Creating mp3?s

I mentioned that I had an mp3 player for running. One problem was that I’ve been using iTunes for some time, and my mp3 player doesn’t accept the default itunes format (.m4a). So I needed to re-copy those songs as either .wma (Windows Media format) or mp3’s.

Now, I don’t like to lose quality too much. As far as copying music to your computer is concerned, the standard metric for the song’s quality is the bit rate (how often the sound wave is sampled). In general, the higher the bit rate, the better quality the music is, but the larger the file becomes. A 64Kbps bit rate–64,000 bits/second–is a standard quality. Music that is streamed over the internet will usually be low-quality, since the smaller file-size allows for the music to be transferred faster.

So the next question is how to get high-quality mp3’s from your CD’s? Here are some freebies that I’ve looked at:

Windows Media Player can be configured to create mp3’s, and allows for high-quarlity bit rates. Windows Media Player will let you encode into mp3’s at 128, 192, 156, or 320 Kbps.

Exact Audio Copy can do similar, but adds an extra feature: Variable Bit Rate encoding (VBR). The idea behind this is that the mp3 encoder will determine what quality is needed for a given small section of the music and set the bit rate for that small section. This allows you to get high-quality music and save a little more space. The problem with this program is that the setup is more involved, rather than working out of the box.

iTunes also lets you configure your format choices, and so you can choose to have iTunes copy songs in mp3 format. I was pleased to note that they also have an option for variable bit rate (VBR) encoding, but on top of that, you can set a minimum bit rate. So when you’re copying your music to mp3, the bit rate won’t go below the threshold that you set.

Right now I’m using iTunes to copy my CD’s to mp3’s. I’m using the VBR encoding with a minimum bit rate of 192Kbps.

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