Bye Bye Ogg Vorbis, hello VBR mp3

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.



Anyway I wanted to say that it's nice to know that someone else also mentioned this as I had trouble finding the same info elsewhere.

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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 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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