AAC better, MP3 enough
- I use the lame mp3 encoder with the setting: -cbr 160 -m s -q 2 This produces maximum compatible soundfiles with enough of quality. For some songs/recordings I use: --alt-preset insane -m s -q 2 This produces the only perfect sound (320kbps), where I can hear no difference between CD/WAV and MP3. Every other codec or setting let me hear a very little difference - but a difference, even 256+ kbps AAC. 128kbps AAC is a little better that 128kbps MP3, - the same with 256kbps. But using MP3 with 160kbps and more (fixed or variable) with HQ-setting should be the ideal choice. Some people really think, AAC+ with 64kbps could replace AAC or MP3 with 128kbps. This is not true. 112 kbps is a lower border, a minimum bitrate for all encoders and codecs today (2011), if you want to have a real good sound-experience. I'm sad that very much projects (eg. DAB+) have chosen bitrates under 112 kbps. If the filesize with 160kbps MP3 is to big, you could chose AAC 128kbps. Just test it.
- —Guest Matthias
AAC vs. MP3
- Well, they seem to have their own pluses and minuses. AAC tends to have far less distortion at lower bitrates than mp3, incredibly low; in fact, it can still sound very clear at very low bitrates. There is one major drawback to ACC where mpeg1 layer-3 has an advantage, that is high fidelity. While speech does not seem to be darken as much music with a lot of highs such as the crash from the drums are faint or even non-existing. Mpeg2 part 7 (AAC) is a very Advance Audio Codec that is clear and very low in distortion even at bitrates down to 32kbps. But, if you are an audiophile and like to hear every “ping” and “shimmer” in your music, then Mpeg1 layer-3 in the container MP3 is best for you, at 320kbps of course.
- —Guest lostcub
- very useful article for someone who's struggling, and so hard, to just try and listen to some good music with good sound without getting swamped with endless decision-making!
- —Guest NishaB
I'm a bit f**ked in between ...
- I wanted highest quality but at the same time 100% compatible with my car stereo witch supports only ipod MP @ 320kbps , I used 48khz sampling. I have some "Itunes store songs" but they are 256KBit rate an 44.1khz sampling rate ... an indication that this must be good. At the same time I wanted all my CD and singles finally digitized ... Oh boy ... 380CDs with an average of 16-20songs per album and after eliminating some doubles arriving at 45GB or an equivalent of 150MB/CD. Personally I would have gone for the Apple lossless conversion but fortunately I tested one CD before I did them all to test max compatibility, which finally determined my choice. I have an impressive installation at home and in my car, i can very clearly hear the difference between my CD or even my SACD compared to the MP3 320kb 48khz lower volume and average installation won't indeed reveal this tremendous difference. Everything has to be seen in the perspective of what you want.
- —Guest FTK
- I agree that AAC is better than iTunes created MP3 files (I sould say... OF COURSE!). You may not want to create MP3 in such way. MP3 coding quality depends on codec used. Give LAME a try, VBR format... no way. furthermore: high customization
- —Guest Fabione
- As an average joe, this was a brilliant article and answered my question perfectly. Thanks
- —Guest Rob
did you abx?
- I know you claimed not to be an audiophile but I would be interested in knowing some of the following points. 1. What equiptment you actually used, DAC, amp, headphones etc 2. Whether you just played the tracks or if you actually did a blind ABX test. 3. What codecs you used to encode AAC and mp3. I would be interested in knowing these things because due to the high standard of decent lossy codecs nowadays (ie lame for mp3, and itunes and nero for aac), I very much doubt you would be able to hear any difference between 256 and 192 unless you have some really expensive equiptment. You might get a few artifacts at 128, but probably not for aac. Anything above 128 is usually transparent; if you didn't ABX I would be inclined to believe it was a psychological thing. Remember kids, If in doubt ABX it. Peace out
- —Guest Tom
- Interesting test, but not very clean. You write that you used the iTunes encoder, which may be the standard for AAC (I have no idea) but definitely not for mp3. And it would not be surprising if they didn't optimize or pay enough attention to the mp3 encoding. And that part is crucial and depends a lot on the software, whereas the decoding is pretty straightforward. Also, in my experience, audiophiles aren't necessarily people with better hearing. :)
- —Guest Sergei
- The variable bit rate option increases the file size of a song in AAC and VBR is default on AAC while it is not when importing on iTunes in mp3. The file sizes are more comparable when both files use or don't use VBR, but VBR is supposed to increase sound quality.
- —Guest Anon.
What's Better: AAC vs. MP3
- I have average hearing, no defects according to my medicals. I always use decent quality headphones/earphones with my IPod /stereo. Can I tell the difference between MP3 and AAC? Totally depends on the bitrates. When comparing 'like for like' above 128K, I find it impossible to consistently pick a winner from either camp. MP3 seems to have a 'sweet spot' at 160K. Below that, the quality falls off quite a lot - and for me AAC is far superior. When comparing 160K MP3 vs AAC, I can find no difference. But that's to my ears! As for file sizes, you need to understand is that AAC is always ABR, there is no CBR option. So sometimes, say a 192K track can be larger in AAC because it is an average bitrate targeted at 192K by the encoder. Depending on the track nature and the encoder settings, the track might end up as 200K or so - average bit rate. The MP3 track will be CBR, hence smaller. If you use MP3 ABR, you get the same issues though. Below 160K, go for AAC/MP4.
- —Guest Richard Z
MP3 (LAME) still rocks!
- Truthfully, LAME with --preset fast standard (scene std) gives a really good trade-off for quality/file size. The differences between AAC / MP3 in terms of coding are relevant, but truth be told, I'd rather see a few more years with MP3 as the main standard, than moving over to AAC. As someone said, AAC is superior on lower bitrates
- —Guest Mathias
Good test but consider playback devices.
- This has nothing to do with the test that was performed because the test is what it is. My opinion is to encode music files in 196kps or higher in MP3 or ACC for the best average quality and reasonable HD usage on your respective device. The real major issue, in my opinion, is the device in which your using to play the file! Apple refuses to put a custom parametric equalizer in there iPod line of products because, according to Apple, effects the devices battery life when applied. A parametric EQ allows you to tweak the sound/music to your liking despite the overall quality of the respective file. That being said, you can still somewhat save a poor quality file with the use of an EQ. Apple has there trademark "preset" EQs built into there devices but are, in my opinion, pathetic. iPod/iPhone fancy and cool? Yes, absolutely. But suffer greatly as a stand alone playback device. I encode in 196Kps + MP3 format simply because MP3 is compatible with EVERY playback device. Out of characters!!
- —Guest Mike
AAC vs MP3
- So is more & more data lost when converting back & forth from AAC to MP3? Or how about from AAC or MP 3 back to WMA or a CD (as "music CD")
WMA THE BEST!
- WMA is half the size of an MP3 player ACC is the same thing as MP3
- —Guest Denis
- I use aac at 256k for everything, I have A pretty good car stereo and less than that sounds lifeless to my ears, for mp3 I'd have to use 320 to get what I consider equal sound
- —Guest Movielover