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  • AlexQc
  • [*]
Which encoder to use today?
I decided to start rip my whole CD collection to the AAC format and I want to get the best results possible while keeping the files "portable". I was going to use the Nero AAC Encoder with EAC but I searched the Web for 2 hours last evening to validate my choice but now I feel I'm more confused than I was before.

During my search I read here on the forum that Nero AAC was outdated. Which encoder do you use today? CBR or VBR? I usually trust more CBR over VBR for MP3s as the results seems more consistent and the gained space with VBR is not really a big plus for me but I'm not sure my experience with MP3s apply with AAC...

To give you an idea I always use 320 CBR for my MP3s and I'm mostly listening to rock/metal music.

Any input welcome!

  • eahm
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Re: Which encoder to use today?
Reply #1
While I could point you to some listening tests to see how good lossy codecs are good at lower bitrates (~64+ kbps) today, I will list what I think the best options are for each lossy for convert and forget about it, make sure you keep the lossless copy so you can reconvert in the future if that's too much or the files are too big for your portable use, I sometimes go down to ~64 Opus for example.

MP3: (LAME) V2+/~190+ (V3/~175 is near transparent as well but to be on the safe side)
Ogg Vorbis: (Default or aoTuV) or ~160+ (~128 is really good as well)
Opus: (1.2.1) ~160+ (~128 is spectacular but again...)
AAC: (Apple, FhG/Winamp, FhG/FDK) ~160+ (like the others, ~128 is spectacular)

Some transparent settings recommendation links:

LAME: http://wiki.hydrogenaud.io/index.php?title=LAME#Recommended_encoder_settings
Ogg Vorbis: http://wiki.hydrogenaud.io/index.php?title=Recommended_Ogg_Vorbis#Recommended_Encoder_Settings
Opus: https://wiki.xiph.org/Opus_Recommended_Settings#Recommended_Bitrates / http://wiki.hydrogenaud.io/index.php?title=Opus#Music_encoding_quality
AAC: https://hydrogenaud.io/index.php/topic,99359.0.html (post from 2013)
  • Last Edit: 06 October, 2017, 05:27:26 PM by eahm

  • zima
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Re: Which encoder to use today?
Reply #2
[...] CBR or VBR? I usually trust more CBR over VBR for MP3s as the results seems more consistent and the gained space with VBR is not really a big plus for me but I'm not sure my experience with MP3s apply with AAC...

To give you an idea I always use 320 CBR for my MP3s [...]
You're just wasting space with 320 CBR, MP3 is most likely "consistently" transparent to you at much lower bitrates (and AAC - even lower; do an ABX test, it can be humbling) & there's nothing wrong with VBR.

If you don't care for space, the "proper" way would be to rip your CDs into FLAC format and keep that on ~stationary HDD,  converting to lossy format for portable use.
  • Last Edit: 06 October, 2017, 05:50:58 PM by zima

Re: Which encoder to use today?
Reply #3
I decided to start rip my whole CD collection to the AAC format and I want to get the best results possible while keeping the files "portable". I was going to use the Nero AAC Encoder with EAC but I searched the Web for 2 hours last evening to validate my choice but now I feel I'm more confused than I was before.

During my search I read here on the forum that Nero AAC was outdated. Which encoder do you use today? CBR or VBR? I usually trust more CBR over VBR for MP3s as the results seems more consistent and the gained space with VBR is not really a big plus for me but I'm not sure my experience with MP3s apply with AAC...

To give you an idea I always use 320 CBR for my MP3s and I'm mostly listening to rock/metal music.

Any input welcome!
By the sound of it it looks like you're lossy-encoding for achival purposes. If that's the case, many on HA can tell you why that's not a good idea.

Besides, I'd even risk saying that, your apparent preocupation with quality (your searching for the best AAC encoder there is; this "encode to CBR instead of VBR" thing 'cause "results seems more consistentthing" - whatever that means) point out to your reencoding it all into another encoder/setting/format anytime soon - what I call "format hopping" - been there, done that.
In short: I wouldn't forgo lossless encoding in the process (assuming you haven't/won't) as well: at least all the ripping process won't be wasted. I know the CDs will be there but that is a process that takes time and as you mention disk space is not an issue...
Listen to the music, not the media.

  • AlexQc
  • [*]
Re: Which encoder to use today?
Reply #4
I think you are right I will save a "master" in FLAC and do an AAC version on my mobile, car, etc.

Now I'm still puzzled by all the AAC options... Even if it's lossy I would like the best quality possible and consistent results.

Which AAC encoder do you use. 256kbs seems a good VBR transparent quality...

Thanks for your input!

  • eahm
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Re: Which encoder to use today?
Reply #5
AlexQc, did you read the second post?

AAC: (Apple, FhG/Winamp, FhG/FDK). Those are the three best, "best" to "worst" considered by listening tests at ~64-96 but please, at 256 you could even use a 20 years old one, it wouldn't make much difference.

So, again: Apple (iTunes required or you can make a portable version) or FhG/Winamp (really fast) or FhG/FDK (standalone and open source).

  • polemon
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Re: Which encoder to use today?
Reply #6
Is it just me, or is this question popping up in more or less regular intervals? Maybe something like this should be put on the Wiki?

  • saratoga
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Re: Which encoder to use today?
Reply #7
The wiki does list recommended encoders:

http://wiki.hydrogenaud.io/index.php?title=AAC#Encoders_.2F_Decoders_.28Supported_Platforms.29

But there are no references and the recommendation may be out of date.

  • eahm
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Re: Which encoder to use today?
Reply #8
The wiki does list recommended encoders:

http://wiki.hydrogenaud.io/index.php?title=AAC#Encoders_.2F_Decoders_.28Supported_Platforms.29

But there are no references and the recommendation may be out of date.
Also FhG/Winamp is missing, how?

  • ThaCrip
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Re: Which encoder to use today?
Reply #9
I decided to start rip my whole CD collection to the AAC format and I want to get the best results possible while keeping the files "portable".

To give you an idea I always use 320 CBR for my MP3s and I'm mostly listening to rock/metal music.

given your wording, which suggest to me your looking for quality sound but while maintaining a small file size... once you got your FLAC files (EAC (Exact Audio Copy) seems to be the standard for ripping AUDIO CD's. so extract the audio from your CD's and keep the FLAC files for future use as it will save a lot of time if you need to re-rip to a different bit rate on AAC/MP3 etc) use Foobar2000 and convert to Apple AAC 128kbps (q63 TVBR mode) as, in my opinion, that's the sweet spot of sound quality/file size.

if your a bit paranoid with sound quality (which i got that impression with your MP3 320kbps comment).... Apple AAC @ 256kbps (it's what iTunes Plus uses apparently) as i don't think anyone can ABX at that rate. if they can, it's got to be rare and you would have to be hardcore nitpicking at that point.

for the record... 320kbps MP3 is a waste of disc space as almost everyone says you don't need to use MP3 on anything higher than LAME v0 (245kbps average), which is LAME's highest VBR setting. basically for those paranoid about MP3 quality can use v0 (245kbps average) as that gives you MP3's highest quality (in terms of VBR setting, which is recommended in general) but a more efficient use of disc space. if v0 does not work for them, they are better off switching to another encoder like Apple AAC since outside of MP3, AAC is the next most widely used/supported lossy audio format.

what i said here should pretty much sum things up for most people i suspect even though opinions might vary a bit on what's the 'sweet spot' etc with AAC but the whole point of lossy audio is to have a efficient use of disc space (while keeping quality high enough) and i feel 128kbps is that setting. even 96kbps is respectable from looking at public ABX tests around here from a few years ago but i just recommend 128kbps as it plays it a little safer, sound quality wise, but without increasing file size that much. like it seems like a safe setting to recommend to people. also, when using the q63 TVBR (TVBR is default mode of Apple AAC encoding in Foobar2000), depending on the kind of music your using, you will see a fair amount of files smaller than 128kbps with some being larger. but over a wide range of music you will likely be around 128kbps for the average bit rate. Foobar2000 can show you this info once your done encoding your collection by adding your AAC files and then selecting them all in Foobar2000 and right click and select 'properties' and then click the 'details' tab. under the 'general' section you will see 'Avg. bitrate : xxx kbps" (with xxx being your average bit rate over all of the selected files). just looking at basically my entire collection... 116kbps average over 3,367 files (these are all q63(128kbps average) TVBR encoded). these were all made recently (so from iTunes v12.7) when i switched from LAME v2 (190kbps average) to Apple AAC q63 (128kbps average) as i figure 190kbps average with MP3 is a inefficient use of storage space (and switching to AAC freed up quite a bit of space on my 16GB MicroSD card in my Sansa e250 v1). basically files properties say, "qaac 2.64, CoreAudioToolbox 7.10.9.0".

p.s. once Foobar2000 is installed you will need to install the Encoder Pack (i.e. http://www.foobar2000.org/encoderpack ) and then you will need to get the Apple AAC files extracted out of the iTunes v12.7 (which is newest iTunes currently) installer using the 'makeportable.zip' (which you can get from here... https://sites.google.com/site/qaacpage/cabinet ) and then put the iTunesSetup.exe into the same folder as the makeportable.cmd file (which is inside of that zip file you download), say C:\TEMP\ for example, and then run the makeportable.cmd file and after a brief moment it will finish and you will see 'QTfiles' folder inside of that TEMP folder and then simply right click on the QTfiles folder and select copy and then go to your Foobar2000 installation directory (something like... C:\Program Files (x86)\foobar2000 ) and right click and select paste on the 'encoders' folder and then your done and now can encode Apple AAC files from within Foobar2000.
Sweet spot for sound quality/file size (in my opinion) = Apple AAC @ 128kbps (q63 TVBR) ; [FLAC to Apple AAC using Foobar2000]

  • eahm
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Re: Which encoder to use today?
Reply #10
ThaCrip, usually wait until they ask to provide info they may not need because they may confuse instead of helping.

foobar2000 looks automatically for the \encoders folder, why would you made a C:\TEMP or any other folder outside where foobar2000 is aleady pointing at? Just copy the QTFiles/QTFiles64 inside the foobar2000's configuration's \encoders folder or inside the foobar2000's folder directly if it's in portable mode. Also you excluded the 64bit option which is faster, not by much but I prefer it for example and other may too, again, I'm telling you by experience, wait until they ask for the extra step so you can provide detailed info for exactly what they need in that particular case and you eliminate the risk of providing unneeded or misplaced information in advance.
  • Last Edit: 17 October, 2017, 11:23:53 AM by eahm

  • AlexQc
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Re: Which encoder to use today?
Reply #11
Thanks everyone for all you time. My choice is made and I did some test CDs to test it.

I will use iTunes AAC encoder via qaac (under EAC). This is the qaac command line I'm using:
--no-smart-padding -v%bitrate% -q2 %source% -o %dest%

The bitrate I will be using is 192. So to be short I will be using CVBR at 192 kbps.

Do you see anything obviously missing about the command line I use? I'm tagging my files manually with an external program.

PS: I will also keep a FLAC master for my desktop computer.

  • Nichttaub
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Re: Which encoder to use today?
Reply #12
I found that on my most demanding recordings I can barely ABX 128k AAC encodings from the CD original.  I have been using 256k VBR just so that I don't even worry about it, and have never been tempted to look back.

  • ThaCrip
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Re: Which encoder to use today?
Reply #13

@eahm

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ThaCrip, usually wait until they ask to provide info they may not need because they may confuse instead of helping.

I mostly said what i said (with the whole Apple AAC @ 128kbps or 256kbps) as a general guideline for someone looking for a simple answer to the OP's question which i suspect a fair amount of people would like to know. so for some casual person who stumbles into this topic that's why i said what i said as it gives them some good basic advice.

Quote
foobar2000 looks automatically for the \encoders folder, why would you made a C:\TEMP or any other folder outside where foobar2000 is aleady pointing at? Just copy the QTFiles/QTFiles64 inside the foobar2000's configuration's \encoders folder or inside the foobar2000's folder directly if it's in portable mode.

I would have to test, but i think Windows 10 might complain a bit as i think when i delete something from there (i.e. C:\Program Files (x86)\ ) it asks to confirm etc. that's why i just did things in a C:\TEMP\ folder initially and then a simple copy/paste to Foobar2000's encoders folder. but assuming Windows 10 does not complain about running that makeportable.cmd file from within C:\Program Files (x86)\foobar2000 etc then it would actually be quicker to just copy the 'iTunesSetup.exe' and 'makeportable.cmd' file to Foobar2000's 'encoders' folder as that would give people less steps to do and would save a little time. but i just played it safe and did something i know will work.

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I'm telling you by experience, wait until they ask for the extra step so you can provide detailed info for exactly what they need in that particular case and you eliminate the risk of providing unneeded or misplaced information in advance.

I believe you, but like i was saying what i replied with is some good basic info for someone using Foobar2000 with general FLAC to Apple AAC conversion and gives the info needed to get things up and running, pretty much. it can be useful for people who might stumble into this site looking for some general guidelines to go by with the Apple AAC @ 128kbps(storage space is of some concern) or 256kbps(space is a non-issue). basically pick one of those two settings and forget about it sort of thing.

Quote
Also you excluded the 64bit option which is faster, not by much but I prefer it

I excluded the 64bit simply because using 32bit is safer and less steps needed to get it working and, as far as i can tell, the 64bit encoder requires the 'custom' option to get working in Foobar2000 (someone correct me if i am wrong) where as with the 32bit you can use the built-in stuff from the drop down menu and use the slider to adjust quality settings etc.

plus, the 64bit speed increase seems to be negligible over the 32bit, at least on my i3-2120 CPU. i have not measured anything concrete, as i was just looking at encoding time on a random album in 32bit and 64bit, but i want to say for a typical album it 'might' have been a few seconds or so which is a non-issue as if we went from say 1min to 30second encodes for a full album, or something like that, then it might be worth the hassle to use 64bit.

@AlexQc

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I will use iTunes AAC encoder via qaac (under EAC).

You can do what you want but i think Foobar2000 is your best bet for general FLAC to AAC conversion. EAC is good but it's primary use is to extract audio from a CD. but outside of that, Foobar2000 is better for general audio playback/basic conversion of audio files etc.

just some thoughts.

@Nichttaub

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I found that on my most demanding recordings I can barely ABX 128k AAC encodings from the CD original.  I have been using 256k VBR just so that I don't even worry about it, and have never been tempted to look back.

Basically this plays inline with my recommendations with Apple AAC above.

128kbps is basically safe enough for most people, especially for those who want more efficient use of their storage space, but for the type who wants to use lossy audio but is a bit paranoid about sound quality then using 256kbps is what you want to use.

with that said, i am sure there are some people who might like to experiment a bit and might go with something in between. but i figure those types probably will do ABX tests etc to really fine tune things to their own personal hearing. but i figure most people ain't going to want to spend too much time on these things which is why i figure the 128kbps/256kbps rule is a good guideline.
Sweet spot for sound quality/file size (in my opinion) = Apple AAC @ 128kbps (q63 TVBR) ; [FLAC to Apple AAC using Foobar2000]

  • eahm
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Re: Which encoder to use today?
Reply #14
ThaCrip, the wait was referring to the last part, about the encoders.

foobar2000's default \encoders folder with the installation is inside %localappdata%, when portable it's inside its own folder, wherever the folder may be.

The 64 bit setting is already set, for all the encoders that have the option, I think I was the one to suggest it probably 2 years ago so no extra step there, same number of clicks to get it to work like the 32 bit. And there is quite a speed difference if you have a more powerful i5/i7 IIRC.

You are a little too jumpy to recommend but you're not experienced enough to recommend a bitrate, you can suggest buy not recommend, I see a big difference there. Don't take it personally, I think the forums needs to see more experience, more abx logs, months of testing and relax and retest etc. I don't recommend anymore either, that's why there are recommendation pages for all the lossy codecs, point the users there instead of confusing them more with "my recommendation here and there".

This is what I do, I have few rules:

I suggest AAC from ~96 up, Opus same or even ~80 up at this point since I was able to hear some stuff at ~64 but I have to test deeper, MP3 from V4/V3 up with personal tests to see if V4 is enough, the rest is up to again, more personal tests from the user. I don't suggest any other lossy codec but if you want to use Vorbis or MPC or LossyXXX whatever. For lossless I suggest FLAC, default -5. WavPack or ALAC only on few situations.
  • Last Edit: 18 October, 2017, 05:31:23 AM by eahm

  • ThaCrip
  • [*]
Re: Which encoder to use today?
Reply #15
@eahm

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You are a little too jumpy to recommend but you're not experienced enough to recommend a bitrate, you can suggest buy not recommend, I see a big difference there.

Yes, true i am not experience and i know i am no expert at ABXing (as i doubt i am anything special here). but as far as my whole 128kbps and 256kbps Apple AAC comments ain't it basically true that 128kbps is a pretty strong setting overall? (like on those ABX tests score 4.00+ largely) ; hell, it appears iTunes uses that on some things while using the 256kbps on others.

i just figured i would say that because it's probably a good ball park guideline for those who care about space and those that don't. with that said, i realize there is no concrete answer as i am sure people around here would default to telling someone to ABX themselves to find the point they are happy with etc.

Quote
Don't take it personally, I think the forums needs to see more experience, more abx logs, months of testing and relax and retest etc. I don't recommend anymore either, that's why there are recommendation pages for all the lossy codecs, point the users there instead of confusing them more with "my recommendation here and there".

I understand. it's a safer thing for you to say that because of the higher standards of this site.

but we all got opinions on such stuff and would you actually disagree with my basic 128kbps/256kbps opinion on Apple AAC ; like as a really basic guideline? ; 128kbps a general use sorta thing on the go (i think Apple AAC tests really well in this range as i want to say 4.00+ area on a wide range of samples) and for the more paranoid type use 256kbps(i am not 100% sure but i would imagine ABXing at this range has either got to be non-existent or not far from it(?))

at the end of the day... one of the common things people would tell others asking for recommendations is to ABX themselves til the point they no longer can and then maybe bump up the bit rate a little over that as a precaution.

Quote
The 64 bit setting is already set, for all the encoders that have the option, I think I was the one to suggest it probably 2 years ago so no extra step there, same number of clicks to get it to work like the 32 bit. And there is quite a speed difference if you have a more powerful i5/i7 IIRC.

Maybe i was not doing things right but when using 32bit qaac, Foobar2000's general Convert menu works but with the 64bit qaac it does not work from that general menu as without the 32bit qaac there it just seems to error and apparently is looking for the 32bit qaac executable file. so unless i am missing something the 64bit qaac seems a bit harder to setup as it seems to need the 'custom' option which uses commands instead of the sliders.

as for the speed difference... assuming your right with the i5-i7 CPU's then the 64bit qaac definitely looks more appealing. but on my i3 it's not worth using given that it's not as straight forward to use like the usual 32bit is through the Convert menu in Foobar2000.

Quote
This is what I do, I have few rules:

I suggest AAC from ~96 up, Opus same or even ~80 up at this point since I was able to hear some stuff at ~64 but I have to test deeper, MP3 from V4/V3 up with personal tests to see if V4 is enough, the rest is up to again, more personal tests from the user. I don't suggest any other lossy codec but if you want to use Vorbis or MPC or LossyXXX whatever. For lossless I suggest FLAC, default -5. WavPack or ALAC only on few situations.

It seems we are likely similar here with the starting low point of Opus/AAC/MP3 and i also agree those three lossy encoders/formats are all that are worth using at this point in time to as Opus is the newest and does well so people will have some interest in that and AAC/MP3 are basically the standard that a lot of hardware supports so those are always going to be appealing.

because with Opus when i switch from 48kbps to 64kbps that's the last clearly noticeably change for me as i can ABX on 48kbps but at 64kbps i would not be surprised if i can't do it consistently and i have heard others go with the 80kbps setting to as their safe minimum.

as for the FLAC comments... you prefer FLAC 5 over 8. any reason for that?

I heard with today's computers there is not much reason not to use FLAC 8? ; correct me if i am wrong, but ain't the only drawback to 8 over 5 is initial encoding time? ; because if decoding time is not effected i see no reason not to use 8 over 5 since encoding times would not really matter much either way since it's very fast with modern computers and you might as well save the 3-5MB extra disc space per full album with FLAC 8 over FLAC 5.
Sweet spot for sound quality/file size (in my opinion) = Apple AAC @ 128kbps (q63 TVBR) ; [FLAC to Apple AAC using Foobar2000]

  • Porcus
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Re: Which encoder to use today?
Reply #16
correct me if i am wrong, but ain't the only drawback to 8 over 5 is initial encoding time?
You are right. And encoding is done only once. I use -8 because there is no other reason not to.

(Except some very odd issues - wasn't there a Squeezebox generation ages ago, that was buggy with -8? It doesn't happen with stock players which use the reference decoder.)

  • eahm
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Re: Which encoder to use today?
Reply #17
@ThaCrip thanks for understanding and replying so nicely.

-5 because IIRC there is about 30MB per GB of difference but the converting speed is much higher. I am testing with an i7 k processor, for what is worth converting with -8 would be much slower on lower processors.

I'll test again right now to compare the speed.

-8: Total encoding time: 0:09.969, 313.99x realtime - 231MB
-6: Total encoding time: 0:06.375, 491.01x realtime - 232MB
-5: Total encoding time: 0:04.250, 736.52x realtime - 233MB
  • Last Edit: 21 October, 2017, 01:23:35 PM by eahm

  • eahm
  • [*][*][*][*][*]
Re: Which encoder to use today?
Reply #18
Btw, here a bigger encoding:

-5 Total encoding time: 0:14.984, 839.83x realtime 1.03 GB (1,114,639,444 bytes)

-8 Total encoding time: 0:24.109, 521.96x realtime 1.03 GB (1,106,756,410 bytes)

I have no idea where I got the 30MB per GB but it's much much less, I think it can go up to 30MB per GB depending on the type of music.

More info here: http://www.audiograaf.nl/downloads.html you can see here 5 and 6 are very similar and don't compromise speed.

But we're OT with FLAC, this is an AAC forum.
  • Last Edit: 21 October, 2017, 11:46:06 PM by eahm

  • ThaCrip
  • [*]
Re: Which encoder to use today?
Reply #19
@eahm

Given your tests there is a decent gap in encoding speed. but it's still not much unless you got a really old CPU. but even in these cases you will spend a lot more time with EAC (Exact Audio Copy) ripping the CD's to where that extra 5-10 seconds or so per CD won't mean much. even if that was say 30seconds or so a CD it's not much.

plus, according to Porcus above there is no decoding speed hit as it's only initial encoding time that you pay a slight speed penalty.

so given what was said in here on that whole FLAC 5 and FLAC 8 thing... i would lean towards FLAC 8 unless you got a really slow CPU, which i imagine not many people are still using nowadays. but i guess on the flip side of things is that FLAC 5 (which is Foobar2000's default for the pre-setup FLAC profile in it's 'Convert' section) is barely larger in size and gives a decent encoding time speed boost.

i guess about the only time FLAC 5 would have a real advantage over FLAC 8 would be if the time savings between those two were say at least 1min or so at which time the time saved will become more valuable than the 3-5MB of hard drive space it saves going with FLAC 8.

so at the end of the day... it really does not matter whether someone uses FLAC 5 or FLAC 8 as the benefits and drawbacks are roughly the same either way(no clear cut better choice) as it boils down to whether one would rather save a little hard drive space or spend a little more time during initial encoding.

either way, you can't go wrong. but even for those who are trying to save disc space would barely see any saving there as even if you saved 5MB per CD and have 100 CD's that's still only about 1 FLAC CD in hard drive space savings and hard drive storage space is pretty cheap for a lot of it lately.

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I have no idea where I got the 30MB per GB but it's much much less, I think it can go up to 30MB per GB depending on the type of music.

Yeah, just given what i have noticed on a random CD's it seems to be around 3-5MB per CD (like difference in space savings between FLAC 5 to FLAC 8). that's what i noticed when i use the most recent version of FLAC (Jan 1st 2017) included in the Foobar2000 Encoder Pack with FLAC 5 vs FLAC 8.

p.s. but given what i have encoded with FLAC i noticed Classical music tends to compress much better then the rest of the music i got.
Sweet spot for sound quality/file size (in my opinion) = Apple AAC @ 128kbps (q63 TVBR) ; [FLAC to Apple AAC using Foobar2000]