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iTunes Settings for High-Quality AAC, Questions, Answers, and Ideas
heyo_speaker
post Dec 16 2012, 17:11
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I am somewhat inexperienced with ripping and encoding music. I spent a lot of time reading articles and Hydrogenaudio forum posts last winter in an effort to come up with a procedure for ripping and encoding that would best suit my tastes. I posted some questions in the forums, and from the answers I received it sounded like the AAC encoder that comes with iTunes will create top-quality lossy audio (depending on the settings). I never quite nailed-down what encoding settings would be the best for me and am only just now looking into it again.

About CVBR and TVBR, one person who replied to my post said, "CVBR is an Apple (iTunes) AAC phenomenon and it stands for Constrained VBR. It is necessary (for iTunes) if you plan to use HE encoding (typically ~64kbps). TVBR stands for True VBR and is somewhat difficult to actually get iTunes to do (if you select 'use VBR' in iTunes, it will use Constrained VBR regardless of format, you have to do something special to get True VBR). The most recent listening test at ~96kbps suggests no statistical significance between the quality of CVBR and TVBR, (at least at that bitrate)." (Thanks for that info, buklau)

However, he also said "It's probably better to get True VBR if you can", suggesting that TVBR might be better than CVBR in some way, which is odd because he had just told me there was no statistically significant difference between the two in the listening test.

So my first question today is, why might TVBR be better than CVBR? Does the potential advantage lie with something other than output sound quality, such as output file size? All I know about the difference between the two is that "CVBR is constrained VBR which prevents the VBR mechanism from going extremely low with bitrate." (Thanks for that info, halb27)

Secondly, I would just like some input on other encoding settings for AAC. iTunes has an AAC preset called "iTunes Plus" which consists of the following settings: "128 kbps (mono)/256 kbps (stereo), 44.100 kHz, VBR, optimized for MMX/SSE2." (I don't know what MMX and SSE2 are.)

I have the option to customize the stereo bit rate, sample rate, or number of channels, as well as enable/disable VBR, High Efficiency, or "Optimize for voice".

I assume I do not need to worry about "Optimize for voice" if I am going for higher-bitrate audio (but I would be interested to know what this setting does). I have also read that High Efficiency is for lower-bitrate audio, so I shouldn't need to use that. I have read that VBR is good, so I should leave that enabled. Number of channels should probably be left on "Auto" so I don't constrain the number of channels in the output.

Is 44.100 kHz a good sample rate? ...Is that the standard and/or best sample rate? Because it doesn't allow me to select any other sample rates except "Auto".

And as for the 128 kbps (mono)/256 kbps (stereo) bitrate, in your opinion, is that overkill for lossy music; or is it worth going for a higher bitrate? I know it all depends on the listener and the amount of storage space, but I would just like opinions and ideas. If I remember right, 256 kbps is on the high end of the bitrate spectrum for lossy audio, but I've never compared music at various bitrates. I do want to make sure that I can get the best possible quality that I can fit on my iPhone, so I want to start with a bitrate that is considered to be very good quality lossy audio, convert some albums to AAC with that bitrate setting, estimate how many albums I could fit on my iPhone at that setting, and then lower it if necessary. Is 256 kbps a reasonable place to start, or should I go with one of the other presets in iTunes and/or a custom bitrate setting?

Lastly, are there any reasons why I might be better off encoding outside of iTunes? For example, it sounds like I would need to use something other than iTunes if I want to use TVBR encoding (but as of now I don't know the benefit of TVBR over CVBR). I plan to use FFMPEG with EAC to immediately encode my rips to ALAC as described here: http://wiki.hydrogenaudio.org/index.php?title=EAC_and_ALAC , and then I was thinking I would just drag the ALAC files into iTunes, right-click on them, and create AAC versions of them. Would I be missing out on anything by not using some other program to encode to AAC? Would I benefit by using something like foobar2000 to pass some command-line arguments to the encoder? If so, what arguments do you recommend?

Thanks! I appreciate any input.
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heyo_speaker
post Dec 17 2012, 14:52
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Thanks for that link! I read the "Using Exact Audio Copy with qaac" Word document as well as the documentation on your QAAC site and cobbled together some command-line arguments for QAAC, partially based on some arguments I came up with for FLAC in the past. (In the example in the Word document, these arguments are actually passed to cmd.exe, which passes them to qaac.exe. I'm curious to know why they can't just be passed directly to QAAC from EAC.)

For ALAC rips in EAC -- arguments for cmd.exe:
/c C:\Program Files (x86)\qaac_2.08\x86\qaac.exe --alac %source% -o %dest% --artist="%artist%" --title="%title%" --album="%albumtitle%" --date="%year%" --track="%tracknr%/%numtracks%" --disk="%cdnumber%/%totalcds%" --genre="%genre%" --band="%albuminterpret%" --composer="%composer%" --comment="Ripped Using EAC (Secure Mode), CRC: %TRACKCRC%" %haslyrics%--lyrics="%lyricsfile%"%haslyrics% %hascover%--artwork="%coverfile%"%hascover%

For AAC rips in EAC -- arguments for cmd.exe:
/c C:\Program Files (x86)\qaac_2.08\x86\qaac.exe --tvbr 110 %source% -o %dest% --artist="%artist%" --title="%title%" --album="%albumtitle%" --date="%year%" --track="%tracknr%/%numtracks%" --disk="%cdnumber%/%totalcds%" --genre="%genre%" --band="%albuminterpret%" --composer="%composer%" %haslyrics%--lyrics="%lyricsfile%"%haslyrics% %hascover%--artwork="%coverfile%"%hascover%


Did I use the correct syntax for QAAC in the above examples? Any other suggestions? One thing I am specifically wondering about is the use of the slash in the commands for the "track" and "disk" options.

I plan to only rip to ALAC in EAC, and then use foobar2000 to transcode to AAC with QAAC. By default, does QAAC include tags, lyrics, and album art from the source in the output? Or will I have to specify those tags in the arguments from foobar2000?

If QAAC will automatically take all the tags, etc., from the ALACs by default, then will these arguments work in foobar2000 to convert ALAC to AAC?:

--tvbr 110 - -o %d


My final question: Is TVBR 110 quality a good place to start for someone who wants to err on the side of quality over file size? Would anything higher be overkill for someone who plans to put music on their iPhone? I just chose 110 as the quality because that is what the author uses in the "random example from [his] setup."


Lastly, I answered a question from my intial post:

-- 44.100 kHz (16-bit, 44.100 kHz per channel, 2 channels) is the standard sample rate on an audio CD according to Wikipedia.

....Probably everyone on Hydrogenaudio knew that except me. (I'm sure I've read that before, but it's been a while since I've researched this stuff and it's taking some time for it all to sink in.)

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nu774
post Dec 17 2012, 15:40
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QUOTE (heyo_speaker @ Dec 17 2012, 22:52) *
In the example in the Word document, these arguments are actually passed to cmd.exe, which passes them to qaac.exe. I'm curious to know why they can't just be passed directly to QAAC from EAC.

I don't know why since it was not written by me. (Personally I'm too lazy to setup EAC for tagging. I'd rather just use cuesheets, or use CueRipper).

QUOTE
Did I use the correct syntax for QAAC in the above examples? Any other suggestions? One thing I am specifically wondering about is the use of the slash in the commands for the "track" and "disk" options.

Just try and see if it works. It doesn't eat your babies. IIRC EAC would capture and show error message of CLI encoder. If it finishes without error and tags are written as you want after encoding, it's fine.

QUOTE
I plan to only rip to ALAC in EAC, and then use foobar2000 to transcode to AAC with QAAC. By default, does QAAC include tags, lyrics, and album art from the source in the output? Or will I have to specify those tags in the arguments from foobar2000?

If you use fb2k as frontend, tag is written by fb2k (not by qaac). As far as I know, album art is not preserved.

QUOTE
My final question: Is TVBR 110 quality a good place to start for someone who wants to err on the side of quality over file size? Would anything higher be overkill for someone who plans to put music on their iPhone? I just chose 110 as the quality because that is what the author uses in the "random example from [his] setup."

Only you can choose what setting is appropriate for you. -- but probably you won't need that high.
I recommend you to try first at much lower setting and see if you can tell the difference.
If you keep ALAC archives, it won't hurt you much even if you found some artifacts in AAC encodings later.

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heyo_speaker
post Dec 18 2012, 14:25
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QUOTE (nu774 @ Dec 17 2012, 08:40) *
(Personally I'm too lazy to setup EAC for tagging. I'd rather just use cuesheets, or use CueRipper).


Ah, cue sheets are another thing I need to learn more about. It is my understanding that cue sheets are created from the contents of a CD, indexing the tracks, track names, etc. How does one use cue sheets for tagging, and how is that easier than setting up EAC for tagging? Because most tagging information cannot be found on the CD itself, and must be downloaded from a database or manually entered, correct? (Or is that not true?)

Does CUERipper rip CDs as accurately/securely as EAC? I was just looking at the CD rippers comparison chart here ( http://wiki.hydrogenaudio.org/index.php?ti...n_of_CD_rippers ), and based on this chart, it looks like CUERipper has every feature that EAC does. It also says here ( http://www.cuetools.net/wiki/CUERipper_Settings ) that is has a "Secure mode". I have spent way too much time reading about how to use EAC... Maybe I should try CUERipper, but the most important thing to me is to get accurate rips.
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nu774
post Dec 18 2012, 15:51
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QUOTE (heyo_speaker @ Dec 18 2012, 22:25) *
How does one use cue sheets for tagging, and how is that easier than setting up EAC for tagging?

Since EAC doesn't know how to write metadata to audio files and lets encoder do that job, you have to manually set CLI encoder option for each tag you want.
On the other hand, EAC writes cue sheet by itself. It's self-contained. Therefore, if cue sheet is enough for you, you don't have to tweak around CLI encoder options for tagging. In case of CUERipper/CUETools (or fb2k), they know how to write metadata to audio files, so you don't have to configure CLI encoder option for that purpose.

QUOTE
Because most tagging information cannot be found on the CD itself, and must be downloaded from a database or manually entered, correct? (Or is that not true?)

Correct.

QUOTE
Maybe I should try CUERipper, but the most important thing to me is to get accurate rips.

Go on as you like. EAC has been (kind of) defacto standard anyway.
CUERipper is super easy to use (compared to EAC), so in case you want to try it, it will not be that trouble.

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heyo_speaker
post Dec 18 2012, 16:35
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Thank you.

"Super easy to use (compared to EAC)" sounds really nice!

I've been reading, trying to figure out the difference between EAC's and CUERipper's accurate ripping ability. If I am reading things correctly: both have offset correction, both have the ability to defeat drive caching, both read the CD twice to verify accuracy, both reread multiple times when errors are found, and both use online databases to verify rip accuracy. So from an accuracy standpoint, is the only real difference between the two the number of times they re-read when errors are detected?

In addition, CUERipper comes with CUETools Database compatibility built-in. I read that this database provides the "ability not only to detect, but also correct small amounts of errors that occurred in the ripping process". Would anyone be able to comment on this feature? I like the idea that I can somehow perfect my imperfect rips, but what are the chances that the database provides data from an imperfect rip and screws up my own rip?

Very interesting. ...I think these are the last of my questions. I hope I didn't wander too far off-topic.
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Posts in this topic
- heyo_speaker   iTunes Settings for High-Quality AAC   Dec 16 2012, 17:11
- - Seren   If you are on windows you'll want to use QAAC ...   Dec 16 2012, 23:19
|- - Neuron   QUOTE (Seren @ Dec 16 2012, 23:19) If you...   Dec 16 2012, 23:29
- - heyo_speaker   I thought I remembered QAAC being a recommended en...   Dec 17 2012, 04:38
|- - Seren   QUOTE (heyo_speaker @ Dec 17 2012, 11:38)...   Dec 17 2012, 05:41
- - twostar   QUOTE And as for the 128 kbps (mono)/256 kbps (ste...   Dec 17 2012, 05:41
|- - Seren   QUOTE (twostar @ Dec 17 2012, 12:41) In m...   Dec 17 2012, 05:53
- - heyo_speaker   On the QAAC homepage ( https://sites.google.com/si...   Dec 17 2012, 09:24
|- - nu774   When the identical setting is used, the resulting ...   Dec 17 2012, 10:34
|- - heyo_speaker   Thanks, nu774. I was thinking I would use Exact A...   Dec 17 2012, 11:17
|- - nu774   To my knowledge, TVBR has no practical superiorit...   Dec 17 2012, 11:40
- - heyo_speaker   Actually, I've been reading the QAAC homepage ...   Dec 17 2012, 11:33
- - nu774   About EAC configuration, read this: https://sites....   Dec 17 2012, 11:43
- - heyo_speaker   Thanks for that link! I read the "Using ...   Dec 17 2012, 14:52
|- - nu774   QUOTE (heyo_speaker @ Dec 17 2012, 22:52)...   Dec 17 2012, 15:40
|- - heyo_speaker   QUOTE (nu774 @ Dec 17 2012, 08:40) (Perso...   Dec 18 2012, 14:25
|- - nu774   QUOTE (heyo_speaker @ Dec 18 2012, 22:25)...   Dec 18 2012, 15:51
|- - heyo_speaker   Thank you. "Super easy to use (compared to E...   Dec 18 2012, 16:35
|- - Dynamic   QUOTE (heyo_speaker @ Dec 18 2012, 15:35)...   Dec 18 2012, 16:51
- - Dynamic   I use CUEripper, which provides EAC-like logs. For...   Dec 18 2012, 16:41
- - heyo_speaker   Thanks, Dynamic. It sounds like CUERipper is a lo...   Dec 20 2012, 11:27
- - Dynamic   Now you have EAC set up properly, you can still be...   Dec 20 2012, 21:04
- - heyo_speaker   UPDATE: I changed the comment and band tags in my ...   Dec 22 2012, 16:29
- - heyo_speaker   I removed the album art tag from my ALAC qaac argu...   Jan 3 2013, 05:15
- - heyo_speaker   I am wondering what I should put for "Highest...   Jan 9 2013, 22:15
- - nu774   QUOTE (heyo_speaker @ Jan 10 2013, 06:15)...   Jan 10 2013, 02:13


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