heaps of other devices probably do to.

Go the 256kbps. Definitely sounds better on a PS3 play thru a proper stereo setup :)

NOTE: PS3 and PSP are picky about where and how you store files. To automatically find them, put the tracks in an artist+album folder. Only supports one level of files. Alternatively, store them where and how you like but access them thru the file navigator (hit the triangle button when going thru the directories).

gocardsfan1
Feb 4, 2009, 03:59 PM
PS3, most newer Sony Walkmans (not the cheap low end one though), Samsung P2 and Sony PSP all support AAC (non DRM) files. Heaps of other devices probably do to.

Based on you saying that it is compatible and the online manual saying that it is not, I am going to try it out for myself and see if the AAC file will be played on the PS3. I also think I will use 256 kbps because I do want to be somewhat future-proof when I eventually buy a nice speaker system.

kbmb
Feb 4, 2009, 04:08 PM
Taking the music you bought in iTunes and converting to MP3 will drastically reduce the sound quality. Transcoding between two lossy formats adds artifacts on top of artifacts.


This is true, however, re-encoding iTunes Plus tracks which are 256kbps to MP3s at 256kbps....most people won't notice a difference now.

That wasn't the case with the original 128kbps protected tracks.

Okay thanks for telling me, I am glad that I asked. If you can't tell a difference between AAC and MP3, then I will probably start encoding them to that format. What can I use to convert the music that I bought from iTunes to MP3? I am running Leopard on an Alum. Macbook.

It's easy if the tracks are iTunes Plus....non DRM tracks.

You need to set your encoder in iTunes up correctly: Preferences -> Import Settings. If you choose the MP3 encoder, choose the custom settings and select 256kpbs. You can choose VBR if you want and the overall quality settings.

Now with those set....all you have to do is Right Click on any song(s) in your iTunes library and you'll see a Create MP3 version option.

-Kevin

Teej guy
Feb 4, 2009, 04:36 PM
This is true, however, re-encoding iTunes Plus tracks which are 256kbps to MP3s at 256kbps....most people won't notice a difference now.

I'd beg to differ. Time to run a test.

kbmb
Feb 4, 2009, 04:42 PM
I'd beg to differ. Time to run a test.

Let me know if you do. I'm sure it mostly subjective based on how and when you are listening to the tracks.

I for one don't hear any real difference going from 256kbps iTunes Plus, to 256kbps MP3. Is there a difference....probably, but my ears aren't good enough to hear it. :D

-Kevin

ozzyman500
Feb 4, 2009, 04:46 PM
I'd never use AAC again personally. A year ago I made a switch to LAME MP3 and I never looked back. It's compatible with EVERYTHING and it's been around forever. Why not trying using -V2 or -V0? I use -V0 just because that's what I'm comfortable with, heck, space is cheap so why not make everything high quality. I personally don't see the point in those people over at Hydrogen Audio saying you need to use what is best for you. Hard drives are less than $100 and basically everything is high quality now these days anyway. So why not check out LAME MP3, you'll be glad you did. /end high quality rant.

gnasher729
Feb 4, 2009, 04:57 PM
http://manuals.playstation.net/document/en/ps3/current/video/filetypes.html
From what I can see, the PS3 is not compatible with AAC files.

If you look at "Music" and then "File Formats", it says quite clearly that AAC is supported. Anything else would be very strange anyway. AAC is the successor of MP3 and it is the music format that is used on any DVD.

Teej guy
Feb 4, 2009, 05:00 PM
If you look at "Music" and then "File Formats", it says quite clearly that AAC is supported. Anything else would be very strange anyway. AAC is the successor of MP3 and it is the music format that is used on any DVD.

AAC isn't used on any DVDs I own...any examples?

I've only seen Dolby 5.1, Dolby Stereo, DTS and PCM Stereo.

Teej guy
Feb 4, 2009, 05:04 PM
Let me know if you do. I'm sure it mostly subjective based on how and when you are listening to the tracks.

I ran the test.

The most noticeable difference to me was how smudged the transients became. Instruments like snare drums which rely on mid/high information to really "crack" were left with substantially less weight and immediacy.

I used a live jazz recording.

Next for the spectral analysis.

pjarvi
Feb 4, 2009, 06:41 PM
I just use 256kbps MP3.

2 reasons: before I "switched" to Macs I did all my ripping into 256kbps MP3 therefore most of my music library is in that format, and the other reason is that every digital music device I know of supports MP3.

kbmb
Feb 4, 2009, 07:17 PM
I ran the test.

The most noticeable difference to me was how smudged the transients became. Instruments like snare drums which rely on mid/high information to really "crack" were left with substantially less weight and immediacy.

I used a live jazz recording.

Next for the spectral analysis.

Just curious....how were you listening to the tracks? Headphones? Ambient Noise around you?

No doubt you are going to get some loss.....and that if you can help it, you shouldn't convert. However, if you absolutely need to, you are in a much better situation with the iTunes Plus tracks than the old 128kbps tracks.

What do you use for spectral analysis? Post the results when you get them.

-Kevin

kbmb
Feb 4, 2009, 07:19 PM
So I guess the next question is, how many people use Variable Bit Rates, and how many use constant bit rates?

Any real pros/cons for either side?

-Kevin

Teej guy
Feb 4, 2009, 09:36 PM
Just curious....how were you listening to the tracks? Headphones? Ambient Noise around you?

No doubt you are going to get some loss.....and that if you can help it, you shouldn't convert. However, if you absolutely need to, you are in a much better situation with the iTunes Plus tracks than the old 128kbps tracks.

What do you use for spectral analysis? Post the results when you get them.

I was listening to the tracks in my quiet room on my KRK VXT4s.

I'm not arguing against you being a lot better off with the iTunes Plus 256kbps files vs the 128kbps files. I'm just saying the difference is fairly noticeable between the 256kbps AAC file, and the 256kbps MP3 sourced from the 256kbps AAC file.

I haven't got around to doing the spectral analysis yet...I'll get around to it, tonight's been busy.

So I guess the next question is, how many people use Variable Bit Rates, and how many use constant bit rates?

Any real pros/cons for either side?

The main pro for VBR is that you get the best file size to quality ratio possible. The encoder has more room to play with in terms of how it allocates the bits in the file and how it can apply its psycoacoustic modeling. It also doesn't "waste" bits in places the audio doesn't need it for the nominal quality you're aiming for.

These days, there isn't really a downside, but the main downside used to be compatibility...some MP3 players didn't support VBR.

Having said all that, I currently don't use VBR...I rip everything to 320kbps LAME encoded MP3 files.

One of these days I'll re-rip everything to FLAC, but that'll be one hell of a project.

eRondeau
Feb 5, 2009, 05:04 AM
If I could burn a single Blu-ray Disc to back it all up, that would also save a lot of hassle.

I just backed-up my entire 28GB iTunes folder on a single 32GB USB stick. It cost me $60 CDN. Don't rule this out as a fast, simple, and cheap backup option. Plus, I can take it with me to parties and instantly have access to my entire library at any other computer. :apple:

GGJstudios
Feb 5, 2009, 05:37 AM
I just backed-up my entire 28GB iTunes folder on a single 32GB USB stick. It cost me $60 CDN. Don't rule this out as a fast, simple, and cheap backup option. Plus, I can take it with me to parties and instantly have access to my entire library at any other computer. :apple:
I wish they made a USB memory stick with enough memory to store my library!

rhett7660
Mar 5, 2009, 02:48 PM
I know it is a little off of the kb rating, but I am now ripping at apple lossless. Disk space isn't a worry and I know I can't get as many songs on my iPhone or iPod. But that is the price. This way I feel I am not sacrificing quality.

Porco
Mar 5, 2009, 03:42 PM
http://manuals.playstation.net/document/en/ps3/current/video/filetypes.html
From what I can see, the PS3 is not compatible with AAC files.

AAC plays absolutely fine on the PS3. I know, because I have one, with AAC files on it ;)

If you look in the Music section instead of video on that manual it lists it:

http://manuals.playstation.net/document/en/ps3/current/music/filetypes.html

As for the original question, encode a couple of your favourite songs at different rates and see what works for you. Disk space is getting cheaper and more plentiful all the time though...

GimmeSlack12
Mar 5, 2009, 04:42 PM
I wish they made a USB memory stick with enough memory to store my library!

Well, technically you could get a 200+ GB USB SSD yeah? That'd sort of be the same thing ;)
(I would hope that would be big enough)

GGJstudios
Mar 5, 2009, 05:46 PM
Well, technically you could get a 200+ GB USB SSD yeah? That'd sort of be the same thing ;)
(I would hope that would be big enough)
Well, a USB SSD wouldn't be quite as portable as a memory stick, would it? :)

Galley
Mar 5, 2009, 07:37 PM
From my testing, 192Kbps VBR AAC is definitely the "sweet spot". :)

Quasiperfectto
Mar 5, 2009, 11:15 PM
192Kbps VBR AAC is the best "overall" setting to record Cds perfectly??? I also see a Optimize For Voice Option. What does this do?

realityking
Mar 6, 2009, 06:16 AM
If you want ti rip perfectly se Apple Lossless.

DaftUnion
Mar 6, 2009, 07:02 AM
I wish they made a USB memory stick with enough memory to store my library!

Ditto. I can't wait until they come out with a 128gb or 256gb usb memory stick.
That'd be the ultimate back up solution so I could just make a copy on there and throw it in a safe deposit box.

xlii
Mar 6, 2009, 07:12 AM
I just re-ripped my library at AAC Custom 320kbs. Why? does it sound any better than the 256 or 192 or when I first started 160? It sounds better than 160. But for 256 vs 320, I can't tell the difference. I've noticed that on busy music (Dragonforce) a higher bit rate helps a lot. On slower country western music (Hank Williams Sr.) it doesn't make a difference.

randy98mtu
Mar 6, 2009, 07:39 AM
This is one of the reasons I buy all my music on CD. I can encode it in whatever format I want for whatever.

I think I'm going to go back to buying CD's and ripping. I've noticed more and more poor quality highs in recent iTunes plus tracks. I had tracks at 128 (from iTunes) that I upgraded to plus and now I can't listen to them because they sound horrible. And I only upgraded my most played songs! I need to do some testing to make sure it's not the headphones I use at work, but I don't think it is because I listen to similar tracks and they sound fine. Someone suggested making a comment to Apple and they would request a new file from the record company, but I'm noticing it on too many tracks to bother. I like the idea of going back to CD's and ripping, except then I have all these stupid discs to deal with again. I have 4 boxes in storage at my in-laws that I still need to transport to our new house. Lovely.

Quasiperfectto
Mar 10, 2009, 06:09 PM
I resolved my issues with sound on recorded CD's using this setting. The best for my rips. No distortions at all in the highs

OnaMacSince1989
Mar 11, 2009, 05:11 PM
I've ripped several CD's to iTunes and am finding sound problems with the last few tracks on each disc. There's background pops/crackles underneath the music and especially between the tracks.

My iTunes preferences are set to use the Apple LossLess method. The CD's are ripped to iTunes from the internal Superdrive in my iMac G5.

Has anyone else experienced this problem, and if so did you find a solution? Thanks for your feedback.

sbking
Mar 13, 2009, 11:25 AM
Is there a difference between creating an aac/mp3 version of a lossless file (FLAC, ALAC) and creating an aac/mp3 version of an actual cd?

Galley
Mar 14, 2009, 10:24 PM
Is there a difference between creating an aac/mp3 version of a lossless file (FLAC, ALAC) and creating an aac/mp3 version of an actual cd?

No, lossless is lossless. :)