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These Are Not Your Father's MP3s - The Audio Revolution Begins
September 02, 2002
Have you ever downloaded some MP3s from Kazaa, WinMX, or even SoulSeek and found the quality of the audio left something to be desired?
Perhaps you think this is a limitation of the MP3 format, that it can't deliver CD-quality sound?
Do you ever wonder if there is a network where people only share MP3s that were created using the highest quality standards around?
Are you an MP3 perfectionist who is sick of finding errors in your downloads? Tired of looking for full albums?
Where We Are Now
At the bottom of the encoder food-chain we had Xing, which created MP3s that sounded like they were being played underwater.
Then there was Blade, a noble effort that created decent quality audio. More of a pretender than a contender though.
All along there was Fraunhofer, the birthplace of MP3 encoding. Their MP3 encoder was the best one you could get, but it came with a hefty price tag.
The cracking group Radium released a version of the Frauhofer Pro encoder, and anyone using this encoder in the late 90's was using the best MP3 encoder on the planet.
Meanwhile, an open-source project called L.A.M.E., was busy improving the psycho acoustics, noise shaping, etc, of the MP3 format. In short, they were building a better mousetrap.
For a while, the Fraunhofer Pro encoder was still king. But while the Fraunhofer model was finished development, The L.A.M.E. Project was still going strong and improving with every new version.
It was just a matter of time before the LAME MP3 encoder bested the quality of Fraunhofer.
Once it did, people began discussions about which options in LAME were the best to use, and debates about file size versus quality were everywhere.
Then a site called r3mix.net popped up and brought the mainstream audience's attention to the LAME encoder.
The site developed it's own option switch for LAME, which was simply --r3mix and this switch would automatically pass on the best parameters to LAME.
Now anyone, without any knowledge of the LAME encoder at all, could create CD-quality variable bit-rate MP3s that averaged out to 170-190kb/s.
But what was CD quality? Some people still had issues with the r3mix switch and many audiophiles felt the LAME code wasn't yet providing impeccable quality.
So these audiophiles, with their highly trained ears and god-knows-how-expensive equipment performed their own testing with LAME.
They wanted an encoder that would produce MP3s that were indistinguishable from the original source, even to audio freaks.
This crew of audio freaks started their own website, which used to be called HydrogenAudio.org, but can now be found at Audio-Illumination.org
They decided to call their switch --alt-preset standard and it is now the leading-edge in MP3 technology.
Simply use that switch with the LAME encoder, and you are creating MP3s that sound so crisp, so clear, even an audiophile can't discern the difference from the original CD source.
Cool, and there's a place where people trade only these high quality MP3s?
Yes, but there is much more to creating a high quality MP3 than just the encoder.
The audio needs to be extracted perfectly from the CD source. The filenames need to be correct, ID3 tags in place, and an MD5 checksum needs to be created.
If this all sounds difficult, don't worry, it will all be explained to you along the way.
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