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SanDisk User
Posts: 35
Registered: ‎06-25-2008

Can you advise whether to rip in WMA or MP3?

Do you advise ripping in WMP into WMA or MP3?  What are the pro/cons of each?

Has anyone compared how much extra storage MP3's up more than WMA's?

 

If you think MP3 is significantly better sounding than WMA, and I already have many tracks in WMA, can they be converted to MP3, or would I have to re-rip to gain any advantage in sound?

 

Thanks!

 

P.S.  Have you seen this: (but rebate is only good until today, aug 3rd)

Dane-Elec 4GB microSDHC micro Secure Digital High Capacity CardDane-Elec 4GB microSDHC (microSDHC) Card
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SanDisk Guru
Posts: 2,875
Registered: ‎08-14-2007

Re: Can you advise whether to rip in WMA or MP3?

[ Edited ]

I always rip to mp3 because all mp3 players play it. Most also play .wma, but Windows keeps a much tighter leash on .wma, so I don't trust it. (You can always use the free open-source LAME encoder for mp3.)

 

I've long since changed all my defaults, but I believe the Windows Media Player ripper originally added copy protection to .wma files it ripped, so they might not play or be recopied again under various circumstances.  You had to fix the defaults to make .wma files portable (or have it encode in mp3 instead, buried in Tools/Options/Rip Music). WMA can be copy-protected, which I detest. MP3 stays unprotected.   

 

There is no fixed answer to your question about size. Both .wma and .mp3 can be compressed at various qualities or bitrates--the higher the bitrate, the more information per second of music, the larger the file and the better the quality. The size/quality tradeoff--and what gets discarded to keep files small--is what keeps audio programmers busy tweaking formats like .wma, .mp3, .aac, and so on.

 

As for sound quality, you can plunge into the endless debate at Hydrogen Audio.

 

For ultimate sound quality, use CDs or .wav files or lossless compressed files like .flac. You'll need a player that will play them, of course. For compressed sound quality, I doubt that 98 percent of humans can hear the difference between mp3 at 192kbps or better, wma at a similar bitrate, and the original recording--especially if you're listening to a portable player through portable headphones.

 

Low-bitrate .mp3 sucks. Low-bitrate .wma sucks too, though in different ways. For low-bitrate files, the kind of suckage you prefer would govern your decision--encode your favorite song, preferably something with complex acoustic sounds like voice or piano or cymbal,  and see how it sounds. The original debate on formats was which low-bitrate algorithm sounded better. But now storage capacity has grown so much that people sell and store high-bitrate files, so the differences are less relevant.

 

Once the music is compressed to .wma, it's compressed. Sonic information has been thrown out--it's gone. Converting that to .mp3 would discard even more information. So to preserve sound quality you'd have to re-rip from the original. If the .wma files aren't giving you problems, and they sound good enough, there's nothing wrong with using them.

Message Edited by c1u31355 on 08-03-2008 03:17 PM
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SanDisk User
Posts: 35
Registered: ‎06-25-2008

Re: Can you advise whether to rip in WMA or MP3?

thanks so much, clu31355!
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SanDisk Guru
Posts: 16,321
Registered: ‎04-17-2008

Re: Can you advise whether to rip in WMA or MP3?

  • .wma format is supposed to be higher quality in a smaller file size.
  • If you rip in .wma, make sure "Copy Protect Music" is un-checked in TOOLS | OPTIONS to avoid opening a big can of DRM (Digital Rights Mess) worms!
  • .mp3 format is more universal. If you D/L any music from the Internet, it will probably be in this format. Think about it, your Sansa is considered an mp3 player, not a wma player.
  • There can be differences in volume between songs. With .mp3 format, you can get a free program MP3Gain that will adjust the volume db up or down. BUT, it won't work with .wma files.
  • You can convert your .wma files to .mp3 with Audacity (free), but remember you're converting 1 "lossy" format into another "lossy" format, so the quality is probably going to be even less in the converted file!
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SanDisk User
Posts: 35
Registered: ‎06-25-2008

Re: Can you advise whether to rip in WMA or MP3?

what bitrate do you rip at?
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SanDisk Guru
Posts: 16,321
Registered: ‎04-17-2008

Re: Can you advise whether to rip in WMA or MP3?

I've got bitrates ranging from 160 kbps all the way up to over 400 kbps, depending on where I got the music. Lately though, I've been ripping at 256kbps. I've got an 8GB player and an 8GB SDHC card, so space isn't that much of an issue.

 

Whether these tired, old ears that have gone through 3 years of working in a noisy factory; spending my youth in the 70's and listening to music so loud you'd think your ears would bleed, and going through a period of guns & trap shooting enthusiasm can actually hear the difference between the different bitrates or not, I don't know. I'd like to think they still can, but realistically I doubt it. Smiley Wink

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SanDisk User
Posts: 31
Registered: ‎07-15-2008

Re: Can you advise whether to rip in WMA or MP3?

Though WMA is *supposed* to be better quality for the bitrate, in my opinion (and many others') that only holds true at lower bitrates, up to about 128kbps; at the higher bitrates many people prefer today (192kbps and up), MP3 is better.  (I'm a newbie to the SanDisk forum, but I'm a "Super Contributor" on the board of my old MP3 player's manufacturer; nor am I a newbie to SanDisk--my first MP3 player was the SDMX1, SanDisk's very first model, and I also have two SanDisk flash drives.)

 

I use WMA at 192kbps 2-pass VBR with Windows Media 9 Encoder only for ripping continuously-mixed CDs, since WMA supports gapless playback; I rip everything else to 192kbps VBR MP3 with LAME set according to HydrogenAudio recommendations, as IMO that sounds closest to the original.  (I know there's ways to get "gapless" playback on MP3, but they generally don't work with what I use.)  I always rip with EAC, which not only gives better rips but avoids the DRM problem with Windows Media Player, though I believe the DRM box is left unchecked in newer versions of WMP.

 

Bitrate, *NOT* format, determines both (a) sound quality and (b) storage space.  Higher bitrate files have higher quality, but take up more space.  A "better" format only means it preserves more quality at the same bitrate.

 

As far as your existing WMAs:  **NEVER, EVER** convert them, unless you buy something that won't play them (i.e., an iPod).  Transcoding *ALWAYS* reduces quality, unless it's from one lossless format to another (CD, WAV, FLAC, WMA Lossless, etc.).  Transcoding from lossless to a lossy format (MP3, WMA, etc.) is OK if the results are acceptable; that's exactly what happens when you rip a CD to that format.  Transcoding *BETWEEN* lossy formats, however, is almost always a bad thing.

 

Lastly:  I bought the SDHC card you posted and got it yesterday, but I haven't tried it yet in my Sansa; I have an e280 v1 and haven't Rockboxed it yet (v1's can't use SDHC cards with official firmware, but can with Rockbox).  It's a great deal IF you can live with the rebate.  I have used a Dane-Elec 1GB card in my Sansa; so far, so good.  I've also tried some Kingston cards; it would appear both are made by the same manufacturer (but probably not by SanDisk).

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SanDisk User
Posts: 35
Registered: ‎06-25-2008

Re: Can you advise whether to rip in WMA or MP3?

Thanks for taking the time to explain, everyone.  Very helpful!