I actually think ANY decent MP3 encoder and decoder will do well at 192kbps (it wouldn't be "decent" 
in my book if it couldn't). Where you hear real differences are at low bitrates. Since I do enjoy 
several spoken-word podcasts, I can say that some organizations, for instance PBS and NPR, have 
figured out how to get quite satisfactory audio quality (good clarity and few if any digi-swishies) 
at even 32kbps. On the other hand, les technically savvy podcasters -- for instance Fox News -- do 
things like encode 32kbps MP3 in stereo, even though it's spoken word that no purpose is served by 
stereo. This insures digi-swishies galore and poor audibility. For music, where frequency response 
and stereo are important, I have found that MP3 simply does not produce the best results for a given 
bitrate or file size. For streams, Windows Media can do fantastic at 128kbps stream -- check out 
Riverwalk Jazz for proof. RealMedia seems to be tricky to master but I've heard some very good 
sounding streams from the BBC's vast website. Apple's version of MP4 seems to produce smaller file 
sizes and higher audio quality than MP3 at a given bitrate.

Mike, I'm glad you've had good luck with LAME but I have found it to be very accurately named!

-- Tom Fine

PS -- in case you haven't discovered it, I love the MP3 tagging utility Tag&Rename. Super-useful and 
full of features you'd never think you need until you use them.

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Mike Richter" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Wednesday, February 14, 2007 6:47 PM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Listening Copy

> Tom Fine wrote:
>> Don:
>> Absolutely. I find that encoders are even more different. They make different sounding and 
>> different sized files, at the same bitrate. I prefer real-deal German-licensed MP3 encoders. Have 
>> never liked the slow speed or bad sound results I've gotten from LAME with various front ends. I 
>> find that Sony Soundforge, since they licensed the German CODEC, makes fine-sounding MP3's but 
>> they are bloated compared to what Apple or MusicMatch turns out. As for decoders, the 
>> worst-sounding MP3 player is by far the Real software. MusicMatch and Apple both play 
>> fine-sounding MP3 but are both bloated programs that use a lot of overhead. If you want a very 
>> low-resource program that sounds just fine, check out the AudioActive player from Telos Systems. 
>> I just noticed there's no obvious link to download it from their website anymore. Pity.
>> -- Tom Fine
> I analyzed encoders early on and have tried to maintain currency as they have appeared and been 
> upgraded. Oversimplifying, the Fraunhofer codec minimizes artifacts at the expense of 
> high-frequency response. MP3 encoding is one topic appearing on several pages of the primer at my 
> WWW site (on the CD-recording side). This one illustrates the differences in encoders.
> My own taste dictates minimizing what is inserted into the sound, so I choose sample rate and 
> compression to provide the desired frequency response with the Fraunhofer codec. Another good 
> choice (though it does push a bit on the high end with some artifacts) is LAME. Particularly at 
> high bitrates where any artifacts are less likely to be recognized, it is a good alternative.
> And unlike the incarnations of the licensed Fraunhofer codec, it is freeware.
> Mike
> -- 
> [log in to unmask]