Get The Best Sound From Your MP3's

Ripper's Guide --

Most of us listen to our MP3 recordings through the modest computer speakers on our system. Because of this, many can't really discern the quality variables between a low and high bit recording because the better sound found in higher compressions never gets past sub-quality ear gear. To these users, recording quality has become less of a concern.

As for the rest of us who patch our digital tunes into the stereo or use high quality phones with our MP3 portables, we CAN tell the difference and want to record our tunes at the best quality that is practicle.

For those in the second group, one of our readers has provided his detailed guide to optimizing MP3 recordings. He has a strong personal opinion on the subject covering most of the major MP3 ripping utilities, so feel free to print this one out-- Editor

The Way to Rip High Quality Digital Audio (Rippers Guide v0.05b)

After playing around with numerous ripping utilities over the last 24 month's, I have found a way for people to get a guaranteed, high quality rip with no glitches.


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As the utilities get better, the chances of getting a glitchy rip are pretty rare, however no system of copying digital audio is perfect, and glitches do crop up from time to time. Also in this article, we commonly refer to the copying of audio data as ripping.

The following programs we give a thumbs up!!! Configuration of each utility will be explained later in this document file, but if your familiar with the utility your using then it should be easy to fix.

Programs that work:

For ripping Analog/Live Audio Feeds:

Programs we forbid:

Anything, which uses the Xing codec to compress so AudioCatalyst is definitely out for compressing WAVs. Also Virtuoso Gold tends to make the MP3s screwy (?!?) or Real Player Real Jukebox (uses the Xing codec). Why is this? Simple, because Xing has a nasty habit of killing off the ambiance of your source recording, therefore making the end MP3s horrible to listen to. In a sense, it makes your high/low ends washed or warble, thereby it doesn't sound as clean on a typical high-end stereo system. Also, apparently MusicMatch Jukebox does use a form of the Fraunhoffer codec, but it also tends to ruin the MP3s when it compresses. User beware!

Standard rules for ripping are as follows:

  1. Codec: FHG Radium MP3 codec v1.263 (Released June 26, 1999) - this codec was released by an audio warez group, thereby it's illegal to technically use. It's strange though, cause the commercial products on the market tend to ruin your MP3s. Do a search on the net for the codec, you should be able to find it either there or via one of the IRC chat channels (eg. #mpeg3 on EFNet).
  2. Mode: High Quality/HQ
  3. Copy: Syncronized Sector Copy/Sync mode
  4. Bitrates: 160 kbps should be in Joint Stereo/MS Audio, 192 kbps should be in Stereo. Why stereo at 192 kbps?!? The following should explain the process (courtesy the DiVX/Mpeg4 codec):

    Q : What's the difference between the various stereo modes?
    A : It's important to understand the difference between Stereo and Joint Stereo. 'Joint Stereo' modes take advantage of the similarities between the L+R channels. This allows more bits to be used in other areas and in many cases this can give an overall gain in encoding quality. Almost all encoders use joint stereo when encoding at 128 kbits. Joint stereo has 2 sub-modes called IS and MS. 'Joint Stereo IS' destroys phase information and shouldn't be used for high-quality encoding. 'Joint Stereo MS' means Middle/Side and is OK for use in most encoding. However, for some audio, Joint Stereo MS may create a 'flanging' or 'swishing' effect. In these cases it's better to use 'Stereo mode'. This mode creates 2 independent channels for both left and right. When stereo mode is used, you should also use a higher bitrate (160 or 192 kbits) - Stereo mode will allocate about half of this bitrate for each channel. In summary, for most audio, Joint Stereo MS at 128 or 160 kbits should be fine. If your audio is especially 'wide' and creates flange you should use 'Stereo' mode. You can change these modes in the Radium codec control panel.

Detecting Xing rips

Xing rips are inundating the Net, but how to tell if that new rip you just got has been Xing'd?

Well, other then a sound difference (not as clear, as well as a washy sound), just check the ID3 tag (hit Alt-3 when in WinAmp) which will bring up the following info to the right of the MPEG file info box + ID3 tag editor.

MPEG info:

  Franhoffer Xing L3Enc2.0
Private No No No
CRC's No No Yes
Copyrighted No Yes No
Original Yes Yes Yes
Emphasis None None None

Here's the confusing part, AudioGrabber gives the same values as a Xing rip/product, so really the only way to tell is if the rip sounds clean, rather then muggy (or the high ends sound washed). Downloader beware!

Installing and Configuring Various MP3 Compression Software

Installing and Configuring the FHG Radium MP3 codec:

Latest version is v1.263. The Radium codec is faulty for the 192 kbps settings. They set it for Joint Stereo rather then Stereo for some weird reason, but a lot of people say Joint Stereo at 192 kbps sounds really good. In my opinion, it tends to give the MP3s a hiss and can even distort the bass/high ends. YOU MUST USE Stereo as this tends to make the MP3 sound a lot cleaner.

The following applies to proper configuration of the codec:

  1. Unzip into a temporary directory, then run setupl3c.exe, and follow the prompts. This will, in most cases, install the codec into: c:\audio\l3codec-rdm You do have the option of installing the codec into any directory you specify, if you decide to place it in a different directory, make a mental note of where you placed it.
  2. Then go into the codec directory and run RaMp3Cfg.exe. This can also be accessed in one of two ways: START>RUN then typing in RaMp3Cfg.exe file or... START>PROGRAMS>FHG-Radium Codec>CODEC Control Panel
  3. Once in the configuration, click on the down arrow beside the 192 kbps configuration and set this to Stereo (located at the top of the list) from the present setting of Joint Stereo: MS. ---

Patching AudioActive Studio Pro:

AudioActive uses an internal Fraunhoffer codec for compressing .WAV files. Because of this, your 192 kbps rip will come out as Joint Stereo rather then stereo (it cannot detect or use the external codec). You will need to download and use the patch on AudioActive Pro so that it uses the Radium Codec. AudioActive must already be installed on your drive before patching it.

  1. Unzip the Patch into a temp directory then run AAPatch.exe, follow the prompts and your AudioActive should be patched to support the external codec.

Configuring WinDAC-32:

This can be really tricky to install, but it does support the external codec, so that's cool. WinDAC-32 is probably the best utility you can use for those systems which support an EIDE CD-Rom.

  1. Run the setup program and follow all the prompts. It should then install to c:\audio\WinDAC though you can set the directory to whatever you would like it to be.
  2. Run the program then go into DAC>Configure Drive>Copy and set this to Sectorsyncronization.
  3. Then go to the Advanced menu and under both Perform DA Compatibility Test and Spin-Up Drive select the Only before First Copied Track setting and click on the OK icon.
  4. Then go to DAC>Settings>WAV Format, this then brings up the Select WAV format menu. Click on the down arrow and select: Fraunhoffer IIS MPEG Layer-3 Codec (professional). This should be located near the bottom of the list.
  5. Now click on the configure Icon. Select either:
    1. 192 kBit/s, 44,100 Hz Stereo (for a 192 kbps Stereo rip) or
    2. 160 kBit/s, 44,100 Hz Stereo (for a 160 kbps Joint Stereo rip)
  6. Now click on the Quality tab and toggle that to: high (slow) for a HQ rip.
  7. Now click on the Format icon and toggle that to: Write MP3 files (*.MP3) and click on the Apply icon to apply the new changes. Then click on the OK Icon.
  8. Now go into the Zero Samples icon located in the Select Wave Format menu and select Kill Zero Samples. Then click the OK icon.
  9. To copy tracks, highlight the track(s) you wish to copy then press the right mouse button. A new menu will come up, so click on the Copy Track(s) selection. Make sure you specify which directory you would like the MP3s to go into by pressing the Change Icon located in the Output File section of the menu.
  10. Click on the OK icon and watch it do it's digital magic ;)

Configuring Exact Audio Copy (at time of this writing, it's still Beta)

EAC is the best utility you can use for systems which support a SCSI CD-Rom setup.

  1. Unzip the program into a directory of your choice and run eac.exe.
  2. Then go into EAC>EAC Options (press the F9 key) and select the following options:
    1. Syncronize between tracks.
    2. Delete leading and trailing silent blocks (these should be already toggled, tho').
    3. Error recovery quality should be set to [Medium], toggle this for your own preference.
  3. Go to EAC>Drive Options (press the F10 key) and click on the Detect Drive Options feature.
  4. Go to EAC>Compression Options (press the F11 key) then select the following for Wave format:
    1. Fraunhoffer IIS MPEG Layer-3 Codec (professional)
    2. Then select which bitrate you wish to use in the Sample format.
  5. Select the Do Not Write WAV header to file and High Quality (Slow) options so that it writes the MP3 format in HQ mode.
  6. EAC supports the CDDB option for renaming tracks, so you will need to go into EAC>CDDB/Lyrics options (press the F12 key) to put in your E-Mail address so that the database option works. CDDB is a database on the internet which contains track listings of literately hundreds upon thousands of CDs. Pretty neat idea, since a lot of people can use it when playing their favorite Audio CD.
  7. To copy a track, highlight the track you wish to copy, then press the right mouse button then select Copy Selected Track(s) or you can press the (F5) key. When the Save Waveform menu comes up, select the directory you wish to copy the MP3s to and click the Save icon. The files will not have a .MP3 extension attached to them, so remember to rename the tracks to whatever the song name is with a MP3 extension once the copy is completed.

Where to find the programs listed in this article:

WinDAC-32: http://www.windac.de
AudioActive Production Studio Pro: http://www.audioactive.com
Exact Audio Copy: http://www.ExactAudioCopy.de
Sound Forge: http://www.sonicfoundry.com/Products/NewShowProduct.asp?PID=5
WavLab: http://www.steinberg.net/products/ps/wavelab/wavelab3/
AudioGrabber: http://www.audiograbber.com-us.net
NotLame MP3 encoder: http://hive.me.gu.edu.au/not_lame
AudioCatalyst: http://www.xingtech.com/mp3/audiocatalyst
Real Player Real Jukebox: http://www.real.com/jukeboxplus/
CDDB: http://www.cddb.com
WinAmp: http://www.winamp.com
Sonique MP3 player: http://www.sonique.com

 

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