If you want to rip your music CDs to an audio format such as MP3, WMA, AAC, etc., or need to convert between formats then it is a good idea to know what VBR, CBR and ABR mean before you start. This guide aims to give you a primer on what these abbreviations mean, how they work, and the difference between these encoding methods.
Also read: Rip CD to WAV for Lossless Music Enjoyment
Let’s start with the basic idea about these three different MP3 encoding methods.
VBR – Variable bitrate
In this mode, you choose the desired quality on a scale going from 9 (lowest quality/highest distortion) to 0 (highest quality/lowest distortion). Then encoder tries to maintain the given quality in the whole file by choosing the optimal number of bits to spend for each part of your music. The main advantage is that you are able to specify the quality level that you want to reach, but the inconvenient is that the final file size is totally unpredictable.
CBR – Constant bitrate
This is the default encoding mode, and also the most basic. In this mode, the bitrate will be the same for the whole file. It means that each part of your mp3 file will be using the same number of bits. The musical passage being a difficult one to encode or an easy one, the encoder will use the same bitrate, so the quality of your mp3 is variable. Complex parts will be of a lower quality than the easiest ones. The main advantage is that the final files size won’t change and can be accurately predicted.
ABR – Average bitrate
In this mode, you choose a target bitrate and the encoder will try to constantly maintain an average bitrate while using higher bitrates for the parts of your music that need more bits. The result will be of higher quality than CBR encoding while the average file size will remain predictable, so this mode is highly recommended over CBR.
Which One Should I Choose?
- Who should use CBR?
The same number of bits are allocated to encode each second of audio, and internally, frames of audio data occur at regular, predictable intervals, so the overall file size for a given duration of audio is predictable. Therefore this encoding is used only when a file of desired size is to be produced. Uses of this format is declining day by day as it doesn’t offer any advantage over VBR and possess more file size.
- Who should use VBR?
Everyone. All lossless compression is VBR. The main advantage is that the user is able to specify the quality level and conserve as much space as possible, but the inconvenience is that the final file size is quite unpredictable.
- Who should use ABR?
ABR encoding is desirable for users who want the general benefits of VBR (an optimum bitrate from frame to frame) but with a relatively predictable file size like they would get with constant bitrate (CBR), and a greater preference for bitrates that are near a desired target. Inevitably, some frames will be encoded with more bits than necessary, but the result will always be equal to or better than that of CBR for the target bitrate.
So if you are trying to rip CD music to audio files on your computer, go for the VBR MP3 encoding mode because it will offer less file size with same quality.
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