What is the optimum bit rate for encoding?

Discussion in 'iPod' started by gocardsfan1, Feb 3, 2009.

  1. macrumors member

    Joined:
    May 19, 2008
    #1
    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?
     
  2. macrumors Westmere

    GGJstudios

    Joined:
    May 16, 2008
    #2
    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.
     
  3. thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    May 19, 2008
    #3
    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?
     
  4. macrumors Westmere

    GGJstudios

    Joined:
    May 16, 2008
    #4
    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.
     
  5. macrumors 603

    GimmeSlack12

    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2005
    Location:
    San Francisco
    #5
    Mind the encoding your using too. AAC, I have discovered, sounds better than Mp3 VBR at the bit rates you're discussing.
     
  6. macrumors Westmere

    GGJstudios

    Joined:
    May 16, 2008
    #6
    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.
     
  7. thread starter macrumors member

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    May 19, 2008
    #7
    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.
     
  8. macrumors Westmere

    GGJstudios

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    May 16, 2008
    #8
  9. thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    May 19, 2008
    #9
    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.
     
  10. macrumors 603

    GimmeSlack12

    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2005
    Location:
    San Francisco
    #10
    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.
     
  11. macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Aug 6, 2007
    #11
    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.

    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.
     
  12. macrumors 603

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2008
    #12
    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.
     
  13. macrumors Westmere

    GGJstudios

    Joined:
    May 16, 2008
    #13
    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.
     
  14. macrumors 6502a

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    Aug 6, 2007
    #14
    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.

    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.)
     
  15. macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2007
    #15
    PS3 does support 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).
     
  16. thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    May 19, 2008
    #16
    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.
     
  17. macrumors 68030

    kbmb

    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2007
    Location:
    NH
    #17
    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.

    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
     
  18. macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Aug 6, 2007
    #18
    I'd beg to differ. Time to run a test.
     
  19. macrumors 68030

    kbmb

    Joined:
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    NH
    #19
    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
     
  20. macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2009
    #20
    Why not use VBR?

    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.
     
  21. macrumors G5

    gnasher729

    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2005
    #21
    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.
     
  22. macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Aug 6, 2007
    #22
    AAC isn't used on any DVDs I own...any examples?

    I've only seen Dolby 5.1, Dolby Stereo, DTS and PCM Stereo.
     
  23. macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Aug 6, 2007
    #23
    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.
     
  24. macrumors 65816

    pjarvi

    Joined:
    Jan 11, 2006
    Location:
    Round Lake, IL
    #24
    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.
     
  25. macrumors 68030

    kbmb

    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2007
    Location:
    NH
    #25
    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
     

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