Bye Bye Ogg Vorbis, hello VBR mp3

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Part of my music collection is stored as *.mp3 and part of it as *.ogg files (vorbis encoded). We have a portable Samsung YP-T9 which, when we purchased it at Future Shop about 4 months ago was one of the few devices that played ogg files (which is why I bought it). Even then, I had to update the firmware so that it would play oggs, and although it plays ogg files perfectly well, it does not recognize the ogg tags! So all the files get thrown into the "Unknown" artist and "Unknown" track basket. It sucks. I tried all sorts of tricks like embedding id3 tags in the files as well as the ogg tag and renaming the files to mp3s but nothing works. Apparently others have had problems with their ogg tags not being recognized as well. I got really pissed off. Partly at Samsung and partly at myself for encoding these CDs into ogg format in the first place.

What is the advantage of ogg format anyways? Better quality than mp3 for the same file size is how it can be explained most simply. But who gives a damn about filesize these days with 0.5 TB hard drives going for $115. If you want high quality forget disk space and go with Flac or use VBR mp3 or 320kbps CBR mp3. If you're tight on disk space your encoding is going to be lossy no matter what and it will sound like crap. The only reason I can think for using ogg many years ago when I did was that VBR was fairly new at that time and was not fully supported by all players and hard drive space must have been more expensive.

I also just bought a Squeezebox Receiver and Controller and I don't want to discover some flaw in its ogg tag support when I'm hosting a party and trying to play some oggs.

Luckily most of my oggs were ripped off of CDs that I still have in storage. I am in the process or re-ripping those CDs into mp3s. I knew nothing about mp3 conversion before so I did some reading about it. This list of recommended LAME settings was the most helpful in addition to the lame man page. I eventually decided upon the following:

lame --preset fast standard *.wav *.mp3

A couple notes, the "fast" option adds the --vbr-new setting, the "standard" option is equivalent to "-V 2" and the -h option is not necessary with VBR. This gives a target bitrate of 190 kbps which is good enough for me. I did think about using flac but I don't care that much about audio quality, and I would rather not to have to upgrade my hard drive in order to be able to use flac for everything.

For some CDs that I really care about, such as Pink Floyd, I rip it using

lame --preset fast extreme *.wav *.mp3

which gives an average bitrate of around 245 kbps.

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Comments

That's why I used vorbis before but I can no longer justify using a format that just doesn't work perfectly very well in ALL players. I mean I was even using ogg back in the days when there was no support by the portable players. I was restricted to using either my Windows or Linux PC. Whenever I used my old 32MB portable player I would convert the high quality oggs into 96kbps mp3s. I had a script to do it but still it was a PITA. I thought if I stuck it out a few years with ogg eventually all the players would support it. And in 2007 I find that only 1/10 players supports ogg and even then, not perfectly. I give up. :-)

Although mp3 is patented they don't see to be going after anyone for not paying royalties and by 2010-2015 all the patents will have expired. :-)

I would like to point out the existence of Rockbox, an open source replacement firmware that runs on quite a few DAPs (including older iPods, iriver H1x0, H3x0 and H10, Sansa e2x0, Sansa c2x0, iAudio X5, iAudio M5, iAudio, M3, etc.). It supports a wide range of audio formats, including ogg vorbis, aac, mp3, mpc, wv, wav, alac, flac, shn, and more. You can find out more here:

www.rockbox.org

Maybe it will help someone facing a similar situation.

I like ogg... enough, but it feel isolated out there. I eventually switched back to mp3 which, if I remember was kinda a pain because ogg to mp3 isn't a perfect conversion, because my music player didn't support it. And, of course, lame is the best.

My only oggs were from CDs so I just had to rip from the CD again. My oggs weren't great anyways, -q 4, and I didn't have that many CDs to re-rip (20) so it was no big deal.

I can sympathize with your feeling of isolation. Imagine a friend coming over to my house, hearing some great music and then asking to copy some mp3s off me.

Me: "Oh my digital audio is formatted in ogg format"

Friend: "What format?"

Me: "Ogg. Does your device support ogg?"

Friend: "Um..."

Me: "Probably not, let me just convert these into mp3s quickly"

PITA!!!

I researched like crazy before I bought my first media device, simply because I *needed* it to play oggs. Well.. I bought an iaudio X5 from cowonamerica, and it works fantastically. reads all the tags and has fantastic audio quality.

Just thought I'd let ya know that good ogg players exist. I've loved my X5 for the year I've had it.

It looks like Cowon devices are sold in Canada at many retailers. I should not have limited my search space to only Future Shop (I usually don't because their selection is horrible).

I still think that these days you can just crank up the quality level on an mp3 (-V 0, -V 1) and get really good quality (at the expense of disc space of course).

The other issue if you use oggs is that you need to use another tool for replay gain and any tag handline involves two different tag libraries (unless there is an integrated ogg/i3d one nowadays?) I know EasyTag for example works great with both ogg and i3d but if I made an automated script that accessed the tags I might need to have different code to handle the oggs or mp3s.

Instead of dragndrop vorbis files to yepp device, you should use a correct mtp device. I use Mediamonkey, this prog knows mtp protocol and vorbis well enough to send the catalogue information to yp.

I love OGG. I went through a "conversion" lifetime and swore OGG was the future. I still think so in some degrees, but I have to wait for technology to really catchup. I agree with HDD space being cheap-as-hell I just started to encode in AAC for my latest iPods and think I'll be investigating the MP3 settings you linked to and see if MP3 VBR is best for me too. Thanks.

I have a Samsung YP-T8 and I had to stop using OGG Vorbis on it for a completely different reason. Sound quality. For me, Ogg Vorbis sounds better than MP3 at anything below 224kbps, but played back on my YP-T8 a different problem occurs. Ogg files played back on this player have a terrible electronic distortion that accompanies low frequency bass sounds that can only be described as a high buzz or sizzle. It's not the headphones and it's not the encoder. It isn't even noticeable unless you play music with just the right bass frequencies to make the bug apparent. A great example can be heard with "Zero-Sum", the last track on Nine Inch Nail's "Year Zero" album.

I actually went so far as to contact Samsung and inquire if they were aware of it. The tech I talked to said they had no plans to update the firmware in my aging unit, and in fact they would be discontinuing support for Vorbis altogether. However, the current offerings on Samsung's website shows that isn't true. Ogg Vorbis is great, but Samsung didn't really care enough about it to add proper tag support or ensure that the sound quality is good. I'm sure the tested one or two songs for about 10 seconds and said, "Ok, good to go!"

Since this discovery I've been replacing some OGG tracks with WMA (VBR Q75) or MP3 (Lame -V2 -q0). I would be hesitant before I bought another Samsung product again without a test drive.

I sympathise with what you say here, I've had the same problems myself with lack of support for OGG. And even though I take the trouble to make sure any music players I buy support it, obviously I can't expect the same from others...and that's the main problem. But I take the same attitude with this as I do with linux generally - no pain, no gain. Unless those of us informed and conscientious about the issues with software patents etc. are willing to accept a few limitations and inconveniences to create demand for open formats, it will never happen. I just feel that it's part of my responsibility as a technologist to help coerce the industry into whichever I see as the right direction for the future, and it always surprises me how few programmers are willing to fully commit themselves in this way.

It's not so much the reality of whether anyone is going to enforce MP3 patents, it's the abuses that can potentially occur in principle, because it's always the *threat* of IP lawsuits that does the damage. And if you think MP3 is just too old and widespread now to worry about these things, consider what Microsoft has done recently, threatening TomTom over patents on FAT...as soon as somebody achieves a market-leading position with a linux-based device (thus validating the platform for mainstream embedded devices) out come the patents, no matter how ridiculous or irrelevant.

As "techies" we're the ones most able to handle the issues with adopting less-ubiquitous data formats, so I'd encourage anyone who actually sees the point to continue to make it.

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