MP3 Encoding Discussion - EAC, LAME, etc

I went to rip a new CD today and once again, MusicMatch Jukebox gives me an hourglass upon loading and won’t respond – despite my having uninstalled, ripped all references from the registry, and reinstalled a new version. Last time this happened I figured I was due for a Windows reinstall anyway. Not this time. I’ll use Ephpod for my iPod and something else for my CD ripping.

Exact Audio Copy looks good, if somewhat slow. I’ve been pretty happy with the results, but I think the LAME encoder settings might be a bit overkill on it… 3-minute songs ending up at around 7.5MB at whatever super-high VBR bitrate EAC is using.

So, I was curious – what settings do you guys use with LAME? Any tips?

I used the EAC/LAME/VBR settings described here, and the file sizes don’t seem so obnoxious to me.

I can’t remember the exact LAME VBR setting-- VBR3, maybe?-- but my songs end up being on average around ~160kbps with significant variance above and below that. IMO, that is the sweet spot. 128kbps just isn’t enough to capture an adequate amount of musical detail, whereas 160kbps can legitimately make a claim to “cd quality”. As long as you’re using VBR, natch.

VBR does dramatically increase the encoding time (it’s way more complex), so if you were looking for 10-second rip and encodes, you’re going to be permanently out of luck. That’s the only major downside.

What version of LAME are you using? I don’t remember LAME settings by number, the best VBR settings for the past few versions of LAME have been called things like “Insane” (320kbps), “Extreme” (avg. of 256kbps), “Standard” (avg. 192kbps) or the “r3mix” (avg. 190). For a while, “r3mix” was the accepted “gold standard”, but recent versions made “standard”, well, the standard.

But then I went to www.hydrogenaudio.org, and am now using the customized LAME setting I mentioned earlier.

I think 192kbps AVERAGE is going to be far higher quality than people need. I’ve done an assload of listening tests on headphones, and I feel that the “sweet spot” is 160kbps VBR average. More never hurts, of course, but if you’re trying to balance file size and quality (for cd-burns or portable devices), that’s the inflection point. If you’re shooting for archival quality, then stick with 256kbps CBR.

Average is just that-- an average. It is difficult to predict what the resulting file size will be with VBR. The general rule of thumb is, the more dynamic range in the music (from loud -> soft), the bigger the file size. So you can expect an Atari Teenage Riot track to be around 200kbps, whereas Sammy Davis Jr’s “The Candyman” will be around 140kbps. Most stuff does fall somewhere in the middle.

And if you, like Jason “tin ear” Cross, think that 128kbps anything is indistinguishable from CD-quality on headphones, then you really don’t need to bother reading this thread in the first place.

ok, I am the first to admit I’m no audiophile and I don’t know that much about these things. But how do you get the lame encoder for free? I thought Fraunhofer owned all the rights and you had to pay to have an mp3 encoder. Is this just an illeagal hack?

LAME means “Lame Ain’t an MP3 Encoder”.

I think there’s an explanation for why LAME is around, despite the whole Fraunhofer thing, at the main LAME site, under “Rationale.”

The gist of it is that LAME is a patch to be used on the freely available Fraunhofer source code. So in other words, Fraunhofer is cracking down on people who release their own MP3 encoders, but in this case you are using his MP3 encoder with a patch released by the LAME author. And since the LAME patch by itself is not an MP3 encoder or even executable, Fraunhofer can’t do anything about it. w00t!

After exploring the link Thierry provided, it looks like that isn’t even the case anymore. They seem to be indicating that the last of the original source code in use for lame (from Fraunhofer, I imagine) has been replaced with different code. It’s very confusing. Apparently the original code was some sort of open source project… but then how did Fraunhofer get the rights to it?

Fraunhofer would have to be insane to crack down on LAME… it’s the best MP3 encoder, hands down. Paired with EAC it gives absolutely superb results. Of course if you want perfect quality, you’ll have to use a lossless codec like FLAC or Monkey’s Audio, but EAC/LAME is definitely one of the best lossy options.