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The sweet spot for sound quality/file size efficiency for Apple AAC is....

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Topic: The Sweet Spot for Apple AAC? (Read 2317 times) previous topic - next topic
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The Sweet Spot for Apple AAC?

I am curious if others around here feel similar to myself or not in what they feel is the sweet spot for Apple AAC in terms of sound quality/file size balance.

I pretty much covered every answer people could choose for a topic like this when increasing by 32kbps each time as i figure people would likely not choose lower than 96kbps or higher than 192kbps given what this topic is about. but just in case i am wrong i put the 'Other' option there to choose from.

I voted for 128kbps, as while one could argue 96kbps is a solid choice for the topic, i feel spending only 32kbps more is probably worth it to clean up the sound a bit and the overall file size is still pretty small. 96kbps seems to score well in some listening tests for the average scores, and 96 is a pretty low file size which makes that a efficient choice, but i figure 128kbps plays it a bit safer and still keeps file size minimal which is why i feel 128kbps is a pretty safe setting for most people when it comes to Apple AAC and with it's small file size it's arguably one of the best choices for a topic like this.

with all of that said... this topic might help casual users who come to this site from time-to-time to see what bit rate users around here generally prefer in terms of that sound quality/file size balance. like those who don't want to spend much time ABXing etc but also don't have storage space to burn.

p.s. If anyone selects 192kbps in a topic like this i suspect they are more of the paranoid type of listener who tends to prefer sound quality over file size for the most part. because i would have to assume for most people, given the choices in the topic, that 96/128/160 are the only real options for a topic like this (assuming we stick with the 32kbps increase in each adjustment standard) but i included 192 to leave a little extra room for that more paranoid type of listener and if that's not enough they can simply choose 'Other'.

NOTE: If one wants to... if your preference is not listed exactly in the poll to choose from you can simply select the one closest to your choice. so for example if someone thinks 170kbps is the sweet spot etc they could go with the 160kbps choice in the topic or the 'Other' option. I leave that up to the users around here to decide and you can make some comments about it.
Sweet spot for sound quality/file size (in my opinion) = Apple AAC @ 128kbps (q64 TVBR) ; [FLAC to Apple AAC using Foobar2000]

Re: The Sweet Spot for Apple AAC?

Reply #1
I can't really say, as I'd use qaac64 -V100 if an AAC file is required. I rarely use them, but when I do...

Also, that's the reason I can't vote on it, really.

Re: The Sweet Spot for Apple AAC?

Reply #2
Do I have any choice when comes to buying songs off iTunes?  At least I get that choice with CDs I own but I use FLAC for those.

I honestly can't say as everything I have from the iTunes store is 256 kbps.

Re: The Sweet Spot for Apple AAC?

Reply #3
Last time i used afconvert on mac it was '-s 3' which means do it VBR, I guess that's default quality.
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Re: The Sweet Spot for Apple AAC?

Reply #4
I think what determines it is if you use a single encoding or a mix of lossless / lossy.

For * re-encoding * with efficiency in mind :

 96k AAC / LLC as its simple and well supported , going down to 32k if needed and device can handle SBR etc.
The safety of bits or 'common' rates like 128k dont apply to AAC encoding in general .
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Re: The Sweet Spot for Apple AAC?

Reply #5
I use qaac and transcode my FLAC files to AAC with 256 kb/s.

Yes, I know this is overkill, but I have more than enough space on my 160 GB iPod for it that I don't need to go lower.

Re: The Sweet Spot for Apple AAC?

Reply #6
Voted for 128kbps.

LC-AAC was designed to provide an excellent level of transparency at 128k.

Re: The Sweet Spot for Apple AAC?

Reply #7
Yep, voted 128 too, I use 96 on mobile and 192 for wife's iTunes but 128 is my sweet spot.

Re: The Sweet Spot for Apple AAC?

Reply #8
Thanks for the votes and replies. so far half of the users (out of the 22 votes so far) choose 128kbps.

but i wonder if i should have included TVBR or CVBR as a additional poll in the topic? ; because earlier i was playing around with it a bit on a random CD i had that was nearly 80min long and between the two there was a decent file size savings with TVBR over CVBR and, at least from what i have noticed around here (someone correct me if i am wrong), there is no clear difference in sound quality between TVBR and CVBR except CVBR tends to have a bigger file size which would make TVBR a better overall choice because if sound quality is debatable either way (for equivalent bit rate settings) then you might as well use TVBR because it's space savings will add up (basically makes TVBR more efficient than CVBR) as, just looking at that random CD that i tested that was nearly 80min in length, there was about a 10.7MB file size difference in the total album between TVBR and CVBR modes. so with that info you will basically get an additional full CD worth of storage space for something in the ball park of every 5-10 CD's you encode with TVBR instead of CVBR at the same bit rate settings.

114kbps (TVBR 128kbps) vs 132kbps (CVBR 128kbps) was the average for that particular album i used above. i know things will vary a bit depending on the type of music used but i would have to imagine those figures (say 120kbps or a bit less) are a ball park figure on many types of music in space savings you will see between those two modes at the same bit rate setting.

on another album i tested a moment ago (at the 128kbps settings) from a different music genre the TVBR was actually a little larger in size vs the CVBR... 141kbps(CVBR) vs 145kbps(TVBR). that CD was only 47min in length. so who knows how those will average out over a entire collection but i would imagine the TVBR setting on average will come in smaller over someones entire collection. but then again it probably just boils down to what kind of music you use as i suspect it's possible someone might listen to more demanding music and in that regard i would not expect to see much storage space savings between TVBR and CVBR as i imagine it could be really close either way.

just some thoughts ;)
Sweet spot for sound quality/file size (in my opinion) = Apple AAC @ 128kbps (q64 TVBR) ; [FLAC to Apple AAC using Foobar2000]

Re: The Sweet Spot for Apple AAC?

Reply #9
Hmm, I think you'd need a vote for each of those settings, tbh. So technically speaking, you'd need people to vote for:

 * CBR setting
 * CVBR setting
 * TVBR setting

Or you just jumble them into one very large poll, that way you can gauge what people tend to use overall. but I'm not sure that holds um really.

If you want to make this even more complicated: Poll #1 is a general poll whether CBR, CVBR, or TVBR. Poll #2 is this poll. Poll #3 is polling for which CVBR setting people use, and Poll #4 is which TVBR setting people use. Jumble them all together, make a nice graphic and it almost sounds like you can write a paper, and/or make a nice infographic to be posted on Pinterest.

Poll #1: open to all, should vote on the one most used, or - if at all possible - enumerate their selection, i.e. how often they tend to use them, if at all. (for instance: "1" first choice, "2" second choice, "3" third choice, "X" not applicable - never used).

Polls #2 - #4: open to all, should vote on the most used, or - if possible - vote by preference like described above. If someone doesn't use any of those settings, they should not vote.

You can clearly see, that you can put quite a bit of effort in this, but already I feel like it's too much work.

Oh and one other thing concerning your poll: you should've used ranges. The way it is right now, I'm inclined to select "other" when I use 112kb/s, wince it's between 96kb/s and 128kb/s

Re: The Sweet Spot for Apple AAC?

Reply #10

Oh and one other thing concerning your poll: you should've used ranges.

Good point. maybe i should have done something like...


with those XXXkbps-XXXkbps meaning a in between setting between the two specified bit rates.

but i guess it's a little late now and the options in the current poll should be close enough to give people a ball park idea on a topic like this.

The way it is right now, I'm inclined to select "other" when I use 112kb/s, wince it's between 96kb/s and 128kb/s

Fair enough as i mentioned that briefly in my initial post with you selecting the nearest option to your setting if not your setting is not exactly listed or 'Other' would be fine to as i left it up to the users here to decide and your a example of that.

but if i was you, i would probably lean towards selecting 128kbps in the poll if you prefer the 112kbps setting as your sweet spot as it's barely more bit rate and plays it a little safer with sound quality and i think most agree anything around 128kbps keeps the file sizes more minimal than not as it seems 96kbps is sorta the minimum standard for Apple AAC (given some sound quality average scores around here that i have noticed seemed to keep average score 4.00+) as going much under that and sound quality drop offs will start to become more obvious/a bit less certain.

like for someone looking to keep file sizes quite minimal but without risking the overall sound quality much then 96kbps seems like a good choice as to go back to 64kbps setting, while not exactly crap, is probably THE minimum setting for someone trying to REALLY conserve storage space without the sound quality drops offs being really easy to detect as i would figure 64kbps is sorta THE minimum useable setting for AAC-LC on general music. but personally unless your really desperate for storage space, or don't care about the music too much, there really ain't any reason to use a Apple AAC setting lower than TVBR q45 (i.e. 96kbps average) in my opinion. like i could go as low as the 96kbps setting (i.e. TVBR q45) but if i had to use less than that i would likely just get more storage space especially considering it's been pretty cheap for years now as my general suggestion for most people is use 128kbps unless your a bit paranoid about sound quality (in which case you can go higher but even then not all that much as i feel after a certain point the gains you get are minimal and just starts to waste storage space which is kinda why i would figure 96-160kbps (or so) is where the vast majority of people should be on Apple AAC if they have even the slightest concern with efficiency otherwise they can use 256kbps and forget about it pretty much) and if your more concerned with storage space then i could go as low as 96kbps.

but for those who just want something simple to use and forget about it... 128kbps is what i would suggest as at this point in time it's not going to become outdated and need to be re-ripped years down the road, at least not as long as MP3/AAC are the two major lossy standards.

but with that said, i guess that stuff might vary a bit from person-to-person but i got to be in the ball park for the average person ;)

NOTE: I am speaking strictly Apple AAC-LC above.
Sweet spot for sound quality/file size (in my opinion) = Apple AAC @ 128kbps (q64 TVBR) ; [FLAC to Apple AAC using Foobar2000]

Re: The Sweet Spot for Apple AAC?

Reply #11
Sweet spot for sound quality/file size (in my opinion) = Apple AAC @ 128kbps (q64 TVBR) ; [FLAC to Apple AAC using Foobar2000]

Re: The Sweet Spot for Apple AAC?

Reply #12
--cvbr 128. On a large library, this setting yields a 133 kbps average.

Re: The Sweet Spot for Apple AAC?

Reply #13
QAAC --tvbr 100 which I think is around 224 kbps.

Re: The Sweet Spot for Apple AAC?

Reply #14
qaac 2.64, CoreAudioToolbox, AAC-LC Encoder, TVBR q64, Quality 96

Basically, 128kbps TVBR

Re: The Sweet Spot for Apple AAC?

Reply #15
QAAC --tvbr 100 which I think is around 224 kbps.

Keep in mind the topic, which is... "Sweet Spot" for Apple AAC, not necessarily 'top sound quality' ;)

with that said, while your free to vote for whatever you like, I would question the q100 (224kbps average) setting a bit because that setting is only one lower than the q109 (256kbps average) setting and the q109 setting is basically what Apple uses to encode 'top quality' AAC files, which while I doubt anyone would question the sound quality, as it seems at that rate it's considered top notch by pretty much everyone, I would question it's efficiency at that rate. hence, not a 'sweet spot', at all, and your preference of q100 is nearly at that rate (i.e. q109(256kbps average) vs your q100(224kbps)) which makes it not that efficient. just off the top of my head... while opinions might vary a bit, I figure the q91(192kbps average) is already really pushing efficiency standards as beyond that is overkill, especially in a topic like this and those that still prefer settings beyond 192kbps are clearly more concerned with sound quality than sound quality/storage space efficiency(i.e. Sweet Spot) balance.

so I guess what the topic is really saying/asking is... at what bit rate does the sound hit a solid quality level for most people (or even vast majority) but before you really start to see diminishing returns(I think this is the proper term(?)) in sound quality and the file size(bit rate) starts to spike upward while gaining little in sound quality.  because obviously we don't want crap sound so that's got to be up to a certain standard first and foremost but after a certain point file size becomes more of a factor then the little gains in sound quality you get. like that balance between the two. I think you get the gist of what I mean.

just some thoughts ;)

but with that said... so far things are playing out in a basic sense of what I expected in that the vast majority so far (i.e. 80% of the 35 votes so far) selected either 96 or 128 or 160kbps as the 'sweet spot' of Apple AAC. which, in my opinion, are the only real choices for a topic like this (NOTE: my claim here assumes we only are allowed to choose from 32kbps increases in file size and nothing in between) because I feel going beyond 160kbps for AAC starts to really lose efficiency as you basically have to start jacking up the bit rate to clean up minor artifacts it seems.

but come to think of it, given those three settings that I mentioned above as voted for 80% of the time here so far, I sorta see it like this...

-96kbps (q45) = efficient, but favors storage space efficiency over sound quality a bit.

-128kbps (q64) =efficient, sort of the blend of the 96kbps and 160kbps options and plays inline with the most voted for bit rate in the topic. this is the one I feel is the most difficult to top amongst a wide range of people who have some concern for storage space efficiency while still maintaining strong sound quality. sorta like the minimum setting for those who want minimum storage space used but want to play it pretty safe with sound quality.

-160kbps (q82) = efficient, but favors sound quality over storage space efficiency a bit.

much higher than 160kbps... sound quality must be paramount and these people are not really concerned with storage space efficiency.
Sweet spot for sound quality/file size (in my opinion) = Apple AAC @ 128kbps (q64 TVBR) ; [FLAC to Apple AAC using Foobar2000]

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