Newbie Encoding Question

Hi, this is probably a stupid question, but, I have some real old 160 cbr mp3’s I ripped back in college (2001) from some of the guys I lived with, so the CDs ain’t available to me anymore, for some reason each track has a 10 to 15 second lead out (I think I was using Musicmatch jukebox to rip back then!), which ruins the albums flow, I want to cut off 10 seconds or so from each track, I was wondering if I import said mp3 into audacity and cut the track and then export at 320 kbps will the information be degraded, as the original mp3 is 160 kbps I’m speculating that audacity would not discard any of the information on re-encoding??, I don’t expect a 160 mp3 to sound like a 320, more like will my new 320 sound as good as the old 160? Or is it inevitable that a re-encode will lose data? Thanks for any response

Actually, that’s one of the recommended ways to export an MP3 show that was cut from another MP3 show. You can’t ever go back down to the original tiny filesizes you had before and you’re stuck with what compression bubbling and honking you had before.

Please also note that MP3 is a video format. It’s full family name is MPEG 1, Layer 3 and it tends to pay attention to television frame boundaries. “How come I can’t get my tracks to match exactly? There’s always a little gap between songs.”

Yes. There is. Never do production in MP3.

If you’re doing straight cutting, you may not need Audacity at all. There are editors that don’t damage the original compression, they edit the file directly. They tend to have very simple tools. They might be perfect for you.


There may be others,


Encoding to MP3 always loses some sound quality. High bit rates minimise the loss.
As Koz wrote, programs like MP3splt can perform simple edits without decoding the MP3 so they do not need to re-encode, so no additional loss of sound quality.

Thanks for replying guys, I couldn’t figure out how to use MP3splt, if it ain’t a .dmg I’m useless, I went ahead and tried re-encoding the 160 at 320, and I couldn’t tell the difference in sound quality, so I’m kind of happy enough, but have another question… again I’m fairly technically ignorant, but if I convert a 160 kbps Mp3 to WAV or AIFF, is there a loss of information? Then re-encode to MP3? again I’m not in any way expecting any improvement whatsoever, just trying to figure the possibilities of editing with existing mp3’s which whilst are relatively low bit rates are fine, barring the strange excessive gaps, which seem to all come from a specific period of time so there must have been some setting on the program I was using to rip, anyway, thanks again for replying

Saving as WAV (or AIFF) will be virtually lossless. It’s encoding to MP3 (or other lossy format) that does the damage.

Converting an MP3 to WAV or AIFF perfectly preserves music and the sound damage from the original MP3. When you make another MP3 from the WAV, the MP3 encoding process converts the music plus the original damage.

Nice try though.

And a word on the damage. It’s not like the sound is suddenly going to be destroyed with buzzy, crappy overload. MP3 became the standard it is by being sneaky about it. You can only tell you’re listening to a highly compressed and processed song by directly comparing it with the original. Standalone shows sound (unless you go crazy) just fine. What MP3 damages is the subtle overtones. My joke is listening to one Stradivarius and three Tesco/7-Eleven violins in quartette. In real life it’s not a stretch to tell which is the Strad – or that one of them is different. One pass through MP3 and you can’t tell which is the Strad any more. That’s one reason why musicians hate it.

320 or higher is very good MP3 compression. Most people can’t tell the difference between that and an original performance. The fuzzy rules for bottom feeders are:

32 barely adequate for mono
64 barely adequate for stereo
128 OK overall for stereo (Audacity default)
256 very good for stereo (Apple iTunes Plus)
320 and up almost invisible.

Another depressing fact is most college kids clearly prefer MP3 compression to real music.


Hi Koz,

thanks for replying, I’ll just say that I’m absolutely in agreement with you about sound quality, can’t wait to get a listen to Neil Young’s Pono master quality player, I actually grew up on vinyl, had an extensive collection but around late 90’s it was very hard to continue collecting, only a few shops were stocking vinyl, independents, think Nick Cave’s ‘Boatman’s Call’ was the last record I bought before turning to CD, was never happy with having to do that, but such was the way it went, have never been able to enjoy any of the Beatles in digital, even the new mono remasters, I’m just too conditioned to my old vinyl versions. In regard to my original question, just to explain, I have these old MP3’s which are acceptable, and not exactly essential stuff, just kind of good to have, I used to just change the stop time on each track so the 15 second gaps didn’t occur, but I would rather just cut the file, so at the risk of repeating my question, if I follow the process of converting a 160 mp3 to WAV, edit it, then encode it to 320 mp3, do I lose information? I know all the original damage will still be there, I’m not trying to improve the sound in any way, just cut some of the track out. Again thanks for replying


Is that not clear?
MP3 encoding always loses some information and reduces the quality.
Encoding at a high bit rate minimises the losses, but there are always some losses when encoding to MP3.

Hi steve,

I know in the overall scheme of things that encoding as an Mp3 loses information, etc, perhaps I should clarify my question into a yes or no scenario… If I import an 160 mp3 to audacity and then export at 320 is there a loss?.. the reason I’m still unsure is this, I don’t know the technical terms but for instance, a 160 mp3 has relatively low amount of data, for audacity to then encode a 320 from this data it has to add data as the resulting file will be approximately twice the size (again I’m not remotely expecting it to improve anything) therefore, when audacity is processing the 320 surely it must utilize every bit of information in the 160 to create a 320, ie it does not discard anything only adds, hope that is a little clearer. As you have said saving as a WAV is virtually lossless, would it therefore follow that saving at any higher rate should be virtually lossless?.. again thanks for replying… and for your patience! I’m not the most technically minded, apologies


In fact there were losses on two occasions.
The first time was when the audio was encoded to 160 kbps MP3.
There were then additional losses when it was encoded to 320 kbps MP3.

Using 320 kbps MP3 for the second encoding will minimise the second round of losses, but there will still be some losses because there always is with MP3 encoding.