Choosing the best codec

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A common question is "which format is best for me?", or "which should I use, this or that?". While these are important decisions we have all had to make at some point, there is usually no simple answer that can be given to new users.

Why no simple answer?

There are several factors that you must first consider, my needs aren't the same as yours, maybe we want to do different things with our music, or we have a different amount of disk space to use.

Common considerations are:

  • Do you want the option of using a portable player now?
  • Would no playback support other than on your PC be a problem in the future?
  • Do you need to use a popular format?
  • How much space do you want to use for you music?
  • How much music do you want to store?
  • Are you simply interested in quality?
  • How good is your hearing?

The last question is the most important. Why? I have poor hearing, so something that sounds good to me could well be annoying to you. Only you have your ears, so only you know what sounds good to you.

We can however make general recommendations based on test results from the entire community - for example:

Lossy formats
  • MPC is to the majority of people the best performer at mid to high bitrates (> 128kb/s)
  • MP3 is has the most widespread acceptance among the general population and in hardware players
  • Ogg Vorbis and AAC HE are thought to perform better than others at low bitrates (< 128kb/s)
  • See additional lossy formats at the lossy page.
Lossless formats

Lossless compression is the only way to retain all the original quality and lose no information. For a list of lossless formats and their pro's and con's see the lossless page.

How can I choose for myself?

  • Listen and see, use ABX. Be aware that you tolerance can change if you train your ability to hear artifacts.
  • Read the pages for the different formats and see their pro's and con's.