Sunday, December 11, 2005

I think I would consider myself an audiophile. For those of you who don’t know an audiophile is, according to Wikipedia, a person dedicated to high-fidelity sound reproduction and achieving high-quality results in the recording and playback of music. In other words when I rip my music CDs to my PC and other portable devices I like to rip them at a very high quality. My compressed music file of choice? MP3s. I have always been an advocate of the mp3 (except for my brief downfall to wma’s in 2001) since I discovered them back in my junior year of high school. Back then though you could find mp3s on websites and easily download them. It was great! Then freshman year of college I was introduced to Napster. Oh holy illegal, massive downloading, mp3 day! I quickly amplified my music library just overnight! Back then I ripped and downloaded mp3s at a bitrate of 128kbps. This was great until I invested in a fairly nice audio system where the high end sounds of my 128kbps mp3 just didn’t sound good.

About two years ago I began re-ripping my entire music library to mp3s with a bitrate of 192kbps. While this was very nice audio quality, until recently I was curious if maybe I could do any better with keeping the size of my music files still small. Enter in my mp3 savior, LAME.

Just some background info here, there are other music file types out there that don’t loose any information when compressed (called lossless compression) such as the Monkey file type however the size of these files are just too big. WMAs seem to not sound as good as mp3s in my opinion and I just refuse to switch to the Apple formats. While those of you out there claim that I’ll have to switch to an aac format or Apple’s lossless format once I get myself an iPod, I beg to differ and it’s just not going to happen. And here is the reason why.

LAME (LAME Ain’t an Mp3 Encoder) is the answer to my high quality music obsession. Like BASF, LAME doesn’t make the mp3, it makes the mp3 better. How is this so? Well LAME uses some super slick algorithms to compress your audio without a massive loss of sound. It does this by using whats called a variable bit rate (VBR) instead of a constant bit rate (CBR) when doing it’s thing. In other words, when the music in the file is pretty simple, it will use a lower bitrate. If in the middle of the song the music gets more complex, the bitrate supernaturally goes up. The result is an audio file about the size (or maybe even less) of a 192kbps mp3, but sounding way better! Of course this means spending hours and hours re-ripping my CD library once again, but hey sometimes we need to invest a little time so we can invest in great music listening.

If you’re wanting a very nice music ripping bundle, check out a program called Exact Music Copy (EAC) and then download the LAME codec. EAC is pretty complicated but it is a fantastic tool and I may just have to marry it if no women ever enter my life. You can find a very nice online manual for EAC here and from there it will guide you thru the setup and download of everything you’ll ever need to be just like me, a dedicated audiophile!

1 comment:

Moose said...

Man, I love those recursive acronyms. Especially the ones that aren't true anymore. You know, like LAME and GNU. They make me laugh.

On a tangent, do you still use mp3 format? If I may offer a suggestion, you should switch to an open format. For example, Ogg Vorbis. Then you don't need to worry about patent issues for your encoders and decoders.