Monday, November 01, 2004

Ogg Vorbis

Reading an article about standards on the 'net, I was reminded that when Pocket Tunes was first released it only played Ogg and Wav files. So, having a shiny new 1gb SD card to hand, I decided to compare Ogg and MP3 on my Palm.

You can find out about the Ogg music format at Ogg Vorbis. They keep a list of links to Mac applications, but my favourite is the freeware Ogg Drop, which is a no frills OSX encoder. It creates filenames on the basis of an online CDDB, but does not automatically create ID3 tags, which is a bit of a pain. Even worse, I had a frustrating problem with file transfers failing until I realized that some track names, which get converted to filenames by Ogg Drop, contain illegal characters, like the forward slash '/'. But it is free, funky and produces good quality music.

Anyway, the bottom line is: for roughly the same file size as an MP3, it is possible to get significantly better quality with an Ogg encoded file. To my ears, the size:quality ratio is about the same as the AAC format. Of course, Windows users can easily get this quality by playing WMA files with Pocket Tunes 3, but for Mac users, Ogg is by far the best option. But there is a risk, because it takes a very long time to encode large quantities of digital music, and if Palm music players stop supporting the Ogg format, that will be wasted time.