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Does anyone care about Windows Media Audio anymore?


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  • Does anyone care about Windows Media Audio anymore?

    I have a little 512MB SanDisk player I take with me on trips, and one of the things I like about it is you can drag WAV files into it and it will convert them to WMA automatically. I also have an ancient (circa 2005) Creative Labs Zen player that refuses to die, and it too can use WMA (or MP3).

    I've always thought WMA sounded better than either MP3 or AAC for a given bit rate, but it seems that WMA is pretty much going the way of ATRAC and other data compression schemes that never quite hit the mainstream. Does anyone here use WMA for anything...ever?

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  • #2

    I completely agree with you on the sound quality issue. I have 2 libraries for music I utilize on my PC. One is all MP3 and the other is WMA. Same files, all the music I own I rip/save to both these formats. The WMA's are what I put on the speakers and in my headphones though. Will the format vanish? Probably. Desktop PC's probably will as well. But I'm determined to keep mine alive...



    • #3

      Every once in a while I run intoo a WMA file on the WWW, but I don't think I've ever created one. In general a WMA-compressed file sounds better than than an MP3-compressed one of equivalent size, but because WMA is at least somewhat proprietary, MP3 won the battle. 

      Remember that the reason why we have compressed audio files at all was initially because of how little memory the early players had. And the reason why MP3 got a bad rap among people who care about sound is that rather than load fewer songs at a less agressive compression ratio on to their players, users embraced higher compression ratios so they could fit more songs on to their players.

      I have a cheap nameless MP3 player that has 2GB of memory. I use 128 mbps MP3 compression and load it up with 15 hours or so of (musical) radio programs that I listen to when I'm flying or driving. Under those listening circumstances, who needs anything better? But this is all disposable programming. I delete what I've listened to and replace it with newly recorded programs for the next trip.

      They tell me that bandwidth and memory are both cheap today so there's not such a clamor for extreme compression. FLAC seems to be gaining some traction and it's really lossless.

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      • #4

        Medai... is that across from Dubai?  grin 


        Like others, I felt like WMA's sounded better at the sub-200 kbps  'typical rates' of a few years back than either mp3s or the handful of AAC's I came across back then. The first subscription service I used used 160 kbps WMA streams and I thought at the time they sounded surprisingly good, for the most part.

        (To be honest, I thought 128 kbps files produced by LAME on its slower settings produced better sounding 128's than the AAC's I came across. Up above 200 or so, though, things seemed to even out. But some have long claimed they felt AAC's were superior sounding. Of course, judging perceptual encoding algo's is truly subjective, so, one man's better sounding is another's you say what?)

        But the problem with both WMA's and AAC's was... you know... they weren't mp3s. It's a lingua franca... a common denominator that almost everyone had access to.

        Of course, just like WMA and AAC, Mp3 is a proprietary format -- administered by the  bad boys at MPEG-LA. But it's been clouded by confused and confusing licensing that originally was designed to allow end users to replay mp3s but reserved the right to extract mandatory licensing fees on every file encoded with it and/or impose other licensing restrictions on content creation software using the codec.

        That cloud never broke out into a storm, but the threat cause the Open Source community to develop a nonproprietary format, Ogg, just as the moves by Apple, Microsoft, and others to use their joint proprietary grip on the H.264 video format to squeeze smaller content producers and borwser makers and try to establish ever-greater control over internet media similiarly pushed Google to buy the VP8 vid compression technology and make it available it to the Open Source community as an alternative to MPEG-LA controlled proprietary formats. (And that was even though Google is actually a member of MPEG-LA.)

        I can't remember when the last time I ripped one of my albums into WMA was. But, for sure, by the time I got my first smart phone (a BB) something like 5 years ago, I'd centered on ripping to first 192kbps, then 256, and now 320. Mind you, I have to really work at it to somewhat consistently differentiate [to stat sig] a well made 256 from a 320 in true ABX testing and it's a hairline thing, I doubt I could tell in most cases but this was a track I often use for testing and I focused on one single high hat and its tail. When I moved up to comparing 320 and full b/w, I wasn't able to tell in ABX testing. My ears are old and worn but moderately well-trained, I guess.  wink.gif 


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        • #5

          I'll be honest.

           I have noticed that WMA's sound good.

          But being as most of the ones I have encountered were music that I was supposed to be 

          using in Final Cut Pro, and WMA is neither usable in FCP nor convertable through QuickTime Pro,

          it has always just represented a PITA to me, so good or not I am biased against.

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          • RoadRanger
            RoadRanger commented
            Editing a comment

            At one point about the only things that didn't support wma were Apple products. It was becoming as universal as mp3. Unfortunately the domination of the iPhone/iPod single handedly killed off wma. Really sux because my new DL1608 mixer is iPad based and most of my library is in wma format and needs to be re-ripped .

          • Anderton
            Anderton commented
            Editing a comment

            jimash wrote:

            I'll be honest.

             I have noticed that WMA's sound good.

            But being as most of the ones I have encountered were music that I was supposed to be 

            using in Final Cut Pro, and WMA is neither usable in FCP nor convertable through QuickTime Pro,

            it has always just represented a PITA to me, so good or not I am biased against.

            And that's why MP3 persevered. I guess the bigger question is why Ogg Vorbis did not - it's license-free and sounds fine. I think it was the name...people didn't know what the hell it was. I always thought it was a character in The Hobbit.

        • #6

          All the tunes I've ripped to hard drives are in WMA lossless.  It's up to about 650 gigs now.  And that's still my default for ripping. But I don't buy many CDs anymore, so it's a somewhat static collection.  Maybe a half dozen a year nowadays, jazz and classical and ambient.  Pop and rock and alt and electric stuff I just stream or buy a download.  

          When I want to reload the iPod with a fresh batch of tunes, I just drag and drop the WMAs into the iPod device and iTunes converts them to mp3s without discarding or overwriting the original WMAs.  Yeah, it's slow but all I have to do is walk away and let it percolate.


          But one little iPod nano is the only Apple product I own and it's a hand-me-down from one of my kids who got it free with an iMac purchase.  So I'm not exactly in the ipod/ipad/iphone community.   A dying breed no question.  


          nat whilk ii




          • philbo
            philbo commented
            Editing a comment

            I don't use WM(anything) since I tried to watch a WMV video on the web one day inside a browser window, and it auto-downloaded a new codec that contained a virus.  Maybe audio won't do this, but I'm not taking any chances.   I don't trust the format, and won't ever use it again.

            It seems a really poorly thought out idea -- download executable code without the owners permission.  Typical Microsoft arrogance, I guess.

            So, for me, it's MP3 320K VBR or WAV.   I don't have time to fight with this garbage, life is too short.