The Quintessential Guide to Creating High Quality MP3s by Chris Myden
My name is Chris Myden and for the past 5 years or so I have operated a website called Elite DAE which is a community dedicated to helping people create high quality audio extractions. Our experience with extracting audio from CDs and audio compression techniques led us to creating a high quality MP3 guide. We wanted the guide to be easy to understand, even for newbies, so we could help rid the world of low quality MP3s.
Step 1: Install EAC
Using a good ripper to extract audio from the CD is just as important as the MP3 encoder you use, if not more so. There is only one ripper you should consider and that is Exact Audio Copy. The reason for this is that EAC uses a 'secure mode' to verify that your audio extractions are 100% exact copies of the original CD. So go ahead and download EAC and install it.
Step 2: Install LAME MP3 encoder
LAME is the highest quality MP3 encoder currently available. It has been tweaked and tested for hours on end by audiophiles using very expensive equipment. Download the LAME executable and place it in the directory you installed EAC. (Usually C:\Program Files\Exact Audio Copy\) There is no install program for LAME, it's simply an executable file.
Step 2b: (For WindowsXP and Win2k Users Only)
Download the Nero ASPI Layer DLL. You must place this DLL file in the directory you installed EAC. (Usually C:\Program Files\Exact Audio Copy). Windows 95/98/ME already has an ASPI layer built in.
Step 3: Downloading the .CFG File
Start up Exact Audio Copy. You will see a screen like the one to the right. From the pulldown menu, select which drive you would like to use with EAC. Make a note of which Adapter this drive uses.
Depending on which Adapter your drive uses, download the EAC configuration profile for:
Adapter 0, Adapter 1, Adapter 2, or Adapter 3
Save this .CFG file to your Exact Audio Copy profiles directory. (Usually C:\Program Files\Exact Audio Copy\Profiles\) This .CFG file contains what I believe to be the best options for EAC. Obviously you can decide for yourself, but this will get you up and running. Using this configuration will ensure that your rips are 100% perfect, and you are using the highest quality MP3 switches with the LAME encoder.
Step 4: Loading the .CFG File
Close down EAC and then restart it. The .CFG profile you downloaded in step 3 should now be available in the profile menu at the bottom right of your EAC screen. (As shown in the picture to the right).
With the correct .CFG file selected, please be sure you are pointing EAC to the LAME executable. If you saved lame.exe to your C:\Program Files\Exact Audio Copy\ directory you won't have to change anything. Otherwise, from the EAC Menu select compression options -> external compresion and hit the browse button. Point EAC to lame.exe and select OK.
Step 5: Using EAC
Put a CD in the drive you wish to use. If you're hooked up to the 'Net, hit Alt-G to have EAC name your tracks for you (otherwise use F2 to edit track titles). Highlight a track and click on the MP3 button on the left-hand side of the EAC screen.
Congratulations, you are now creating the best MP3s on earth!
What kind of MP3s does this profile create? What bit-rate are they?
It creates MP3s based on the LAME Alt Preset Standard switch which was developed by a group of audiophiles. It was designed to create MP3s that sound exactly like the CD original, even to audio freaks using equipment that cost more than your car.
It uses variable bit-rate, which makes the bit-rate fluctuate based on the complexity of the music. More complex sections of music get higher bit-rates to maintain CD quality. Simpler sections are given lower bitrates, while still maintaining CD quality, to minimize the file size. From experience, I can tell you that most average out to about 192kb/s, but are MUCH higher quality than Constant Bit Rate 192kb/s MP3s. Alt Preset Standard does not use regular command line 'switches', like --r3mix did. It uses special code built into the LAME encoder.
Alright, EAC is done extracting my CD, and it says 'track quality 99.7% !!' I thought EAC made 100% perfect digital copies?
Don't worry, the 'track quality' isn't an indicator of the rip quality. Since you're in a secure mode, EAC uses error correction to make sure the copies are correct. The percentage is telling you what percent of the track was ripped without EAC needing to use error correction. The only time you have an imperfect copy is when EAC reports a 'read error', 'synch error' or 'suspicious position'. This means that even EAC's error correction wasn't able to extract the track perfectly, and you may wish to try ripping the track again. If it's really hootched, get a good CD scratch removal kit, and try again.
Hey man, my drive supports C2 error correction! It says so right on the box!! Why shouldn't I use it?
Unfortunately C2 error correction is not 100% reliable with ANY drive, even Plextors (which have the most accurate C2 error correction). Even the author of EAC himself has said that he has never seen 100% C2 accuracy with any drive. This is why we have C2 disabled on our 'optimum settings' list.
If you want to enable it, go ahead, but don't come crying to me when EAC misses a scratch on your CD. By the way, this is a limitation caused more by the hardware than EAC. EAC does the best it can with what it's given. So if you want to be guaranteed that EAC will extract perfectly, keep the settings we gave you.
The MP3s I'm making with your method, when I play them in Windows Media Player, the time doesn't display correctly!
Yeah, Windows Media Player can't handle displaying time lengths correctly with VBR mp3s. Get a real MP3 player, any other one on earth, and you'll be fine.
This article is copyright, and published with the permission of, Chris Myden & Chrismyden.com. Visit Chrismyden.com for more audio related and other material.
Written by: Lasse Penttinen