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Reviewed by: Carl Nelson [11.01.06]
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. The latest codec to make a big splash is MusePack, formerly known as MPEG+. MusePack has shown to make for maintaining quite a bit of fidelity at bitrates even below 192 kbps.

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. MusePack uses word-based quality levels, and "Telephone" quality yielded file sizes close to 64 kbps CBR. Total encoding time in seconds was given.

Unfortunately these codecs and encoder are single threaded, so any extra cores are left to sit and wait for the encoding to complete. However it should be noted that multithreaded music encoders are currently being worked on (dbPowerAmp has a beta that allows encoding more than one file at a time), so this could change very soon.

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