technical info re: lossy encoding and workflow

Q. Specifically which encoders do you use for the lossy formats and what is your work flow for the remasters?

Encoders:  for mp3's I use the LAME encoder and use the v0 setting (VBR, ~255 kbps), and for AAC I use the Nero AAC encoder and am currently using the -q .53 setting (VBR, ~200 kbps).  I started out as low as 128 kbps in AAC but have gradually raised the bit rate (now closer to 195-200) as I was noticing some audible compression on the files I EQ'd more heavily, mostly the cymbals.  I had never noticed such as issue when coverting other studio music or SBDs, but since I am manipulating the frequency levels it only makes sense that my remasters would be more prone to this issue.

For some of the earliest remasters I used the QuickTime AAC encoder in iTunes (on the 128 CBR setting, before I had realized there was a VBR option in iTunes) because I was burning all the remasters to CD first.  From time to time I still may use QuickTime via iTunes if I burn to CD for whatever reason, but if I do that I will use the VBR setting at 128 kbps (not sure why iTunes does not give you the more accurate and sensitive -q range like Nero does...maybe they're trying to make it easier/simpler for the non-techies?).

FYI - you can verify which encoder and version was used for any of my files if you have an audio player on your computer that can display extended metadata/ID tags.  I know Foobar2000 does this...right-click on the file in the playlist, go to properties, yadda yadda...


Work Flow:

In terms of playback equipment, the audio bypasses my laptop's sound card and goes thru the USB port of my FiiO e7 portable DAC / headphone amp combo, which then drives a pair of Sennheiser HD595 cans (scroll down the PDF for model specific info).  I also have a dock for the FiiO e7 DAC that provides a dedicated line-out which I can hook up to my Onkyo receiver, freeing up the e7 to function solely as a DAC and letting the Onkyo handle the amp duties.  While this allows for much cleaner and truer listening via loudspeakers than merely plugging in my Droid via analog RCA cables (or even my WD TV media player via optical toslink), I still prefer doing my audio analysis and critical listening on headphones.  I feel it gives a better idea of stereo separation and balance, as well as a real sonic immersion into the AUDs.

1. Decode the FLACs or SHNs to WAV.
2. Load the WAVs into Magix Audio Cleaning Lab, which is where the ghetto-fab remaster process takes place (EQ adjustments, preamp boost, stereo field rebalancing, etc). 
3. Export the newly remastered files as FLACs (on setting 8).
4. ID-tag the files and add album art via Mp3Tag.
5. Convert FLACs to mp3 and AAC versions via Foobar.
6. Add album art to mp3 and AAC versions (all of the other ID tags carry over after FLAC>lossy conversion in Foobar, but not the artwork).
7. Add miscellaneous files to each folder: original source text file, screen shot of EQ settings, pre-remaster comparison track, any available photos or memorabilia (posters, stubs) from the show.
8. Zip the folders via 7zip.
9. Upload to MegaUpload.
 
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