[Warning, this post is very technical and acronym heavy. Most acronyms are titled.]
Okay, I admit it. I’ve finally took the bullet. I’ve converted my music collection from WMA to MP3. Why? Blame Apple. It’s stubborn (but understandable) refusal to support WMA files in its iPod music player and iTunes software. Previously, the majority of my music collection was in either 192 Kb/s or 300 – 400 Kb/s WMA format. Totally unplayable by Apple software unless you convert it, I also had some older music that I converted to 192 Kb/s MP3. The problem you see, is WMA files can only be played on Microsoft compatible players, and I can hear the difference clearly between 192 Kb/s MP3 and CD quality, even with in-ear headphones.
I had been reluctant to convert my entire collection, as the time and hassle involved wouldn’t be worth it. However, after recently buying a Powerbook, I had another look at the topic. Windows Media Player 9 for the Macintosh is an absolute joke. Okay, it supports playing of WMA and WMV files, however, it doesn’t have a media library, it doesn’t have support for playlists, and it isn’t able to rip music from CDs. In fact, it’s feature set is almost exactly the same as Windows Media Player 6 for Windows, absolutely pathetic. While I don’t have an iPod right now, I intend to purchase one to replace my venrable, but still excellent three year old Sony MZ-N1 NET MiniDisc player. The lack of 4G mono iPods with larger capacity is discouraging though, it’s only avaliable in 20 GB, and makes me wonder how much more life the mono iPods have before they’re phased out. Although I could get an older 3G iPod, the improvements made to the 4G models is worth sacraficing capacity for.
Anyway, back on topic, I finally decided to re-encode my collection in 224 Kb/s VBR MP3. The sound quality is much improved over the 192 KB/s fixed, although lacks some of the sonic quality of 300 Kb/s WMA when listening to them on loudspeakers, it is unnoticable with using headphones. Now, I had the trouble of deciding how to re-encode my WMA files. For now, I’ve just used iTunes to re-encode, as it has an excellent feature where it agressively reorders and renames files according to the artist name, album title and track title and number. Later on, I’ll re-rip my collection from the CD using the L.A.M.E. encoder, but for now this will do.
And the result? Some high qualitiy MP3 using not too much space, and very Mac friendly!