View Full Version : VBR still needed if storage is no problem?

Feb 14, 2009, 04:55 PM
I'm beginning to rip all my CD's to my Mac.
I have always used Max, since it let me use VBR 320kbps.
A setting you can't use in iTunes, you can't only do non-VBR 320kbps.

Does VBR improve audio or just save HD space?
I would like to avoid using Max and just use iTunes, but I do not want to sacrifice quality.

Feb 14, 2009, 07:15 PM
Actually, if you're trying to get the highest quality from 320kbps LAME mp3 files or mp3 files in general, you'll want to use constant bitrate at that size. At the highest bitrate only, VBR is a downgrade from constant bitrate.

For example, constant bitrate would always have your music at a steady 320kbps and vbr wouldn't since 320 is the highest mp3 will encode at. So by using variable bit rate, you'll have your music from somewhere between 260kbps-320kbps give or take.

In short, don't use variable bitrate at 320kbps because it's only used to maximize quality at lower settings.


"The rule of thumb when considering encoding options: at a given bitrate, VBR is higher quality than ABR, which is higher quality than CBR (VBR > ABR > CBR in terms of quality). The exception to this is when you choose the highest possible CBR bitrate, which is 320 kbps (-b 320 = --alt-preset insane), but this produces the largest filesizes for doubtful audible benefit."

Feb 15, 2009, 03:35 AM
Thank you so much for your help.

I try not to use mp3, but m4a and when I encoded them with m4a/AAC in Max I did it with VBR 320kbps, so most of the files are between 330kbps and 355kbps. But iTunes is grayed out, when I try to encode using the same setting for AAC files in iTunes?

Feb 16, 2009, 03:02 AM
I use Max and only Max for ripping/encoding, but haven't done any AAC encoding...only mp3.

Edit: Actually iTunes is greyed out if it's over 320kbps b/c (I'm guessing) it says right on the specs page for iPod compatibility that the maximum recognized birrate is up to 320kbps regardless if it's AAC or mp3 or constant bit rate or VBR (8kbps-320kbps).

I'm guessing encoding over 320kbps using VBR is a nonstandard way of encoding which is why Max does it and iTunes doesn't. The maximum amount of bits the file should be using is up to 320kbps. Yes it probably will work, but some players may not recognize it.

Hope that helps.

Feb 16, 2009, 10:14 AM
Not to point out the obvious but...

If HD space is no issue then why go lossy atall?

Anything I have ripped in the last few years is lossless.

I use flac myself but obviously around here most would go for apple lossless (and being lossless a quick lossless -> lossless change script is never a problem (though I can take some time!))

When portable players hit 20gb lossless became the best choice in my view, before that you had a reason to keep it small! (And shut up you 2 people that believe they need more than 20gb of lossless music at all times!)

Flac / 30gb ipod (rockbox) = happy.

Feb 16, 2009, 03:44 PM
I have tried lossless and while HD space isn't a huge issue, it still is a factor. Don't you need to rip the lossless files, if you want to place them on iPods or PS3's? I have a lot of music (a LOT) and I would have to spend a lot of $, even with falling HD prices. I use mirrored RAID's if the worst case scenario should happen.

Also, while I want the good quality of 320, I'm not sure my ears would benefit (enough) from lossless. I must admit, I haven't compared the difference in size from a 320 file to a lossless, but I think it's about half?

Feb 16, 2009, 04:33 PM
I try not to use mp3, but m4a

Just wondering why you use this over mp3?

I compared the two and thought mp3 sounded noticeably better for a given bit rate. And the difference seemed to be larger with the lower bitrates.

Just my experience of course, but would be interested if yours differs.


Feb 16, 2009, 08:00 PM
I would go with 256 kbps variable bit rate for both MP3 and AAC encoding. Going to 320 kbps won't get much in the way of sound quality improvements, even if you have a very high-end stereo system. Besides, even at 256 kbps VBR you should be able to cram in about 1,000 4-minute songs in a 8 GB nano, 2,000 4-minute songs in a 16 GB nano, and 15,000 4-minute songs in a 120 GB classic.