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Topic: What's the best AAC encoder today? (Read 2917 times) previous topic - next topic
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What's the best AAC encoder today?

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?
Codec enthusiast!

Re: What's the best AAC encoder today?

Reply #1
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.

Re: What's the best AAC encoder today?

Reply #2
FDK-AAC is also one of the best.

Re: What's the best AAC encoder today?

Reply #3
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.
Codec enthusiast!

Re: What's the best AAC encoder today?

Reply #4
QuickTime is still a thing?  I don't recall ever using it past Windows 98...

Re: What's the best AAC encoder today?

Reply #5
Apparently it was supported up to Windows 7

Re: What's the best AAC encoder today?

Reply #6
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?
Codec enthusiast!

Re: What's the best AAC encoder today?

Reply #7
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.

Re: What's the best AAC encoder today?

Reply #8
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.

Re: What's the best AAC encoder today?

Reply #9
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?

Re: What's the best AAC encoder today?

Reply #10
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.

Re: What's the best AAC encoder today?

Reply #11

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.

Re: What's the best AAC encoder today?

Reply #12
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). 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

Re: What's the best AAC encoder today?

Reply #13
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".

Re: What's the best AAC encoder today?

Reply #14
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.

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

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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.

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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.

Re: What's the best AAC encoder today?

Reply #15
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.


Re: What's the best AAC encoder today?

Reply #17
Is FAAC still worse than even encoders for less-advanced formats like LAME like what I've seen from older listening tests?

Re: What's the best AAC encoder today?

Reply #18
Yes.

Re: What's the best AAC encoder today?

Reply #19
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.

 

Re: What's the best AAC encoder today?

Reply #20
Hello,

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

    AiZ

 
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