I have a major issue with the way digital music is sold to me. Downloading it immediately is awesome because I don’t want to wait for a CD to be shipped and then rip it myself. I also want a safe easy way to buy quality music online without iTunes. I don’t want to use a bloated program I don’t like. If anyone is looking for a music player I suggest foobar. It works great and is very customizable.
After a little bit of research I found out that Amazon encodes their mp3s at 256Kbps VBR but sometimes encodes them at 256Kbps CBR. They think that “This content will have the same excellent audio quality at a slightly larger file size” but I disagree with them but I need some technical information to back me up.
Digital music is created in two different categories, lossy and lossless. Lossy(MP3) is missing a lot of the quality from the actual CD which is fine for most people considering the file size differences for lossless(FLAC) is about 100MB. Furthermore lossy defines the quality in Kilobites per second(Kbps) and there are really only two options there CBR or VBR. CBR(constant bitrate) keeps the entire file at one bitrate and VBR(variable bitrate) keeps the bitrate changing through the entire file using the best one for the job.
As you can see the high end of the scale is -b 320 (320Kbps CBR) offers the best quality possible but comes at a file size cost while -V0 (245Kbps VBR) gives you the best of both worlds. Another thing to note is that in this example I’m only using 245 VBR but Amazon uses 256 VBR standard. If 245 VBR keeps the bitrate between 220..260 that means 256 VBR must keep it between 230..270 right? How can 256 CBR possible have the same “excellent audio quality”?
Where are the options when buying music!? I’m personally interested in buying music at 245 VBR (256 VBR works too) but it’s not stated on Amazon’s page what bitrate the albums are. I would be disappointed if I purchased CBR files. Maybe I’m crazy for wanting only quality VBR files but it’s my decision and what about all the other people who want their files at 320 or even 192 for smaller files. I bet they couldn’t even imagine selling FLAC or OGG! If Google can offer all of this web space and we know hard drive space is cheap why are companies like Amazon being so stingy?