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Amazon MP3 selling files at various/unspecified settings frustrates me
musicfan321
post Jan 2 2012, 03:10
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Hey all,

New here, so sorry if I've posted in the wrong forum.

Anyways, I think this topic has been discussed before, but I find it really irritating how random the encodes are on Amazon MP3. They say on their site that they use variable bitrate wherever possible and CBR when not.

Now granted I have done my fair share of ABX testing and determined that I cannot hear the difference between a quality -V2 encode and a lossless copy. However, I just wish that Amazon would settle on one standard for all their MP3s. So far, I have obtained MP3s from Amazon in the following encodes:

LAME 3.97 -V0
LAME 3.91 cbr 256
LAME 3.98r cbr 256
Fraunhofer (FhG) cbr 256
LAME 3.98b ABR 256
LAME 3.96 cbr 256

The majority of the time I get one of the CBR profiles. I don't know about anyone else here, but I wish that either Amazon would settle on one standard, or show you what bit rate the files are at before you buy them. I would also like to know what software they use for their CD ripping, although I'm afraid that's not possible to find out. I recently got a song that was released in late 2011, and it says it was sold by Amazon Digital Services, and this song was encoded at 3.96 cbr 256. Also, I have found that all songs labeled being sold by Sony Digital Music Services are encoded with LAME 3.98b ABR 256. But I don't understand why Amazon would use an odd encoding setting when they have done -V0 in the past.

Well, just wanted to say my opinion, but aside from all this I do have to say that the Amazon prices are great and its very easy as well smile.gif.

Thanks for reading,

-musicfan321

This post has been edited by musicfan321: Jan 2 2012, 03:12
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spoon
post Jan 2 2012, 11:23
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Because Amazon are not doing the encoding?


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shadowking
post Jan 2 2012, 13:25
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It doesn't matter what encoder as 256 CBR is pretty high quality. CBR/ABR 224..256 is not worse than VBR V0 in general. The major concerns were 128k encodings and some rare hard samples that might not sound good at 192k . I would be more worried about transcoding or some unsafe switches.


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dhromed
post Jan 2 2012, 13:33
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Perhaps all Amazon buyers (here) could pool their data and see which encoding concerns have a basis in reality.
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kornchild2002
post Jan 2 2012, 13:55
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That is one of the reasons why I stopped buying mp3s from Amazon. It isn't a sound quality issue on my part but, if I am going to buy from a service, I would like all of those songs to use the same encoder and setting just like everyone else. I know that if I go buy a song from the iTunes Store, it will be encoded at 256kbps VBR AAC while songs from the Zune Marketplace are 320kbps mp3. That way the amount of mixed material in my library is cut down. It is more of an OCD issue that irritates me. That is why I have since gone through and used iTunes Match to swap out my Amazon purchased mp3 files for 256kbps VBR AAC versions. It had absolutely nothing to do with the quality of one vs another (since I can't ABX a difference, even from the 256kbps CBR FhG files) but now my library is more consistent instead of having albums encoded using 39587 different mp3 encoders and settings.

My best guess is that the artists/labels are doing the encoding. There as a time when Apple would send artists/labels their software. They could then load the lossless masters (or even the masters used for pressing the CDs) and were given a few options. They could encode at 128kbps AAC (an option that is no longer there), 256kbps VBR, or ALAC. If they went with ALAC, Apple would do all of the lossy encoding for them on their servers so that the bands/labels didn't have to worry about that. I believe that is the only option that Apple offers now but I could be mistaken. My guess is that Amazon is implementing something similar and, when a band/label sends them lossless content, Amazon will encode it using their settings (which seem to vary).
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musicfan321
post Jan 2 2012, 17:23
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Thanks everyone for the quick replies smile.gif!

I thought that because Amazon doesn't do the encoding might be the issue. But one thing I don't understand is, since you said Apple sends the labels their software so everything on the iTunes store is encoded the same, then why can't Amazon do that?

I do agree that it's not a sound quality issue, it's more of the fact that I'd like most of my stuff to be encoded the same as kornchild2002 says. I have considered signing up for iTunes Match, but part of me thinks that it would be a waste of money since I really can't tell the sound quality difference. Is it worth the $25?

I didn't know the Zune marketplace sold MP3s at 320kbps. I may consider buying from them more often. The new Google Music service is also intriguing since they say theirs are 320k as well, but there is the bigger issue of them not having Warner Bros. music ohmy.gif. I prefer the iTunes Store quality to that of Amazon MP3, but sometimes Amazon's prices are just too hard to resist rolleyes.gif.
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db1989
post Jan 2 2012, 17:35
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I was going to say that Play.com also sells MP3s at 320 kbps, as this was the case with the several albums I bought from them; however, a quick search on Google suggests that this may have been changed to 256/192 kbps, or that their bitrate varies by release too. Still, I thought it was worth mentioning!
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musicfan321
post Jan 2 2012, 18:02
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Interesting, I've never heard of Play.com....still, I probably won't use the service, but it's good knowing the option's available.
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krafty
post Jan 2 2012, 18:14
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I have small experience purchasing online, but even FLACs are dubious sometimes turning out to be sourced from lossy.
Since then I just stopped purchasing stuff online such as immaterial music: Unless it is really proven what is announced is really what it is.
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musicfan321
post Jan 2 2012, 18:30
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I'm going to consider signing up for iTunes Match. I like iTunes and only use iPods now, so the AAC format compatibility isn't an issue. $25 for the year really isn't expensive at all, and I do have a couple of those old low-quality CD rips in my collection.

In a perfect world I would actually think Amazon selling music in either the MP3 format or the FLAC format would be awesome smile.gif. But they'll probably never do that since most of consumers wouldn't know what to do with the FLAC format, and the file sizes are quite large.

This post has been edited by musicfan321: Jan 2 2012, 18:32
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saratoga
post Jan 2 2012, 22:43
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At such a high bitrate I'm not sure it really matters what they use.

IMO old encoders are annoying specifically because people need to use higher bitrates, so you waste space to get transparency. If you're going to buy 256kbps audio and waste the space anyway, then it seems kind of irrelevant.
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musicfan321
post Jan 2 2012, 23:56
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I agree in reality it doesn't matter what encoder they use, I can't actually hear a difference between any of the Amazon MP3 files. But just like kornchild2002, the OCD part of me wants everything to be the same.

I just don't understand why people still use old encoders today either. It's not like LAME costs money to upgrade the version, so why not? There really is no reason to have to use Lame 3.91 today.

This post has been edited by musicfan321: Jan 2 2012, 23:57
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saratoga
post Jan 3 2012, 00:10
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QUOTE (musicfan321 @ Jan 2 2012, 17:56) *
I just don't understand why people still use old encoders today either. It's not like LAME costs money to upgrade the version, so why not? There really is no reason to have to use Lame 3.91 today.


They're probably using some program that links against an old version of the lame dlls and hasn't been updated.
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musicfan321
post Jan 3 2012, 00:14
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That makes sense, but couldn't they just replace the lame dll in the old program with the new version, without upgrading the program? Or maybe that would cause compatibility issues....

This post has been edited by db1989: Jan 6 2012, 22:42
Reason for edit: splitting iTunes Match–related content; see post #18
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LANjackal
post Jan 3 2012, 02:00
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QUOTE (musicfan321 @ Jan 1 2012, 21:10) *
I just wish that Amazon would settle on one standard for all their MP3s.

As others have posted before, AMZ don't do the encoding themselves.

That said, even if they did all the encoding themselves and "settled" on a single quality/bitrate, that wouldn't necessarily fix your issue as the release of new encoder versions would still result in discrepancies. New files would be encoded using the latest version while older files would be stuck on previous versions.* I don't think it's reasonable to expect a vendor to reencode their entire library on each version change if reencoding doesn't change the perceived quality/transparency of the output files.

IMO the only fix for this is a move to lossless downloads, in which case you'd be (effectively) downloading the same original data regardless of the encoder version.

*For an example of a music store that does this, see eMusic


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musicfan321
post Jan 3 2012, 22:41
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Sorry for the misunderstanding, but what I meant by "standard" was one bit rate. The LAME version isn't as important, I'd just appreciate it if they settled on only V0. It would be a lot of work to upgrade everything to the latest LAME version (something I wouldn't be willing to do with my stuff, lol), and it wouldn't really make sense if the sound quality doesn't change.

I've decided to still go with Amazon MP3 if the price is cheapest, otherwise I'll go with another service. After all, everything sounds good, and that's what's most important IMO.

This post has been edited by db1989: Jan 6 2012, 22:43
Reason for edit: splitting iTunes Match–related content; see post #18
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2Bdecided
post Jan 6 2012, 17:26
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So much of this content goes through aggregators and third parties.

I've no specific knowledge of Amazon, but Spotify makes some info public...
http://www.spotify.com/uk/work-with-us/lab...sts/label-page/
http://www.spotify.com/uk/work-with-us/lab...ts/aggregators/
http://fuga.me/
http://www.ci-support.com/public/
etc

It's an interesting world out there.

Cheers,
David.
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db1989
post Jan 6 2012, 22:28
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musicfan321 and I agreed itd be best for readability and future discussion (of either topic) to split this, and so: iTunes Match: discussion, experiences, issues
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musicfan321
post Jan 6 2012, 22:59
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QUOTE (2Bdecided @ Jan 6 2012, 11:26) *
So much of this content goes through aggregators and third parties.

I've no specific knowledge of Amazon, but Spotify makes some info public...
http://www.spotify.com/uk/work-with-us/lab...sts/label-page/
http://www.spotify.com/uk/work-with-us/lab...ts/aggregators/
http://fuga.me/
http://www.ci-support.com/public/
etc

It's an interesting world out there.

Cheers,
David.


Interesting, never thought of that. So it sounds like we've come to a conclusion here that AmazonMP3 has various encodings because they don't do most of the encoding.

I seem to be getting mostly CBR files......very few VBR. From poeple's experience here shopping at AmazonMP3, have you gotten more VBR or CBR?
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marc2003
post Jan 6 2012, 23:17
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i've only got 59 tracks from amazon (UK) but 57 of those are encoded @ V0 with lame 3.97. the other 2 tracks are 3.98 ABR.


(i'm too ashamed of some of the songs on there... laugh.gif)

This post has been edited by marc2003: Jan 6 2012, 23:21
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musicfan321
post Jan 7 2012, 00:36
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QUOTE (marc2003 @ Jan 6 2012, 17:17) *
i've only got 59 tracks from amazon (UK) but 57 of those are encoded @ V0 with lame 3.97. the other 2 tracks are 3.98 ABR.


(i'm too ashamed of some of the songs on there... laugh.gif)


That's strange because I've gotten more of those ABR files than the VBR. They sound the same to me though.

UPDATE:
Just purchased another album, and no surprise it was CBR. It's LAME though, at least:




This post has been edited by musicfan321: Jan 7 2012, 01:19
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astroidmist
post Jan 7 2012, 02:44
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I don't care about different bitrate deviances, since this doesn't harm the playback and there's no way to change it for the better once you download the right|wrong bitrate. If I was really needing to solve the problem, I'd buy the CD or find a FLAC somewhere instead. And that's exactly what I do sometimes.

But for the stuff that I do get off of Amazon occasionally, the only things that really bother me are:

* low-quality album artwork embedded
* wrong album artwork embedded
* wrong copyright date embedded
* terms like "[Explicit]" and "feat. nobody special" stuck into the tune and file name
* versions of hit tunes which are not the versions that I heard on the radio and liked
* versions of hit tunes which are not the versions that I heard on the album and liked
* versions of hit tunes which are not the versions that I heard on remix albums and liked

last but not least...

* joint stereo and the MP3 codec overall... FLAC and WavPack for the win!


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saratoga
post Jan 7 2012, 02:49
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QUOTE (astroidmist @ Jan 6 2012, 20:44) *
* joint stereo and the MP3 codec overall... FLAC and WavPack for the win!


FLAC uses joint stereo ohmy.gif
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musicfan321
post Jan 7 2012, 03:37
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QUOTE (astroidmist @ Jan 6 2012, 20:44) *
I don't care about different bitrate deviances, since this doesn't harm the playback and there's no way to change it for the better once you download the right|wrong bitrate. If I was really needing to solve the problem, I'd buy the CD or find a FLAC somewhere instead. And that's exactly what I do sometimes.

But for the stuff that I do get off of Amazon occasionally, the only things that really bother me are:

* low-quality album artwork embedded
* wrong album artwork embedded
* wrong copyright date embedded
* terms like "[Explicit]" and "feat. nobody special" stuck into the tune and file name
* versions of hit tunes which are not the versions that I heard on the radio and liked
* versions of hit tunes which are not the versions that I heard on the album and liked
* versions of hit tunes which are not the versions that I heard on remix albums and liked

last but not least...

* joint stereo and the MP3 codec overall... FLAC and WavPack for the win!


All of the tagging issues can be adjusted with an awesome program Mp3tag wink.gif. Also where do you download FLAC albums? That would be awesome.....

QUOTE (saratoga @ Jan 6 2012, 20:49) *
FLAC uses joint stereo ohmy.gif


I thought joint stereo was better than regular stereo?

This post has been edited by musicfan321: Jan 7 2012, 03:38
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db1989
post Jan 7 2012, 13:15
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It is. Unless astroidmist has simply delayed the provision of objective evidence that the converse is true, this claim is at best annoyingly persistent misinformation, probably based upon internet myth and FUD, and at worst a violation of TOS #8; either way, it is unwelcome.

This post has been edited by db1989: Jan 7 2012, 13:18
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