From WAV to MP3. What’s the best way to upload audio online? Did you know you’re needlessly losing audio quality when you convert your music online? We answer a seemingly simple question:There are really simple tricks and tools to make sure your music sounds its best online and off. Let’s take a top down view on quality and best practices.
So what is an MP3?
In short an MP3 is a coded version of your track that has been strategically degraded in quality to minimize the data size for online streaming. The encoder reduces bits that are perceptually less important, giving us a smaller file.
What can you do to prepare a track to become an MP3 hosted online?
- Converting from WAV to MP3 online may boost the peak level of your track, so try exporting your mixdown from your DAW at a lower ceiling level (ex. -1.0dB). This is probably the best way to make an audible difference when encoding your track. Reducing the output ceiling will reduce the number of intersample peaks that can cause audible clipping when converting to MP3. In plain english, reduce your master fader by 1.0dB.
- Consider where your track is going to be hosted and act accordingly. Use a high quality file (WAV or AIFF) to avoid transcoding (the undoing and redoing of MP3 encoding) or encoding twice when uploading to sites like Soundcloud or Bandcamp. They will make a 128kpbs MP3 version of your track for streaming. Fortunately they keep your uncompressed files for purchased downloads. Double encoding can make for some very awful sounds such as swooshy aliasing, clipping, as well as loss of center and punch.
- If you are uploading your track to YouTube (it is a very powerful platform for seeding your stuff). Make sure to upload a WAV in an HD video (720p and higher will encode your audio at 384kbps) otherwise your audience will be stuck listening to low quality 128kbps streaming.
- Incorporate headroom into your mixing practice.The effectiveness of all these tips pretty much go out the window if you don’t have enough headroom. Here’s a post we slaved over that explains headroom simply and clearly. 160kbps is what is technically considered high-res MP3, but we recommend 320kbps for best outcome.
- Think of the encoding as part of your mastering chain. Listen back to your track objectively in the format that your audience will hear. Does your track sound good on Soundcloud? If not go back to the mix and make headroom. Try scaling back your compression if it sounds over-hyped.
Here are some tools of the trade to help you in your endeavors:
You can use the App to convert your tracks on your computer. It’s native to most of our computers (even PC users these days) but it converts by default to AAC, so make sure to either read up on AAC or change your preferences to create a MP3. We’ll do a whole other post on MFiT (Mastered for iTunes) and distributing on iTunes very soon.
Each is different in terms of creating lossy formats. Some are better than others, but most use the standard LAME encoder. Somewhat surprisingly not all DAWs offer MP3 export, so check your user manual. Pro Tools has decent MP3 options as do many other popular DAWs (ex. Logic, Cubase, Reaper, GarageBand, Wavelab, Soundforge, etc.).
Our service offers the free option to output 192kbps MP3s, perfect for getting a feel for our mastering and sharing amongst friends. Our Pro or Pro-Unlimited accounts offer the option of outputting WAV files, which are perfect for uploading online. Also, we are working some very exciting–incredibly useful–optimized output options for late December.
Is free software with loads of encoding options, it might be a little high level if you are unsure what you are looking for but for those looking for specific encoding this is for you (the README.txt file will get you up and running in no time).
Also a great application, it works with both Windows and Mac but you’ll need to first install the free LAME encoder.