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The Best Audio Converter Software: How to Choose [Article]

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Audio Basis - educational articles

In the article we will review features of an sound file converters to help to choose the best audio converter software (Mac OS, Windows and other) for you.

Every day bulk of purchased and downloaded HD digital music is growing. At our storage devices a huge musical libraries are accumulated.

And we need to convert music formats and resolution to:

  • adjust format and resolution to DAC, portable audio players and mobile phones, car stereo, musical servers and streamers, other device abilities;
  • reduce file-size to place more song number at hard disk;
  • etc.

Question "What is the best audio converter?" is very frequent on the web.

Read how to distinguish this software by quality and functionality for your needs.

Also read How to Improve Sound Quality >

How to Choose the Best Audio Converter Software

 


Best audio converter software: how to choose?

First requirement to converting software is minimal quality loses during conversion.

Some formats may be transformed one to other without loses:

Lossless conversion of these formats is possible when input and output sample rates and bit depths are identical.

Re-sampling (changing sample rate) and changing bit depth (in general), gain altering, filtering are lossy processings.

 

The software have several classes by quality of processing:

  • home;
  • professional.

Home and professional audio converters

Home and pro-audio converters

 

It is approximate class definition. There no standard definitions.

Professional conversion tool should provide significant quality-processing reserve to transparent-for-user processing.

A converting programs have many features (see list below). To choose the program need to found most useful for you features and compare the different programms by these features. In the Internet free audio converters are available, the commercial utilities also have free demo versions, as rule.

 

 


Music conversion tool features

  1. Re-sampling (probably with several modes)
  2. Changing bit depth
  3. Dithering
     
  4. Metadata export (song name, performer, album, year, artwork, etc.)
  5. Metadata management
  6. Providing metadata compatibility with different music players
  7. Providing different character encodings (different languages) of metadata
     
  8. CD ripping
  9. Providing PCM formats (WAV, FLAC, AIFF, ALAC, mp3, m4a,...)
  10. Providing DSD formats (ISO, DSF, DFF,..)
  11. Providing CUE+FLAC, CUE+WAV, CUE+DSF, ...
  12. Providing multichannel stuff
     
  13. Musical stuff loudness normalizing
  14. Gain adjusting
  15. Seamless album conversion
  16. Downmix 5.1 to stereo (multichannel to stereo)
  17. Other processings
     
  18. Management output stuff directory structure
  19. Non-English symbol support
     
  20. Speed processsing
  21. Distortion level (lower is better)
  22. Precision of processing math (24/32/64-bit integer or 32/64-bit float point)
     
  23. Different service functionality
  24. Compatibility with operation system of computer (Mac, Windows, Linux)
  25. Easy-to-use graphical user interface
  26. Price

 

Resampling is altering of sampling rate to:

  • adjusting resolution of file to DAC, musical programms, music player;
  • file-size reducing.

Digital filters, that used to resample:

  • Linear phase filter - with linear phase response.
  • Minimum phase filter - with slightly non-linear phase response, but without pre-ringing.

 

Read more about re-sampling >

Read more about ringing >

 

Dithering is sound-distortions-reducing method, used in resolution truncation to 16 bit.

Read more about dithering >

 

CD ripping is copying CD audio content to sound files on hard disk of computer via CD-ripper software.

CD ripper software

 

CD ripping may use different levels access to audio data on CD (high level data, raw data stream, error data stream). Lower level access allow to detect CD reading errors with higher probability. Some CD rippers can attempt to recover audio data. Though there is no 100%-probability of error detection and correct recovery.

Read more about safe CD ripping >

 

Musical stuff loudness normalizing used to maximazing the loudness without overload. Also oversampling may cause overload of resampled stuff. Normalizing allow to avoid it.

Read more about loudness normalizing >

 

Seamless album conversion intended to continuous musical albums like operas, live concerts, musicals, etc. All tracks of these albums should be processed without pauses and artifacts between the tracks as continuous music stream.

Read more about seamless re-sampling >

 

Downmix 5.1 to stereo (multichannel to stereo) is multichannel stuff transformation to playback at stereo musical device / system.

Read more about downmix 5.1 to stereo >

 

Metadata (metatags) is information about music file (song name, performer, album, year, artwork, etc.).
Group editing of several files is desirable.
Popular id3 standard metadata allow to assign several types of artworks (album cover, performer/composer/etc. photo(s), other). As rule, a players read only album cover artwork. Some metadata editors may allow to assign type of artwork and/or embed several artworks to sound file.

Read more about metadata editing >

 

Management output stuff directory structure is ability of music converting tool to create/copy directory structure, name for output file. As rule, there naming by metadata is used.

 

Precision of processing math is not matter for end user as rule. Precision impact to noise/distortion level and anti-overload ability of signal processing. In general, precision of math higher, than target bit depth, is recommended.

 

Easy-to-use graphical user interface is important thing, because transformation of musical stuff is repeated operation. So minimal action number is desirable.

 

Price is one of most important features of any program. There are many free music converters. Some of these converting tools are command line utilities. There are may be front-end utilities to provide graphical user interface to these utilities.
As rule, software development project should be funded for stable customer support and expanding of functionality.
This funding may be provided via donations, advertising, selling of licenses or other.
Comparison of prices should be done inside class of converting program (pro with pro, home with home).

 

 


How to compare music converters by sound quality

Sound quality of the converting utilities may be compared by measured distortions and noise level.

Sound quality issues of conversion tools

Sound quality issues of audio converters

 

Ear listening comparison

Also you can compare converting software via ear tests:

  • Take several musical samples of your favorite pieces.
  • Convert it in different formats and resolutions via each item of tested conversion program.
  • Compare converted files in identical resolution by different music conversion tools via your player(s).

This test don't guarantee minimal distortions for the best (in your opinion) audio converter software. But you can choose the program, that sound you like more.

 

 

Instrumental comparison via spectrum analizer

Resampling quality tested via sweep sine. Below we can view output of resampler program.

Hi-End re-sampling of sweep sine: no aliases, only sweep sine at output - output like to input

Hi-End resampling sofrtware

 

Mid-Fi re-sampling of sweep sine: low aliase level and sweep sine at output

Mid-Fi resampling software

 

Lo-Fi re-sampling of sweep sine: high aliase level and sweep sine at output

Lo-Fi resampling software

 

Different converters may not have audible difference. In this case you need check other features that are important for you.

 

 


Technical support issues

Audio converter is not simple program, as look at first sight. Therefore, errors/bugs may be there.

 

Technical support issues

Technical support issues

 

Each modification of program may cause new bugs.

Programmers says that old bug fixing may generate new bugs.

So bug fixing is infinite process during lifetime of the project.

Also with time appear new demands to audio converters (formats, functionality or other).

No any demands may be released or released in nearest time. But software project, that aimed to the future, collect user's requests for future releases of developed program. Check frequency of releases.

Also pay attention to time of response of tech support of program vendor.

 

 


Video: Example of free HD audio converter


How to choose the best audio converter on Mac OS, Windows. Resume

The best audio converter software on Mac OS or Windows may be choosen by minimum distortions level first. At first sight right choice between number of alternatives is tough thing.
Fortunately, you can try many free converters and free demo versions of some commercial programs.

Quality may compared by ears or via spectrum analyzing tools (converted file noise/aliases level).

Also to compare sound quality of different conversion tools you can check links below.
You can compare the quality of conversion by ears when playback converted stuff at your player.

A program may have some issues. Pay attention to quality of technical support.

 

 


Read more:

Sound quality issues

  1. How to Improve Sound Quality >

     

Tutorials

  1. How to Convert CDA to mp3 on Windows 10, 8, 7 >
  2. How to Convert ISO to DSF under Mac and Windows >
  3. How to Convert ISO to FLAC under Mac and Windows >


Comparison of audio converters

  1. Comparison of resampling algorithms >
  2. Comparison DSD to PCM converting tools >

 

 


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