Factors to Consider Before Converting to MP3

MP3 Encoding Settings

Introduction

The MP3 format is the most popular lossy audio format in use today and has been around for over ten years. Its success can be mainly attributed to its universal compatibility. Even with this achievement, there are still rules you need to know before creating MP3 files. The following factors will give you an idea on how to adjust your encoding settings for optimal results.

Audio source quality

In order to select the optimum encoding values you first have to consider the nature of the audio source.

For example, if you are encoding a low quality voice recording from an analog tape and use the highest possible encoding settings then this will waste a lot of storage space. If you were to convert an MP3 file that has a bitrate of 96kbps into one with a 192kbps bitrate then no improvement in quality would occur. The reason for this is that the original was only 32kbps and so anything higher than this will just increase the file size and won’t improve sound resolution.

Here are some typical bitrate settings that you may want to experiment with:

  • 32 kbps - Voice / analog tape recordings.
  • 128 to 192 kbps - Ripping tracks from a CD.
  • 192 to 320 kbps – Recording complex audio sources (ones which contain a broad spectrum of frequencies, like classical music for example).

Lossy to Lossy

The MP3 format is a lossy format and converting to another lossy format (including another MP3) is not recommended.

Even if you try to convert to a higher bitrate, you will still lose quality. It is usually best to leave the original as it is, unless you want to reduce storage space and don’t mind a reduction in audio resolution.

CBR and VBR

Constant bitrate (CBR) and variable bitrate (VBR) are two options that you can choose when encoding an MP3 file that both have their strengths and weaknesses.

Before you make a decision on whether to use CBR or VBR you will have to first think about how you are going to listen to the audio. CBR is the default setting that is universally compatible with all MP3 decoders and hardware devices but does not produce the most optimized MP3 file. Alternatively, VBR produces an MP3 file that is optimized for both file size and quality. VBR remains the best solution but it is not always compatible with older hardware and certain MP3 decoders.

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