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LAME mp3 bit rate question


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11 replies to this topic

#1 of 12 OFFLINE   Scott Wong

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Posted April 03 2003 - 11:05 AM

Per my previous thread regarding my mp3 experience, I am currently using CDex to rip and encode my current CD collection into .mp3 format.

I have Windows XP coupled with Windows Media Player 9 (WMP9). I know judging from previous discussing using the "alt preset standard" method in LAME for encoding is supposed to over complete transparency from the original recording to the .mp3 format. And it probably does. Sound quality is pretty damn good even though it is in a .mp3 format.

1. It bugs me that Windows XP/Windows Explorer and WMP9 do not recognize the bit rate of mp3's encoded with a VBR (variable bit rate) I'm getting nervous because I still have quite a bit of encoding to do (I have well over 400 CD's) I have a 20GB hard drive I added in my PC to simply store all of my mp3's. And according to Windows Explorer when I click on the Properties tab of my MP3 folder it says I have 1,760 files thus far using 8.05GB of space. I don't believe this is entirely accurate because of it not being able to read the VBR encoded mp3 file.

ex: I know for a fact burning any one particular track with "alt preset standard" usually encodes somewhere between 170kbps - 230kbps depending upon the quality of the original. Upon playing one of these tracks with WMP9 or even looking at in Windows Explorer, it shows that particular file having a bit of around 500kbps!! Posted Image
I know this is incorrect. I'm just wondering, because Windows XP cannot read the VBR encoded material, is it taking that into consideration? In other words, it says I'm using 8.05GB of space for my .mp3 files but am I really only using like 5.0GB of space or even less??? Or is that an accurate figure? Damn, I hope not. Which brings me to my second question.

2. Is it really necessary to encode at VBR using "alt preset standard"? Am I really going to be able to tell the difference than if I were to burn at a CBR of 192kbps? I've gotten several hundred from a friend using 192kbps CBR and they all sound really good to me. I'm just wondering if perhaps "alt preset standard" is... overkill? What are your thoughts and opinions on this?

Thanks...

Scott.


#2 of 12 OFFLINE   Nathan_W

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Posted April 03 2003 - 01:02 PM

Quote:
2. Is it really necessary to encode at VBR using "alt preset standard"? Am I really going to be able to tell the difference than if I were to burn at a CBR of 192kbps? I've gotten several hundred from a friend using 192kbps CBR and they all sound really good to me. I'm just wondering if perhaps "alt preset standard" is... overkill? What are your thoughts and opinions on this?


Scott,
I'd guess that depends on the type of music. From my other post in one of your threads:
Quote:
You could try some of the other presets developed along with --alt-preset standard that use some similar tweaks, just not with transparency as the goal. Maybe an ABR setting of --alt-preset 192 (or whatever your target bitrate would be), or even a CBR setting of --alt-preset cbr 192. One thing, you should probably add --scale 1 at the end of those command lines
Maybe you could try one of those other presets and see if you can tell the difference.

About your first question, I don't use Winxp or WMP 9, but I think it's got the files and sizes right. It shouldn't have to read the bitrate to figure that out.

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#3 of 12 OFFLINE   Scott Wong

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Posted April 03 2003 - 01:10 PM

Hmmm... I guess as far as WMP9 question, if WMP9 and WinXP is saying I'm encoding any one particular .mp3 file at over 500kbps... then I'm wondering if the file size is incorrect? How could it not be? I guess what I'm saying is WinXP or WMP9 for that matter cannot read VBR encoded .mp3's... if it's simply throwing out a figure of 500kbps (which it is) then surely the estimate of how big my entire MP3 folder on my c: drive must be incorrect, as well... isn't it? I'm not doubting I have 1,760 files. I'm sure I do. I'm just doubting that these 1,760 files are actually taking up over 8.0 GB of information on my new hard drive. Could that be correct? Bear in mind, I got the two figures of 1,760 files and 8.0GB right from my MP3 folder. I am not talking about the entire c: drive.

Scott.


#4 of 12 OFFLINE   Camp

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Posted April 03 2003 - 01:17 PM

Quote:
"alt preset standard" method in LAME for encoding is supposed to over complete transparency from the original recording to the .mp3 format.

Well, I wouldn't go that far. But it is pretty good for mp3.

Quote:
It bugs me that Windows XP/Windows Explorer and WMP9 do not recognize the bit rate of mp3's encoded with a VBR (variable bit rate)

Nothing does. VBR means, of course, that the bit rate vaires throughout the song. WMP9 and Windows Explorer get confused by VBR files and display a single bit rate number (usually something outrageous like 432kbps). Other media players (WinAmp, J. River Media Center, for example) handle VBR files much better and they display the ever changing bit rate number in the display.
That's not to say WMP9 can't play VBR files any worse. It plays them fine -it just doesn't care too much about showing you the bit rate as it changes.

Quote:
Properties tab of my MP3 folder it says I have 1,760 files thus far using 8.05GB of space. I don't believe this is entirely accurate because of it not being able to read the VBR encoded mp3 file.

I wouldn't be concerned. Unless you have other reasons not to trust Windows Explorer the size of the files should be accurate.
Get a player like J. River Media Center and it replaces Windows Explorer altogether. It doesn't matter where you put the files or how you name the files. It allows you to control all your music (and video & pictures) via metadata (ID3 tags). I was skeptical at first but have found it invaluable.

Quote:
Is it really necessary to encode at VBR using "alt preset standard"? Am I really going to be able to tell the difference than if I were to burn at a CBR of 192kbps?

You need to experiment. Different people hear different things.
There are people who swear by alt preset standard or alt preset extreme or whatever. There are others who believe a constant bit rate of 256kbps or 320kbps is the only way to encode. I'd recommend you encode the same track into several different bit rates (variable and constant) and decide for yourself.
VBR is just nice because it generally takes up less space as the encoder can apply more or less data in reaction to the music.
You might even want to try a few other formats just for fun. Ogg vorbis, MPC, WMA can all yield impressive results with the right settings.

#5 of 12 OFFLINE   Camp

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Posted April 03 2003 - 01:22 PM

Quote:
surely the estimate of how big my entire MP3 folder on my c: drive must be incorrect, as well... isn't it?

No. They are different things.

Your thinking is correct in that how the mp3 is encoded has and effect upon the final size of the file. If you encode a song at 320kbps it's going to be bigger than if you encode the same song at 128kbps.

Once those songs are saved to your hard drive the bit rate only matters upon playback...it is in no way used to determine the size of the file.

Am I making sense? Posted Image

#6 of 12 OFFLINE   Scott Wong

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Posted April 03 2003 - 01:27 PM

Quote:
I wouldn't be concerned. Unless you have other reasons not to trust Windows Explorer the size of the files should be accurate.


There is no other reason why I shouldn't trust what Windows Explorer is telling me. I'm sure all of my other file sizes are correct. Here's why I'm concerned I guess:

I'll be getting a portable mp3 player next week. After a month of talking about this thing, I'm finally gonna get one.

If, by chance, I get a model that holds 20GB of data, obviously I can't exceed that. 20GB of mp3's is a shitload of music anyway you slice it. However, I still have quite a few more CD's I need to rip and encode. I'm concerned that this folder is already holding (or claiming to hold) over 8.0 gigabytes of .mp3 files. I'm just not buying it. I'm not saying it isn't totally correct... maybe it is? Hmmmm.... I guess I'm denying the inevitable:

1. I need a larger hard drive.
2. I need to step up and get the NOMAD Jukebox3 40GB model. Posted Image

Scott.


#7 of 12 OFFLINE   Nathan_W

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Posted April 03 2003 - 01:29 PM

Well, I'm no expert, and I'm not sure how Windows'reading a file's bitrate would relate to its determining that file's size. Yes, an mp3 with a higher bitrate than another would be larger, but when Windows determines a file's size, it's just counting the bytes it takes up...or something. Someone else could probably explain this better. Try posting at www.hydrogenaudio.org

One more thing, If you actually have 1760 files they'd need to average only 4.5~5 megs each to take up about 8 gigs. If I did my math correctly...Posted Image


oops, boy I type slow.....Posted Image
I want Ed on DVD/Blu-ray!

#8 of 12 OFFLINE   Scott Wong

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Posted April 03 2003 - 01:29 PM

Quote:
Once those songs are saved to your hard drive the bit rate only matters upon playback...it is in no way used to determine the size of the file.



I guess that answers my thought process. Once everything is stored on the hard drive, WYSIWYG. right?


Quote:
Am I making sense?



Yep. But why do you always have to be right? Posted Image

Scott.


#9 of 12 OFFLINE   Camp

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Posted April 03 2003 - 01:32 PM

The sun is blue.

Is that better? Posted Image

#10 of 12 OFFLINE   Scott Wong

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Posted April 03 2003 - 01:38 PM

Yes! Now the next time you respond to one of my cries for help, that's the kind of answer I expect! Posted Image

hahaha... thanks you guys for all the help.

One more thing though, from all of your experiences, am I going overkill on these .mp3's as far as quality goes? I don't wanna make it seem like I'm beating a dead horse, so to speak. But 1,760 .mp3 files taking up 8.05GB of space? Is this pretty much normal? Granted, I've used alt preset standard for all of the encoding I've done and the 192 CBR encoded files I've gotten from my friend.

I honestly am still not hearing that great of a difference, if any between "alt preset standard" and 192 CBR encoded files. With that said, which method of encoding takes up the *least* amount of space? The file encoded at a constant 192kbps or the VBR encoded files?

Scott.


#11 of 12 OFFLINE   Camp

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Posted April 03 2003 - 02:52 PM

Quote:
But 1,760 .mp3 files taking up 8.05GB of space? Is this pretty much normal?

I think so.
Just for reference: A quick look at Media Center shows 1843 MP3's in my collection taking up 9.433GB with a running time of 109:32:45. (of course, MP3 isn't my audio format of choice so those aren't my main collection).

Quote:
With that said, which method of encoding takes up the *least* amount of space? The file encoded at a constant 192kbps or the VBR encoded files?

It depends upon the song. Experiment and see what you think.
I just encoded a song to test it for you. It's Sweet Sugar Mama by G. Love & Special Sauce (just a disc I had handy):
-alt preset standard = 4,961 kb
192kbps CBR = 5,759 kb

I don't know how typical this is. I would expect the two settings to be closer on tougher material. There are a lot of short periods of silence in this track so the VBR setting may have an advantage in this case.

Quote:
One more thing though, from all of your experiences, am I going overkill on these .mp3's as far as quality goes?

I don't think you can go overboard. As long as you can afford the HD space, that is.
You mentioned getting a portable player. Is that where you think you'll do the bulk of your mp3 listening? Will you be connecting via headphones or plugging in speakers? What will the quality of those headphones/speakers be like?

If you're just using typical PC speakers and the headphones that come with the mp3 player you might be able to get by with a lesser bit rate. If you are going to play them on high quality equipment, do it right.

On the other hand, if you aren't able to hear the difference in the files you've encoded so far, by all means go with the smallest file size you can until you do hear a difference.

#12 of 12 OFFLINE   Angelo.M

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Posted April 04 2003 - 03:30 AM

Quote:
...am I going overkill on these .mp3's as far as quality goes?


No, but I think you are "going overkill" as far as how much you are (apparently) concerned about it. If you cannot detect a difference between CBR 192 kbps and VBR alt preset standard, then I would use the format yielding the smaller average file size (VBR). If there's no quality difference, you might as well take advantage of the size difference.

It's all psychoacoustics, despite the best efforts (and intentions) of folks who have gone to (in my mind) extreme efforts to demonstrate that a particular encoding method is 'best.' As has been said above, mp3, ogg, WMA, all sound great under the correct circumstances. In your circumstance, stick w/ VBR and just ENJOY the music!


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