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How Should I Compress my Audio?

Novell Cool Solutions: Feature
By Jason Jones

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Posted: 9 Dec 2004

MP3 is the de-facto standard file format for music and other audio. It provides small file sizes and reasonable sound quality, and there are plenty of portable players that support it. There are, however, better formats out there, and the MP3 format has the additional disadvantage of cumbersome and expensive licensing requirements.

Because the algorithm for encoding the MP3 format is patented, the company that developed it can charge for each copy of a player or encoder that is distributed-- making open source MP3 players impractical. You can learn more about the intellectual property problems surrounding the MP3 format at the price list page.

If you want to listen to audio legally in Linux, what other alternatives are there?

Actually, many alternatives exist, some of them much better than mp3, in my opinion. The most common audio file formats today are:

  • wav - Uncompressed format for Microsoft computers.
    • Very large filesize
    • Exact CD quality
    • 3 minutes of audio is about 40 megabytes
  • aiff - Uncompressed format for Apple computers.
    • Very large filesize
    • Exact CD quality
    • 3 minutes of audio is about 40 megabytes
  • mp4 - Mpeg-4, Advanced Audio Coding codec.
    • Smaller filesize than mp3
    • Higher quality than mp3, but lower quality than CD
    • 3 minutes of audio is about 2 to 5 megabytes.
  • ogg - Ogg Vorbis format. Very efficient codec.
    • Very small filesize - smaller than a comparable mp3 file
    • Very high sound quality - better than a mp3, but not as good as a CD
    • Ogg can be used anywhere and is completely free
    • 3 minutes of audio is about 2 to 5 megabytes
  • flac - Free Lossless Audio Codec.
    • Filesize is somewhere between mp3 and wav - quite large
    • Sound quality is the exactly the same as the CD - zero quality loss
    • 3 minutes of audio is about 24 - 30 megabytes

We recommend Ogg Vorbis, because it combines excellent audio quality, small file sizes, and a free license. Plus, it has a funny name. You can find out more about the format at the Ogg Vorbis home page, including a list of compatible portable players.

If you want to maintain your audio at CD quality, the flac format is best. It does take up about five times more disk space, but it is the only compressed format that doesn't compromise sound quality. Click Here to go to the flac home page.

In order to compress your files in Linux, there are a few applications that would suit your needs.
  • Sound Juicer - Easy to use.
  • Grip - Not quite as easy, but highly configurable.

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