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Best "bitrate" for audio quality ? (dloading from internet)


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15 replies to this topic

#1 of 16 Kevin_Breeze

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Posted January 09 2006 - 02:16 PM

Dloading songs off the net and they come in various bitrate options. The most common is 128 but some are lower and some are quite a bit higher. What is better audio quality for burning to CD's??, lower or higher??

#2 of 16 Ralphie_B

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Posted January 10 2006 - 03:22 AM

Higher is better. I would say 192 kbps is noticeably better than 128 for fixed-rate. I have some MP3 files encoded all the way up to 320 kbps -- I personally find these to be indistinguishable from original CD quality audio, and they are quite a bit smaller than direct CD rips -- but theyr're also much larger than 128 kbps MP3s.

How are you planning to burn the CDs -- will you be putting the MP3 files on the discs directly, or will you be creating a traditional audio CD that can be played in any player (even non-MP3 compatible ones)? If the latter, I believe size is no longer a factor (you'll be converting the files to .wav format, which has the same bitrate as standard CD audio) and you'll want to start with the highest quality source material (highest bitrate) as possible.

#3 of 16 Scott Merryfield

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Posted January 10 2006 - 05:24 AM

Depending on your music playback device, "CD quality" bitrates can be anywhere from 192K - 320K. Also, the software used to encode the MP3 file can make a difference. For example, I find that Exact Audio Copy with an external LAME MP3 encoder will create superior MP3 files than iTunes at the same bitrates.

The best advice I can give is to encode a few songs from CD at different bitrates and compare the results on your intended playback device(s). Then settle on the lowest bitrate that sounds as close to the CD source as possible. The lower the bitrate, the smaller the files (and, therefore, the more songs you can fit on a CD or MP3 player). MP3 encoding is always a compromise between sound quality and file size.

Personally, for my application -- listening on an iPod with upgraded Shure earbuds -- 192K variable bitrate MP3 gives me the quality I'm looking for. Any higher bitrates do not sound any better on my iPod. However, if I was going to playback MP3 music on my main stereo system, I may have ended up using a higher bitrate.

#4 of 16 John Garcia

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Posted January 10 2006 - 05:51 AM

I usually prefer to not go with anything lower than 192K. 128 is acceptable, but usually is still compression is audible; maybe not on headphones on an MP3 player, but definitely when you fire it up on a decent home system the issues will become noticable.
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#5 of 16 Kevin_Breeze

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Posted January 10 2006 - 11:46 AM

I just use Windows media player & thats what I planned to use to burn CD's. I am totally new to the whole MP3 and CD burning thing, so a lot of what you guys said has confused me.


Also, someone else said told me traditional CD's are 128? I already downloaded a whole bunch of songs at the 128 bitrate so I washoping they would be good enough but it looks like maybe thats not the case.

What I wanted to do is create traditional Audio CD's that can be played in any player in my car and home system. So that means I need to dload the highest number bitrate as possible? I think my home CD player will play MP3 CD's not sure, but I don't think it will play in my car which has the stock GM stereo (2001 corvette. Should I burn them onto CD's as MP3's or still go the traditional Audio CD route? I just want to be able to play it in most all players like a normal CD, but at the same time want it to sound decent. I have a fairly high end home system so I it wouldn't do it justice to play crap on it.

#6 of 16 John_RO

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Posted January 10 2006 - 04:27 PM

128 is the lowest acceptable bitrate for decent sounding music. Mr. Garcia is right in that it will probably sound better through headphones than through your home speakers.
192 will give you the best quality but it is still compressed audio. I rip all my stuff at 128 to WMA and have no problems with it using a Creative 1gb flash player. WMA is slightly better sounding at that bitrate. For MP3, try to get 160 or 192.

#7 of 16 Scott Merryfield

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Posted January 11 2006 - 12:27 AM

Quote:
Also, someone else said told me traditional CD's are 128?

Not true. Standard redbook CD's store music in an uncompressed format, so using an MP3 bitrate designation is not a valid comparison.

Quote:
What I wanted to do is create traditional Audio CD's that can be played in any player in my car and home system. So that means I need to dload the highest number bitrate as possible? I think my home CD player will play MP3 CD's not sure, but I don't think it will play in my car which has the stock GM stereo (2001 corvette. Should I burn them onto CD's as MP3's or still go the traditional Audio CD route? I just want to be able to play it in most all players like a normal CD, but at the same time want it to sound decent. I have a fairly high end home system so I it wouldn't do it justice to play crap on it.

Then you want to start with the highest quality source as possible. Personally, I do not think a 128K MP3 file is going to sound very good on a high quality sound system. Even after converting the music to CD wav files, it still cannot sound any better than the original source MP3 file.

This is why I still buy all my music on CD and avoid buying downloaded, compressed music. That way I have complete control over the quality of my copies for the car and MP3 player. If you start from a standard CD, you can make an exact duplicate CD for your car, play the original on your home stereo, encode a high-quality MP3 file for a portable player, etc.

#8 of 16 John Garcia

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Posted January 11 2006 - 04:39 AM

I'm with Scott. IMO, MP3 is a good way to hear a song or two, or locate just one song that you like without buying an album, but if I already know I like the artist and I think I'll probably listen to the album semi-frequently, I just buy it. If I'm not sure about an artist I've never heard, I like to sample whatever MP3s are available to see if it will be worth it to warrant a purchase or if I just want the song I like. Then I burn a duplicate, not an MP3 copy, for taking in the car (so I don't have to replace it if damaged or stolen).

My two systems at home are geared for music listening, I've compared lower bitrate MP3 on CD to the album and you can definitely hear the difference. It is most noticable with the bass and the highs.
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#9 of 16 Kevin_Breeze

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Posted January 11 2006 - 11:28 AM

So even if I dload 192 or even 320 bitrate MP3's, the sound quality when burned to CD's will be sub-par?

#10 of 16 Scott Merryfield

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Posted January 12 2006 - 12:17 AM

Quote:
So even if I dload 192 or even 320 bitrate MP3's, the sound quality when burned to CD's will be sub-par?

It depends on what your expectations are and the quality of the playback device. Since MP3 is a compressed audio format (meaning that audible information from the source is discarded), it cannot sound as good as a CD, but with a good encoder and on the appropriate playback device you can get a sound that appears to sound identical. At 320K, you will probably have a hard time noticing the difference on anything but mid to high end playback equipment. At 192K, it will be depend on the quality of the playack device and your perception.

#11 of 16 Kelly Grannell

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Posted January 12 2006 - 12:41 AM

The main differences between 192 kbps vs 320 kbps

1. Dimension
2. Acoustic splash and crash cymbals will sound like they're processed through a flanger (at 192 kbps) but very pristine at 320 kbps.

#12 of 16 Kevin_Breeze

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Posted January 12 2006 - 10:20 AM

You say with a good encoder? What is the encoder? Is that the program used to burn the cd's? In my case Windows Media Player) If so, should I use something else.

And when you say playback device, you just mean the particular cd player right?

#13 of 16 Scott Merryfield

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Posted January 12 2006 - 11:29 AM

The encoder is the program used to convert the CD's uncompressed wav files to MP3. It can be done with Windows Media Player, iTunes (Apple's software for the iPod), or any number of other programs. One of the generally recognized best CD ripper/encoders is Exact Audio Copy using an external LAME MP3 encoder. You can find EAC here and a great guide explaining how to create MP3's here.

As for the playback device, I am referring to your CD player (and the sound system it's attached to), your car CD player, your portable MP3 or CD player with headphones, etc.

#14 of 16 Kevin_Breeze

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Posted January 12 2006 - 12:01 PM

Thanks for the info, but I am trying to do the opposite, I am not taking CD's and making MP3's with them, I downloading MP3's off the net and want to burn them onto custom CD's. Should I still download both EAC and LAME?

#15 of 16 Jongyoon Lee

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Posted January 12 2006 - 06:06 PM

There is a lossy compression, and there is a lossless compression.

Lossy compression is, er, lossy. Once compressed, the original in its full detail cannot be recovered. MP3 is a popular lossy compression for audio. Most of the popular compression format are in fact lossy. Once data is compressed with lossy compression, you will NEVER be able to recover the data in its entirety, regardless of the bitrate used.

Then there is a lossless compression. When data is compressed via lossless compression no detail is lost. It's always possible to get the original content back. MLP is a lossless compression used for DVD-Audio. FLAC is another popular lossless compression used for audio. The most popular lossless compression is probably ZIP and GZIP, used for compressing general purpose data files.

CD audio is PCM, and it's NOT compressed. Therefore it's unfair (and meaningless) to compare bitrates against other compressed formats such as MP3.

If you are concerned with losing details, you should not use lossy compression formats. Use FLAC, Apple Lossless Compression, or other lossless formats.

#16 of 16 Kevin_Breeze

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Posted January 14 2006 - 05:43 AM

Quote:
If you are concerned with losing details, you should not use lossy compression formats. Use FLAC, Apple Lossless Compression, or other lossless formats.


The only problem is it appears I don't have much of a choice. I am at the mercy of what is available for download and everything from where I am downloading is MP3 format. Do you know of a good site that has a broad selection of songs available for download in these lossless formats??


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