HydrogenAudio

Lossy Audio Compression => AAC => Topic started by: Elias on 2020-09-15 11:29:56

Title: What's the best AAC encoder today?
Post by: Elias on 2020-09-15 11:29:56
Last I checked, it was still Apple's iTunes. The open source AAC encoders have basically been crippled because of all the patent trolling associated with AAC, which is a bit odd given that XviD, x264 and x265 have been doing well. Is Nero Digital's AAC encoder still useful today, or has it been surpassed completely by iTunes?
Title: Re: What's the best AAC encoder today?
Post by: LithosZA on 2020-09-15 15:58:49
Depends on what you mean by 'AAC'. If you are referring to only the LC-AAC and HE-AAC profiles then Apple's AAC encoder still is the best encoder today. I don't think Nero's AAC encoder is still useful today.
The best publicly available xHE-AAC encoder is the open-source 'exhale' encoder since it's the only one available.
Title: Re: What's the best AAC encoder today?
Post by: Kamedo2 on 2020-09-15 16:20:43
FDK-AAC is also one of the best.
Title: Re: What's the best AAC encoder today?
Post by: Elias on 2020-09-19 16:55:38
I'm of course talking about LC-AAC. Is there any quality difference between encoding with qaac and having only iTunes installed or only having QuickTime installed? I'm talking about Windows here obviously. I'm asking because Apple no longer update QuickTime on Windows, so I imagine their AAC encoder has improved in iTunes over the past year or two since QuickTime 7.7.9 was released. Also, as far as LC-AAC is concerned, is Apple's AAC encoder the best because it's really the only LC-AAC encoder that has seen any development over the past 15 years? Nero Digital's LC-AAC encoder hasn't been updated in ages, and the open source LC-AAC encoders have always been poorly updated due to patent trolling. I can't really imagine Apple being the best AAC quality given how much their MPEG-4 ASP/AVC enxoders sucked. Of course Apple put some more effort into LC-AAC because of iTunes and selling AAC music through iTunes, but still, Apple and quality don't exactly go hand in hand in my book.
Title: Re: What's the best AAC encoder today?
Post by: Replica9000 on 2020-09-21 15:16:22
QuickTime is still a thing?  I don't recall ever using it past Windows 98...
Title: Re: What's the best AAC encoder today?
Post by: binaryhermit on 2020-09-22 22:03:25
Apparently it was supported up to Windows 7
Title: Re: What's the best AAC encoder today?
Post by: Elias on 2020-10-28 10:39:53
QuickTime is still a thing?
No of course not. QuickTime never was a thing to begin with.

I don't recall ever using it past Windows 98...
I don't actually use QuickTime for anything, only reason I occasionally have QuickTime installed is so that I can encode AAC mp4 in foobar2000 with qaac; I don't want to install iTunes for AAC encoding to work in foobar. What I'm wondering is if this translates to quality differences, given that QuickTime hasn't been updated in years, or is it qaac that handles the actual encoding quality, and that it doesn't matter if you have QuickTime or iTunes installed, just that qaac needs either of them to do its magic?
Title: Re: What's the best AAC encoder today?
Post by: Foobar_2012 on 2020-10-28 15:20:04
Last time I did anything like this QTLite was available - all the backend functionality of QuickTime with none of the nonsense.

I had a look for you and came across this thread https://hydrogenaud.io/index.php?topic=91422.0 which indicates you can use the iTunes encoding library without having to install iTunes. You can probably delete the files you don't need afterwards too.
Title: Re: What's the best AAC encoder today?
Post by: ajp9 on 2020-10-28 20:04:30
QuickTime is still a thing?
No of course not. QuickTime never was a thing to begin with.
It was big in the old days of classic Mac OS. It started the ball rolling for multiple A/V streaming as a standard capability under an operating system that wasn't even built for thread-based multitasking.

I still edit movies sometimes. So it's still useful (preferably in a secure environment).
Is there any quality difference between encoding with qaac and having only iTunes installed or only having QuickTime installed?
Apple apps that depend on Core Audio encoders install the same Core Audio DLLs. And AFAIK there haven't been quality improvements since discontinuing QT; Apple has focused more on compatibility, bug and security fixes.

The Apple encoder is still the best general LC-AAC encoder for low to moderate bit rates, in everything I've seen polling and ABX. FhG and the less efficient FAAC can do a better job in certain respects at higher bit rates, but if I had to choose just one it would be Apple.

As far as xHE-AAC goes, exhale is excellent enough to be comparable to Opus.
Title: Re: What's the best AAC encoder today?
Post by: guruboolez on 2020-10-29 11:16:13
Last I checked, it was still Apple's iTunes. The open source AAC encoders have basically been crippled because of all the patent trolling associated with AAC, which is a bit odd given that XviD, x264 and x265 have been doing well. Is Nero Digital's AAC encoder still useful today, or has it been surpassed completely by iTunes?
QuickTime is still a thing?
No of course not. QuickTime never was a thing to begin with.
It was big in the old days of classic Mac OS. It started the ball rolling for multiple A/V streaming as a standard capability under an operating system that wasn't even built for thread-based multitasking.

I still edit movies sometimes. So it's still useful (preferably in a secure environment).
Is there any quality difference between encoding with qaac and having only iTunes installed or only having QuickTime installed?
FhG and the less efficient FAAC can do a better job in certain respects at higher bit rates [...]
I'm asking for curiosity: how does FAAC perform better than Apple's AAC at high bitrate? I have never heard about it. Could you develop?
Title: Re: What's the best AAC encoder today?
Post by: ajp9 on 2020-10-30 04:20:28
I'm asking for curiosity: how does FAAC perform better than Apple's AAC at high bitrate? I have never heard about it. Could you develop?
Changes were made to the source some time ago to increase the internal limits, beyond that of most encoders, that you'll get probably the highest quality for AAC on the highest settings (a q over 3500), with the caveat that the results will probably run over 500kbps and may not play to completion on iOS devices due to much larger frame sizes (larger than the OS or hardware decoder allows; a compatibility issue). However, the latest FAAC 1.30 is a lot more efficient than previous versions that you probably don't need to go that high for great results; a q of 2000 will run closer to 380-450 kbps with results only somewhat (30%?) less efficient than Apple. The bit rates in VBR mode will fluctuate greatly.

The bigger advantage with FAAC actually is the encoding speed — maybe 3x as fast the Apple encoder.
Title: Re: What's the best AAC encoder today?
Post by: synclagz on 2020-10-30 08:20:00

The bigger advantage with FAAC actually is the encoding speed — maybe 3x as fast the Apple encoder.

You can use -q 0 switch with Apple encoder to significantly increase encoding speed (with -q 0 is faster than FAAC).
I didn't find any quality issues at higher bitrate.
Title: Re: What's the best AAC encoder today?
Post by: guruboolez on 2020-10-31 15:31:45
Changes were made to the source some time ago to increase the internal limits, beyond that of most encoders, that you'll get probably the highest quality for AAC on the highest settings (a q over 3500), with the caveat that the results will probably run over 500kbps and may not play to completion on iOS devices due to much larger frame sizes (larger than the OS or hardware decoder allows; a compatibility issue).

Thank you for the answer. Indeed, FAAC has higher bitrate per channel than what Apple AAC provides to the end user. But higher does not necessary mean better. And I'm not convinced that FAAC is the way to get the best AAC quality just because it goes that high. Do you have an example (ABX) showing that FAAC high VBR is better than other AAC encoders?

I tried FAAC -q9999 with many files (it works but it's probably the same than -q5000, upped limit documented). On average it ends with 512 kbps. My classical collection ends with 428 kbps on average (288 kbps for the lowest stereo album), audiobooks at 344 kbps (252 kbps for the lowest) but metal/hard rock ends at 573 kbps. The highest bitrate I get for a full album is 681 kbps. The lowpass is neverthess set by default to 19 KHz.
Nero AAC also offers 512 kbps bitrate in CBR and this encoder also seems to be more efficient than FAAC (see my listening test (https://hydrogenaud.io/index.php?topic=120062.msg989991#new)). Which one is better?


Are you certain than iOS ecosystem is not technically compatible with AAC at ~500 kbps? My old iPod classic from 2007 was already compatible with Nero 512. So it's a bit surprising
Title: Re: What's the best AAC encoder today?
Post by: ajp9 on 2020-11-01 02:03:22
It's true that higher bit rates don't necessarily mean better quality, but I've used various measurements to find that FAAC does produce better quality to itself at higher q values. In subtracting from the original source I've found it typically approaches 40-47db of lossless accuracy at higher settings — something comparable to WavPack -b7.

The results 1.30 produces are very good at those settings, with a more complete spectrum, so obviously it's not as good as Nero on what it should be covering at 128 kbps, according to the recent ABX. FAAC does however depend a lot on flexible VBR, so the graphs in forced CBR mode don't reflect full potential. Maybe it is closer to 57% less efficient on transparency compared to Apple, but that would make 502kbps the point it compares to Apple at 320kbps. There needs to be an ABX with -q not -b to know how it really performs.

The issue with compatibility is just how large the blocks can get. The Apple decoder (hardware?) appears to only allow up to 352kbps per channel; beyond that threshold, playback on my iPhone skips to the next track. General encoders don't go beyond 256kbps per channel, so Nero is comfortably within that limit. FAAC can go all the way up to 400kbps per channel at any time, even in CBR mode. It's an issue I've addressed on the faac github.

The lowpass can be removed with "-c 48000".
Title: Re: What's the best AAC encoder today?
Post by: guruboolez on 2020-11-01 08:52:59
It's true that higher bit rates don't necessarily mean better quality, but I've used various measurements to find that FAAC does produce better quality to itself at higher q values. In subtracting from the original source I've found it typically approaches 40-47db of lossless accuracy at higher settings — something comparable to WavPack -b7.

I'm not sure that's a relevant way to measure quality of AAC or any other perceptual encoders.

Quote
The results 1.30 produces are very good at those settings
At 400 kbps it can't be bad  ;)

Quote
FAAC does however depend a lot on flexible VBR, so the graphs in forced CBR mode don't reflect full potential
.
If the CBR core isn't great, I don't expect miracles from VBR. There were some late quality improvements with FAAC but even at its "full potential" it seems far beyond most advanced competitors.

Quote
Maybe it is closer to 57% less efficient on transparency compared to Apple, but that would make 502kbps the point it compares to Apple at 320kbps.

If it's really 57% less efficient I would say there is no point of using it.

Quote
The issue with compatibility is just how large the blocks can get. The Apple decoder (hardware?) appears to only allow up to 352kbps per channel; beyond that threshold, playback on my iPhone skips to the next track. General encoders don't go beyond 256kbps per channel, so Nero is comfortably within that limit. FAAC can go all the way up to 400kbps per channel at any time, even in CBR mode. It's an issue I've addressed on the faac github.
It's really bad for Apple, unless FAAC does something wrong with ISO specs.

Quote
The lowpass can be removed with "-c 48000".
Yes. I wonder if -q5000 is really tuned. What's the point of encoding up to 700 kbps if lowpass is set to an inferior value than any other perceptual encoder? Even LAME at 300 kbps tries to handle 19…22KHz band.
Title: Re: What's the best AAC encoder today?
Post by: nu774 on 2020-11-01 10:17:27
IIRC, Maximum bitrate of AAC is defined as 6144 bits per frame per channel in ISO 14496-3.
For typical CD format (44100Hz stereo), it will be (6144*44100*2)/(1024*1000) = 529.2kbps.
Title: Re: What's the best AAC encoder today?
Post by: pr0m3th3u5 on 2020-11-11 19:45:55
FDK-AAC is also one of the best.

If you still use it, what settings do you use?
Title: Re: What's the best AAC encoder today?
Post by: binaryhermit on 2020-11-12 01:34:20
Is FAAC still worse than even encoders for less-advanced formats like LAME like what I've seen from older listening tests?
Title: Re: What's the best AAC encoder today?
Post by: kode54 on 2020-11-12 03:03:28
Yes.
Title: Re: What's the best AAC encoder today?
Post by: binaryhermit on 2020-11-12 03:50:08
That's either pathetic or impressive, depending on whether you're looking at it from the perspective of FAAC or LAME (or any mp3 encoder of similar sound quality), respectively.
Title: Re: What's the best AAC encoder today?
Post by: AiZ on 2020-11-20 23:35:44
Hello,

Has anybody tested fdk-aac 4.0.1? For same (VBR) presets, bitrates seem to be lower than previous version.

    AiZ
Title: Re: What's the best AAC encoder today?
Post by: GeezerHz on 2020-12-26 19:24:09
I had a look for you and came across this thread https://hydrogenaud.io/index.php?topic=91422.0 which indicates you can use the iTunes encoding library without having to install iTunes. You can probably delete the files you don't need afterwards too.

You used to be able to open the iTunes installer with 7-zip and grab the "AppleApplicationSupport64.msi" to get what you needed, but that is no longer part of the iTunes download. Not sure how to get it without installing the whole heap of garbage now.
Title: Re: What's the best AAC encoder today?
Post by: ManekiNeko on 2020-12-26 19:40:40
I had a look for you and came across this thread https://hydrogenaud.io/index.php?topic=91422.0 which indicates you can use the iTunes encoding library without having to install iTunes. You can probably delete the files you don't need afterwards too.

You used to be able to open the iTunes installer with 7-zip and grab the "AppleApplicationSupport64.msi" to get what you needed, but that is no longer part of the iTunes download. Not sure how to get it without installing the whole heap of garbage now.

Away from my PC at the moment. Is it not possible from here: https://secure-appldnld.apple.com/itunes12/041-02280-20180912-24D8CF68-AC7A-11E8-8B51-C26F1B1141A5/iTunes64Setup.exe
Title: Re: What's the best AAC encoder today?
Post by: dB on 2020-12-28 20:33:19
Code: [Select]
Latest iTunes64Setup.exe (v12.11.0.26) extracted (from https://www.apple.com/itunes/download/win64):

iTunes64Setup.exe
       |
       |_____ SetupAdmin.exe
       |_____ AppleMobileDeviceSupport64.msi
       |_____ AppleSoftwareUpdate.msi
       |_____ Bonjour64.msi
       |_____ iTunes64.msi
                    |_______ iPod
                    |_______ System64
                    |_______ iTunes
                                |
                                |_______ ASL.dll
                                |_______ CoreAudioToolbox.dll ( v7.10.9.0 )
                                |_______ CoreFoundation.dll
                                |_______ icudt62.dll
                                |_______ libdispatch.dll
                                |_______ libicuin.dll
                                |_______ libicuuc.dll
                                |_______ objc.dll
It works with foobar2k 1.6.2   :)
Title: Re: What's the best AAC encoder today?
Post by: A_Man_Eating_Duck on 2020-12-28 20:42:12
Are you using the new version of makeportable (makeportable2.zip)?

https://sites.google.com/site/qaacpage/cabinet

Title: Re: What's the best AAC encoder today?
Post by: dB on 2020-12-28 20:46:44
Are you using the new version of makeportable (makeportable2.zip)
I manually extracted the files and put them in foobar2000/encoders/QTfiles64/
Title: Re: What's the best AAC encoder today?
Post by: szabi on 2021-05-14 14:47:37
Hi

Few months rolled since last post.
There is a hydrogenaudio wiki page about AAC encoders (https://wiki.hydrogenaud.io/index.php?title=AAC_encoders).
Most to least recommended AAC encoders from this wiki page.
(https://abload.de/img/aacc4kh0.png)
Where can I download the newest version of the top three (Apple, FhG, FDK) encoder?
Considering FDK-AAC there is a few months old fdkaac 1.0.1 using libfdk-aac 4.0.1 version (https://hydrogenaud.io/index.php?topic=115883.msg992699#msg992699) created by john33.
However I can not find newer from this and nothing usable available regarding other two.

Regards
szabi
Title: Re: What's the best AAC encoder today?
Post by: Jurgga on 2021-05-14 19:33:09
Just FYI. There is also newer Fraunhofer IIS AAC encoder and newer Fraunhofer FDK AAC with VBR improvement (available in the Android master repository)
Title: Re: What's the best AAC encoder today?
Post by: szabi on 2021-05-14 20:39:36
Does the Fraunhofer IIS AAC mean FhG AAC? Maybe an other not listed encoder?
Search for Android master repository Fraunhofer FDK AAC (https://www.google.com/search?q=Android+master+repository+Fraunhofer+FDK+AAC) gives nothing.
Title: Re: What's the best AAC encoder today?
Post by: guruboolez on 2021-05-14 21:11:42
FhG AAC from Winamp is v. 3.02.15. EZ CD Audio Converter uses v. 3.5.3.
Apple's last encoder is on iTunes (search for tutorials to get it then use qaac (https://sites.google.com/site/qaacpage/)).

All three encoders are probably not really updated anymore. Except maybe for bugfix don't expect quality progress with the very last version of these encoders.
Title: Re: What's the best AAC encoder today?
Post by: Jurgga on 2021-05-19 20:52:08
EZ CD now uses Fraunhofer IIS AAC v3.5.5 (xHEAACEnc) . It would be interesting to test it against Apple's yet again. Yes there will be updates.  :D
Title: Re: What's the best AAC encoder today?
Post by: szabi on 2021-05-21 10:04:24
Hi
Now I had time to try.
Firstly, EZ CD Audio Converter 9.3.2 (https://www.poikosoft.com/) has four exe files only (ezcd.exe, register32.exe, register64.exe, uninstall.exe).
There is no "fhgaac.exe" file to use.
Secondly, considering Apple AAC, I followed the tutorial (https://github.com/nu774/qaac/wiki/Installation), qaac_2.72 (https://github.com/nu774/qaac/releases) and iCloud (https://support.apple.com/hu-hu/HT204283) was downloaded. Unpacking iCloud "AppleApplicationSupport.msi" (v.20200829) is available to install.
After I want to use "qaac.exe" I got failure message: "The encoder has terminated prematurely".
Thirdly, regarding FDKAAC still fdkaac 1.0.1 using libfdk-aac 4.0.1 version created by john33 is the newest which available to use.

To be honest the availability and usage of top three "aacenc" is terribly overcomplicated.

Regards
szabi
Title: Re: What's the best AAC encoder today?
Post by: sld on 2021-05-22 05:14:31
Hi
Now I had time to try.
Firstly, EZ CD Audio Converter 9.3.2 (https://www.poikosoft.com/) has four exe files only (ezcd.exe, register32.exe, register64.exe, uninstall.exe).
There is no "fhgaac.exe" file to use.
Secondly, considering Apple AAC, I followed the tutorial (https://github.com/nu774/qaac/wiki/Installation), qaac_2.72 (https://github.com/nu774/qaac/releases) and iCloud (https://support.apple.com/hu-hu/HT204283) was downloaded. Unpacking iCloud "AppleApplicationSupport.msi" (v.20200829) is available to install.
After I want to use "qaac.exe" I got failure message: "The encoder has terminated prematurely".
Thirdly, regarding FDKAAC still fdkaac 1.0.1 using libfdk-aac 4.0.1 version created by john33 is the newest which available to use.

To be honest the availability and usage of top three "aacenc" is terribly overcomplicated.

Regards
szabi
If it helps, I use this commandline for VBR for the qaac encoder, you can change the V value to find your quality or bitrate sweet spot. 64 corresponds to about 130 kbps.

Code: [Select]
-V 64 --no-optimize --threading -o %d -
Title: Re: What's the best AAC encoder today?
Post by: ThaCrip on 2021-05-22 08:31:52
@szabi

This will solve your Apple AAC issue (assuming you want to use Foobar2000) in a easy-to-use manner... https://hydrogenaud.io/index.php?topic=115883.msg962088#msg962088

while that post is from 2018, it's still valid today since Apple has not tweaked the Apple AAC encoder (from a sound quality perspective) in about 10+ years now.
Title: Re: What's the best AAC encoder today?
Post by: szabi on 2021-05-22 12:06:00
Hi

After your help now I can use all three encoder by foobar2000.
Apple AAC has version "qaac 2.72, CoreAudioToolbox 7.10.9.0".
Winamp FHG AAC runs on "fhgaac v03.02.16" version.
FDK AAC is on "fdkaac 1.0.1, libfdk-aac 4.0.1" version.
I do not know whether it is the latest one by Apple.
I could not extract the newer FHG AAC from EZ CD Audio Converter.
I found there is a new version of FDK-AAC fdk-aac-2.0.2 (https://sourceforge.net/projects/opencore-amr/files/fdk-aac/) released 2021-04-28 however there is nothing usable on linked page, I still use above mentioned version given by John33 (https://hydrogenaud.io/index.php?topic=115883.msg992699#msg992699).

Away from foobar2000, I could not use eac3to (v3.34) over UsEac3To (v.13.0) gui to run any of the above encoders.

Above all I want to say many thanks for your help, it is a 2 years old story for me to use them (https://hydrogenaud.io/index.php?topic=115883.msg970615#msg970615), now I am happy that all three is available finally.

Regards
Szabi
Title: Re: What's the best AAC encoder today?
Post by: ThaCrip on 2021-05-23 07:21:56
After your help now I can use all three encoder by foobar2000.
Apple AAC has version "qaac 2.72, CoreAudioToolbox 7.10.9.0".
I do not know whether it is the latest one by Apple.

I think there are 'newer' versions of CoreAudioToolbox available (like in newer versions of iTunes), but it does not really matter since in terms of the audio quality of the AAC files produced, no improvements have been made in about 10+ years now when it comes to standard AAC (i.e. AAC-LC) files.

so basically any version of Apple AAC encoder used after that point (after about 2009-2011) is just as good as whatever is the most recent which is why I never bothered to use anything newer myself as the one your using is what I am using in Foobar2000 (i.e. CoreAudioToolbox 7.10.9.0 ; although I am still on 'qaac v2.69' as I just use whatever is included in the Foobar Encoders Pack (which the most recent Encoders Pack release is from Jan 2021) as I never manually update qaac in particular as I just use whatever they give you in the Foobar2000 Encoders Pack). so while the CoreAudioToolbox your using is from the year 2018, it does not matter if you used one from 2013 or the most recent from 2021 etc, it's all basically the same where it matters.

the Apple AAC encoder your using (which I extracted from the iTunes installer in 2018) is 32-bit. but the last I knew the 64-bit version was only negligibly faster at encoding, so I never really bothered to change to 64-bit. besides, it seems the encoders they give you in the Foobar2000 Encoders Pack in general are 32bit as I think it's safer to use these since more CPU's will be supported even though the 64-bit ones can encode things a bit faster in general. but it's not really a big deal either way as unless someone encodes A LOT of music, the speed difference is not significant enough to really matter, especially given any decent CPU over the last 10 years or so is plenty fast enough.
Title: Re: What's the best AAC encoder today?
Post by: szabi on 2021-06-01 14:58:10
@ThaCrip

Ok, I understand your point.
Once more many thanks for your help.
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