Digital music is probably the only kind of
music everybody is listening to these days. The reason being that its
smaller in size and thus makes it easy to share and store. Imagine
downloading a 4 minute track thats approximately 40 Mb in size in a
place where access to the internet is terrible and costs a bomb (thats
usually the case in most places in the world). Thankfully, compression
algorithms exists that can compress the same audio track to one-tenth
its size, thus we do not have to imagine the above.
Few weeks back I downloaded 2 albums, “My Dying Bride – A Line Of
Deathless Kings” and “Slayer – Christ Illusion”. The Slayer album was
ripped at a very low bitrate and was not sounding too good. The album
contained 14 tracks and obviously it was ripped at a lower bitrate to
reduce its size. Many thanks to all the people who shared the album
with me, but it was just not to my liking. There was no quality and I
was furious because it took me a long time to download the album as not
many people were sharing it. Boy, what a waste of time and a killer of
expectation. Well thats what made me write this.
Mp3 is an audio compression format that has taken the world by a
storm. Mp3 is almost a synonym for music nowadays as Google is for
search. Now, here comes the problem.. MP3 was good at one point in
time, but not anymore. What’s better? OGG VORBIS. AAC, Lame, MP3Pro
neither of ‘em match up to Ogg Vorbis’ standards. Don’t take my word
for it, you can do simple tests to prove it. Take your favorite audio
cd, select a track that you have heard a million times and don’t mind
listening to a hundred more and rip it to ogg vorbis as well as to mp3.
Compare the mp3 and the ogg file to the track on the cd by listening,
well now you know what I’m talking about. The ogg file is a much
faithful reproduction of the cd than the mp3. An ogg file of 80kbps
(bitrate) is equivalent to an mp3 encoded at 128kbps. Hey, there is
still one more issue called “size”. Ofcourse here again the ogg file
beats the mp3 hollow. For the same size one can achieve a higher
bitrate with ogg vorbis than with mp3. The best part ogg vorbis by
default encodes in variable bitrate (which deliveres better quality
than constant bitrate).
Isn’t this a great piece of information for any music lover? There
are a more advantages in using ogg. Ogg is patent-free. Ok, we are just
not bothered about patents here in India, but in this case we have to
be because a lot of music that we listen to everyday is coming from
outside India. Musicians who sell their songs in mp3 have to pay
royalties. They could just save a bit more of cash by selling all over
the world their songs in ogg vorbis. Not just does it benefit them but
it also benefits listeners and fans. But do you think that they are
seriously bothered? Music is become a business rather than an art form.
Nobody cares about the quality of music their fans are listening to as
long as they are minting big bucks and are being voted for the
Grammy’s. Portable players like ipod’s also have to pay royalties but
still are unwilling to support patent-free formats like ogg. Why?
Because they too are doing well in selling their products. Neither the
musician nor the manufacturers of players are bothered about the
As a guy on one of the mailing lists puts it “if only all the music
in china was ripped into ogg vorbis”, surely then a lot of players
would be supporting it. There are a few portable players available that
support ogg vorbis. Many of the game developers are using ogg vorbis
and are very happy with the quality of sound and even happier because
they are getting away without paying licenses. e.g. Doom 3.
Ogg is only the container just like avi. It can contain several data
streams at once, like video and the corresponding audio. Vorbis is the
name of an open source audio compression format. There exists Theora
for video compression and Speex for speech. I haven’t really tried
these though. If you notice I haven’t mentioned anything about Windows
Media Audio (wma) and Real Audio (ra), thats because I find these to be
very cheap proprietary formats. I would never recommend these to any
The best part about using ogg is that its open source. A lot of
intense development will continue to take place to ensure that ogg
vorbis remains the best. Its going to be literally impossible for any
other proprietary format to beat ogg in the future. Almost all linux
distributions play ogg out of the box. Things are looking bright for
ogg, especially with all the Dell machines being sold with Ubuntu, we
can expect a lot of vorbis encoded music from the US. Happy listening!
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