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MP3/LAME encoding questions


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#1 of 28 Scott Wong

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Posted February 20 2003 - 07:06 PM

Hi...

For those of you that are using LAME as an encoder, I have a questions regarding your presets and the strings that you're using.

Here's what I'm doing:

I want a portable MP3 player. I'll probably get one of the Creative Labs players. But anyway, I have a little over 400 CD's. Obviously, I have favorite tracks on each CD. On my PC, a pre-installed version (very old 3.5) of Roxio's Easy CD Creator software is what I am using to rip the CD to .WAV. I seems to do a pretty good job although I know and understand many people rave about EAC. So I'm taking the track off a CD and Roxio rips it into a .wav file for me.

I now use LAME to encode the file to an MP3. What string do all of you use to encode your files to MP3 that will give you the best possible quality? i.e., near CD quality. I don't want some crazy 320kbps CBR encoding. But a portable 20GB MP3 player with stuff that sounds like crap will do me no good. So what do all of you use?

As far what gives me a constant 128kbps, I've been using

lame -h c:filename.wav c:filename.mp3

Is there another string out there that may offer better quality but still offer somewhat decent space consumption? Hopefully, you're all able to understand the question I'm asking. I'm somewhat new to MP3's/LAME so excuse the ignorance...

Scott.


#2 of 28 Rob Gillespie

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Posted February 20 2003 - 07:41 PM

EAC will rip the CD tracks much more accurately than Easy CD especially when the CDs are not in perfect condition. You only have to rip once, so why take chances?

For the best quality settings, go here: www.r3-mix.net

You need to do quite a bit of reading on that site but you'll end up knowing a lot more about how it all works and get better sounding MP3s. I use the VBR settings on all my 31gb+ worth of MP3s and I'm very happy with the result.
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#3 of 28 Patrick Sun

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Posted February 20 2003 - 11:04 PM

Me too!
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#4 of 28 Andrew Chong

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Posted February 21 2003 - 01:37 AM

This JTHZ Web page has excellent information along with example command-lines as well as their recommended settings for the best quality/size ratio. The key appears to be in the use of the lowpass option.

I've used their recommendations and modified them to suit me (increased variable bitrates) and am extremely happy with the results.

Experiment and see for yourself.
ac

#5 of 28 Scott Wong

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Posted February 21 2003 - 02:28 AM

I appreciate everyone's help. Maybe I will go ahead and just download EAC... I don't quite understand the "more accurately" discussion. Easy CD CReator does the job. And from what I've heard, it appears to be working... and actually sounds pretty good, too. Still, EAC may be worth looking into.

Rob: The link you provided isn't working. Maybe their site is down right now?

Andrew: Thanks for the info. I *can* see encoding date past the 20KHz mark is a mute point unless you're playing music for your dog. I'll check out more reading and see what I come up.

Scott.


#6 of 28 Scott Wong

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Posted February 21 2003 - 02:44 AM

Hopefully, this reply isn't irrelevant... but...

I went to the JTHZ website and used the command line that they recommend. The one that, in their opinion, relays the best quality/file size ratio.

Here is something strange to me... and perhaps it isn't and I'm just not understanding. First, I don't have any PC speakers right now but hopefully someone can clear the air on this... otherwise, I'm running out and buying speakers today.

I took a normal CD of mine. And I recorded a track using Easy CD Creator that was 1 min. 52 sec. and ripped it into .wav Okay? Done. Then I went into LAME and typed out that huge command line and encoded it into mp3. Done. After LAME was finished, I noticed that it encoded that track (based on the command line I gave and that JTHZ recommended) at 166.9kbps.

So I go into Windows Explorer and find the .wav that ripped and the mp3 that lame just encoded. If I double click on my .wav file, the Creative Labs "play center" software that came pre-installed on my PC pops up and begins playing the track. 1 min. and 52 sec. shows on the display and I'm assuming the track is playing fine. Bear in mind, the song is actually 1 min. 52 sec. in length so I'm assuming this is okay and somewhat. THEN I double click on the mp3 I just encoded using that same track and again, the "play center" pops up and begins playing the mp3... only this time, on the display it shows the song as being 2 min. and 26 sec. in length. Probably due to the higher encoding I used. But.... is this normal??? I suppose, again, I'll only really find out if it is if I had PC speakers... and I don't. Posted Image

Do any of you guys know what is going on?? ex: if I use the "normal" command line of

lame -h

I've tested it and the length of each track is portrayed correctly. What is going on??

Help?

Scott.


#7 of 28 Andrew Chong

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Posted February 21 2003 - 03:46 AM

Greetings Scott,
I've noticed the discrepancy in reported file durations by player software too and haven't the foggiest idea why it happens. Nevertheless, rest assured that the file's actual duration will be the same as that of the source file.

By the way, the 166.9kbps isn't a constant rate. I believe it is the rate reported by the player software at a point in time since JTHZ's recommendation utilizes variable bitrate (the bitrate changes throughout the duration of the file).
ac

#8 of 28 Camp

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Posted February 21 2003 - 06:21 AM

Scott,

Just a suggestion:

Try downloading Music Jukebox http://www.musicex.com/mediajukebox

It's an audiophile designed media player/ripper/encoder/burner all in one. It accurately rips (almost as good as EAC) has LAME encoding built-in, and can burn your CD for you as well.

It has a pretty big following over at the AVS forums. I was skeptical at first but it's really growing on me.

#9 of 28 Nathan_W

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Posted February 21 2003 - 10:20 AM

Scott:
If you start trying out EAC, here's a link to an updated 'manual'.

As far as commandlines go --r3mix is somewhat outdated now, --alt-preset standard has been heavily tested with many sound samples over at www.hydrogenaudio.org. It'll give you VBR averaging around 200ish kbps.
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#10 of 28 Scott Wong

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Posted February 21 2003 - 04:56 PM

You guys:

Thanks for the info. I'm such a dork. My buddy at work suggested I just plug in my headphones. A novel idea. I did so, and the track I downloaded this morning is perfect. Audio is crisp and clear. Very awesome.

I may check out that music jukebox (thanks, Camp!) as well as the EAC software I've heard so much about. I'm only skeptical because I use my current Roxio software as a burner, as well. Taking the track into a .wav file with that software right now is a breeze... I still may considering upgrading it though because I know it's an older version.

I do have one more question though:

--alt-preset standard is the command line I am most familiar with. I know it has gotten rave reviews as being of higher quality yet somewhat forgiving still with the space ratio. Do any of you know how it compares to the suggested command line they are offering at JTHZ? The command line offered by JTHZ is *so* conviluted. I understand what it's doing but again, I don't necessarily need studio reference quality mp3's... that kind of defeats the whole person of buying a 20GB portable player and having a "huge" file per track. Yet, at the sametime, a 20GB mp3 player with tracks that sound like crap do me no good whatsoever either. I know there's no real right or wrong answer to any of this... but what's a good happy medium? Should I stick it out with the JTHZ command line? Or is the --alt-preset standard sufficient?


#11 of 28 Andy Olivera

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Posted February 21 2003 - 05:56 PM

Scott/Andrew: The song length discrepencies are caused by the VBR encoding. It has to do with how the program calculates the length of the file. Maybe it takes the bitrate from the first frame, assumes that's the constant bitrate, and calculates the length from the filesize. The correct way to do it is to count the number of frames, but that would require reading the entire file(I think) which would just take too long...
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#12 of 28 Scott Wong

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Posted February 21 2003 - 06:05 PM

Andy:

That would make sense. Any thought on how a correction would be made to this (without sacrificing sound quality, of course)?

It honestly isn't that huge of an ordeal for me. I was just initially concerned that the entire file was somehow become corrupt or being encoded incorrectly... I see now that the file is, in fact, just fine... the Creative Labs Playcenter software pre-installed on my PC is reading the entire file and showing the elapsed time for play completely incorrect. Again, not a huge ordeal. But does anyone for sure if/when I obtain a portable MP3 player if this would be corrected upon downloading the tracks to the player? It is pretty lame (no pun intended) when a 4 min plus song is showing as being over nine minutes in length which simply isn't true.

Scott.


#13 of 28 ErikF

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Posted February 22 2003 - 08:28 AM

I'll also throw in my vote for EAC and ripping in secure mode. It may be a little slower, but if you've got lots of CD's to rip, you definitely don't want to do it twice.

As far as LAME goes, --alt-preset standard is the way to go. It's not just a collection of command line options (like --r3mix), but code level tweaks from the LAME developers. As others have said, it's been heavily tested. I've used it on thousands of mp3's and haven't had any problems. It produces a nearly transparent mp3 with good space savings.

If you want to learn about audio compression, www.hydrogenaudio.org is a great place to hang out. I've learned a whole lot from the audio experts that frequent the site.

Erik

#14 of 28 Andy Olivera

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Posted February 22 2003 - 01:02 PM

Scott: I'd check to make sure your 20GB player can use VBR files. If it can, unless you really need to see the correct song length, there's not really a problem. The only "fix" is to use CBR. If you're going to do that, I'd recommend using 192k; 128k is too low...
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#15 of 28 Scott Wong

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Posted February 22 2003 - 05:48 PM

Andy:

I don't actually *have* a portable mp3 player as of yet. This whole ordeal began when my friend sent me a CD of various mp3's. Just random tracks we grew up listening to in high school. There's about 150 mp3's on the CD he sent me. Hence, my thirst for knowledge.... haha.

In the meantime, I have a little over 400 CD's myself. Do you guys know if there is any harm in me jumping the gun, so to speak, and start transferring some of my favorite tracks off my CD's into mp3 format?? I mean, I know I plan on buying a portable mp3 player.

I'm currently look at various Creative Labs models. They don't seem to be terribly expensive and specifications on their models look pretty good. i.e., the Creative Labs Zen2 portable player. With that said, is there any harm in me beginning to convert my current CD collection into mp3 format??

Scott.


#16 of 28 Derek Iverson

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Posted February 22 2003 - 10:36 PM

No, there is no harm in doing so, but just make sure that the mp3 player you get can play VBR and not just CBR. Oh, make sure you have a big enough hard drive in your computer for those 400 CD's too. Posted Image
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#17 of 28 Scott Wong

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Posted February 23 2003 - 02:14 AM

[font=bookman old style,verdana,arial][size=2]This is the one I was looking at...

http://www.bestbuy.c....at=539#details

Hopefully, that link will work? It doesn't specify anywhere whether or not it accepts VBR-encoding. Obviously, that's a pretty huge issue since all of the LAME commands I've gathered thus far perform VBR-encoding.

Scott.

#18 of 28 Camp

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Posted February 23 2003 - 04:17 AM

The Zen has gotten decent reviews. I'd say spend a little more and get an Apple iPod. Nothing even comes close to the iPod.

#19 of 28 MichaelG

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Posted February 24 2003 - 03:00 AM

Nothing comes close to the iPod as far as what? Sound reproduction? Size? UI? Flexibility?

The price of a 20gig iPod for a PC is about $200 more than the Zen, that is a huge difference. I would have bought an iPod for my girlfriend last year except that the price is ridiculous, I ended up getting her an Archos Jukebox Multimedia for about $350 that included 20gig, USB2.0 cable, Smart Media and Compact Flash card readers, plays Divx encoded video files (only 352x288 max resolution), when connected with USB it shows up on a PC as a logical drive (a HUGE plus, no software needed to install), and can be used as a picture viewer with the LCD screen. Also plugs into PAL or NTSC TV for picture or video output. The sound is excellent, and from my experiences and reading other reviews the iPod doesn't have the same sound reproduction. The iPod does have a much better UI, that is the main reason why people rate it so high. The Archos UI has been rather poor IMO, but they are releasing a new firmware that allows MP3 Tag searching.

I am very happy with the Archos so far, outside the clunky UI (that has great improvements in the upcoming firmware) it's been awesome. We used the Compact flash card reader every day while on vacation in Ireland, uploading all our pictures to it and reviewing in the hotel room TV each night, plus all our pictures (500+) were stored so we didn't have to buy 5-6 memory cards for the digital camera.

I agree that the iPod is a very nice MP3 player, but to say that "nothing even comes close to the iPod" is only true when it comes to price. It does have the best UI, but for $200 more than a Zen, I'd take the Zen, you can almost get two of them for the price of one iPod.
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#20 of 28 Scott Wong

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Posted February 24 2003 - 03:27 AM

I appreciate the honest opinions. I, too, like the looks of the iPod. I just can't justify the $500 toy at this time. The Zen2 is on sale at Best Buy for around the $275 price range. 20GB model. Everything included. That's a bit more my speed.

Back to a techy-question...

I've been using --alt-preset standard with LAME, and every file... and I do mean every. single. file. is encoding at a bit rate of over 200kbps. It's usually no more than 215kbps or so but still fairly high. Is this necessary?? I mean, I don't wanna skimp on sound quality but I'm just wondering if this is a bit much?

Scott.