* This is another post about audio formats, in case you've missed the first one, lossless audio.
Last night I've successfully downloaded an album via torrent, now this time there's something interesting as I'm downloading the songs in .m4a format instead of the usual .mp3 or .wma. .M4A is the extension of the MP4 format (full name: MPEG-4 Part 14).
* In this post I'll be referring the MP4 format either as MP4 or M4A, don't get confused!
In the market, many people are confused what is MP4. The misconception here is that MP4 is capable of playing music and video, thus MP4 players were born, the latest sibling of MP3 players which can only play music files only.
MP4 players on the market boasted to be able to play video files as well. I can't remember which party started this trend, maybe is the iPod Video?
From what I observed, not all MP4 players are capable of playing .mp4 or .m4a formats. Due to the misconception as mentioned, they dont understand what MP4 stands for actually.
According to Wikipedia, MP4 format medias are normally stored in either .m4a and .mp4 extensions.
* Audio-only MP4 usually goes by the extension .m4a.
* Audio & Video MP4 took the .mp4 extension.
What's the difference between MP3 and MP4 audio?
The screenshot shows an example.
The M4A file size is slightly larger than the MP3, because the bitrate is slightly higher at 128kbps (not displayed) for M4A compared to MP3's 96kbps.
Sound-quality wise, I found that the M4A sounds better than MP3 format. Usually when comparing 96kbps & 128kbps audio I hardly can spot the difference, maybe slightly, but when comparing the 96kbps MP3 to the 128kbps M4A, oh boy, I love M4A immediately!
I found that the M4A format manage to retain better quality of the sound than those of MP3. Although the difference in bitrate is small (96 vs 128kbps, which usually sounds almost the same), but I can hear the drastic difference between these 2 formats. Surprisingly .M4A sounds so much better than MP3!
I dunno the technology or logic behind it, but it sounds real good to me. Perhaps one of the main reason is the original source.
Source of Music
I got the MP3 from the game's folder itself when installing the game last time. The M4A is ripped from the original album CD (I suppose).
Judging from this, CD audio is definitely superior than the original mp3 found in the game folder, as they needed to shrink the size smaller to keep more files in the folder (RO folder itself takes up 1GB+, and it keeps increasing as more patches are released).
How to Rip .M4A audio?
Windows Media Player can only rip lossless WAV, MP3 and WMA, but Apple iTunes is able to rip CD audio into various formats like the exclusive Apple Lossless, M4A etc.
Attached a pic for reference.
M4A format is encoded by AAC encoder.
This option is accessible through the Preference menu in iTunes, the place where you tweak most of the settings & configs. Anyway, I rarely use iTunes though.
I didn't try to experiment it for myself to rip CD into various audio formats and compare them one by one. That'll be a better comparison, but it takes up some time and resources to do so. I'll try to make one when I'm free~
To end this post, I'd like to share the 2 files I've experimented above, "Purity of Your Smile" in both MP3 & M4A formats for you to compare the formats.
M4A (2.5 MB, 128kbps)
MP3 (1.9 MB, 96kbps)