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AAC vs. MP3, optimal bitrate, etc.

Klubmasta Will

TRIBE Member
so this past weekend i finally started to convert my CDs into computer music files, and i want to make sure to do it properly so that i will never have to do it again.

from my brief online research (aided by my lab partner, gizmo), it would seem that AAC is better than MP3 in that it better retains the quality of the original sound. AAC is also now the preferred/default format for iPod/iTunes, and thus it may one day overtake MP3 in user-popularity. at the very least, AAC should always be popular enough that it will be usable by future hardware. (is all of this correct?)

in terms of optimal bitrate, i want to choose the rate that will result in files being just as good as the source CDs. in other words, any difference should not be noticeable by even the pickiest audiophile on the best equipment. at the same time, i do not want to use the 'best' bitrate (which is 320 kbps i think) because the uploading would take too long. the iTunes default is 128 kbps. i have elected to go with 192 kbps, using VBR, but wanted to see what the rest of you are doing.

is AAC 192 VBR the best way to go?

any thoughts/comments greatly appreciated. :)
 

octo

TRIBE Member
Klubmasta Will said:
in other words, any difference should not be noticeable by even the pickiest audiophile on the best equipment.
the better the equipment the more you will hear the limitations of lossy compression.

if you want the best choice for your ears. encode a track at various bitrates, compare the sound quality to that of the original CD. 128kbps might sound no better to you than 192kpbs so there's no point in using up extra storage space. foobar has an option were it will administer this test to eliminate the possibility that you are fooling yourself because you know the bitrate.

if you use lossless compression like ALAC or FLAC you can always uncompress the music and restore it completely then recompress to whatever format you want.
 

Klubmasta Will

TRIBE Member
Aerius Zension said:
Just my prediction, but AAC will never replace mp3. If so, wma's would've replaced them long ago.
it's a wikipedia prediction:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advanced_Audio_Coding

"In the future as developers learn to better exploit the AAC format, AAC is expected to gain additional ground and perhaps overtake MP3."

octo said:
if you have an ipod use apple lossless (ALAC)
dunno what this is, but i will look it up. i DO have an iPod, but may not always prefer apple and won't want to re-upload all my CDs again. that's why i chose the AAC format.

i gotta read up on this stuff some more ...

i picked up a DLO docking station just now so i can hook my iPod up to my home stereo system when i get home. once i do that, i can try to do a proper sound-comparison.
 
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Aerius Zension

TRIBE Member
Klubmasta Will said:
it's a wikipedia prediction:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advanced_Audio_Coding

"In the future as developers learn to better exploit the AAC format, AAC is expected to gain additional ground and perhaps overtake MP3."

I don't buy it, moreso that its from Wikipedia. I don't mean that in offense to you Will, I just take that site with a couple hundred salt mines. Reason I don't believe it is file-sharing sites have already saturated the market with mp3's. Maximum usability > quality. Saying that, I'm sure AAC is better, but it kinda parallels the PC vs Mac debate. Not enough supporters.
 

Klubmasta Will

TRIBE Member
no offense taken, i don't know jack about this stuff so i'm looking for insight from those of you that do.

if AAC is better, and has gained *enough* of a foothold (like Mac has vs. PC), then i'll feel OK because the chances are good that future hardware will support both formats. i just don't want to spend all this time uploading CDs to find out that the AAC format has gone the way of the beta vcr.

now i just gotta determine (i) what bitrate to use and (ii) whether VBR is a good idea or not and (iii) whether i should use ALAC instead of AAC.

fack, so many options ..... all i want to do is put my CDs in an electronic library.
 

stir-fry

TRIBE Member
will, check out the post that deep wrote in the mixes forum, he sums up the different options for bitrate and the tools needed for ripping.
 

lobo

TRIBE Member
Personally, I've converted my library over at least twice now in the last five years and this last time that I did it I used variable MP3 format ('alt preset standard' with LAME). I would stick with MP3 since that seems to be the most widely adopted format no matter what kind of player you have. If you're that concerned about quality and future proofing then convert your CDs to FLAC which basically compresses the .wav files without losing any of the sound quality. You can then uncompress these files to their originals and convert to whatever format you want after that. I think once Terabyte drives become the norm I'll ultimately convert my entire collection (again) to FLAC or whatever lossless format is out by then and finally get rid of my CDs.

Lobo
 

octo

TRIBE Member
lobo said:
If you're that concerned about quality and future proofing then convert your CDs to FLAC which basically compresses the .wav files without losing any of the sound quality. You can then uncompress these files to their originals and convert to whatever format you want after that.
ipods don't support FLAC that's why i suggested ALAC.
 
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beaker

TRIBE Member
Klubmasta Will said:
in terms of optimal bitrate, i want to choose the rate that will result in files being just as good as the source CDs. in other words, any difference should not be noticeable by even the pickiest audiophile on the best equipment.
if you really really mean that, then realistically you should do uncompressed or lossless (wav, ALAC, flac). mp3s lose low-level information in their compression schema. the point at where this becomes negligible is constantly debated.

if you only sort of mean that, then i'd say 256 VBR is a pretty safe point.
 

Klubmasta Will

TRIBE Member
beaker said:
if you only sort of mean that, then i'd say 256 VBR is a pretty safe point.
is that for AAC or MP3? based on my limited research, it seems AAC at a lower bitrate is equivalent to MP3 at a higher bitrate.

ALAC sounds like it might be the right solution. does anyone know of downsides to ALAC, other than the fact that i can only use apple devices to play the files?
 

beaker

TRIBE Member
i meant for mp3. for aac, you'd have to look into it for the equivalent.

to be honest i think aac is quite good. not really as widely supported as some people might like and i'm not sure it will ever take over mp3s completely, but i think you'd be fine moving forward.
 

alcid

TRIBE Member
even if for some reason the aac format faded, odds are there would be some audio nerd that would write a program that could automatically convert your aac files to MP3 or whatever.
 

beaker

TRIBE Member
you can convert aac to mp3 with itunes now, but it's compressing it even further. i think it's a totally different algorithm so an actual "conversion" might not be possible.

but others are nerdier and much more capable than me.
 
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zoo

TRIBE Member
the best way to go is a matter of preference ..

i only encode to mp3 though for maximum compatibility across devices, and generally higher than 192 (that's sort of the minimum of high quality these MP3 days)
 

Aerius Zension

TRIBE Member
lobo said:
Personally, I've converted my library over at least twice now in the last five years and this last time that I did it I used variable MP3 format ('alt preset standard' with LAME). I would stick with MP3 since that seems to be the most widely adopted format no matter what kind of player you have. If you're that concerned about quality and future proofing then convert your CDs to FLAC which basically compresses the .wav files without losing any of the sound quality. You can then uncompress these files to their originals and convert to whatever format you want after that. I think once Terabyte drives become the norm I'll ultimately convert my entire collection (again) to FLAC or whatever lossless format is out by then and finally get rid of my CDs.

Lobo

Are you doing your conversions from the original, or file to file? I would just worry that working further from the original would lose more quality, kinda like photography.
 

lobo

TRIBE Member
Aerius Zension said:
Are you doing your conversions from the original, or file to file? I would just worry that working further from the original would lose more quality, kinda like photography.
From the originals. I'm ripping the tracks off the CDs and then converting those .wav files into MP3s.

Lobo
 
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