Joe's Vorbis Info
What is it?
Vorbis is a lossy audio encoding scheme, similar to MP3 (see Lossless vs. Lossy below for more info). There are
several very significant differences, though. First, Vorbis sounds
better (completely subjective, of course) and compresses smaller than
MP3. Next, Vorbis is extensible. The encoding format is such that as
the encoding gets better, old decoders (players) will still be able to
play the audio. Finally, Vorbis is free. What's that? MP3 is free?
Think again (and get the facts)!
Why do I list it?
I've started to encode whole shows onto a single CD for a more
enjoyable listening experience. The sound quality is good enough for
my purposes (mainly for listening at work), and it's nice to carry
around a single CD as opposed to lugging around 4 of them. I can
stick it in my CD-Rom drive and listen for up to 6 hours without
bothering with it. Not too shabby!
Since I've done this for myself, I figure other people might like it,
too. So, if I have something already converted to Vorbis, it is
nothing but a thing to make a copy for someone else. Quite honestly,
it's easier to make a copy of this than to make a copy of a regular
audio CD, both because it's data and not audio, and it's 1 CD instead
of 3 or 4 or even 6.
Can I play it in my car?
No, unfortunately not. Unless of course you've got a nifty Linux box tucked into the glove box!
You can only play these on your computer for the moment. Most of the
popular players now support Vorbis, either natively or thru a plug-in.
My favorite player for Windows is QCD 3.
I think it's capabilities are much better than WinAmp, and it's free,
too. It just doesn't have as many spiffy skinz. But it sounds better,
and for me, sound wins over looks any day (though I also think it
There are fundamentally two ways of encoding audio: lossy &
lossless. Lossy loses something in the encoding, while lossless does
not. Said a different way, if you encode a file and then decode it,
with a lossless encoding scheme the decoded data will be bit-for-bit
exactly the same as the original source, while a lossy scheme will
not. Consequently, the lossless scheme will sound exactly like the
source, while the lossy one will not be as good. How bad it will be
exactly depends on the skill of the programmers (and the bit-rate --
Why use a lossy scheme at all, you ask? It compresses to a fraction
of the original, and sound files are BIG. To give
you a feel for the difference, I happen to have a wave file on my hard
drive (it's 2 minutes and 8 seconds long), which I'll encode a couple
of different ways:
The lossless compression is approximately half the size of the
original WAV, while the OGG file (Vorbis' file extension is OGG) is
about 1/4 the size. Vorbis uses what's called a variable bit-rate
(VBR) encoding scheme, meaning that it only uses as much data as
needed to encode something to a targetted bit-rate. The higher the
bit-rate, the better the sound quality, but quite often you don't need
all those extra bits, so it doesn't bother storing them,
making the file smaller without sacrificing audio quality.
- Original WAV file size: 22 Meg (22,085 KB)
- SHN (lossless) file size: 11 Meg (11,593 KB)
- OGG (Vorbis/lossy, VBR target 350) file size: 5 Meg (5,371 KB)
Approximate capacity of a standard 74 minute CD:
- WAV : 74 minutes
- SHN : 130-150 minutes
- OGG : 5+ hours @ bit-rate of 350
I'm sold! Can I get the following shows, please?
Well, if I've already converted it, I'd be glad to burn you a copy.
If I haven't, please don't ask for it. For all its good qualities,
encoding in Vorbis is still a bit slow; it takes about 30 seconds
longer than the actual song length to encode it at the highest
bit-rate target, on my machine. It also takes a lot of hard drive
space, which I don't always have hanging around empty. So,
unfortunately, I can't just whip up a new OGG-ed show. Sorry!
I do have a list of shows encoded in Vorbis (it's small, but will grow over time) -
Where can I get more info?
Here are some links for you:
- Ogg Vorbis: Open FREE Audio - Vorbis home-page
- FAQ - basic Vorbis FAQ
- Players - and other third-party software
- xiphophorus.org - developer info for Ogg Vorbis
- FAQ - another FAQ, good for non-developers, too
- etree.org - for more info on SHN (Shorten, a lossless audio compression format -- see Lossless vs. Lossy above)
I have tried to make this document presentable under both Netscape and Lynx.
Please let me know how I did. Send these or other comments to:
Live Free, that's the message!
Copyright © Joseph L. Casadonte Jr. 2001. All rights reserved.
Joe's Vorbis Info / 25 March 2001 / firstname.lastname@example.org