Severe Quality Loss When Converting To MP3

Am I Sad Or What At 1.04 am (UK)

Hi all

Just a quickie as it’s now new years day.
When I convert my .wav files to mp3, theres a severe difference in sound quality, but only on the vocals.

Any reason for this?
My files are going from 40Mb wav files to 3.9Mb mp3’s if that makes a difference.
Oh, and Happy New Year!!

Shouldn’t be…
what quality mp3 are you converting to?
What are you using to do the conversion? (applicaiton and codec)

MP3 is a lossy format meaning that in order to make the file smaller, it cuts out a lot of the sonic information as opposed to wav which is a full blown, no qulaity loss format. You also will hear about lossless formats. A lossless format is something like a ZIP file where the file becomes smaller but contains all the same information. The smaller the file in lossy, the more the quality suffers. Rule of thumb is that “better” quality is from 128 kbs rate and up. But depending on the subject at hand the encoder used, results will vary. Many times vocals or cymbals are the most noticably effected. Try a higher bit rate and see what you get.

Thanks for that.
I’m using Blaze Media to convert, 128 bitrate and a 48000 conv freq.
Should I ‘up’ the bitrate then?

Bubbagump, yes the vocals now have a tinny, washy kind of sound, but the rest seems ok. I just want to convert to a format that lets me record to CD, and to my mp3 player without only being able to record one track at a time.

128bit 44kHz should sound very “acceptable” and is kind of a default standard for internet mp3’s (some sites won’t allow higher birate files to keep bandwidth down but still allowinga decent sound quality and a lot of the songs you buy off the internet will be this format).

There shouldn’t be a “severe” difference in sound quality.

Do you know what codec the blaze software uses (LAME, BladeEnc, Fraunhofer etc.)?
Usually the complaint with mp3’s is not so much that they sound tinny but that the highs are NOT as clear or audible. It’s usually pretty easy to notice cymbals lose some of their “sizzle” when comparing the mp3 to the original wav.

It is also possible to do a separate mix for the file that you will be converting to mp3 to add a bit more of the highs so that when it is compressed you may end up with something closer to what you intended.
I don’t bother doing this but I have heard of people doing that for posting on the internet.

Thanks RichLum

I tried upping the bitrate to 320 and it sounds great now, although I didn’t know some sites wouldn’t allow it.
At 128 the vocals sounded very eerie.
Also I’m converting at 48kHz. Would dropping to 44 make a difference?


I tried upping the bitrate to 320 and it sounds great now, although I didn’t know some sites wouldn’t allow it

Well, using 320kbps for encoding give you the best quality available, but note that the size of the mp3 becom not so little…
Using 128kbps would must sound good in most of cases, using the LAME encoder. You can google for “RazorLame”, that is a good frontend for LAME encoder, that allow you to tweak all options available.
Another option can be encode using WMA or OGG, that have better sound with smaller sizes.

Thanks Marce

I’ll do a search. I guess I should have a good play around with all the options and settings. I never thought of WMA either.

Shows how new I am to it all!

WMA is superior to MP3 in my experience… despite Microsoft being evil they actually got the WMA format right. If you do want to try WMA, I suggest dbPowerAmp Music Convertor.

Nice one. And cheap too at $14 for the converter. I was going to go for the full Blaze version at $50.

I agree with Bubba. Ever since I first tried WMA i have not converted a thing to mp3. WMA just sounds better IMO.


Rich makes a very important point about the encoder making a big difference with MP3.

Different encoders give different results. We’re not talking about the encoder program itself (Blaze) but the “codec” software “plugin” used by that program to do the actual conversion work.

The “Blade” encoder is found all over the place, often bundled in with programs. It was designed to work best for high bit rates (256k and over), and work very poorly for lower rates (128k and below).

The “Lame” encoder is also widely available but not quite as ubiquitous as Blade. I don’t know how the two compare at high bit rates, but at low bit rates the difference is obvious and significant. For example, at 64k, Blade is barely listenable IMHO. Lame produces OK results with some obvious artifacts in some songs.

Both these encoders have lots of tweak knobs to get different results, too, such as “joint stereo”, which is great for material that doesn’t have a terribly wide stereo image (where left & right channels are mostly the same).

There is also the Fraunhofer encoder, which is generally considered the best but not freely available. There is also an “MP3 Pro” encoder that uses the same format but produces results roughly equal in quality to WMA.

I also agree that WMA sounds better than MP3: about twice as good (i.e., 64k WMA sounds a lot like 128k Lame MP3).

Another option that most reviewers like is Ogg Vorbis. My objective analysis showed that OG artifacts are louder and more pitched than WMA or MP3, but objective analyses are not really very important for typical uses of lossy compression (e.g., posting tunes on the web).

For some years I posted my tunes using WMA because it sounds better, but I found that too many people had problems playing them (especially folks with Macs) so I switched to MP3. However, I use WMA whenever using lossy compression for collaboration (that is, posting a quick mix of my part added to a tune that a group of us are working on over the internet – the next guy can use my quick mix to add his part, and so on, but eventually we all post lossless tracks for the project engineer to mix. So, the WMAs are only for temporary use, not permanent record.)

HTH, in spite of the long-winded egg-headedness. :wink:

I Use Lame (with razorlame front end) with VBR (Variable bit rate), I use 0-320 bits/sec variable @ 48K, and the size is about the same as straight encoding @ 128 bit, with vastly better sound quality.

Ogg vorbis is another alternative, which (IMHO) blows mp3 out of the water. Ogg is open source, and is under development. The modular design of Ogg means that the encoding engine can be updated without changing everything else. Ogg is supported my most media players (except Micro$oft Windows Media Player ??? )


I have been pretty happy using lame with either 128 or VBR. The only thing about VBR is that some older hardware mp3 players and cd/mp3 players don’t support it.


I’ve never like the quality of 128 bitrate mp3’s files, even though they call it “Near CD-quality”. 256 sounds MUCH better but is TWICE as big - fancy that.

Having said that, I’ve noticed a BIG difference between mp3’s of my music, and mp3’s created by professional artists. Listen to a Sting’s mp3 & you’ll know what I mean. I’ve always assumed it has to do with the mastering quality of the original recording & the mp3 encoders used. I use Sound Forge 5.0 and it does a pretty good job.

Using which codec, Toker? It really does matter!

Pros probably use the MP3-Pro or Fraunhofer codec.

I have found LAME to be the best all around freebie… Blade kinda really stinks.

Toker, if you are using SoundForge, it probably has pretty good codec with it. SoundForge is good stuff.

Like I said above, Blade was optimized for high data rates. And it sounds great at 256k or higher. At low rates, it definitely stinks. 256k is about where Lame and Blade cross over: above that, use Blade. (Of course, above that, I have a hard time distinguishing them from CD. Maybe 20 or 30 years ago …)


Using which codec, Toker? It really does matter!

You know - I don’t know. I use Sound Forge 5.0 to do the conversion. It’s whatever it uses - correct?

Bubba - it’s not that the mp3’s I make are bad or anything, but they just don’t sound as good as “professionally” made ones. You can always listen to a few to see what I mean - there’s a bunch on my web site.