As much as technology marches forward, there are two truths I need to accept.
- File transfer speeds are always going to be slower that I can be bothered to wait
- 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.
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.
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