I am in the process of ripping all of my CD`s to WMA. Each converted CD at best quality takes up about 86mb as opposed to the original 600mb of the CD. Given that there is such a difference, is the quality of playback affected vastly?
Yes, there is a big loss of quality from CD to WMA even at "best" quality, which I think is only about 160 - 192kbps.
The thing is that you may not actually be able to notice the difference in quality depending on;
1) how good your playback equipment is (if you listen to CDs and WMA through something low quality like a PC and its speakers, then you probably won't notice much difference, but if you play them back through a decent hifi or with decent headphones, you will be more likely to notice the reduced quality)
2)How good the original recording is
3) How good your ears are ( Don't feel bad if your ears are not sensitive enough to tell the difference, its a good thing because it means that you can be very happy with lower quality encoded files! sensitive ears will need high quality encodings in a lossless format like FLAC to be just as happy)
Take some time to experiment with different formats (MP3, WMA, OGG, AAC, FLAC etc) at different quality settings and then compare the same tracks in the different formats to each other and to the CD original using the system you would normally listen to music on, and in your normal listening conditions.
When you can no longer tell the difference, this is the point at which you are said to have achieved "transparency". Choose the most convenient format for you at the lowest quality setting required to achieve transparency.
The higher quality your play back equipment and the original recording are, and the more sensitive your ears are, the higher the transparency point will be, and the larger the encoded files will be. Diffenet formats will achieve transparency for you at different quality levels.
Agreed - if you buy (specifically) an iPod at some point, for example, you'll have to either convert (bad) or rip again (bad). And they don't support FLAC either right now, except by hack (last I heard). A reasonable compromise may be mp3 at 320kbps, depending on what you're playing it on/through?
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Although i am not a wma fan by any means, it is useful sometimes. At lower bitrates (less than 128 and below) wma is usually nicer to listen to than mp3, difficult to describe, but it is a bit smoother. WMA, like MP3 is supported on virtually any mp3 player from the last few years except for ipods. WMA 9 is actually a very good codec. I personally don't use it since I prefer ogg as my favourite lossy codec, with AAC in second. I try to avoid proprietry formats (including aac if i can use ogg instead). I also tend to use fairly high bitrates which makes LAME mp3 better if i ever need my music on a player that doesn't support ogg or aac. As a fairly universal low bit rate codec, WMA is a good choice.
As frog says, ripping to lossless, such as FLAC is a great choice if you have the HDD space, and don't mind either holding 2 copies of your music (one in flac, one in a lossy codec), or if you don't mind the time delay involved in transcoding everytime you want to transfer to a portable. If not then just rip in the most convenient format at a quality high enough for you to achieve transparency.
MP3 is not a good format to archive music for transcoding later as it almost always (even at highest bit rates) throws away most of the high frequency sound. The other more modern loss formats do not do this at high bit rates and so are more suitable. Obviously transcoding from any lossy format to another is not the best plan in any situation.
EAC and CDex are a little complicated to use for the complete begginer, so unless you are willing to learn (well worth it) then stick with ripping music using media monkey.
Thanks all for the detailed responses.
Wish I had posted this previously as I have already ripped 120 cd`s! Could be worse, I have another 300 to do.
Im using WMA out of convenience and because it offered a simple solution to being able to stream my files over my home network.
I think I may review this and look at the FLAC software.
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