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Reviewed by: Carl Nelson [08.07.06]
Manufactured by: Intel


Audio Encoding

Like video encoding, several audio codecs are available to use. MP3 is easily the most popular, being the first to receive massive use for encoding personal collections. However WMA can provide higher quality at the same bitrates, and seems to encode a lot faster. OGG is another solution, supported by the open-source community. It also boasts higher quality over MP3 at similar bitrates. M4A is the successor to MP3, but it is not a format in itself. Like WMA, it contains various sub-formats. The main sub-format, and equivalent to everyday MP3 is AAC, which is what Apple uses on their iTunes and iPod products.

This test was performed by encoding a 45 minute WAV track ripped directly from a CD. dbPowerAMP Music Converter was used, with the codecs downloaded from their Codec Base. All tests were done in 64 kbps, constant bitrate when possible; the OGG codec we're using only has options for VBR encoding, so we used "Quality 0" for that test, which resulted in file sizes similar to the other tests. Total encoding time in seconds was given:

MP3 gives us a good baseline to work with, since it's still the most popular codec. As you can see, the X2 4600+ is able to tie with the E6400 in this test, quite an accomplishment considering it was demolished in the XviD test.

Things are quite different when using the higher quality OGG codec. Of course, this codec is rarely supported by the more popular MP3 players. Still, if you have one that does support OGG, you might want to use it over MP3 due to the much faster encoding times, and better quality.

Once again, the A64 is able to pull up to tie the E6400 (and in all likelihood would beat a real E6400, since ours is a simulated one with extra cache) in the WMA test. WMA is easily the best codec out there - it sounds great and is far faster than any other codec. With an X6800, you're able to encode an ENTIRE CD in just 30 seconds! I don't even want to think about how long I used to sit there encoding CD's on my overclocked Pentium 75.

The bottom line is that Intel has finally caught up with AMD in audio encoding; they used to get destroyed in every test we've done. Add this to the far superior video encoding performance, and I think you know which CPU is the better choice if you do a lot of work with movies and videos.

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