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Encoding using the MP3 format

From: Audio Mastering Techniques

Video: Encoding using the MP3 format

MP3 files are encoded using what's known as Lossy Data Compression. First of all, Data Compression is not at all like the Audio Compression that we've been talking about so far in this course. Data Compression means decreasing the number of bits in a digital word to make the file smaller. MP3 encoding does this in a lossy manner which means that it literally throws away certain audio information that the encoder thinks isn't important and won't be missed. It's almost like letting the air out of a bicycle tire. Still the same tire, but it's a lot smaller.

Encoding using the MP3 format

MP3 files are encoded using what's known as Lossy Data Compression. First of all, Data Compression is not at all like the Audio Compression that we've been talking about so far in this course. Data Compression means decreasing the number of bits in a digital word to make the file smaller. MP3 encoding does this in a lossy manner which means that it literally throws away certain audio information that the encoder thinks isn't important and won't be missed. It's almost like letting the air out of a bicycle tire. Still the same tire, but it's a lot smaller.

Of course, if we compare an MP3 file to its original non-data compressed source file, we can usually hear a difference. That's why the following information and parameter settings are so important, so you can get the best-sounding MP3 file that's sounds as close to the uncompressed source files can be. Regardless of the encoder, there's one parameter that matters the most in determining the quality of the encode, and that's Bit Rate, which is the number of bits of the encoded data that are used to represent each second of audio.

Lossy encoders like MP3 provide a number of different options for its Bit Rate. Typically, the rate shows the number between 128 and 320kbps. By contrast, uncompressed audio is stored on a compact disc has a Bit Rate of about 1400. MP3 files encoded with lower Bit Rate will result in a smaller file and therefore download faster, but they generally playback at lower quality. With the Bit Rate too low, compression artifacts or sounds that were not present in the original recording may appear in reproduction.

A good demonstration of compression artifacts provided by the sound of applause which is hard to data compress, because it's so random. (audio playing) As a result, the failings of an encoder are more obvious and become audible as a slight ringing. (audio playing) Conversely, a high bit rate encode will almost always produce a better sounding file.

(audio playing) It also results in larger file which may take an unacceptable amount of storage space or time to download. In these days of seemingly unlimited storage and widespread high-speed Internet, that's becoming less and less of a factor. 128kbps has lowest acceptable Bit Rate, but may have marginal quality depending upon the encoder. This results in some artifacts, but a small file size. 160kbps is the lowest Bit Rate considered usable for a high-quality file.

320kbps revise the highest quality and may even be indistinguishable from a CD. There are three modes that are coupled to Bit Rate that have a bearing on the final sound quality of the encode. Constant Bit Rate mode, or CBR, maintains a steady Bit Rate regardless of the complexity of the program. CBR mode usually provides the lowest quality encode, but the file size is very predictable. Average Bit Rate mode, or ABR, varies the Bit Rate around the specified target Bit Rate.

Variable Bit Rate mode, or VBR, maintains a constant quality while raising and lowering the Bit Rate depending upon how complex the program. Size is less predictable than with ABR, but the quality is usually better. At a given Bit Rate range, VBR will provide higher quality than ABR which will provide higher quality than CBR. The exception to this is when you choose the highest possible Bit Rate of 320kb where depending upon the encoder the mode may have little bearing on the final sound quality.

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This video is part of

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Audio Mastering Techniques

56 video lessons · 10579 viewers

Bobby Owsinski
Author

 
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  1. 1m 39s
    1. Welcome
      1m 39s
  2. 7m 7s
    1. Introducing mastering
      1m 22s
    2. The history of audio mastering
      3m 30s
    3. Mastering professionally versus doing it yourself
      2m 15s
  3. 10m 10s
    1. Mixing with mastering in mind
      6m 41s
    2. Mastering session documentation
      53s
    3. Printing alternative mixes
      2m 36s
  4. 6m 21s
    1. Evaluating your listening environment
      1m 33s
    2. Beginning with the basic listening technique
      3m 19s
    3. Deciding between monitors and headphones
      1m 29s
  5. 18m 13s
    1. Overview of mastering tools
      22s
    2. Exploring the dynamic ranges of different music genres
      2m 40s
    3. Understanding compression
      3m 20s
    4. Understanding limiting
      1m 25s
    5. Understanding equalization (EQ)
      1m 44s
    6. Using a de-esser
      1m 14s
    7. Metering while mastering
      3m 57s
    8. Exploring the mastering signal path
      1m 11s
    9. Listening in your digital audio workstation (DAW) using the A/B method
      2m 20s
  6. 33m 10s
    1. Making a loud master
      3m 7s
    2. Compression tips and tricks
      2m 4s
    3. Achieving competitive level
      2m 2s
    4. Understanding the pitfalls of hypercompression
      2m 10s
    5. Balancing frequencies
      3m 20s
    6. Reducing sibilance with a de-esser
      2m 2s
    7. Inserting fades
      1m 37s
    8. Eliminating noise and distortion
      43s
    9. Using multiband limiting
      4m 23s
    10. Adjusting the stereo image
      3m 24s
    11. Bringing out specific elements in a mix
      8m 18s
  7. 8m 17s
    1. Using dither
      1m 40s
    2. Using the appropriate workstation
      1m 27s
    3. Adjusting the spreads
      1m 28s
    4. Using International Standard Recording Codes (ISRC)
      1m 14s
    5. Using Universal Product Codes (UPC)
      1m 10s
    6. Creating CD-text discs
      33s
    7. Delivering or receiving a DDP master
      45s
  8. 12m 44s
    1. Encoding using the MP3 format
      3m 43s
    2. Understanding MP3 metadata
      1m 44s
    3. Creating a great-sounding MP3
      2m 46s
    4. Generating a FLAC file
      1m 18s
    5. Submitting music to online stores and services
      48s
    6. Submitting music to online song databases
      2m 25s
  9. 17m 23s
    1. Understanding AAC, the iTunes file format
      2m 28s
    2. Mastering for iTunes tips and tricks
      1m 36s
    3. The Mastered for iTunes format
      1m 29s
    4. The Mastered for iTunes tool package
      54s
    5. Using the iTunes Plus tools: iTunes Droplet
      1m 51s
    6. Using the Mastered for iTunes Audio To WAVE Droplet
      49s
    7. Using the Mastered for iTunes AURoundTripAAC Audio Unit tool
      6m 48s
    8. Using The Mastered for iTunes tools Test Pressing Feature
      1m 28s
  10. 3m 30s
    1. Mastering for high resolution
      1m 36s
    2. Mastering for television
      1m 54s
  11. 1m 19s
    1. Delivering the master to the replicator
      28s
    2. Archiving the project
      51s
  12. 50s
    1. Next steps
      50s

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