16 June 2001

Random Ramblings: Ogg Vorbis

Another compressed audio format worth looking at is something called "Ogg Vorbis" (https://www.xiph.org/ogg/vorbis/). Vorbis' claim to fame is that it is open source and royalty free, unlike MP3. Encoders exist for a wide variety of operating systems: Windows, Mac, Unix/Linux, BeOS, and OS/2.

I tried a Windows/command line Vorbis encoder that created a 160 Kbits/sec file of 5.9Mb in size, just a smidgeon bit bigger than the plain vanilla MP3 (5.8Mb) created below. Much more interesting though, was that while using a Vorbis plug-in for Winamp, I found the sound quality to be closer to the original WAV file - i.e. BETTER than the MP3 file. Given that Vorbis is still a work in progress (it's currently at beta 4), this bodes well.

15 June 2001

Random Ramblings: mp3PRO

Speaking of MP3's (again!), an update to the MP3 format, called "mp3PRO", has been announced by Thomson Multimedia (https://www.thomson-multimedia.com) and Coding Technologies (https://www.codingtechnologies.com). (Note: Thomson Multimedia and Fraunhofer Institute developed the original MP3 specs). The big deal about mp3PRO is that the new encoding scheme creates a file size about 1/2 that of regular MP3.

Among the more popular Windows MP3 players, neither WinAmp (https://www.winamp.com) nor Musicmatch (https://www.musicmatch.com) have incorporated mp3PRO into their products yet. However, a free Windows player/encoder is currently available from RCA (huh, the dog and gramaphone company?) at: https://www.rca.com/content/viewdetail/0,1407,EI45159,00.html?. mp3PRO libraries for the Mac and Linux should be out shortly according to Coding Technologies,

RCA's freebie encoder only encodes .WAV files at 64 Kbits/sec (44KHz), although technically, mp3PRO is able to handle both higher and lower sampling rates. A test I ran comparing: a) a WAV file ripped from a music CD, b) a 160 Kbits/sec MP3 file created from that WAV file, and c) a 64 Kbits/sec mp3PRO file created from the same WAV file found that the latter two were pretty similar in sound quality (at least to my ears). The WAV file sounded best, but it ate up 51Mb of disk space versus 5.8Mb for the MP3 file and 2.3Mb for the mp3PRO file.

By the way, while mp3PRO files CAN be played on non-mp3PRO-aware players, the sound quality will suffer since the mp3PRO enhancements are effectively ignored. Music ripped at 64 Kbits/sec, instead of sounding like 128 KBits/sec with mp3PRO, will instead sound like plain 64 Kbits/sec. (Note: At a minimum, MP3's should be created at 128 Kbits/sec or better.)

12 June 2001

Random Ramblings: DFX for Winamp

Speaking of MP3's, an interesting add-on for Winamp (plus other media players such as MusicMatch, Sonique, and Real Player/Jukebox) is something called "DFX" from Power Technology (https://www.fxsound.com). DFX is a plug-in that greatly enhances the sound quality of these players. It practically adds back whatever was lost when a CD track was converted to MP3. The differences are pretty amazing with/without DFX installed - MP3's are noticeably richer, clearer. and louder. A 14-day demo is available, otherwise the program is currently on sale for US$19.99 per player. Not extremely cheap, but good stereo equipment never comes cheap either.