Latest on Audio Encoding
Just an update since folks ask me about this all the time. How does Rich Tong actually maintain his library. Well, this is kind of a complex topic and it seems to change every year. So, here is the latest guide:
# "Half.com":http://half.com. I normally actually buy CDs. That sounds strange, but it is because the CD format is still the highest quality format that you can get. Normally, I love half.com because the pricing is about the same as ebay, but you can get it quickly.
# "Exact Audio Copy":http://exactaudiocopy.de. I then rip it into no less than three formats these days, MP3 for compatibility, HE AAC for my cell phone, and FLAC for archiving.
# "Lame":http://www.mp3dev.org/ and download at "Softpedia.com":/http://www.softpedia.com/public/cat/11/1/2/11-1-2-15.shtml/ . There is some controversy as to what the best version of this MP3 encoder. Some folks swear by 3.90, but others are using 3.96 or 3.97. I'm using 3.96 right now and encode these at --preset extreme. This is about 224Kpbs and is supposedly quite close to perfect. Most tracks come out at about 4-6MB, so that fits well into a 40GB iPod or the 40GB hard drive of my laptop. This is a little complicated to setup, but you download lame, then extract it to c:\program files\lame and then you point Exact Audio Copy/Compression Options\External Compressor to that file. Then in the additional parameters, type in, "--preset extreme". There is a good discussion about what parameters you can use at "JTHZ":http://jthz.com/mp3/ for power users. BTW, Lame is just a DOS command program, so you need "Razorlame":http://www.dors.de/razorlame/ as a frontend if you use it anyother time.
# "Flac":http://flac.sourceforge.net/. This is a lossless encoding format. So you don't lose any fidelity when you encode with this. It only compresses a file to 20MB or so, so I mainly use this for archiving on our main machines that have 300-900GB of disk (an amazing thing to realize that a typical machine at home can have essentially a terabyte now). I use Flac Frontend to do this. And, I use the Winamp Flac plugin to listen to it. BTW if you really love FLAC, "Mindawn":http://www.mindawn.com/ is the only download service I know that supports a lossless encoder.
# "HE AAC":http://www.nero.com/us/info_he-aac.html. This is a highly compressed format that is the new 3GPP standard for cell phones. It has good quality down to 32Kpbs. I use the Nero 6.0 Ultra Edition to do the encoding or if you use the older Nero 5.5, it is a $20 plug-in. Most files are down to 1.5MB. So for my Nokia 6600 with 1GB of flash, I can get close to 700 tracks on it. I don't know of a HE AAC v2 encoder out yet, but that will further reduce things to good quality at 24Kpbs. HE by the way stands for High Efficiency.
# "Ogg Speex":http://speex.org. This is a specialty codec that I just use for audiobooks. Books sound quite decent at 8Kbps or 16Kpbs. For a big book, that makes the average CD of spoken word (700MB on a CD become 350MB on Flac, becomes 70MB on MP3, becomes 7MB on Ogg Speex). You can't use this on iPods, but it works well for laptops.
# "Ogg Vorbis":http://vorbis.com. This format many folks feel is highly quality than MP3. I mainly use this because what the heck, when I ever get a player that uses it I can get away with 160Kpbs instead of 192-225Kpbs. I actually don't use this format much anymore, but it was important when I used a 700MB CD player alot. Now with hard disk players in the 40-80GB range, it is less of an issue and I just use MP3.