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***Okay before anything else, I would like to clear something out here before you proceed on reading this guide.

-If ur an 'audiophile' person who uses graph charts to compare mp3 quality instead of listening to it ... this guide isn't 4 u! :)
-If ur one of those folks who 'say' that even 256kbps or higher mp3's still isn't worth listening to b'coz the quality sux ... this guide isn't 4 u! :)

Now that we have that settled out ... aherm! ... This guide will be providing u diff kind of info's about mp3 encoding, decoding, program recommendations, and some FAQ's. I don't want to bore u so I'm going to keep this guide as detailed and short as possible.

















=Which MP3 Enc/Prog To Use?=

There are tons of MP3 encoders out there, and all of them claim that they have the best quality. But do urself a huge favor and do not use "Xing Audiocatalyst"! It is one of the worst encoder out there! If u want my suggestion, I highly recommend "CDex"! I love this prog b'coz it uses "LAMEenc" (w/c is currently the best encoder available in terms of sound quality), the prog is free, and it contains features that makes "LAMEenc" easier to use!

You can d/l CDex and LAMEenc at the ff websites below:

CDex

LAMEenc

My recommended settings for CDex version 1.50 can be downloaded (right-click) or read on the link below:

Configuring CDex



=What Bitrate Should I Use?=

Again, it depends. But if u want my suggestion, read my recommendations below:

128kbps (Constant Bit Rate - Joint Stereo) - This setting is good for folks who:
-can't notice the diff between cassette and cd quality music!
-have a 'very' old sound card
-unpowered speakers

** If u plan to upgrade ur PC's multimedia capabilities soon or plan on converting their mp3's to audio-cd format, then by all means consider higher bit rates instead!


32min-192max kbps <or 256max> (VBR - Joint Stereo)- Good balance between filesize and sound quality.
-For folks with powered/amplified speakers.
-New or not-so-new sound card owners.


32min-320max kbps (VBR - Joint Stereo) - Recommended for folks who wants quality and doesn't care about the filesize. Filesize is most of the time going to be less than 10mb ... so it's really not "that" big.
-If u convert ur mp3's to cda's and play it on HI-FI stereo's, this setting is definitely for u!
-For PC's with new sound cards and good quality speakers.
 
**All settings are recommended/tested when using LAME enc.



=FAQ's=

Q: Is 128kbps already considered as cd-quality?
A: Nope! Not even close! But some folks (often times girls) already can't notice the diff of a mp3 at 128kbps and a cd. Weird huh?!


Q: What bit rate should I use for balance between quality and filesize?
A: Depends oh how sensitive ur ears are. But if u want my suggestion, 192kbps (constant) is a good setting.


Q: What bit rate should I use for best quality? I don't care about the filesize!
A: U can always use 320kbps if u really don't care how big the mp3 file gets. Question is, can u really hear the diff between 256kbps or lower bit rates and 320kbps mp3 files? If so, then go ahead and encode at 320kbps. If you want my suggestion, 256kbps is enough!


Q: Will converting my low quality mp3's to wav then encode it back to mp3 at a higher bit rate increase its sound quality?
A: Nope! B'coz there's not enough samples to fill the additional bit rate u specified.


Q: What encoder should I use?
A: I highly recommend that u use "LAMEenc".


Q: Should I or should I not normalize my mp3's?
A: I do not recommend normalizing. It might cause ur mp3's to sound muffled or produce clipping sounds/distortion. But if u know exactly what ur doing, or have a software that normalizes files w/o clipping (eg. Audiograbber) or able to detect whether clipping will occur (eg. MP3gain) then go ahead.


Q: Is there a better mp3 player than winamp?
A: Non that I could think off. But I personally like "WMP 7's" Bass amplification quality, it's better than winamp IMHO! But of course its ur ears that should decide w/c player is better in terms of quality.
 

Q: What 'burning program' burns mp3's directly to cda format?
A: Nero and Adaptec are two of the most popular.


Q:How do i remove gaps between tracks when encoding mp3's?
A: I don't recommend that u edit/remove silence with mp3's since we all want to have a 'exact' replica of the original song. But if u really want to have the gaps between tracks removed, simply dl "gapless output" plug-in for winamp.


Q: I have a good quality speaker and sound card. And 128kbps MP3's sound good to me!?
A: I'm not surprised since some folks are born to have more sensitive ears than others.


Q: Difference between average and peak normalizing?
A: Peak normalizing is from the word itself, adjusts the peak of the song to the setting/value u want. Average on the other hand is the total loudness/softness of the song and is IMO better than peak normalizing as long as u do not enable/use "compression". Avg. Normalizing is not available with most softwares as peak normalizing though, one software that has Avg. Normalizing feature is Audiograbber.


Q: Why do u recommend VBR over CBR when almost all mp3's I dl off the net is at a constant bit rate?
A: I recommend that setting for the ff reasons: First is b'coz it saves u disk space cause it lowers the bitrate on some part of the songs, on soft and silent part of the songs. Second is b'coz u can ctrl the quality of ur mp3's by specifying the min/max kbps (ABR). Third is b'coz unlike other progs like Audiocatalyst, CDex (LAME) is optimized for VBR encoding.


Q: Some of my encoded mp3's are stuttering! How do I fix that?
A: The only way to fix that is to encode the mp3 again and/or encode using a lower cd-read speed.
 
 
Q: Is "Joint Stereo" better than "Stereo" mode?
A: Yes, but only if u'r using LAME encoder. If u'r using an encoder other than LAME (fraunhofer, blade, etc), use "stereo" mode instead. Just make sure that u'r mp3's are encoded on an at least 192kbps setting, if not, a lot of sound artifacts will be produced.
 
 
Q: Does the quality or cd-rom drive speed has an effect on my encoded file/s quality? 
A: Yes, but only if ur source disc is scratched and causing ur encoded files to contain jitter errors. There are certain brands (eg. Asustek) that can handle and correct errors due to scratches better than others. You can alleviate the problem by lowering down the cd-rom cache and/or speed inside control panel's system settings ... or by using EAC. And there are times where CD-RW's will be able to read a heavily scratched or damaged disc better than a CD-ROM drive.
 
 
Q: Is there a loss in quality when I directly copy my Audio CD's to another disc?
A: It depends ... If ur system is fast enough to write/copy the disc "on-the-fly" w/o causing the recorded disc to contain jitter errors ... then the answer is No. If jitter errors becomes a problem, then I recommend saving the source disc/s info on ur HD first as an "image" (if possible) or RIP it (to wav file and not "encode" it to mp3) before burning as an Audio CD/CDA.
 
 
Q: Is there a loss in quality when normalizing MP3's?
A: Yes, that is if ur not using programs that directly normalize files w/o converting them first to wav. MP3 gain is a very useful "lossless" mp3 normalization software that can be downloaded here: http://www.geocities.com/mp3gain/
 
 
Q: I've heard there's this MAD decoder that produces better sound quality than Winamp's default decoder. Any info on this decoder?
A: Yes! I also have a guide on how to configure the said decoder. Please check my "Sound Quality" guide for more info.
 
 
Q: Is there an easier way of renaming and updating/editing my mp3 files/id3tags? I have lots of mp3's and doing it manually eats up a lot of time!
A: Yes there is! There's a program called Tag&Rename w/c can really shorten the time it takes to rename files and udpate/edit ID3 tags. It has the ability to edit/update/erase ID3v1 and v2 tags, and automatically "mass" rename ur mp3 files to fit ur liking in a click of a button! U can d/l the program (shareware) here: http://www.softpointer.com/tr.htm
 
 
Q: I have downloaded a couple of MP3's using Kazaa, and some of them have hissing/scratching noises. Is it caused by my media player? I already tried downloading the same file again but the problem is still there.
A: RIAA is one of the primary suspect on this kind of problem when downloading music from Kazaa. It is adviced that u do not download songs when the amount of source is sky rocketing (eg. 50 and up). The more number of sources, the bigger chance of having one of those faulty MP3's. Alternatively, u may want to try other P2P progs or better yet mIRC.
 
 
Q: I have normalized multiple songs comin' out from different albums, but some of them still sound lower than the rest. I have already used average normalizing and it still didn't do the trick.
A: Some songs/albums juz doesn't sound as good/loud as the others. You may have increased the volume, but sometimes what ur hearing is not the track having low volume, but its quality. Some tracks sounds like the band is singing inside a bathroom, some in an open area, some in a studio etc. So even if their loudness is exactly the same, how u perceive the loudness due to the quality and environmental effect of the recording will make u feel that they still do not have the same loudness rating.
 
 

**More FAQ's Soon
*For MP3 related questions ... email me!


Last Updated: 020304
















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