Auto MP3 jukboxes: What do you think + q about MP3 in gen.

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Mark Leiter, Feb 27, 2002.

  1. Mark Leiter

    Mark Leiter Second Unit

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    I have been really fascinated with the idea of replacing the CD changer in my car with a MP3 player with a high capacity hard drive. I have heard about a few models that are about to be put on the market but I have not seen any stores with them yet.

    What I would like to know from anyone out there that has had experience with MP3 players, How does the sound quality from a MP3 player generally compare to that of a CD? Are there different compression formats within the MP3 realm that would effect sound quality or are they all the same? Also, how hard would it be to create a MP3 library of my CD collection?

    Thanks All
     
  2. Don Black

    Don Black Screenwriter

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    Well, we could debate the audio qualities of the mp3 format to death. Generally speaking, most people find mp3s encoded at 192kbps to be undistinguishable from CDs. If you can change the head-unit in your car, your options for mp3 compatible in-dash CD-players is virtually endless. Every manufacturer makes one. You would of course have to swap CDs to change music ... but remeber that 650 megs equates to many, many songs and not the standard 12-17 found on normal audio CDs.

    If you're like me and have a factory-installed navigation unit in your car, you only have two options: a) if you have a cassette deck, you can buy a portable mp3 player and use it with a cassette adapter ... not a very attractive option (wires) and you won't get the best sound quality; b) your second option is to get a trunk-mounted mp3 jukebox. If you go that route, there are a handful of manufacturers who makes them with various degrees of success (check mp3.com for reviews). If, however, you want to use the controls built into your steering wheel for track navigation and volume, your only option is the Phatbox from Phatnoise. The catch of course is that Phatnoise has already sold out of their first production run. However, they have partnered with Kenwood to launch a co-branded line in Q3 of this year.

    Personally, I first went the cassette adapter route and grew tired of the clutter. I now own a Phatbox and think it does a pretty good job (it could easily be improved though). It will set you back about $850 though ... plus installation if you don't DIY.

    Good luck!
     
  3. Jay Heyl

    Jay Heyl Stunt Coordinator

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    In my experience, the sound quality of a MP3 has very little to do with the player and very much to do with the source material and the process of converting it to a MP3. As far as the player goes, I'd recommend going with whichever player has the features you want. If you have a cassette player in the car, you might want to take a baby step and get a portable CD/MP3 player and one of those cassette gizmos that lets you play another device through the cassette player. I have the Rio Volt CD/MP3 player and am very happy with it. I bought the cassette thingy at Circuit City for about $15. This arrangement would let you get accustomed to the whole MP3 thing before you plunk down a big wad of cash on one of the in-dash players.

    As for the MP3s, there aren't different compression formats. MP3 is the format. There are competing formats such as WMV. The format is far from the whole story though. MP3 is a lossy compression, meaning the compression happens because a lot of information you probably wouldn't hear anyway is left out. (I'm greatly simplifying.) Complex psycho-acoustical algorithms are used to determine what parts of the original sound will be masked by other parts and can be dropped. Different people will be more or less sensitive to the processing that's occurred. Different reproduction equipment will highlight or diminish the flaws in the compression. IOW, there are a lot of variables and the better MP3 encoders allow a tremendous degree of flexibility. The parameter set that produces a great sounding Jupiter Symphony might make Motley Crue sound like dog doo. So all the encoders allow at least some degree of freedom on the encoding parameters.

    As for the difficulty of creating a MP3 library from your CD collection, all it takes is a CD-ROM in your computer, some free disk space, and a lot of time swapping CDs in and out. My computer has a CD-ROM and a CD-RW plus plenty of free disk space. I was able to use both CDs to rip my collection and had enough disk space to store a couple dozen ripped CDs. Then I did a batch encoding, letting the computer do its thing overnight. It took about three weeks to get through my 200+ CD collection.

    I recommend using EAC to rip the CDs and LAME to encode them. The latest version of LAME has some great parameter presets that make things a whole lot easier for the casual user. Also check out RazorLAME to use as a front end for LAME. All these programs are freeware and are among the best tools available for the job. Whatever you decide to do, please do not use the ripper/encoder built in to your software MP3 player. Most of these do a horrible job of ripping (which is a much more complicated thing than you might think) and a very mediocre job of encoding. If you care about quality, use EAC and LAME. It will take longer to do your entire collection, but you'll end up with a top quality product.
     
  4. Tim Kilbride

    Tim Kilbride Stunt Coordinator

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    I have a Kenwood MP8017 installed in my Expedition...and love it. I also have Polk DX7's in stock locations, MTX amps, and MTX Thunderform for a sub. The system rocks. You cannot see anything...the faceplate on the 8017 either flips around to a black panel or you can take it with you. I will install the same unit in all of my other vehicles...
    If the MP3 in encoded correctly, it is indistinguishable from a regular CD. 4-6 cd's of mp3's replaces 30-40 regular cd's...
    Just my .02
    TK-[​IMG]
     
  5. Andrew W

    Andrew W Supporting Actor

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    I'll also heartily recommend EAC and Lame. I used to hate MP3s, but after recording my own using the archival quality settings, I think they're fine for all but the most discerning listening. I can burn about 80 tracks onto a 700MB CD and play them in my car. I carry 3 or 4 CDs with me and that's enough.
     
  6. Henry Carmona

    Henry Carmona Screenwriter

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    Jay hit the nail on the head!!
    Heres some info that is of course only my little opinion on MP3:
    If you want the best ripper around go grab Exact Audio Copy
    Then thuroughly read the EAC Tutorial
    This is pretty much considered the BEST audio ripping software there is.
    You will also need the LAME 3.92 codec(the best codec around) and remember where you downloaded it to.
    I have used just a few and found that AudioGalaxy.com has the best downloading software for me. Pretty easy to find music and choose which bitrate you want. They also file your music for you. To play my music i use MusicMatch Plus(great filing system and you can pretty much get it free thru Kazaa).
    But again, if you want the BEST quality MP3's, your gonna either have to download them at 256kb (and still not know which codec was used), or convert your own CD's into MP3's with EAC.
    ENCSPOT is a great analyzer and will tell you which codec was used and what bitrate (variable or fixed) a song was encoded in. Encspot kicks ass!
    And then, for the best RW Drive around You should think about getting yourself a Plextor. Ive also heard good things about TDK.
    i know its a lot of shit, but if you want the highest quality MP3's, this is the way to go
    There are 3 great head units that you might consider for your vehicle too:
    Alpine 7878
    Kenwood's old Z828 or the newer ones
    Pioneers DEH-P8400MP also. (im getting this one)
    (all satellite radio ready)
    Good Luck.
     
  7. Mark Leiter

    Mark Leiter Second Unit

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    Jay & Henry-

    Thanks for the heads up on the software of choice for ripping MP3's. This weekend when I get back home I'm going to try it out.

    Thanks to everyone else too. I've picked up allot of info on what I think is the future of Automobile audio.

    Don and those that have gone the Jukbox route.

    I would assume that this has allowed you to store your entire CD collection on the hard drive in you car. I'm thinking in excess of 200 CD's. How do the units you have handle all those music tracks you're storing in that system? When you are driving down the road is it easy to find a certin track by way of the head-unit? Can your unit be set-up to play only certin styles of music from your collections at certin times?
     
  8. Don Black

    Don Black Screenwriter

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    The technology isn't quite there yet. The Phatbox depends completely on ID3 tags. If your collection isn't tagged, you're screwed. It took me weeks to tag my collection properly!

    It also isn't easy to find songs in the car. Basically, you need to define play lists in advance on your computer and then sychronize the Phatbox with your computer (it comes with a docking station). Then it works great.

    It's basically an expensive, flawed system. But it's the best that's out there for the next year or so...
     
  9. Scott Strang

    Scott Strang Screenwriter

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    I downloaded Lame 3.91 the other day and I was amazed at how good 128 mp3's could sound. In fact (depending on the material) Lame's 128's could sound better than Blade's 192's.
     
  10. Jay Heyl

    Jay Heyl Stunt Coordinator

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  11. David Rubenstein

    David Rubenstein Stunt Coordinator

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    I have an Archos 20 gb portable and I use the adapter to hear it in my car. I travel alot and i needed to be able to take it with me on a plane also.

    It's really great, and between the road noise and the airplane noise, the player sounds fantastic. Plus, the unit is only $350.
     

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