Do You Hear Me Now?

Every so often someone takes up the challenge of deciding
which audio codec is the best. The
latest is ExtremeTech and their review (see it
) of MP3,
Ogg Vorbis, AAC, and WMA.

According to their results, which varies by bit-rate (they
used 64, 128, and VBR set at 98 percent), the best
is…now wait for it…dependent on several factors.

Those factors boil down to what hardware are you using. For
example, if you are using a flash memory based product that has
very little storage you may need to compress at 64K. On the
other hand, if you are storing your music on a 5TB array you
can encode pretty much at any rate you want (including no
compression at all). On the other hand, should you choose the
ubiquitous Apple iPod, you only have one choice, albeit a
pretty good one based on the results.

The results in the table below are the geometric means of
the ratings used. Each subject rated the sample from 1 through
5 with the higher number meaning better sounding. The numbers
below are the overall aggrate of four different music

Codec 64k 128k VBR
MP3 1.44 4.06 3.82
WMA9 3.15 4.27 4.10
Ogg Vorbis 3.29 3.94 3.88
AAC 2.97 4.27 N/A

So, if you are forced to encode at 64k, use Ogg Vorbis
(assuming your hardware supports it, which many do not,
otherwise, use WMA). If you can encode at 128k, use WMA9 or
AAC. It is difficult to recommend VBR since the resulting file size
is about twice that of 128k while the scores, albeit subjective
as they are, are lower than 128k. YMMV.


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