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Throughout my computer using “career”, I have usually used only CDs and WAV files for my music.  I can’t stand compressed music.  My ears are cursed I guess.  Compressed formats just sound terrible to me.  The cymbals sound really bad and the guitars sound tinny.  Let’s just say that Mozart sounds like noise in a compressed format to me.  In an uncompressed format, it sounds spectacular.

After being on Linux for a few years, I decided that it was about time to try the free codecs for my music.  FLAC was my favorite.  It, like WAV, doesn’t degrade the sound quality.  The only difference is that FLAC compresses the file to make it smaller.  I was about ready to just use FLAC when I found Ogg Vorbis.  Ogg Vorbis is a compressed format that degrades the audio quality.  So, I didn’t expect much from it.

I encoded a few songs from Pearl Jam’s Rearviewmirror using Ogg Vorbis at 160KB/sec.  This is a low bitrate, so I knew that my ears were going to hurt.  I put on my Bose headphones and played “Nothingman”.  I was blown away by how good it sounded.  While it wasn’t as good as FLAC, it was 10x better than any other “lossy” format.  The cymbals sounded like cymbals and it was clean.  I could detect a little degradation, but considering most cannot detect any from an Mp3, this should not be a problem.

An Ogg Vorbis File in Banshee

So, I then compared that track to a version I had previously encoded in the Mp3 format.  The difference was like night and day!  I could actually listen to the Ogg file.  The Mp3 hurt my ears.  I immediately said to myself that my music library was going to be Ogg files only.  Then I looked at my iPod and realized that if I was going to, I needed a player that would support it.  The best ones I could find were from Cowon, so I’m planning on buying one as soon as possible.  My days with trashy music formats will soon be over.

If you like music, you owe it to yourself to tryout Ogg Vorbis.  Every Linux music player has support for it, so it’s not like it’s hard to do.  I used to have to deal with large uncompressed files, but now my music only has to be a few megabytes.  Ogg Vorbis is superior in every way.  It bridges the gap between uncompressed and “lossy” formats.

P.S. Just a little note here, my next post might be a video post, so if you have a recommendation for a video, leave a comment.  Thanks.

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5 Comments

  1. You should know that bitrate =/= sound quality. 😛
    In some cases it is, but if you’re using an encoder that has a good algorithm, bitrates won’t really matter.
    I’ve never used Ogg Vorbis myself, but MP3s encoded with Lame at -V2 –vbr-new sound fine to me (and achieve transparency in blind tests, according to HydrogenAudio).

    You may want to check out Lame, because it is much different than the “standard” encoder most programs use (FhG, which sucks).

    • Yeah, I have used LAME before, but even with the right settings, Mp3s still cut out sound above a certain frequency. Also, everyone’s ears are different. Personally, I think Mp3s sound too compressed, but you may think the same about Ogg files. For a good comparison, try listening to a FLAC or WAV file and then listen to the same song in both Ogg and Mp3. The one which retains the quality of the uncompressed file is the best.

      • Well, I don’t think blind tests lie; -V2 is transparent to 320 which is transparent to CD.
        It’s all in your head. 🙂

  2. “I put on my Bose headphones”

    Owch.

    Clearly you’re a pretty discerning listener – you note all the right things that are bad about MP3, so obviously you know what you’re talking about when it comes to sound.

    In which case, why in the world are you using Bose headphones? They’re terrible. They sound terrible, and they’re terribly constructed. There’s dozens and dozens of choices which would be far, far superior.

    • I don’t exactly agree with you about Bose, but I am willing to admit that Sennheiser headphones are far superior. I think the Bose have a much more “natural” sound, but Sennheiser headphones have better sound reproduction. I have both, but I assume that most regard Bose as “good”, so I mention them in the review even though I use Sennheiser HD-280s most of the time.


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