Ipod MP3/AAC? What Encoder & Bitrate for my needs?

Discussion in 'Headphones, Earphones & Portable Music' started by Mark Ward, Jan 3, 2007.

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  1. Mark Ward

    Mark Ward
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    Advice sought for my specific needs......Namely great sound and compatibility with other devices.

    I'm getting an 80gb I-Pod and want to encode a load of albums on iTunes that I can also access on various other devices around my home.

    I've worked out that I can get ITunes to encode in MP3 to make the resulting music files more compatible with external devices and iTunes seems to consider 192kbps is "High Quality". I've previously been manually encoding at 320kbps for WinAmp/MediaPlayer but if 192kbps is actually good enough I'll get more on the player.

    Now I know the simple answer is try & see, but I'm interested in the experiences of others as I don't yet have the high end kit under which the difference amay (or may not) be distinguishable. Right now 192kbps sounds pretty damned good on the computer in I-Tunes, but what will it be like when I get a Squeezebox (Burr Brown Dacs) on my main HiFi System? I'm also intending to get a full BMWCar Kit to play through my Car's Logic7 system, will this show any weaknesses?

    In short, who's come to any conclusions as to the best method of encoding and bitrate options for someone who also want device compatibilty?

    I like great sound, but I have a LOT of CDs

    I have a HTPC front end (XLobby) that uses Winamp or Foobar which will need to access the directory where the music is stored.
    I'll be getting a squeezebox for my main HiFI
    I'll have a SNazzio Upstairs on a or more modest HiFi.

    I don't want to encode 100's of albums at 192kbs only to find that when I get the high end kit they sound awful, similarly I don't want to encode at 320kbs or a Lossless format if the end result isn't distinguishable on the high end kit.

    Any experiences you can share,

    Many thanks,

    Mark.
     
  2. lazymatt

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    Mark,

    I'll be honest, and say the only way to go is lossless for your high-end kit.

    The cost of storage is so low these days, that there's no reason not to have lossless.

    I have FLAC for my home sytem (Sonos), which sounds great, and have then converted this to MP3 at 320 Kbps for portable juke box use, and MP3 at 192 for the shuffle.

    There is honestly little point in ripping to a low bitrate and then regretting it and wishing you had it in lossless, and having to do it all over again (as I had to do)

    Remember you can down convert from losseless, but you cannot upconvert from a lower bitrate rip.

    I wouldn't use iTunes. Use something like EAC to rip

    http://www.exactaudiocopy.de/

    Or Winamp with the FLAC plug-in.
     
  3. amcluesent

    amcluesent
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    Try EAC and LAME as described here

    For MP3, I would use LAME and --alt-preset extreme

    If I'm just encoding for the iPod, I use iTunes and rip to AAC 256kbps, VBR which foobar can play back fine on the PC.
     
  4. karkus30

    karkus30
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    I cant add much to this, but can certainly ask a few more questions which are raised by this post.

    At present you can buy devices that stream in near hifi (or hifi quality, the judges are still out) but you need a pc/hard disk on the input. Memory capacity is changing at such a vast rate that your likely to end up with a suite of hard disks on a semi-redundant pc, when all thats needed is a single flash memory of huge capacity.

    With CD and DVD its easier because you know they are a pretty bombproof storage medium, take up a finite space and are generally back compatible with the next generation.

    Squeezboxes and the like are still in there infancy as regards the hifi flag, encoding technology is also changing, hard drives are fragile compared to cd storage, you still require a pc and the appropriate software which is also in constant flux.

    When you have managed to convert all your music to lossless or some form of compression you could lose the entire hard drive, you could back up to something else of course but it is still not as secure as CD. If you needed to reconvert into another format at a later date would it be possible ?

    What really is the risk of using this technology? Its almost like the manufacturers are driving the hifi system to replicate the redundancy inherent in IT systems for the actual replay system.

    You can see the same thing in games and computer software, you buy the software and the appropriate pc to run it. Five years later the software has moved on or the computer is out of date. You cant load your old software on your new computer, neither can you load your new software on your old pc. This is acceptable with IT machines because the actual capabilities of the software are allowed to match the development of the hardware but thats not so for musical recordings, they virtually stand still in most respects, worse still any older recordings are products of long defunct recording systems.

    I am happy to use a portable MP3 player for use when Im out and about, but the thought of entrusting my entire music collection to an IT system is worrying!

    Whats everyone else think ?
     
  5. lazymatt

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    As you state, costs of storage are falling (rapidly) and I would always suggest you make a back-up of all your digital music (and photo's etc).

    And if all else fails, you will still have the original CD as the source.

    I, myself, am not a fan of music downloads as IMO what they offer is an overpriced and inferior product to CD. So keep buying CD's, and back up all your material, and off you go, you have yourself a nice convenient way of listening to your music, that you can carry anywhere with you.:thumbsup:
     
  6. Sonic67

    Sonic67
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    In a couple of years you could probably back up the lot to a couple of HD disks.
     
  7. amcluesent

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    >Whats everyone else think ?<

    Having everything only on a single hard disk = certainty of loss (music, pictures, docs, whatever).

    Something like this with mirrored disks (RAID) would be OK.
     
  8. Sonic67

    Sonic67
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    Well I still have all the original CDs.
     
  9. robo989

    robo989
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    The first poster is an audiophile by the sounds of it (typically unaware of the ability of good mp3 encoder with proper settings).

    Do a search for "Winlame", first extract your tracks using EAC, its very easy to set up, then follow the instructions in WinLame so that you can rip to .wav (uncompressed) and still keep ID3 tags intact (track name\composer\etc).

    Then run winlame, load up your tracks and chose the mp3 lame encoder, then select one of the presets. 192kbps should be ideal for you. It is nigh on transparent, most people cannot tell the difference between 192kbps (on a decent mp3 encoder with decent settings) and the real deal.

    Have a look at the WinLame site, when you use the program you will be reassured that I am not talking crap.
     
  10. robo989

    robo989
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    Your only choice is mp3 as far as compatability is concerened. Nothing other than a computer will support FLAC in general, AAC isn't exactly overwhelmed with support, since you specifically mention compatability, it would be madness to encode in AAC, even though it does provide a better sound quality for a given bit rate against mp3.

    Anyway, just wanted to say that the bit rate is important but the encoder and settings are just as important. WinLame has preset settings for specific bit rates that are designed for specific situations, e.g high end hifi, portable player, archival purposes, etc. It uses LAME to encode so its all sorted, minimum hasstle and you'll get sound quality exactly the same as the complicated ways that some nutters go about doing it (i.e winlame is basically a front end that takes all the tricky command line rubbish out of the task)
     
  11. Mark Ward

    Mark Ward
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    Thanks for all the replies,

    I have started to do exactly that. I already had EAC installed as I used it to do APE lossless versions of many CDs until I realised I was going to need cross-device compatibility. I'm now trying 320kbps CBR. The resulting MP3 files have the correct ID3 tags for simple importation into iTunes and aren't too huge, slightly over 1/3rd of the size of Apple Lossless. I did find a decoder that enabled my PC to play Apple Lossless via VLC, though Winamp still didn't work.

    One thing that has become apparant is that iTunes CD import seems to skip over errors that EAC picks up on. I had a couple of CDs have problems in EAC that sailed through in iTunes. Having listened to the tracks there are "glitches". If I continued to use just iTunes I'd not find out until I went to play the files.

    Trying to do an A:B listen between the 320KBPS(CBR) encodings on EAC(Lame) & Similar settings on iTunes doesn't reveal any audible difference to me on my current kit.

    As for storage mediums... I always buy the CD, never off iTunes. I also have a RAID array server and have pointed my iTunes storage directory onto that. All the music I encode can be accessed from that server by any device that will be around the house. Capacity really isn't a problem. My current server box can support 8250TB (11 x 750gb + Parity) of protected storage, though I don't currently have anything like that much. But the server can take it if I ever get to (or need to) go that huge.

    Even without my server I wouldn't imagine RAID protection is necessary as there's already a copy of the files on the iPod & the computer.

    I'm more concerned with trying to stick within the 80gb constaints of an IPod, otherwise I'd do all in Lossless. Infact I still may do both if I can work out a way to script down-converting seemlessly in a way iTunes can reliably import.

    Now to do some research as to when the release 120gb+ iPods!!!:devil:

    Thanks all!

    Mark.
     
  12. Mark Ward

    Mark Ward
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    Having spoken to a friend I'm now going to attempt first encoding lossless in EAC using FLAC, then using some convertion software to creative LAME 320kbps MP3s for importing into iTunes. I don't know what the software is yet, but my pal uses it to convert from APE to MP3 for his iPod so I know it's "do-able". I'll post here when I know more details.

    In the meantime.... Anyone know the ideal command line for FLAC lossless in EAC?

    [EDIT] To answer my own question... I found an excellent setup page Here, but will also take a look at AutoFLAC.

    Thanks,

    Mark.
     
  13. lazymatt

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    Mark,

    if you have a look at this thread:

    http://www.avforums.com/forums/showthread.php?t=450760

    Andrew over at Audiofi has configured EAC, and has linked to a download.

    Definatley use FLAC and then transcode to lower bit rates. Remember, once you have it in FLAC, you can transcode to AAC if you want to use lower bitrates - say 192 kbps - than MP3 and still get good sound quality for the iPod. You can always transcode to a higher bitrate MP3 - say 320 kbps - at a later date if needed.

    It's just important to have the lossless files as good a quality as possible.
     
  14. Mark Ward

    Mark Ward
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    All setup up :)

    EAC manually configured to use Flac for Lossless encoding into a folder for playing on the PCs and Squeezebox.

    Conversion of these Flac files to MP3 320CBR, complete with ID3 Tags for iPod/iTunes via a nifty little program called DBPowerAmp Music Converter, it's not free but only $14 (+VAT?) and appears to do exactly what I need it to. :smashin:

    Thanks again everyone,

    Mark.
     
  15. Autopilot

    Autopilot
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    I disagree :)

    CD's are far too easy to scratch. You can rip your CD's to a lossless format which will be the highest possible quality and easily transcode to other format for different players/software. The CD's then act as your back, never getting played and thus never getting damaged.

    If you add a second HDD into the equation, you have a second back-up and wont need to re-rip. Many people have £1,000+ of music (that's less than 100 CD's, i have 300) plus HiFi worth hundreds too. what's £40 for a back-up HDD?

    Eventually CD players will be obsolete. Music software can be changed and files can be transcoded (one of the best reason to archive using lossless, lossy transcoded to lossy kills quality). It does not matter if you get a new PC, MAC whatever - the files can be transferred. And lets face it, digital audio is the future, physical/optical formats or on the way out.

    Our music collections have never been safer, it's only peoples lack of common scene that causes the problems.
     
  16. Autopilot

    Autopilot
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    Suburb advice. Although the lastest LAME encoder does not require the --alt-preset any more :)

    www.hydrogenaudio.org
     
  17. Autopilot

    Autopilot
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    Plenty of devices support FLAC - Sono's, SqueezeBox, A couple of DAP's (Cowen?), even the software i use on my PDA (i stream my network to it).

    Your point about compatibility with MP3 is true though. However, a music archive of FLAC can be transcoded to MP3, WMA, AAC, etc and sound as good as an orginal direct CD rip. What happens a few months later if he has 192 MP3 and wants to change to another format? Very poor quality transcoded files (or re-ripping his entire music collection again).

    Original poster - Ignore iTunes advice on 192. Go for 320 if you insist on MP3, if you get a Squeezebox you will regret it :)
     
  18. jason44mag

    jason44mag
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    Just thought id add my two pennys worth :smashin:

    I too ripped all my cds using lossless format just basically to free some space in the house !! (300+ cds take up some room :eek: ) used best quality as possible, like has been said earlier you can down convert the quality but not up convert it.

    So now i have my complete music collection on a pocket sized external HD & a backup copy too and ive shoved the cds in secure boxes in the loft :thumbsup:
     
  19. Mark Ward

    Mark Ward
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    I've decided Flac & MP3 320kbps is my final choice, I spent yesterday afternoon starting to rip to Flac, did around 20 CDs, then ran DBPowerAmp Converter which made the 320kbps MP3s whilst we watched some TV last night. One nice bonus was that DBPoweramp also converted my APE files to FLAC for me so there's a bunch of CDs I don't need to re-encode.

    All worked perfectly and the resulting MP3's imported just fine into iTunes. Only minor problem is that the CD Track ID3 tag data from the database EAC uses is often pretty damned scuffy, it really isn't as nicely presented as the info when ripped in iTunes. Track names are often truncated or just short, genres are inaccurate or missing, mostly no year information (I like to look by artist chronologically) etc.

    In iTunes I can use the "Get Info" feature to edit the ID3 Tags for a number of files at the same time, but for the orginal Flac files I'm going to need a tool that will allow me to do something similar. Obviously if I need to Edit the track title that's an individual files, but for things like Genre, Album Title, Artist etc. I'd like to be able to edit Tags for multiple files at the same time.

    It makes sense to edit the Tags prior to importing into iTunes as then I only have to do them once

    I'm going to research of google this morning, but if anyone already has a recommendation for this purpose please let me know. [Edit]Googling on the subject led me straigh back to good old AVForums with a thread Here...Both look perfect for my needs

    Thanks,

    Mark.
     
  20. Autopilot

    Autopilot
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    Tag&rename is worth a look too.
     
  21. Mark Ward

    Mark Ward
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    The Softpointer.com one is Tag & Rename, I think I'll try that one first then.

    Cheers,

    Mark.
     
  22. Mark Ward

    Mark Ward
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    OK, MP3Tag Wins!

    Tag & Rename is also excellent but $29.99!!!:eek:

    MP3Tag does pretty much the same job, works just great and is free (well, donationware).

    All sorted!

    Thanks!

    Mark.
     

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