Recording Quality

Is it possible to improve the quality of the input by recording (and saving) at higher bit rates or higher quality formats?
For instance Rhapsody dowloads at 256K mp3 — can I improve and record at wma at a higher quality or am I limited by the input quality?

There are a couple of rules for this.

– Once you lose quality, that’s it. You never get it back. The joke is converting a badly damaged MP3 to WAV to “improve it.” All that will do is make the damage and distortion much clearer and waste drive space to the bargain.

– Almost all compression systems damage the work. The older the tool, the worse the damage.

– Compression damage is cumulative. If you make an MP3 out of an MP3, you get increased damage – sometimes greatly increased.

– Audacity does not edit MP3 – or any compressed format. It always uncompresses the show, edits it and recompressed it again, adding damage at each step.

– Windows Media, h.264, M4A, and Apple AAC are advanced compression systems and they can produce a very small file size with relatively minimal damage.

– MP3 is a very old compression system that produces significant damage and just OK file sizes. It’s sole claim to fame is everybody supports it on all three types of computer.

– Always capture and edit in a very high, uncompressed sound standard and Export As WAV to get an Edit Master show. From that, you can compress – and add damage to get to anything else. If you edit your show and compress to MP3 immediately, the show will have significant damage and you’re stuck with it.

Did I hit everything?

<<<256K mp3>>>

That’s not dreadful. If you have a mono show, that’s excellent. In stereo, that’s very good. 32K is the cliff for mono. Below that, the show turns to trash immediately. 64K for stereo.


Hi Koz,
You did hit everything. Thanx much for your expert tutorial…
I didn’t realize that when I dowload audio at 256k mp3 and then save it as 256k mp3 that I would be actually degrading it further.
Since space is not a problem, I will now save as aac or wma.

Again, thank you.
Be well and have a healthy holiday season.

Unfortunately both AAC and WMA formats are also “lossy” compressed formats and will also degrade sound quality.
The safe “lossless” formats to use are either: WAV, AIFF, or FLAC.

“FLAC” uses compression, whereas AIFF and WAV are uncompressed so FLAC files are typically half the size of WAV or AIFF files. Unlike MP3, Ogg, AAC, WMA, it is a “lossless” form of compression (the sound is not changed at all). WAV is probably the most widely supported format.

Just to confuse matters there are lossy and lossless versions of WMA …

Windows Media Audio (WMA) is an audio data compression technology developed by Microsoft. The name can be used to refer to its audio file format or its audio codecs. It is a proprietary technology that forms part of the Windows Media framework. WMA consists of four distinct codecs. The original WMA codec, known simply as WMA, was conceived as a competitor to the popular MP3 and RealAudio codecs. WMA Pro, a newer and more advanced codec, supports multichannel and high resolution audio. A lossless codec, WMA Lossless, compresses audio data without loss of audio fidelity. And WMA Voice, targeted at voice content, applies compression using a range of low bit rates.

To confuse it even more you can get lossless AAC files also, but they’re not really AAC (sometimes “MPEG4 audio lossless” with an incorrect file extension).

To try and keep it reasonably simple, most AAC files and most WMA files are “lossy” and it is very unsafe to assume that they are lossless unless you know for a fact that they have been compressed losslessly.