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What's the best audio compression format?


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Yeah, question for all you experienced audio people out there. I've been a holdout for MP3 format files forever, because most of what you download is already in that format, and it's the most compatible format. It does not, however, have the best compression anymore. I'm an iPod/iTunes user. Can anyone recommend a format with better compression than MP3 that's compatible with iPod? I prefer to have my entire audio collection in one format for the sake of convenience rather than 15 different types of files, so I'd be mass converting about 20 gigs of stuff. Also, my baseline for audio quality is about what you'd get with 192 kbps MP3. If you can help, thanks.

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Woah. I did not know that. I thought converters decompressed it and started from the top again. Thanks for the info.

Well, they sort of do, but without getting rid of the quality loss. I'm sure there are people who can explain this better than I can, but basically the idea is this. You start with the original wav file. Then you compress it to mp3 or ogg or whatever. You lose some data in the compression process. Now, even if you decompress those back to a wav, that data has still been lost; in other words, by converting an mp3 to a wav, you aren't decompressing it to it's original form, you're just creating a wav rendering of your mp3. Whatever quality loss or compression codecs came from that original compression to mp3 cannot be undone, because that data no longer exists. So if you then compress it to another format, or even if you compress it back to the same format, it will take that rendering of already-compressed audio and compress it again, resulting in further quality reduction and introducing further compression artifacts.

The only way to get it in another compressed format without having artifacts and quality loss from double-compression would be to take the original wav (not the compressed-then-decompressed one) and encode it in that other format.

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Have you ever considered replacing the OS of the iPod? It's fairly easy to do. Check out Rockbox. It supports all kinds of formats, and you can always revert back to the original iPod OS, because Rockbox doesn't overwrite the OS. It only changes the bootloader, so that it boots Rockbox, instead of the default OS. I'm waiting until after the holidays, but once that's over, I'll probably buy an iPod, and use Rockbox on it. No need to do any of that converting stuff anymore, since most popular formats are supported (and some not so popular. Play NSFs (and NSFes) on an iPod!). At the very least, give it a look over, before you go and change your entire collection. Mouser X out.

[EDIT] Jacked!

iPods can only do mp3, wav, and aiff right?

you could give Rockbox a try, which lets you load ogg, mpc, and other things. I wish I could mod my Nomad Jukebox :[ at the bottom of the page I see MIDI [!] .MOD [!!!!!] and .SID support [!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!] is in progress.

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Woah. I did not know that. I thought converters decompressed it and started from the top again. Thanks for the info.

Nope. MP3, OGG, AAC, and most other file formats with smaller filesizes are known as lossy compression formats. When you compress the audio, you're actually losing some sound data due to sampling rates and other stuff (it's more technical than that, but you get the basic idea). You can't "uncompress" a lossy format in the way you're thinking.

There are formats that are lossless compression formats, like APE and FLAC, which, while not giving you the compression ratios of lossy formats, don't lose any of the sound data, so you can go back to raw wave data.

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It depends on what you want out of your sound files. If you're a purist or one of those hardcore audiophiles, then go for some lossless format like .wav or .ogg. I would rate .ape as one step down from lossless, but still very good at compression and quality. However, I feel that .ape takes up more space than I would like (since I have a relatively small HD).

.mp3's are great because of the many degrees they can be encoded in. I used to encode my CDs in 320 cbr, but then realized the wonders of vbr which optimized quality and reduced file size at the same time. Sure it's not lossless, but I don't have a high end audio system to support lossless anyway.

For now, I would suggest sticking with .mp3s or at least keeping the files you have in .mp3 as mp3's. Converting will really get you nowhere. You'd have to go to the source and re-encode them in order to get the best quality out of it. It just makes sense that way.

I really need a sig... it seems to bare at the end of my posts.

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Let me put it to you this way. I've been backing up my music collection for 6 years, it's just over 20 gigs right now. I figure I've paid about 15 dollars for all of it. Does that answer your question?

Yeah. Follow the previously-given advice, don't transcode, it just gets progressively worse.

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It depends on what you want out of your sound files. If you're a purist or one of those hardcore audiophiles, then go for some lossless format like .wav or .ogg.

OGG is not lossless. It's lossy, only much (MUCH) more efficient than MP3. The only problem though, is it's not supported by most MP3 players (by default anyways).

FLAC is lossless.

But in any case, since your music is already in MP3, this is a moot point, since like others have pointed out already, converting from one lossy format to another is bad news. If you were just starting out, however, I'd recommend OGG over MP3.

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iPods can only do mp3, wav, and aiff right?

Also AAC(M4A/P, with the P implying protected files purchased through iTunes) and Apple Lossless.

If you have the space, and the originals in a non-compressed format, you could go for Apple Lossless for the best quality. AAC also compresses better than MP3 with higher audio quality.

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iPods can only do mp3, wav, and aiff right?

Also AAC(M4A/P, with the P implying protected files purchased through iTunes) and Apple Lossless.

If you have the space, and the originals in a non-compressed format, you could go for Apple Lossless for the best quality. AAC also compresses better than MP3 with higher audio quality.

Yeah, I like AAC. Smaller file sizes and better sound quality. I usually rip my CDs to 160VBR AAC files.

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