Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Wired News: Old Rips: May They Rest in Peace
Most digital audiophiles know someone who will say, usually with a sneer, that MP3s sound inferior when compared with the CD or vinyl record from which the files were ripped. Tim Cupery, a graduate student studying sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, knew some, and he invited them to test Lame-encoded MP3s using the double-blind experiment.

"All of them have failed," he says.

The benefit Lame-encoded MP3s have over newer standards -- which, in addition to AAC, include formats such as Ogg Vorbis and Microsoft's Windows Media audio -- is the sheer volume of computer programs and hardware devices that will play them. Files encoded in Ogg Vorbis and Microsoft's format won't play on an iPod, and files encoded in Ogg Vorbis or AAC won't play on many DVD players and car stereos.

The three newer formats also outperformed MP3s when using the smaller bitrates typically used by websites to "stream" song samples to an individual's computer. But the advantage largely evaporates once files are encoded at bitrates that exceed 160 kbps, says Roberto Jose de Amorim, a computer science student in Curitiba, Brazil.

The ability of the Lame-encoded MP3 to outperform its peers in double-blind tests has caused some audio purists to snub online music stores that still offer files in comparatively lower bitrates. Brett Moore, for example, says he's held off using a gift certificate for Apple's iTunes music store for close to a year, because he's unhappy with the quality of files offered.
Lame MP3 at 196k or 256k is better than any 128k standard. Og Vorbis is great but you have trouble finding devices to play it.

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