Bouncing all my music down to Opus

by @edent | # # # | 4 comments

As much as technology marches forward, there are two truths I need to accept.

  1. File transfer speeds are always going to be slower that I can be bothered to wait
  2. My ears aren't going to get any better at hearing

For years, I ripped all of my music as FLAC. I collected ridiculously high-resolution audio files. I devoured disk drive space for surround sound soundtracks.

"One day," I thought, "I'll have an amazing audio system to play these back on."

The reality is that I spend most of my time listening to music on £40 bluetooth headphones. I have a nice 5.1 surround sound system - but it isn't exactly THX certified. And, thanks to the construction of British houses, I can't turn it up to 11 without my neighbours complaining.

Yesterday, as I was waiting for a couple of GB of new music to fly through the aether to my phone, I was struck by a realisation...

I am not an archivist.

I don't need to preserve all my commercially-bought music in the highest resolution possible. It isn't my job to faithfully preserve every ultrasonic decibel. And I am never going to own a set of speakers which will super-charge my old ears.

It's OK to bounce my music down to a more convenient file format.

Enter Opus

I've written before about the Opus file format. It's the modern and open successor to MP3. It isn't lossless - but I've compared the quality, and I can't hear a damned difference.

Turns out, everyone agrees with me. Even at extremely low bitrates it is superior to every other format.

Opus plays back natively on Android, it supports all the normal music metadata / IDv3 tags, and works perfectly with surround sound. The codec and tools are Open Source and Linux friendly.

And, best of all, it's small! Even when I encode at the maximum possible bitrate (I'm not a total savage!) an hour of 5.1 audio is about 20% of the size of FLAC.

I know I could buy a bigger disk. But while home storage is relatively cheap, mobile storage is still expensive. Yes, WiFi 6 will make everything better - but I don't need to fling gigabytes through the air to my tin ears.

So, from now on, everything is getting run through:
opusenc --bitrate 1536 in.flac out.opus

4 thoughts on “Bouncing all my music down to Opus

  1. JAMES BODY says:

    I find the extremely low bitrate performance, coupled with the impressive adaptive error detection and correction capabilities of Opus to be extremely exciting. It is just perfect for mobile transmission in lossy error prone scenarios - and even works well with digital HF radio transmission.

  2. "opusenc --bitrate 1536 in.flac out.opus"

    Right. And for those of us who speak English (and use Windows 10)?

    1. @edent says:

      You can download the Windows version of the tool at http://opus-codec.org/downloads/

      I don't use Windows, but I assume you run it from the commandline as opusenc.exe

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