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EasilyConfused
2007-02-06, 08:57
Had my SB for a month now (took me that long to suss everything out without constantly mithering you proppelerheads out there!)
Anyway, must say I'm thrilled to bits now that all the initial teething problems are ironed out.
I had intended to to use my SB just for playing my downloaded MP3 files and for radio, but I find it so handy to have tunes there at the flick of a remote, I'm thinking of bunging the whole of my CD collection onto hard drive (probably have to buy a big external.. but that's another question) and just using my CD's to play in the car etc.
What formats should I consider using? What file sizes should I expect? What's the best conversion (free of course) software?
Cheers....Easily

pablolie
2007-02-06, 09:18
For stuff you really treasure, consider FLAC - a lossless open source format that comes bundled with Winamp 5.32 ($19.99). That basically guarantees you will never ever have to re-rip anything due to the fact you hear some flaws when comparing it to the CD sound.

For the vast majority of CDs, I ripped them with MP3 and using either 320kbps (for stuff I like a lot and that was recorded decently) or 192-256k (stuff that I am convinced does not merit more resolution).

If you download stuff from iTunes, keep in mind the 128kbps AAC format's quality can be perfectly packaged into no more than 192 MP3. I use CBR for the MP3, since it's a tad more universal and compatible, and the less fiddling by algorithms the better as far as I am concerned. ;-)

When I first got the SB3, I kind of thought that ripping everything at 256k was being generous - but through many listening tests I became converted to (1) FLAC and (2) 320k sounds better than 256k, at times surprisingly so. The music and recording has to deserve it, though - Justin Timberlake or 50 Cent will sound just fine at 256k, tops. :-)

For the MP3, Windows Media Player (the horror!) actually includes top quality MP3 converters. I also got a FLAC encoder for WMP, that way I can use it quite universally. If there's a better programm out there for managing and re-labeling and re-organizing libraries, I am on the lookout myself.

snarlydwarf
2007-02-06, 09:24
Had my SB for a month now (took me that long to suss everything out without constantly mithering you proppelerheads out there!)
Anyway, must say I'm thrilled to bits now that all the initial teething problems are ironed out.
I had intended to to use my SB just for playing my downloaded MP3 files and for radio, but I find it so handy to have tunes there at the flick of a remote, I'm thinking of bunging the whole of my CD collection onto hard drive (probably have to buy a big external.. but that's another question) and just using my CD's to play in the car etc.
What formats should I consider using? What file sizes should I expect? What's the best conversion (free of course) software?
Cheers....Easily

Well, you don't need an external drive, but you should get one anyway. ie, get a big internal drive (most cases will have room and cables for another drive, and for some reason drives always come with cables anyway), and an external for backups... you never want to lose that data.

As for formats, there are two main winners:
1) For lossy: mp3 -- it is "portable", it easily moves to virtually any portable device, to car stereos (most newer CD players will play CDR's of mp3: 8-10 hours on a disc...). The only real gotcha is that it is lossy. But if you increase the bitrate, it can sound a lot better. Experiment with what makes you happy: if you basically double the size, it is much much better than the 128k's.

2) Lossless is almost certainly FLAC: it is cross platform (works on MacOS, Linux, Windows), fast and native to the Squeezebox. The compression rate will vary depending on source material and how compressable it is... I have some stuff that is around 400kbps, but most is around 800 or so. 800kbps: 100k bytes per second, so a one minute song would be around 6M. That is a lot bigger than mp3, but, then, 250G and higher drives are common.

You can of course mix and match: for music that you would likely never hear the subtle nuances with you can use mp3, but for a classical or acoustic CD use FLAC.

Mark Lanctot
2007-02-06, 09:26
For stuff you really treasure, consider FLAC - a lossless open source format that comes bundled with Winamp 5.32 ($19.99). That basically guarantees you will never ever have to re-rip anything due to the fact you hear some flaws when comparing it to the CD sound.

The FLAC encoder is, of course, free (that's what the 'F' in 'FLAC' stands for) and you can use any program that can call a command-line encoder.

You can use many programs listed here with it:

http://wiki.slimdevices.com/index.cgi?BeginnersGuideToRipping

EAC is a forum favourite although it can be fiddly to set up (not if you can follow this though: http://wiki.slimdevices.com/index.cgi?EACBeginners ). A much simpler ripper that works well with FLAC is dBpowerAMP.

I don't have a problem with companies charging money for their software, they have to live too, but I do have a problem with them charging money for something that's supplied free. Ironically, dBpowerAMP is free for ripping and encoding to FLAC, but you have to pay for encoding to MP3...which is also free (LAME)!

dcote
2007-02-06, 17:35
i would like to add a comment to that:

for "lossy" compression i would strongly recommend the vorbis format. SB3 supports is natively (no transcoding), which is one of the main reasons i bought it.

1. vorbis has -for any given bitrate- substantially better sound quality than mp3. or, you can compress higher and get the same quality as mp3. example: where most people agree 256 kbit mp3 is "transparent" (indistinguishable from the original for most mortals), you can achieve the same at 160-192 ("-q6" in vorbis) kbit in vorbis. if you spend some time tweaking and optimizing, you should get by with 160 kbit (in vorbis, that translates to "-q5").
as a matter of fact, some friends of mine subjectively prefer the sound of vorbis compressed files over the FLAC "originals"!

2. through sheer months of listening to mp3 and vorbis i have found that vorbis sounds more "analog". it feels warmer, more natural and musical to me. just plain nicer than mp3! ;-)

3. it is open source, patent- and royalty free. no legal hassles guaranteed!


the one disadvantage: not all portable players support it...

cheers!

Ron Olsen
2007-02-06, 18:27
i would like to add a comment to that:

for "lossy" compression i would strongly recommend the vorbis format. SB3 supports is natively (no transcoding), which is one of the main reasons i bought it.

1. vorbis has -for any given bitrate- substantially better sound quality than mp3. or, you can compress higher and get the same quality as mp3. example: where most people agree 256 kbit mp3 is "transparent" (indistinguishable from the original for most mortals), you can achieve the same at 160-192 ("-q6" in vorbis) kbit in vorbis. if you spend some time tweaking and optimizing, you should get by with 160 kbit (in vorbis, that translates to "-q5").
as a matter of fact, some friends of mine subjectively prefer the sound of vorbis compressed files over the FLAC "originals"!

2. through sheer months of listening to mp3 and vorbis i have found that vorbis sounds more "analog". it feels warmer, more natural and musical to me. just plain nicer than mp3! ;-)

3. it is open source, patent- and royalty free. no legal hassles guaranteed!


the one disadvantage: not all portable players support it...

cheers!

I agree that Vorbis is the best lossy encoder. Check out this very detailed listening test: http://www.hydrogenaudio.org/forums/index.php?showtopic=36465

Vorbis (with the aoTuV beta 4 enhancements) at -q6 bested all the competition at 182kbps, achieving near transparency (practically indistinguishable from lossless, even to a golden-eared, trained listener with excellent audio equipment.)

Many people will find Vorbis at -q5 hard to distinguish from lossless encoding, and Vorbis encoded at -q5 is only 20% the size of FLAC.

So use FLAC for archival storage and the ability to transcode to lower bitrate lossy formats. But don't expect it to provide significantly better sound quality than Vorbis at -q5 or -q6.

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vorbis for more info on Vorbis.

And if you're running on Linux or Unix, you can use crip (http://bach.dynet.com/crip/) to rip/encode/tag your CDs to Vorbis or FLAC. It's a great command-line program with lots of flexibility in tagging, file naming and calculating replay gain. It especially shines in dealing with classical music CDs with several works on one CD. It uses cdparanoia to get perfect rips much more quickly than with EAC. Highly recommended for all Linux enthusiasts.

egd
2007-02-07, 00:58
Justin Timberlake or 50 Cent will sound just fine at 256k, tops. :-)

they both sound their best with the amp turned off :P

fathom39
2007-02-07, 05:09
And if you're running on Linux or Unix, you can use crip (http://bach.dynet.com/crip/) to rip/encode/tag your CDs to Vorbis or FLAC.

From the URL: "... so hit return and it usually finishes in about an hour."

Why would anyone want to wait for an hour to rip a CD? Especially, if the *nix music server is headless and in the garage or basement.

dcote
2007-02-07, 06:04
ron has an excellent point there - for best vorbis quality dont use the original vorbis encoder by xiph.org. while it may be the "standard" and most compatible, i use two tweaked vorbis encoders:

anything < -q6 i encode using AoTuVb5 (i am a sucker for newest versions!)
http://www.geocities.jp/aoyoume/aotuv/

and for >= -q6 i use GTune3b1
http://www.sjeng.org/vorbisgt3.html

reasons for using two are simple.

GTune3b1:
sounds more "open" and "airy". excellent spatial imaging.
in my ears: very musical. but it is optimized specifically for higher bitrates >= q6.
but at -q6 it tends to use a fair number of bits more than other encoders (212 kbit vs. nominal 192 kbit).
unfortunately, it only supports 8 or 16 bit sources at 44.1 KHz.

AoTuVb5:
supports 8, 16 and 24 bit and 48 + 96 KHz sources. is better suited to lower bitrates (that is where aoyumi does most of his optimizations.)
for higher bitrates i find it to be somewhat "tight", "closed" and doesnt have enough spatial precision to it. a little bit like being in a too small room. but great fidelity, even at lower bitrates! (great for portable players!)

so far, my SB3 handled ALL vorbis files flawlessly using the built in decoder.

jku
2007-02-07, 06:14
I don't have a problem with companies charging money for their software, they have to live too, but I do have a problem with them charging money for something that's supplied free. Ironically, dBpowerAMP is free for ripping and encoding to FLAC, but you have to pay for encoding to MP3...which is also free (LAME)!

LAME free? That's highly debatable: even the LAME project calls the code "an educational tool to be used for learning about MP3 encoding" and distribute it in source code only -- I guess they think that not compiling somehow protects them from a Fraunhofer patent attack (I have no idea if they are correct) and anyone implementing LAME is adviced to check if they need a license from mp3licensing.com...

mick_w
2007-02-07, 07:54
You might want to look at CDex which is free and comes with both the LAME and FLAC encoders built in (so no messing around like EAC)

http://cdexos.sourceforge.net/index.html

Storage is cheep, I'd rip to both FLAC for home listening, and MP3 for portable devices (Car / IPod / etc...)

Mick

Mark Lanctot
2007-02-07, 12:45
LAME free? That's highly debatable: even the LAME project calls the code "an educational tool to be used for learning about MP3 encoding" and distribute it in source code only -- I guess they think that not compiling somehow protects them from a Fraunhofer patent attack (I have no idea if they are correct) and anyone implementing LAME is adviced to check if they need a license from mp3licensing.com...

Aha - I didn't know that.

Makes sense why dBpowerAMP charges for it, but no one else does!

moley6knipe
2007-02-09, 06:07
Interesting reading. I've only had my SB3 for 4 days now, but the difference I noticed jumping from an MP101 (I know, I know, it was my first time) was substantial. Not least the fact that the SB3 has a MUCH stronger analogue output level.

I've ripped everything 320kbps CBR using CDex, with all of the "high-quality" settings at their best (not sure how much difference they make, though). On my set-up, which is by no means audiophile, they sound about the same as the CD. And luckily because I chose LAME as CDex's engine all my mp3 files now play back gapless on the SB3. Heaven.

I've been reading up on FLAC with great interest. I think I might try ripping a few of the treasured discs (such as Nick Drake, Dark Side Of The Moon etc) as FLAC and see if it improves things any. The only downside for me is that they won't be usuable in iTunes, and as I use iPod a lot, I guess I'll have to have two copies of the same album on SlimServer. Does SlimServer handle duplicates ok? Or if I rip something as FLAC that's already listed by SlimServer as an mp3 album, would I be better off appending "FLAC" to the end of the newly ripped album's title?

Superb forum by the way! Refreshing to have so much activity after 2 years of Twonky!

mflint
2007-02-12, 13:03
The only downside for me is that they won't be usuable in iTunes, and as I use iPod a lot, I guess I'll have to have two copies of the same album on SlimServer. Does SlimServer handle duplicates ok? Or if I rip something as FLAC that's already listed by SlimServer as an mp3 album, would I be better off appending "FLAC" to the end of the newly ripped album's title?

My music library is organised like this:

/music/original/flac/<artist>/<album>/<track>.flac
/music/original/mp3/<artist>/<album>/<track>.mp3
/music/lossy/mp3/<artist>/<album>/<track>.mp3

I rip CDs to /music/original/flac/. Anything that's downloaded as mp3 will go into /music/original/mp3.

I use the 'flac2mp3' script to convert anything in /music/original/flac/ into mp3s in /music/lossy/mp3/, and copy any mp3s in /music/original/mp3/ into /music/lossy/mp3. This happens nightly.

SlimServer's music directory is /music/original/ - so SlimServer has the best quality I have for each track.

If I want to copy any mp3s onto a portable player, it's all in
/music/lossy/mp3/

(Hope that makes sense!)

Matthew

pablolie
2007-02-12, 18:34
> ... would I be better off appending "FLAC" to the end of the
> newly ripped album's title?

That's how I handle it. Since I just FLAC a few of my total CDs (it's still over 100 FLAC CDs, though), I append [flac] to the album title.

The majority of albums don't merit the upgrade from 320k MP3 to FLAC, in my opinion.