If I convert my FLAC files to AAC 256kbps with ffmpeg on Audactiy, is ffmpeg basically the same quality as the iTunes encoder? Like is ffmpeg one of the best AAC exporting plugins? Or am I better off exporting my FLACs as 320kbps MP3?
Sorry if this sounds confusing, but I’m not an expert on this stuff.
Why are you converting your FLAC recordings to anything? Both AAC and MP3 are delivery formats. Deliver the product to the client or personal music player and full stop. Generally, no further editing or production is possible without some sound damage.
I don’t have have a music player at the moment so I store all my music on my computer. I prefer not to use up my space with FLAC files that I could easily acquire later. I’m just wondering if ffmpeg would deliver less quality when exporting than most encoders.
To go back to your original question I think 256 is perfectly good.
When I had my first (smaller capacity iPod) after extensive listening tests on good kit I settled on 192 between space occupancy and audio quality - but I could detect minor compression artefacts in the sound if I listened hard. With my bigger iPod I now use AAc 256VBRand I can’t tell the difference between those and the WAVs that are used to make them.
My son, who is a purist, insists on 320 - but then he has onerfilled his iPod …
The musical content (Some sounds are easier to compress than others.)
Your ability ot hear compression artifacts.
It turns-out that the playback equipment is not that important. If you can hear compression artifacts on a super high-end system, you can hear them them on an average system.
At high-bitrate/high-quality settings, most music will sound identical to the uncompressed original, and it usually won’t matter what format or what encoder you use. At lower bitrates (more compression = smaller files) you may find that one format or one encoder is better than another. Or, with some some music you may get better sound quality with AAC than MP3, etc.
You are a very knowledgeable poster and you hedge your comments somewhat, but in my view insufficiently so.
Clearly you can go into the Audacity editor and start chopping away samples randomly, and if only the slightest modicum of care is taken it will be impossible to discern for the majority of listeners.
Real, actual information/data will nevertheless be lost.
And one example that instantly springs to mind where this practice has a nasty habit of biting you in the ass is for DJs, of which there are quite a few around; Pitch down tracks in a lossy format and already somewhat thin sound with more than likely turn to crap.
ABX testing in Foobar will not reveal that, however.
Which snaps us back to the idea that MP3 is a delivery format for your iPod, not work suitable for production. MP3 (and others) work by very cleverly hiding the damage. Post production pulls back the curtain. Koz