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Ask Slashdot: What's the Best MP3 Encoder? 371

Posted by Cliff
from the king-of-the-encoding-hill dept.
syd asks: "I'm wanting to convert my CD collection to MP3, and I'm looking for the best MP3 encoder to do the job. The most important factor is the sound quality of the encoded files. Other concerns are cost, platform, and speed of the encoder. However, I'm only going to encode them once, and I'm going to listen to them fairly often, so I'd rather have a slow encoder that sounds good. I would prefer to use Linux, although I would be willing to reboot into Windows if necessary. If anyone has any pointers to some real numbers, that would be most helpful." A fair enough question. What do you all think?
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Ask Slashdot: What's the Best MP3 Encoder?

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  • I have ripped and encoded about 2,500 files myself. I disagree with the other poster who claimed that bladeenc is fast at all. It seems to be a pretty slow encoder for me, but then again I encode at 256K. I have heard that bladeenc will encode in near realtime on a 233Mhz at 128K. But I can tell you that it comes no where near realtime even on my 400Mhz with 256MB Ram. I don't think I'll be changing encoders any time soon unless someone demonstrates a noticeably better sound quality encoder. --Aaron
  • It's simply the fastest, best thing there is available for Linux. It costs money, but it's worth it.

    This is the same encoder used in Audio Catalyst for Windows - it beats the snot out of everything else out there, hands down.

    I'm sure you'd be able to write a shell script or something (or use one of the many frontends for rippers/encoders) to encode entire cds.

    - A.P.
    --


    "One World, One Web, One Program" - Microsoft Promotional Ad

  • by drwiii (434)
    Get the Xing MP3 encoder. You'll be happy you did. I am.

    ---

  • I'm about to start the process of encoding all of my personal CD's as well, and one thing I'm yet to understand is if there is some degree of CDDB integration with the popular encoders out there, so that encoded files get named properly without requiring much interaction by the user.

    If not, then what is the best open-source encoder and CDDB-compatible CD player application, so that I can make a FrankenCoder that will automatically place encoded CD files into the correct directory/filename layout for easy reference...

  • I agree with most of what you say except for the "gimmicky variable bit rate option." Variable Bit Rate (VBR) is a Good Thing(tm). It allows the encoder to use fewer bits for unimportant sections (like complete silence) and more bits for complex portions using many frequencies. This makes for a better sound quality given the same filesize.

    The only disadvantage I see with it is that it messes up some crappy mp3 players, but that's a problem with the mp3 player, not the encoder.
  • Although most of the focus centers on the mp3 encoder, people often forget that the CD ripper is important as well. While bad encoding may be annoying, skips in mp3s are infinitely more annoying.

    For rippers that work on IDE CD-ROM drives, I've personally found all the ones integrated with encoders to be crap. On my (fairly bad) CD-ROM drive, they almost always produce mp3s with skips in them. Worse yet, they don't do much of any error checking to let me know of this.

    So I use CD-R-Win (for Windows). It's designed for CD-to-CD copying with a CD-R drive, but can also do CD-to-WAV ripping with any CD-ROM drive. It actually does extensive error checking, and NEVER produces a file with a skip, no matter how small, in it. You have an option of having it abort in an error, or having it retry reading the skipped area a certain number of times to correct the error. To the best of my knowledge, no other ripper has this option. With every other ripper I've tried, I've gotten at least one or two mp3s with skips in them, while cdrwin is 100% perfect.

    That said, I'd prefer a ripper integrated with an encoder and CDDB lookup. However, the ripper must be 100% perfect, and NEVER produce a skip. Does anybody know of a ripper other than cdrwin that can do this? So far I've been unable to do so, though I'll continue looking.
  • I've tried CDex, but I haven't been able to get it to rip without skipping at least once per song. It is better than most of the other rippers though, since it at least tells you when it had skip problems. Unfortunately, it doesn't actually fix those skip problems, which is what cdrwin does (and what I'm looking for).
  • Wow, didn't realize it had progressed that far. I'm using CDex v0.15 beta 4, which could be why it's not performing as well as you described =)
  • by stoney (780)
    Look at http://www.inf.bme.hu/~dancsi/USE!/index.html thex have some decent data about different encoders.
  • It's as good or better than Windoze, albeit not as stable or fast as Linux, but thats not his point. Just that MacOS is as modern as Windows and used as much or more than Linux and for sure BeOS.
  • By not spending as much space on bass sounds, you get more bandwidth for other areas of the frequency spectrum.
    John
  • and a program called Macromedia SoundEdit, w/ SWA export. I find the quality to be excellent. Anyone else here used that?

    Here's a link to a Macintouch.com column w/ comparisons of different(Mac) encoders. Soundedit takes a long time, but it is the best.
  • Sorry I am stupid, forgot link.
  • I second your recommendation for Plextor, but don't understand your enthusiasm for Adaptec.

    Last time anybody tested, Adaptec cards were no faster than the competition (even a hair slower than some). Meanwhile, if you're reading Slashdot, there's no reason to pay almost double for an Adaptec--even if their phone tech support is better than, say, Tekram's, they still won't likely know enough to help you if you have a problem anyway, unless it's a simple mistake...

    I like my 53c8xx-based SCSI boards, and my UltraPlex. My Mitsubishi CD-RW was cheap, and functions okay.

    Another nice reason to go SCSI, though, is to get a 2-drive external case (plus a quieter fan than the one that came with it), and stick your CD-ROM and CD-RW on your desktop. Much smaller than a minitower, plus I have a full-sized case on the floor I don't have to lean down to...
  • Grip + LAME is my choice. The auto rip and eject features are nice for bulk ripping.

    I share my rip directory over NFS, and use a perl front end to lame to dispatch encode jobs over the network so it can encode several tracks in parallel. With enough boxes, it doesn't matter how slow encoding is.

  • Why bother? If you have a cdrom collection, what's the point of converting them to MP3's? Buy a portable CD player from either K-mart or Wal-mart and play them on that. Why waste HD space for no good reason? Ah the Wired mentality at work. Gotta love it. NOT.
  • Unless you want to upload files over the internet, the best sound quality is only going to be from MP2 above 256k. MP3 was developed for distributing music over low bandwidth connections not for archiving. If you must go with the pack, use Lame, which supports joint stereo. Bladeenc does not support joint stereo. Joint stereo greatly improves the quality.
  • I personally use bladenc, but I've heard good things about LAME. The key thing is that the Franhaufer (sp?) encoders are really geared to high compression ratios to make 128kbps. They do a swell job of producing good sound at 128kbps. For GREAT sound though, you want to go with 192kbps and bladenc or LAME. Franhaufer is way to tuned for 128kbps IMHO and when you boost it to 192kbps and compare with LAME or bladenc, you can actually hear the difference.
  • Oooh... over *nine* *hours* of uptime!
    You must be proud!

    Come back when you can keep that Mac up, under normal usage, for months at a time and you may have an argument.

  • Xing offers their encoder for Linux for $20.

    Pros: Fast. Really fast. The audio quality (on a properly supported player) appears as good as l3enc.

    Cons: Closed software. Only a few current players will play back files (other players 'warble', 'hiss' and do other wierd things from time to time) produced with it even if you don't go all the way to the bleeding edge and use Variable Bitrate Encoding. In their favor though, Xing has released a decoder which plays back their stuff under the GPL so it is hard to fault them. Freeamp seems to be the only one with a linux player based on the Xing code.
  • IIRC, RAR doesn't compress much better, it works on the same principle that bzipping a tar does -- you tend to get a better symbol dictionary for compressing when you have a bigger dataset to do it with. zip compresses individual files into an archive. targz/rar puts all files together and compresses the archive.

  • I was just like you about a year ago, when I found a sound format called VQF.. it provided the quality of a 224 kbps mp3 with 96 kbps. The main problems that I've seen are that encoded does take much longer than mp3, (naturally, since you're packing more data in a smaller space, just like rar takes longer than zip) and also the fact that you can only play VQFs under linux with wine (eww!!).. I've racked up a pretty good collection of VQFs (1615+), and they all sound great.. more info about this format is available at www.vqf.com. I know many people in here are hardcore MP3ers, so that's the reason for the subject.
    Hope this helps ya,
    MoOsEb0y (mooseboy@vqf.com)
  • I rip with my HP CD-Writer Plus 7200i at 6x all the time and it sounds great... just my 2 cents
    -MoOsEb0y (mooseboy@vqf.com)
  • I'm afraid that you are mistaken there.. it is given out for free by yamaha, and there is a plugin for winamp, kjofol plays it natively, esprit will play them once you rape the yamaha player of it's dlls, c-4 soon will, and ntt (a japanese company, which originally invented it) also makes a player. quite clearly, there is significant support for it, plus how often do you see 96k (or even 80k!) MP3s that sound good?
  • correction... yamaha.. even if both companies have japanese names =), oh did I mention that solidaudio is making a portable player (similar to rio and mpman), which will play VQFs?
  • The encoder is free from yamaha.. and ntt for that matter, and VQFs are playable under wine, tho I'd prefer a native player =\
  • In one point, I find this comparison rather biased. All the audible sound testing is done by only 10 people, and not only that, but with classical music, which HAS to sound crisp.. if this test were taken with rock, VQF would definately win hands down.. the way VQF works is similar to realaudio on steroids, in the respect that it smooths out distortion, so that you either don't notice it, or it's not annoying (i.e. jpeg vs. fractal)
  • According to a thi finnish HIFI-magazine, 128kbit/s gives only poor to mediocre sound quality, 192kb/s is nearly acceptable, and 256 is near-CD quality, comparable to MiniDisc. And it IS from a high end Hi-Fi point of view.

    This was from an article where they tested Diamond's Rio PMP300 and Macab's DAP32.

    Among the tested encoders were bladeenc (linux and Windows), CDex (Windows), Electronic Cosmo's MPEG suite (Windows), Encoder-js (Linux) and MusicMatch (Windows, comes with the portable players).

  • Of course, if you don't want to pay the premium for a Plextor, there _are_ other options out there that will get you at least as good results (bitperfect-wise) as a Plextor would. I've heard that the Panasonic 24x and 32x IDE drives do bitperfect extractions at 8x and can hold their own when it comes to scratched CDs. I myself use a 36x Pioneer IDE (though I hear the SCSI works equally well if not better) which gives me 12x across the disc (switches into CLV mode to do DAE!) with bitperfect results. I extracted a whole CD 3 times (each time took about 5 min.) and compared each track to each track. No differences! I've tried tray-load and slot-load versions of the 36x and both worked the same. I paid $60 for mine (OEM).

    BEWARE other Pioneer drives, though -- Pioneer did a good job with the 36x firmware, but they have a reputation for not being consistent when it comes to DAE. The 32x Pioneer was getting great DAE reviews for a while, but then a few months later it was getting not-so-good reviews. It appeared that the only difference between the drives that worked and the drives that didn't was the version of the firmware. The newer firmware broke DAE. Then the 36x models were released and everything was okey-dokey again. Now the 40x Pioneers are out and DAE is broken yet again. (I've got a 40x Pioneer as well and the reports are true -- it does not do bitperfect DAE). At least we know that Pioneer has the ability to manufacture drives that can do good DAE.

    So, if you can get a 36x Pioneer for cheap, go for it! :-)
  • Well if you don't already have SCSI (which I don't currently), then you have to go out and purchase a good SCSI interface as well because Plextor only makes SCSI drives (AFAIK). I'm not willing to pay close to $200 for a drive I will only be using to rip audio. Perhaps when I resolve to switch completely to SCSI I'll break down and buy a Plextor, but until then I can't think of a good reason to purchase a (good) SCSI interface _just_ to drive an expensive CD-ROM that I'll _only_ use for audio CDs. (It's expensive if it's twice what I'd pay for a quality IDE drive, and the Pioneer only gost me $60).

    That, and Plextor doesn't make any CD-ROM drives that use a slot-in loader like my Pioneer has. ;-)
  • cdparanoia [xiph.org] seems to rip pretty well. No skips. Never really had any problems with other rippers I've tried, though.
  • I just downloaded it after reading all the posts. I think it works great. It sounds much better than Xing's encoder, but that might be due to "joint-stereo." (I can't seem to notice a difference between LAME/BladeEnc other than LAME is a few kilobytes larger -- both sound great.) Thanks.
  • Is there anything "open source" or for Linux that'll rip and encode at the same time?
  • BladeEnc is a program to generate MP3 files from WAV or AIFF sound files. BladeEnc is available for most modern computer platforms, including Windows, Linux, BeOS, UnixWare, Solaris, FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD, OS/2 and many more.

    Most modern computer platforms except MacOS. :op

    J.

  • On Sarah McLachlan's Surfacing album, try encoding the very last track

    I happen to already have that album encoded, so I played it and listened closely for any problems. I didn't hear any. The song is called 'Last Dance'.

    I've been ripping tracks with cdparanoia (alpha prerelease 9.4) and encoding with bladenc (v0.76) at 128kbs from a 20x drive, though cdparanoia makes it clear that the data speed on the drive doesn't effect the rippping speed.

    This is on a Pentium 200 Mhz machine with 128 megs of memory, an IDE cdrom drive and an IDE hard drive on seperate controller. I run X, play MP3s, act as a gateway for another box, a file server (including MP3s) for that box, a server for a couple NCDs, and I've been playing CivCTP. Idle CPU goes to distributed.net.

    In spite of that load I manage to get 3 CDs encoded each day. I've now got about 150 CDs taking a little over 7 gigs.

    The wav files tend to take about 10 megs per minute, and the MP3s take a bit over 1 meg per minute.

    Yes, that means I've got more than 4 days of music available. And a lot of jewel cases collecting dust.

  • PCWeek isn't the most unbiased of sources. In general I don't like that magazine very much.

    I can't comment on the review in c't directly, but personally don't plan on switching away from MP3 anytime soon -- it sounds good enough, and nobody 'owns' it. For me to buy into a proprietary standard, it would have to be A LOT better... and none of them, so far, are.

    Whatever RIAA wants, SDMI is NOT going to happen. I guarantee it.

  • This is unsubstantiated rumor: take with salt.

    I have been told that that Maxtor owns Quantum. Drives from both come off the same assembly lines, but Quantum gets 'pick of the litter'. In other words, Maxtor builds drives from the platters that Quantum didn't want/need.

    In general, apparently, you get better drives if you buy Quantum over Maxtor. But you will pay more for them, too.

    Don't know about you folks, but I'm getting nervous about how cheap drives are getting. The damn things are spinning 120 times A SECOND in there. Quality is likely to take a nosedive with the incredible financial pressures that drive makers are under right now.

    We've had a LOT of Western Digital 9GB SCSIs fail at work. We brought in about twenty of those drives about 18 months ago, and eight have died. And those weren't even cheap..... I think we paid $850 each or so. WD has been very nice about replacing them, but they still broke.

    It worries me when I see drives of about the same size and speed rating (EIDE, admittedly) for $150 in just 18 months... that is waaay too much price pressure. Something has got to give, and I fear it will be our data.
  • I bought a copy of xingenc when it was released for Linux (impulse purchase). The speed was quite good, and the speed/quality ratio was also quite ideal. A while back I did a by-ear comparison of bladeenc, xing and 8hz' encode -- bladeenc and encode were both good quality, their perceptible flaws were some slight muddling when both high and low freqs were occuring simultaneously in the music (which is a waveform encoding issue we're not going to get away from). Xing's quality was perceptibly lower, audibly distorting both extremes of the frequency range (plus chopping the ones higher than you're supposed to be able to hear). That was all at 128kbps -- at 160kbps and above, I couldn't make out any difference.

    OTOH, the Xing encoder supports VBR encoding, which did seem to increase the perceived quality quite a bit. The feature is available under Linux; the files are a bit bigger with a mid-to-high quality settings, but the result sounds nice.

    Somewhere there was an actual frequency-analysis report of a bunch of mp3 encoders, including all three of the above. Now I've forgotten the URL.
  • Ah, here 'twas: http://www.inf.bme.hu/~dancsi/USE!/ [inf.bme.hu]
  • Because of it's speed, I use Xing's command line encoder to encode. I use VBR HQ, and the resulting mp3's average around 200kbps for newer music. Some of my older music turns out around 112, and are still indistinguishable from the original. Not bad, considering that for difficult parts of the music it jumps up to 256 or 320kbps. For not-so-demanding portions, it will drop down to 96kbps. I also figure that drive space is so cheap that I shouldn't skimp on quality.

    For ripping, I use cd-paranoia III on my linux box. That sucker can rip from dirty discs, even with a few scratches. It's slow, but yields a very stable wave file. I built a perl front end that looks the cd up at cddb.com. After it rips, it sends the wav file over to my PPro w/ WinNT, which encodes, tags and renames the file. Am I the only one that uses a cluster for creating mp3s? :)

    I like fraunhofer's codec, but v3.1 doesn't run on WinNT (documented bug...) and it takes an eternity to encode files. Besides, they seem to be concentrating on 128kbps and below, mainly for streaming music over the internet. On top of that, there's no possibility of VBR.

    My perception of BladeEnc is that it plainly sucks. Maybe that's because I've heard horrid-sounding samples of music encoded with this encoder. I just recently read that there are bad versions floating around. It seems that if Blade is compiled with code optimizations, the mp3 output turns out *different* from what it should.

    I can't be sure, but there are two artifacts I hear most often in mp3s in a.b.sounds.mp3. The first is a distinct background, garbled digital wooshing sound, accentuated most when treble is turned up. The other artifact I hear I call "spoons". That's where you hear a really high-pitched "ping", like two spoons being whacked together, on cymbals and other high-toned instruments. I attribute these to Blade, probably unfairly, but there seems to be a lot of crappy mp3s out there... and someone doesn't know s/he's making them.

    The most promising encoder I have seen is LAME (LAME Ain't an MP3 Encoder) (LAME) [sulaco.org]. They just put in VBR support, and they have a much improved psycho-acoustic model over the ISO code. And it's all open source. Neat-oh!

    MP3 encoders are just another religious debate in computer land. What really matters is which one sounds best to *YOU*. Do some experimenting, make sure you're using headphones. Try a few different encoders on the same wav file, and do A-B comparisons. Try different kinds of music (I found picking-guitar and audience applause are difficult for some encoders). You're correct: you only want to encode your collection once, so you want to make sure it's done right!

    The last thing I want to mention is Joint Stereo. Personally, I like it, as it gives the left and right a little more room to store data, but I have noticed a *very* slight reduction in channel separation. The left and right aren't as separated as the original. It's extremely hard to notice, and in my opionion, very much worth the increase in quality.

    -dodja
  • BladeEnc is a great encoder, but there are a few issues:

    1. It's slow. It takes the K6-2 300 in the other room about 2 times the length of the song being encoded to encode.

    2. Avoid BladeEnc 0.80 and 0.81! They randomly produce fucked up MP3s when encoding in batch! I found this out the hard way. After encoding several CDs and listening to the MP3s on the Windoze machine in the other room, I tried listening to them on my machine using XMMS... some were okay, but some sounded like random noise, or were too slow/fast, etc. This is a bug that the author acknowledges was in 0.80 and was supposedly fixed in 0.81 (although it wasn't). I don't know if a new version is out that has fixed this, but it's safest to stick with 0.76.

    Other than that, BladeEnc is a fine choice :).
  • by Pulsar (4287)
    From the artists I've talked to on mp3.com and amp3.com, Bladeenc isn't that great. I usually just use mp3 producer pro, but its interface tends to be a bit flakey. For batch encoding a bunch of cds, you can't beat anything like CDDA Extractor that does builtin CDDB stuff and track naming all the way through encoding...
  • But I've tried a number of different encoders under Linux, OS/2 and Windows, and I'm currently settled on MusicMatch Jukebox 4.0 under Windows95. I know, I know, we all know Windows bites, but this app has really functioned extremely well for me and I even went ahead and registered it to get up to 160kbps sampling rates. Their web site is at: http://www.musicmatch.com/ [musicmatch.com].

    Cheers...
  • I'm surprised you made no mention of size and bitrate, which in the end will have much more to do with the quality of your music than the encoder. Any of several good encoders (Xing, Fraunhoffer (sp?)) will get the job done, but they'll be a noticeable difference in quality between 128kbps, 160kbps, and 192kbps. Contrary to popular belief, 128kbps is not CD quality. CD quality is about 1440kbps, IIRC. So already you can see that you're losing over 90% of your music data just going from WAV to MP3. Hopefully this illustrates why encoding at higher rates is so important - every last bit counts. If I were going to convert my entire CD collection to MP3 and then (god forbid) possibly get rid of the CDs, there's no way I'd do it at anything below 192kbps - maybe even 256kbps if I just stuck everything on CD-R. Bitrate is that important. I don't even keep any downloaded MP3s under 160 anymore; I just delete them all. Get the good MP3 encoder, to be sure, but then make sure you encode at a high enough bitrate. Try it for yourself; encode some MP3s at 96, 128, 160, and 192. It's possible that years of being an audiophile has made my ears picky, so it's basically personal preference. You'll probably notice quite a bit of difference going from 128kbps higher.
  • Non-loosy audio compression?!? I believe that is an oxymoron. I've used l3enc, Fraunhoffer windows CODEC, and Blade. I prefer blade for it's speed, and high bitrate that I can't get out of the other two. As for quality, I can't tell a difference between a CD and a 160kbps MP3 from Blade on my Aureal Vortex with a $30 set of head phones. Only on live recordings would I be worried...
  • I started using BladeEnc on windows and when I went full time to linux tried out a couple of encoders before going back to BladeEnc. It has consistently shown itself to be of exceptional speed and quality.

    Recently I ripped my modest collection of 25 albums over a period of a few days using ripit [freshmeat.net], a perl script which does a cddb lookup of the tracks, rips them, and then encodes them with bladeenc or lame.

    I wouldn't consider ripping a cd collection without cddb these days, after doing it the easy way it would be far too painful to do it manually.

  • If BladeEnc is good for mp3s then, god, mp3s are pretty dire quality.
    I've heard worse encoders it has to be said but they were unlistenable.
    Don't use mp3 to encode at all - use something non-lossy if you are so concerned about audio quality...




  • Wow, interesting replies all around. Welp, I was introduced to CDex tonight, and I must agree that it is awesome. Previously I have been an AudioGrabber addict (for those brief moments in Windows), but CDex 1.20beta5 is really nice. Anyhow, on to the meat and potatoes.

    I tried the latest downloadable releases of BladeEnc, LAME (.DLLs only, of course), and the FHG-Radium (== optimised) codecs. I ripped under Win98 using a Plextor UltraPlex 40max hooked to an Adaptec 2930B; my machine is a diehard overclocked Celeron 366 PPGA to 550 (384 MB RAM). My encoding settings are for 192 kbit/s at 44.1 kHz simple stereo (NOT joint-stereo) for track 01 from the 1995 Del Amitri CD, _Twisted_ (the song being "Food for Songs"). I have a Diamond MonsterSound MX300 hooked up to Cambridge SoundWorks (the SoundWorks model) speakers. In short, my system is pretty decent for personal testing. ;)

    The BladeEnc 0.82 Intel DLL took approximately 2 minutes and 5 seconds to encode. The LAME 3.14 codec (I can't find any mention of it on the LAME history page, however) included with CDex 1.20beta5 took 1 minute and 1 second. The FHG-Radium codec took 2 minutes and 18 seconds.

    My take, from "best-sounding" to "worst-sounding" (note the subjectivity; I don't claim to be unbiased =): FHG-Radium-> LAME-> BladeEnc.

    As much as I dislike rebooting just to encode mp3s, I have to admit that the FHG-Radium codec is hands-down the winner. The intro segment with the hi-hat is superb for testing high-frequency response in the encoded MPEG-1.0 layer 3 file, and while all three codecs produced top-notch quality high-frequency response, the FHG-Radium codec retained the "finesse"/crispness of the hi-hat; the remaining two did not retain such crispness. (Caveat: I am EXTREMELY picky about crispness in high-frequency response. ;)

    Interestingly enough, CDex's internal mp2 (MPEG-1.0 layer 2) encoder produced a file of equal if not better quality than the mp3 produced by the FHG-Radium codec. This may be due to the nature of the mp3 routines. Additionally, it took just fifty seconds to encode. =)

    My recommendation? If you're looking for professional quality, then you may wish to invest in hardware encoding (no software solution will ever top those!). If you use Windows, then FHG-Radium is your best bet. If you use *nix, then LAME is your best bet. If you straddle the fence a bit (as I do), then choose whichever the sun shines on that day. ;)

    As a side note: the versions of the codecs, with the exception of the FHG-Radium one, that I tested were not the latest and greatest. I believe LAME is up to 3.24 (beta) and BladeEnc is up to 0.85 (beta). Next time I'll test in Slink. ;)
  • Xing is not necessarily bad; I just prefer the FHG-Radium codec. In fact, I might just stick with MPEG-1.0 Layer 2 encoding, since at higher bitrates (i.e. 192+ kbit/s) the sound quality is even better than that of FHG-Radium at 320.
  • Everybody is saying that x mp3 encoder has better quality than y mp3 encoder. However, I was wondering as my ears are not that good, how in fact these conclusions are made. What mathematical/scientific process determines that the quality of one mp3 encoder is better than another if they encode the same file at the same bitrate? It seems as though no one is giving this person a direct answer with at least some research or links to research. Don't get me wrong, I'm not calling anyone a liar. I just wanna see a little proof that one encoder produces higher quality files than another.
  • I've never tried BladeEnc at 256k, not enought disk space. But at the standard 128k format, it sucks.

    The higher frequencies doesn't sound anything like the original. Making the file useless and painfull to listen to.

    mp3enc is maybe slow but produce far more better mp3 files at 128k.
  • by cjsnell (5825)
    Yep, the Fraunhofer codec is pretty much unbeatable when it comes to quality. Most people say they can't tell the difference between encoders and I can't under most conditions but when I put on my high-end studio-quality headphones, I can tell the difference between them. You notice it most when you hear high-pitched noises, which appear a bit "tinny" when encoded with other codecs. I think it would be sweet if someone hacked WINE (or something else maybe?) to let us use Windows CODECs under UNIX.

  • Try out Lame, you might really like it. I use to be a hard core bladeenc user, but I encoded mp3's side by side and listened to them using bladeenc and lame, and found that lame was more than twice a fast, and didn't have some high frequency distortion that I could hear in blade.

    Try them both for yourself, you will hear the difference.... Lame works better for me
  • This is by far the best mp3 encoder out there. It's a combination of the Audiograbber software (an awesome cd ripper), and the Xing encoder and player. It also has normalization and enough different bitrates to keep just about anyone happy.

    It's so easy to use that you can plop a CD into the drive, hit the CDDB button, put check marks next to the songs you want to encode and then you can leave. Come back in a little while and the songs will be ripped, normalized, and encoded at the bitrate you specified in the directory you specified with the songnames downloaded off the Internet.

    You can definitely hobble together several different programs (Xing makes an encoder for Linux last I checked) under Linux to do the same thing, but it's really worthwhile to reboot into Windows for this one...

  • Personally, I use LAME because it's fastest and not noticably worse (perhaps better) than the alternatives I've seen.

    My preferred ripping/encoding frontend is Paloma [fsu.edu]. It does CDDB lookup, calls cdparanoia and an encoder, and stores your MP3s in a relational database. I really like the ability to generate playlists based on arbitrary queries of the database. It's very slick.

    Paloma also supports division of the files into "buckets" of a fixed size. Say, 650MB. Useful if you want to burn your collection onto multiple CDRs, either for backup or to carry around with a laptop.

    I only have about 10GB of MP3s so far, but I just bought a 27GB drive to store most of the rest of my collection, and I expect I'll fill it soon.

    One suggestion for speeding the process of converting your collection, if you have several hundred CDs: Buy another CDROM drive! It only costs $30, and it speeds things up by a lot.
  • I have been using bladeenc [swipnet.se] for quite awhile now, and the sound quality is great, and it is the fastest encoder available on any platform.
  • Is it anyone else than me who have noticed that some encoders (I've tested Radium enhanced FhG) use a lot more time encoding "difficult" songs, like jazz music, than when encoding less complex music.

    My P2-233 easily encodes in realtime when encoding a Underworld disc, but it does a lot worse when encoding a Charlie Parker disc.
  • I use a perl script called ripit.pl [udel.edu] that rips the tracks from a cd, uses CDDB to name them, and encode them into mp3s. I can't remember where I got it but all the credits are still there, I wish the author had put their email or web address in the info block.. Anyway, it rocks, but it uses cdparanoia and bladeenc so I'm modifing it to use Xing with cdparanoia.
  • by jwm (7499)

    If you're a serious quality fiend, don't bother with 8hz, bladeenc or any of the other ISO derivitives. Typically, they only improve on the speed of the encoder, not the quality - and the standard ISO psycho acoustic model has a number of errors.

    Go and download LAME [sulaco.org]. Lame Ain't an MP3 Encoder, it's a patch against the distribution 10 ISO example source which replaces the psycho acoustic model with GPSYCHO, adds variable bit rate support, joint stereo and a host of other goodies. I tested it out the other day, and it was consistantly encoding as fast as bladeenc and at a much better quality - less 'brittle' sounding in general, and without the high pitched sound artifacts that other encoders produce in about 20% of the things I've encoded (at 128 kbit, admitedly).

  • Just where can mere mortals find a low-cost encoder, or, for that matter, a Linux player?

    --
  • I beta-tested Xing for Linux, and it's far faster than anything else out there. My tests on a K6/300, encoding a 4:58 stereo 44.1 kHz file at 128 kbps:

    BladeEnc 0.76 - 12:00
    LAME 2.1f - 8:17
    Xing 1.5 Beta1 - 2:32

    I haven't re-timed it with the production version, but it should be as fast or faster.

    As far as speed goes, there is simply no comparison. Its quality is quite good, too - and VBR encoding can give you better quality for the same file size.

    On the downside, it won't do stream encoding with pipes, so it's useless with liveice. In my opinion, that was intentional (they don't want to kill sales of StreamWorks). If you need pipes, use LAME.

    --

  • Current versions of the Xing encoder DO NOT cut out high frequencies unless you tell it to do so.

    Specifically, with the production version 1.5 encoder, the -N option cuts out frequencies greather than 16 kHz. THAT IS NOT THE DEFAULT.

    --

  • I've had no problems with recent versions of x11amp/xmms, mpg123, or freeamp, even when using VBR.

    --
  • ... and I've not touched the mouse of my computer
    in at least 3 days (while writing on a diss).
    ---> different people, different criteria.
  • as a reasearcher in CompSci, I must sheepishly
    admit to worship the great goddess of X86 (albeit
    through AMD) ... started using Unix (Coherent) in
    89 though. And yes, there is something wrong
    with "lpr foo.ps": it's got to do with dead trees.
    (I know, you didn't write this, but the AC after you)
  • Personally I like Krabber [automatix.de], even though I don't use KDE myself (Im a WindowMaker guy). It uses BladeEnc I believe, and it's got a nice GUI (I haven't tried a recent copy of grip though).
  • Working for a Cable ISP, $24.95 for a 64k/64k and $49.95 for a 1024k/128k... Of course, working for the ISP, I get about twice that... ;) The rummor is that we might open it all the way for the $49.95 price. Definately the way to go... until ADSL gets to be cheaper/faster/more reliable. Still a couple of years from that though.

    Time flies like an arrow;
  • My win setup is cdcopy (http://members.aol.com/mbarth2193 [aol.com]) which has bladeenc builtin and also does cddb lookup. Doesn't work with all cdrom drives, tho....


    linux: I follow the cdparanoia/bladeenc/cddb crowd with some homebrew shell scripts


    either way, I use 160 kbits
  • I've used a lot of encoders over the years, and I keep coming back to Fraunhofer. If you're converting all of your CD's to MP3s, then pay for this encoder. You can't beat the results.

    Now if someone would just make a portable "discman" for playing joliet CD-Rs, then I'd be a happy man.
  • Sorry you WinTroll, you're talking garbage!

    c't is the authoritative source for geeks and nerds (who understand German or Dutch) and way more independent and credible than that ZiffDavis crap like PCWeek.

    From the c't article "As is the custom with Microsoft, the introduction of this new proprietary standard..." sounds like they didn't do their homework since this is an open standard, Nullsoft didn't seem to have any problem adding support for ASF to Winamp.
    Garbage. Nullsoft has to license it like everybody else. Where's the source, where's the (OSS) encoder? ASF is absolutely proprietary.
    MP3, while having some patent woes, can be encoded with an open source product like LAME.

    PCWeek says that ASF sounds as good or better than MP3
    There is no backup of that claim whatsoever, it's just a short note, so it's highly unlikely that they tested it properly (it wasn't even released by then).
    The c't article [heise.de] OTOH presents an excellent test complete with audio samples and precise descriptions where ASF fails miserably in comparison to MP3 whith distortions and a lower signal resolution [heise.de]. It is, however, comparable to other pure streaming formats like Real Audio.

    The number of trolling MS employees on /. is getting annoying recently, I must say...
  • Actually, Xing's MPEG encoder no longer does that, and is in fact the 3rd-best MPEG encoder out there.
  • Get yourself a Plextor 40X Max CD-ROM drive. It rips at 17x, blazes through my cd's.

    No matter how fast your CD-ROM, if you just run cd-paranoia it'll rip at 1x. I was pissed for a long time when my new pioneer 36x SCSI wasn't any faster than my old 8x SCSI, until I was prompted to look at the man pages...

    Try cdparanoia -Z on your CD's with no scratches, that disables all the paranoia checks and thus allows max speed ripping (I'm a lot happier now :)). If you've got scratches and stuff, look into the other options that'll fix the problems you have, but skip the problems you know arent on there.

  • I've had disappointing results with Fraunhoffer. The authors admit that they wrote it with low bitrate voice recordings in mind.

    In general i suppose it isn't bad, but it's joint stereo I dislike. It's an imperfect way of doing things.

    Some of the bands i listen to sometimes use weird qsound-alike spatial effects when they mix the album. fraunhoffer slaughters those and makes this swooping noise. it's irritating. Tracks of note are LPD's "10th Shade" and Japan's "Gentlemen Take Polaroids"

    I wouldn't say bladeenc is perfect. But, well, nothing is. I use bladeenc and it isn't half bad.

    From all reports, Xing's encoder uses a really cheezy approximation of the codec. That would be in keeping with Xing's history in the market - their mpeg video encoder creates mpeg videos that are comprised entirely of index frames.


  • For anyone wondering how to get the Fraunhofer encoder, http://www.iis.fhg.de/amm/download/mp3enc/ [iis.fhg.de] is the link to download a trial.
  • Due to a combination of work/university, I can't listen to my favourite radio show (Mark & Lard on R1 in the UK, if you're interested). I've tried all sorts of hacks to record the show, from taping it onto video cassette, to the current method of encoding it using the Realplayer 5.0 codec (Real seem to have removed the command-line interface with G2, so I can't script it). What I would really like to do is encode the show (2 hours long) into MP3 format, in real time (at a low bit-rate, obviously). Any ideas? Linux options preferable...
  • 96 kbps is free (paying gets you faster rates), CDDB access, fast and stable on Win 98 (but not on NT, in my experience). I just pop in my CD's and it starts recording automatically; hands off operation.

    I've tried the others, and found them clumsy to use.

    I listen with cheap headphones, so 96kbps is fine enough.

  • OK. I noticed the score, and thought, this one must have answers. Not.

    The question was about the best quality MP3 encoder. And that isn't even mentioned here. Why the score increase?

    As for the Windows flaming, i do DAE in Windows ALL the time, and just play Quake II or so while doing so. My load hovers between 0.05 and 1.5...

  • In my experience Xing MP3 Encoder is one of the fastest encoders and sounds very good (a Linux port is available). I've found that the Fraunhafer encoder(sp?) in High Quality mode has the best audio quality. With the right encoder an MP3 is very hard to distinguish from a CD if the bit rate is 256 kb/sec. Hope that at least gets you started!
  • Since everybody has an oppinion on this subject I think the best way to figure out what the majority thinks would be a slashdot poll...

    It may be a better one than some of the ones lately ;)
  • To both:
    First off, I can't complain about my SBlive. I wish that it had an external DAC, but I'll live. IMHO, it's great for the money.
    Second, If you can go from DA to MP3 (with normalization) with a 3 minute song in about 15 seconds with any other encoder, please let me know. Until I know of one, Audio Catalyst will continue to be my choice ripper.
    My choice-Audio Cayalyst+Plextor UltraPlex
    I've seen DAE speeds in excess of 24x. Plain amazing to me.
  • bladeenc is optimised for high sound quality at high bit rates.
  • Real Jukebox will happily convert straight from CD to MP3. It'll use a digital connection to do so (rather than playing the CD and recording it), it records at 6x speed on my machine and if I use error checking, I almost never get skips on the CD. It also has CDDB access.

    Recommended - although it only runs under Windows, so you'll have to rip under that and then come back to Linux.
  • Convert the MP3s to AIFF and burn them onto a CD. It is a piece of cake.
  • The Layer I,II and III codecs for MPEG are ok. However, the file format that's been adopted as MPEG-4 has been out for over a year, and has a wider range of audio codecs available. You can even embed and mp2 or 3 inside it, in addition to video, text, URL tracks, sprites, VR, MIDI, Flash and much more.

    If you haven't figured it out already, I'm talking about quicktime.
  • ...after all, you're the one who has to live with
    the results. :)

    Seriously, a lot of people seem to like the
    $200 Fraunhofer encoder over LAME, but for the
    music I've encoded, I think it sounds better.
    (Fraunhofer's sounded muddy to me)

    It all depends on your music... for example,
    there's a certain synth used by a certain
    group that sounds absolutely horrible under
    any of the ISO based encoders I've tried...
    yes, even Blade. LAME is the _only_ one that
    could reproduce it, except the pricey one
    mentioned above. (this is at 128kb/s)

    The ones I would recommend trying are:

    Fraunhofer (demo, capable of 30-second encodes)
    LAME
    Blade
    8hz

    Those are some of the ones I've tried... can't
    remember the others (I already deleted them).

    Anyways, use cdparanoia to rip a song or two that
    you really like (and are _very_ familiar with) and
    use each one to encode it. Listen carefully to
    each one ( loud! :) and you'll probably notice
    a difference.

    If you decide to use something other than
    cdparanoia to rip the CDs, be sure to rip the
    same track several times (into different files)
    and compare them with "diff". I tried one that
    is supposed to be based on cdparanoia, and every
    single rip was different! With cdparanoia, you'll
    get the same data every time. (YMMV)

    Good luck!
  • Not a lot of reason to with only one mouse button :P

    Actually, macs can be really nice at times, like when I need a good clean print of a postscript file.
  • Are you retarded? A CD's bitrate is only 150Kbps, so a 128Kbps MP3 isn't losing that much data. Not to mention that the MP3 format is optimized for 128Kbps, the only thing you get from a higher bitrate is more noise and a much larger file size. A well encoded MP3 at 128Kbps sounds damn close to CD quality (the point of the entire format) and is 1/10th the size. If you don't listen to anything lower than 160Kbps you're wasting disk space. Think ten times before typing next time.
  • The site he is refering to that has detailed comparison of some popular encoders can be found HERE [inf.bme.hu] I have found it to be a really fair analysis.
  • There is a really a good comparison of MP3 encoders, with an eye towards those for the Mac. He does a pretty good pseudo-scientific review of the sound quality, which encoding rate (128? more, CBR or VBR?).

    Check it out:
    http://www.raum.com/mpeg/reviews_quality.html [raum.com]

    Colin
  • by semis (14252)
    All you people using BladeEnc, I really hate to break it you but you are losing sooo much quality because of all the shortcuts that bladeenc takes.


    I've checked out LAME, and although its not as fast as bladenc - it sounds alot better. Its a nice middle between the quality of l3enc and the speed of bladeenc. Its for this reason that I switched over to LAME.


    Also, there are alot of nice console frontends that use LAME. So really, you're only being a zealous fan of bladeenc if you choose to keep using it.

    Just my 2c.
  • I'd have to go with AudioCatalyst 2.0 using variable bitrate one notch above default quality.

    AudioCatalyst uses Xing to encode. Compared to l3enc with -hq it sounds much better. BladeEnc introduces high pitched ringing artifacts.

    On a PPro200 I can simultaneously rip and encode using variable bitrate at about 3.0x normal playback speed. This is CPU limited; I've seen it as high as 10x on a fast celeron.

    While I realize these comparisons are pretty qualitative I feel I have some important tools to help me do the job right, such as my pair of Grado SR-125's plugged into a NAD 1300 series preamp.

    AudioCatalyst has other important features when it comes to ripping+encoding a number of discs. For example, it can automatically name your mp3 files using info retrieved from CDDB (and gives you a pretty good degree of control over exactly how the names are formatted).

    It also provides a variety of different ripping methods, from ASPI to analog, to help ensure that no matter how funky your disc is, you'll still be able to get mp3s out of it.

    If you want to call my bluff on this, contact me and I might be able to provide you some 'demo' songs encoded with AC2.0.

    mdm
  • For ripping, I always use cdparanoia under Linux.
    It does error correction when it can (but some
    discs are beyond repair). That may help if I'm
    correct in my understanding that you get those
    errors in the WAV files. Also, I've seen a lot
    of variety in CD players for ripping accuracy.

    Using bladeenc to convert these WAVs to MP3s,
    I don't get discontinuities or errors.
  • I've only recently started messing w/ mp3's and I was wondering what software might exist that would allow me to convert mp3 to CD audio and burn an audio CD. I'd like to put some of the mp3's I've downloaded onto CD to listen to when I have a CD player but not a computer handy.
  • Any recommendations on mp3 to aiff or mp3 to wav converters for batch processing?
  • CDex is my ripper of choice for windows. IT rips and encodes, and tells you when it had skip problems. It reads from CDDB and gives you an effective batch-naming systems with lots of nice variables preset.
  • On Sarah McLachlan's Surfacing album, try encoding the very last track (I forgot what it's called) with different encoders. It's a really difficult song for MP3 encoders to get right, esp around 23 seconds into the song when the cello starts. Every encoder I've used so far screws up the cello at 128kbs, but you can compare which encoders handle it better than others.
  • Make sure you listen to it with headphones on instead of speakers. If the encoder is sub-par in quality, the cello will have some kinda wobbly sound
  • Do a listening test of Xing @ 128kb/s vs the real CD. If you can't tell the difference / don't care about the difference, use it, since it's the fastest.

    Personally, the quality bugged me, and I used a program with the lastest Fraunhofer encoder in it (which does not have the frequency cap on it). There are a number available, but unfortunately they're all windows-based. It was *very* difficult for me to tell the difference between the original source file and the files encoded at 128 with the high quality setting turned on.

    Of course, using this setting, Fraunhofer encodes at less than 1x, so it's pretty essential to set up some sort of batched mechanism where you can rip and fill your HD with unencoded wavs and let the encoder chew on them while you're sleeping. Otherwise, you'll be spending a LOT of time in front of the box switching out CD's. Actually, you will anyway, but you can get a lot more rips done in a short amount of time if you're not waiting for the encode.

    As far as CD-ROMs go, I can't recommend the ASUS 40x drive more highly- it rips consistently at 5x-10x without a single error that I've heard so far in my 200+ CD collection. There are faster drives out there, but they don't come as cheap- about $50. Well worth the money, especially if you consider how much time you will spend encoding a collection of any size.
  • This is a valid question anyone who encodes should consider. I currently have over 40 mp3 CDs worth of my collection that I've encoded. I've maxed out a 20 GB HD and will be purchasing another to put the rest of my mp3s on my server.

    I encoded a large portion of my collection using Windows, specifically Audiocatalyst. It works really good most of the time. However, it did not work great with all my drives. My HP 8100i CD-R is the best drive I have to rip with. My DVD Drive and older CD-Rs would have too many skips. In going back and listening to my collection, I still run across songs that have blips in them, though this is rare. Audiocatalyst rips and encodes so fast, you don't have time to listen to all the songs prior to burning a CD, so I expected a bit of this. Of course, when you rip under windows, don't expect to be able to use it for anything else, unless you love reading hex on a blue background.

    I am currently using Linux to rip and encode, and I have much better results. My CD-R is still the fastest drive to rip with, but I can rip with a 2nd gen DVD, and a 12x CD-R. My 4x4x NEC CdChanger is the only drive I can't rip with. I use CD Paranoia. It is currently for linux only, and has ripped flawlessly for me, even when using BOTH drives (CDR,DVD) to rip on a P200MMX 128 MB RAM. That's a pretty modest machine. I use it to rip, encode, WHILE using netscape, irc, several terminal sessions, and distributed.net. Sure, my load hovers between 3 and 4, but the machine is usable and doesn't crash.

    I currently am encoding with bladeenc, which is much slower than the Xing encoder. It is better at higher bitrates - 160 and above - than the Frauenhauffer(sp) encoder. However, I've been using it at 128 because I find that I still get great sound. I haven't tried the Xing encoder under linux, but perhaps I will today.

    You will run across many sites that analyze the quality of mp3s encoded at different bitrates by different encoders. The gist of those sites is this: The higher the bitrate, the better the sound. Nothing beats the Fruenhauffer encoder at 128, but most other encoders aren't noticebly different.

    My personal experience is this - if you are encoding so your machine can serve up thousands of mp3s to listen in the background as you work, 128 is fine, and choose the encoder you like.

    A great X frontend is gRip - which uses cdparanoia and bladeenc and has cddb capabilities built in. It has debs and rpms if you are looking for ease of installation.

    email me with any other questions. miracle@procyon.com

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