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Wednesday, 08. August 2007 - 23:13

I don't want MP3! – an alternative suggestion

Dieser Beitrag ist auch in deutsch verfügbar (empfohlen).

Or (the headline for technicians): Why MP3 is evil and Ogg Vorbis is political correct.

Everyone knows MP3. But it's not the one and only audio format out there. I mainly use Ogg Vorbis. I'm often asked why I'm prefering Ogg Vorbis, so I wrote this introduction to the format, to show the advantages of this alternative audio format.

What is Ogg Vorbis?

To say it in a not to technical way: Audio files with the .ogg extension are normal audio files, that can be played with a good audio player. So, a Ogg Vorbis file has the same purpose as a MP3 file has. It can contain music, sound and voice.

For what do we need an alternative? Why is MP3 so evil?

The problem with the MP3 format is that it isn't free. At the time the format was mainly developed by the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft (FHG) and some other companies. And it was partly patented, too. And that's the point where it starts to be problematic. In theory the owner of the patents are able to sue everyone who uses the format without a licencse. Producers of MP3 players, of music software and artists who are publishing their own works in this format are concerned by this. Every now and then there are the according lamentations, even though they were by now done against the big companies, like Microsoft.

Beside the law situation, MP3 is not very modern anymore. There are other current formats, that include some ideas to improve the tone or to make files a little smaller. Ogg Vorbis scores mainly in low bitrate applications, like streams or voice recordings (like Podcasts or Radioshows). In higher bitrates Ogg Vorbis should sound better, too. But for ordinary mortals this isn't hearable I think.

The tagging wasn't well realized on MP3. Tagging is relevant that a MP3 file with the name 1.mp3 is anyhow displayed with the right artist and the right title, in your player application. On MP3 Tagging wasn't projected from the beginning, so it was more or less well implemented afterwards (see ). Later the market wanted to have chapter jump marks or additional tagging features like a field for lyrics. Until today there are no consistent basic approaches that are supported by a bigger number of players. That's why these features are not really used by authors.

Which software do I need for Ogg Vorbis?

That's of course related to your operating system and your use:

If you only want to play Ogg Vorbis files, a player that supports this format is enough.
If you want to convert your audio CDs into Ogg Vorbis, you need a ripping program, that can use an Ogg Vorbis encoder.
If you want to edit Ogg Vorbis audio files, you need a corresponding editing program.

The following programs are of course not a full list of all available programs, they are just some recommendations.

Player that support Ogg Vorbis

Windows

There is a vast number of players that can play Ogg Vorbis files on Windows Systems.
The most popular one should be Winamp. Please note that the lite version isn't capable enough.
Other recommendations are: Foobar 2000 and the Quintessential Player.

There's even a a DirectShow filter, with that you can make a bigger part of players Ogg Vorbis supporting, that are normaly not capable in playing these files (like the Windows Media Player).

Linux

Under Linux Ogg Vorbis is most common and there's hardly no audio player on this system, that can't play this format. Because of the license problem there are probably more programs that can play Ogg Vorbis than MP3.

My recommendations for Linux are: Audacious, xmms and Amarok.

Mac OS

On Apple systems Ogg Vorbis isn't very widespread, because the format isn't included in the operating system by delivery.

On xiph.org you can find a Quicktime component, that brings the support at least for Quicktime and iTunes. Unfortunately there are still some tagging and researching problems, but for basic playing and using the component is sufficient.

A quite nice alternative audio player that supports Ogg Vorbis out of the box is Cog.

Ripper which can produce Ogg Vorbis files

Windows

On Windows systems there are among others the ripper programs cdex and the Audiograbber available. Both programs can convert your Audio CDs into Ogg Vorbis files, very easily.

Linux

My favorite ripping program is grip, that can of course do Ogg Vorbis, too. All useful settings are easily available and the final result never disappointed me.

Mac OS

The program Max is probably the ripping program with the most features, I found up to now. It has a lot of options, is able to convert into very much different formats and it has some special features, too, like an automatic import of a CD cover.

Software for editing Ogg Vorbis files

For this purpose my recommendation is the same application for all platforms: Audacity. It is a very good entrance into to the world of editing or cutting sound files. You can add some effects to your files, like fade-in or fade-out, too.

Which hardware do I need for Ogg Vorbis?

In these days a lot of mobile players have no problem with Ogg Vorbis files, so it makes sense to buy such a device, even if you don't want to use the format. But remember, it's possible that you'll get an Ogg Vorbis file from a friend or from the internet and it would be nice if can play that on your mobile device, too.

The newest Players of Samsung and 90% of all Cowon devices are able to deal with Ogg Vorbis, some iRivers still/again, too. The iPods are still successful in keeping away “foreign formats”… My recommendation is: Have a look at the “supported formats” specification before you buy a player.

Is there a possibilty to convert MP3 to Ogg Vorbis and/or vis-á-vis

To make a long story short: Yes. But it isn't very suggestive. To convert a lossy format into another one, leads just to more loss.

Conclusion

The license- and patentfree format gains more currency and the hardware manufacturers build the OGG Vorbis support into more and more mobile devices. On the software side, everyone is served very well, too.

The problem for Ogg Vorbis is it's current expansion, because in my opinion there are no other disadvantages. That's why I'm using and liking this format and why I was writing this article, that is supporting the Play Ogg Campaign of the FSF.

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Embassies

  1. Bernhard (Website) wrote at 05/11/07 - 16:44:54
    Bitte streich mal, dass Audacity mp3- und ogg-vorbis-Dateien bearbeiten kann. Wie kommst Du darauf.

    Zum Bearbeiten mußt Du zunächst kodieren und wieder dekodieren. Und das ist Nicht (!!!) bearbeiten!

    Oder ist mir zwischenzeitlich etwas entgegen, alter Desinformierer?

    Tsss...

    Gruß
    Bernhard
  2. Philipp Söhnlein (Website) wrote at 05/11/07 - 17:08:56
    Natürlich kann man mit Audacity MP3- und OGG-Dateien bearbeiten.
    Oder wie würdest du das nennen, wenn ich in einem "Digital Audio Editor" eine OGG Datei öffne und anschließend z.B. einen Fade-Out am Ende hinzufüge? Ich nenne das Bearbeitung.
    Ist schon klar, dass die Datei beim Öffnen zuerst in ein Audacity internes Format gebracht wird (also konvertiert wird), aber würde man nach deiner Definition gehen, könnte GIMP auch nur XCF Dateien bearbeiten, obwohl ich damit ebenfalls Dateien die in vielen anderen Formaten vorliegen können auch öffnen und anschließend bearbeiten kann.

    Ciao
    Phil

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