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So I've got 2 mp3 files

  • 320 kbps
  • 192 kbps

However it's hard for me to notice any differences at all (it seems there's none). Is there a tool to help compare bitrate quality? I wanna find out what acceptable bitrate should I use to convert all my mp3 to conserve disk space.

Edit: The song I'm using is Edge of Glory - Lady Gaga

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good quality headphones and your ears :) –  dinesh Feb 21 '13 at 2:25
    
I use foobar2000 player, and add a bitrate column, so I can see bitrate information of every audio file. –  LiuYan 刘研 Feb 21 '13 at 2:27
    
What's acceptable is what you can hear using your hardware. Conduct lots of ABX and double-blind tests! –  Karan Feb 21 '13 at 7:04
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2 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Indeed 192 kbps is enough to achieve near-CD quality, so it's OK. However you should not re-convert your MP3s since each encoding pass will degrade sound quality significantly, due to some nuances of MP3 encoding. Basically that means that path WAV -> MP3_320 -> MP3_192 will result in a lower quality than WAV -> MP3_192. You can however recode your lossless compressed audio files like FLAC or APE.

So if you nonetheless want to recode MP3s, save original MP3s if you want to preserve quality for a some other usages in future. I guess you need to recode to use it on a some memory limited device like MP3-player, but hard drive space is almost free these days.

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You could do a simplified version of an ABX test:

  1. Encode the same song in both 192 and 320kbps.
  2. Create a playlist with only these 2 repeated a few times and set it to shuffle. This way you do not know which version is playing when listening to them.
  3. Use what you consider to be good speakers or headphones.
  4. If or when you listen you think it sounds a bit noisy/flat/unclear, pause and make a note of which song is playing.

It would be faster and easier if you split the song so you only listened to certain short parts of the song, which would make it easier to compare them.

Also, consider whether you are likely to use an equaliser (which does require greater detail in order to sound good) or higher quality headphones or speakers in the future. If you think you will it would be prudent to assume in the future you will need higher quality music so you could encode a step or two higher than you need right now.

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