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MP3 Encoders Comparison

Table of content:
Constant Bitrate: Test procedure (CBR) Results CBR Encoding time (CBR)
Variable Bitrate: Test procedure (VBR) Results VBR Encoding time (VBR) Average bitrate of VBR files
Conclusion and optimal settings

Conclusion and optimal settings

Choosing the best encoder

Lame is probably the best encoder when talking about quality. The encoding speed is also quite good. So, I suggest using lame if you want the best possible quality.

On another way, gogo is also a good choice. This encoder is based on the "recent" lame 3.88 and offers also a very good quality. It is also the quickest mp3 encoder (approximately 2-4 times quicker than lame), but it offers less encoding options than lame.

So, if the encoding time is not your absolute priority, use lame that offers a slightly better quality than gogo.
On the other way, if the encoding time is your priority, use gogo.

The settings to use

The Variable Bitrate (VBR) offers better quality than Constant Bitrate (CBR). This is due to the optimization of the used bitrate with the complexity of the audio signal to encode. "Simple" signals could be encoded with less bitrate, when higher bitrate is user to encode more difficult signals. On the other hand, encoding using VBR is approximately 2 times slower than encoding using CBR.

I suggest to you to use the VBR option. Depending on the quality (and file size) that you want to produce, this lame setting is good choice:

lame -m j -b 96 -B 320 -h -V 2 -F [input-file.wav] [output-file.mp3]

Resulting on a 2.5 times encoding speed (on a Pentium III 600).

For gogo, this setting is similar:

gogo -m j -v 2 [input-file.wav] [output-file.mp3]

Resulting on a 10 times encoding speed (on a Pentium III 600).

The used lame parameters mean:

And the gogo parameters mean:

The "Quality setting" can be changed. This does not change a lot the encoding speed, but it directly influence the file size and quality. Decreasing this setting increase the quality and the file size.

Keep in mind that some portable mp3 players, mp3 discman and DVD with mp3 support does not support all bitrates. Most players I have seen can't handle over 256 kbps. So, it could be essential to decrease the "Maximum bitrate" to 256, for example. Worse, the VBR could be unsupported. On this case, use the Constant Bitrate, like this:

lame -m j -b 160 [input-file.wav] [output-file.mp3]
gogo -m j -b 160 [input-file.wav] [output-file.mp3]

the constant bitrate (-b [bitrate]) could be increased or decreased using this values: 32 40 48 56 64 80 96 112 128 160 192 224 256 320. Of course, higher bitrate increase the quality, but also the file size!


This is a summary of some suggested settings:

Highest Quality (VBR)

lame -m j -b 96 -B 320 -h -V 2 -F [input-file.wav] [output-file.mp3]

High Quality (VBR) - Highest Speed

gogo -m j -v 2 [input-file.wav] [output-file.mp3]

Medium-High Quality (VBR) - Highest Speed

gogo -m j -v 4 [input-file.wav] [output-file.mp3]

Medium-High Quality (CBR) - Highest Speed

gogo -m j -b 160 [input-file.wav] [output-file.mp3]

Medium file size (VBR) - Medium-Low Quality

lame -m j -b 64 -B 192 -h -V 5 -F [input-file.wav] [output-file.mp3]

Medium file size (CBR) - Medium Quality - Highest Speed

gogo -m j -b 128 [input-file.wav] [output-file.mp3]

Smaller file size (CBR) - Low Quality - Highest Speed

gogo -m j -b 96 [input-file.wav] [output-file.mp3]

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