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Ogg Vorbis - The Free Alternative To MP3 315

Posted by emmett
from the blinded-me-with-science dept.
The fight to keep standards Open and Free is raging in the audio compression business. With mp3 tearing up bandwidth and the court system, Christopher Montgomery and the rest of the Ogg Vorbis team are working hard to ensure that the mp3 format has a Free alternative in their system, which seems to outperform mp3 everywhere it counts. I got the opportunity to pull Chris away from development just long enough to tell us exactly what's going on, and to answer some questions about the process and the product necessary to take on mp3.

Christopher Montgomery:

Vorbis is a hybrid time/frequency transform coder like mp3, but the similarity really ends there; it's more similar to TwinVQ in some ways (many shared mechanisms, albeit used somewhat differently).

Like mp3 (and virtually every other useful transform coder), we first look for strong changes and natural breaks in the input audio, and can use this information to break up the incoming audio into different sized blocks. When you lose information in the frequency domain, the resulting noise spreads throughout the time domain. A very strong spike in time will get smoothed out by frequency quantization, so the larger the block, the more audible it is. You want to isolate these strong, sharp events in smaller blocks.

Past this point, the similarities with mp3 end. Vorbis can do a time-domain pre-encoding using wavelets to further reduce spreading of time events and non-tone data. The current libvorbis doesn't have the code to do this yet, but the hooks are there for when we do finish this code (this feature will be post 1.0. Wavelets are still something novel that no one else is using in serious production yet, and we need to do more real R&D before it's ready).

Vorbis takes the time data directly to the frequency domain with an MDCT, where mp3 first subbands the data. The polyphase pseudo-QMF filter that mp3 uses for subbanding is not completely orthogonal; no matter how good the implementation, there will always be some aliasing. For this reason, Vorbis dispenses with subbanding altogether and just uses a large MDCT.

Vorbis then computes line-by-line masking curves for local peaks, long-distance simultaneous tone masking, simultaneous noise masking and temporal masking. These curves are use to separate inaudible tones from audible tones, and then choose a frequency domain amplitude curve that represents the 'base energy' of that audio frame. The base energy curve (I call it a floor) is subtracted from the MDCT data (like a whitening filter), which produces 'frequency residue'. The floor is converted to an LSP (line spectral pair) representation and then it and the MDCT residue are vector quantized into the final output codewords by a cascade of custom VQ codebooks that are packed along in the header of the bitstream. The result is one vorbis audio packet.

The audio packet is them embedded into an Ogg bitstream page and the page (when full of packets) is shipped out in the stream.

The decode side does the reverse, but without all the masking analysis. We extract the string of packets from the Ogg bitstream, and for each packet unpack the floor and residue, take the dot product and then do an inverse MDCT to recover the time-audio frame. Each frame is lapped and added to the previous frames and we get the original audio out.

Very simple, see? :-) To be fair, the masking analysis is the only real black magic. What I'm doing is almost entirely based on the masking curve data published in the late 50's by Robert Ehmer.

One thing the current release of Vorbis does not have is channel coupling (like mid-side stereo, although we'll be doing it differently). Beta 1 and beta 2 actually include multiple totally separate channels. The fact that we equal and better mp3's quality missing this huge piece is exciting. Mid/side stereo in mp3 drops the final bitrate of a stereo stream by 30-50kbps. To get a real comparison of Vorbis vs. mp3, compare mono streams or force the mp3 encoder not to use joint/intensity stereo (eg, -m m in LAME 3.84). Vorbis at 56kbps mono beats mp3 at 80kbps. At equal bitrate there's no comparison at all.

Slashdot:For those just tuning in, what's the project all about, and how did it get started?

The Vorbis codec is a lossy audio compression codec similar to mp3, but we're shooting for better performance (lower bitrates for a given level of quality) as well as keeping it totally Free as in Beer and Speech. I started work on Vorbis a week or two after Fraunhofer sent out 'cease and desist' letters to several free mp3 encoder projects in the fall of '98. At that point, it was clear the worst case was happening; the squeeze was on by commercial entities to not only dominate the legal distribution of music, but the underlying technology as well. A 'free license' to owned technology means nothing (and that's why Real and Windows Media are also worthless as infrastructure to us).

Fraunhofer (and MPEG in general) and the RIAA are also a bit too friendly behind the scenes, if not entirely in bed together. If you really believe SDMI is about protecting the artists, well, I have some wonderful Oklahoma beachfront property for sale at prices that are a steal, but you'd better act fast!

It's ironic that at the same time mp3 has been an agent to open up music distribution, it's becoming a tool for commercial interests to reclaim control. If online music is to fulfill its potential, an oligarchy can't be allowed to control its distribution or the technology behind it. The Internet would not have reached critical mass if it was a product of Microsoft or AOL or Oracle... It wouldn't ever have happened. Corporate control of every facet of online music will just strangle it in the cradle. The inventors of the Internet 'gave it away,' and that's been a great thing for business. However, the important lesson here is that the foundations were set in stone and wrought from iron before any company had self-interested influence. TCP/IP (brought to you by research laboratories) is elegant and farsighted; it's taken thirty years for it to begin wearing thin. E-mail is similarly brought to you from academia. HTML, on the other hand, (as ultimately brought to you by Netscape and Microsoft) makes good engineers weep and gnash their teeth.

We need to have unbreakable free music foundations in place before letting the commercial interests have their way with the infrastructure. I wouldn't rely on any infrastructure they build themselves.

Ogg and Vorbis are trying to continue the principles for which we in the open world see mp3 standing.

Slashdot: What are you working on right now?

Vorbis second beta. General quality improvements, additional bitrate modes in the encoder (96-350kbps stereo, mono modes), bugfixes, etc. After beta 2 (look for on Tuesday at about the time LinuxWorld Expo in San Jose opens), we have low bitrate modes to finish, channel coupling (joint stereo and joint surround) and constant bitrate modes (Vorbis by default is VBR).

Others in the project are working on tools... Mike Smith, Kenneth Arnold and others are knee deep in utils, Jack and Chad of Icecast are adding Ogg streaming to Icecast, Ralph Giles and Rob Kaye are working on stream mixing, metadata streams (Ralph is also hacking on MNG over Ogg). Kim, Tori and Emily at iCast are writing documentation...

The project has also outgrown our group. There are now Vorbis news sites (like govorbis.com and vorbiszone.com), an all-vorbis music label (vorbisonic.com) and other vorbis related sites poppin up. angrycoffee.com is working on Vorbis tutorials for beginners.

Within the core team, we need to get more people who are up on signal processing aspects like in the community around LAME.

Slashdot: Is this your full-time thing?

Yes. Ogg and Vorbis development are sponsored by iCast and they're also deploying it internally. In addition to paying salaries, they're pitching it to the industry and providing legal assistance.

Slashdot: Xiphophorus is a collection of people, projects and tools. What's going on with the collective?

Vorbis is a 'serious' project now, so we're expensing the massive espresso consumption ;-) The few of us who are now getting paid to do this can afford to be extremely intense about it. Other contributors still come and go. Right now, we're all pretty much focused on Ogg Vorbis; I have to apologize to all the cdparanoia users out there. I'll be working on it again in the future, but right now I only have so many cycles.

Ogg and Vorbis are currently getting more outside attention than we can really gracefully handle (well, handle and still get work done at the rate we're used to, which was still always slower than we want ;-) Apparently someone on some list claimed 'Vorbis was dead' because we hadn't updated the Web site in a month. Ha! If we were 'dead' we'd have plenty of time to write HTML :-) And answer mail. Anyone who sent me personally mail in the past month and a half, I'll answer it eventually, I promise...

Slashdot: Are you out to replace mp3 as the sound format of choice? If not, why not, and if so, what are the challenges?

We're out to keep things Free (capital F intentional). If MPEG turned around and made the mp3 spec and patents public domain, we'd definitely declare victory (and then continue coding to improve Vorbis). But we all know that isn't going to happen. More likely, if Fraunhofer decides we're a threat, they'll just delay licensing (remember kids: free licenses to binaries aren't worth jack) until the competition dies down. Then they'll squeeze again.

Honestly, I don't think we're going to 100% replace mp3 (people still use RAR for Christ's sake). I lay better than even odds on us eclipsing mp3 in the next year if the licensing picture stays the same. We also intend to have 80-96 kbps stereo streams that sound better than mp3 128 by that point, so people (and businesses) won't exactly have to give anything up to save money. Also expect hardware support soon, possibly by end of year if things go smoothly.

Slashdot: You talk a lot on your Web site about Open software. Which came first, the desire to deliver multimedia, or the drive to develop it openly?

My real hacking skills germinated at the MIT Lab for Computer Science. I'd coded practically all my life before getting to MIT, but I'd always been the best coder I knew, so I hadn't really learned much. When I got to MIT, I didn't feel stupid but it drove home that I had a lot of catching up to do. Most of my mentors were from the previous generation (all open source people) but a few of the very hardcore people were younger than me, too.

I've been a musician all my life too, albeit not a very good one (I feel a bit like Soliari in Amadeus) and Ogg was born in '93 when I bought a 1 Gig hard drive and a sound card and thought 'this is unlimited space! I can put music on this! And do things with it!'. I quickly found out that a Gig wasn't unlimited by a long shot, not even in '93 (I filled it with mail eventually), so I started muddling with compression. Greg Hudson made an offhand remark about there not being any good, free, music compression libs at the time, and Squish was born. I got a letter from a lawyer a few months later politely informing me that 'Squish' was a registered trademark and if I didn't change the name of my software, I could forget ever owning anything in the Western World ever again. Mike Whitson renamed the codec 'OggSquish'. The Ogg project was born. Oh, and we plan to release an updated Squish codec again sometime in the next year.

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Ogg Vorbis - The Free Alternative To MP3

Comments Filter:
  • by ThePixel (47166) on Monday August 14, 2000 @04:06AM (#857256) Homepage
    does anyone actually think that with the current popularity of MP3s that anything else will take over? unti something much better comes along, MP3 will, IMHO, be the standard.
  • OK, the Motion Picture Experts Group, a non-commercial cooperation of engineers specialising in the field of audio and video compression spend a decade scribbling away and coming up with audio layer one, tweaking it to audio layer two (.mp2) and again tweaking it to audio leyer three (.mp3). If they are experts, why didn't they come up with the same algorithms as these smart eggs, or should that be smart oggs? (possible reason - movie audio differs dynamically from music audio, so the different techniques exploit these differences?) FatPhil
  • by generic-man (33649) on Monday August 14, 2000 @04:16AM (#857261) Homepage Journal
    I remember hearing all this praise a couple of years ago about VQF files -- all the quality of MP3 files, in much less space. (Or something like that.) Without mainstream support, VQF files quietly went unnoticed. Microsoft now promotes its Windows Media codecs, which deliver very good performance in a very compact file, but suffer from the obvious platform dependence issues. Where does Vorbis stand in all of this? Right now, it looks like just another good idea that will be defeated by good marketing.
  • I don't think it will take that much to win of it really is better. In my (limited) experience .ogg files at highest bitrate sound about as good as their mp3 counterparts, but are about 80-95% the filesize. It might not sound like much of a saving, but some mp3s are quite big and once the 56kbps napster kidz realise they can save money on their phone bills you have crossed the first hurdle.

    The only other thing is playing and encoding them.
    Thats no big deal though. Anyone can get a one-off winamp plugin download without a problem.

    I think the take up might be slow initially, but once we reach critical mass, watch ogg take over the lossy compressed-audio throne. (_if_ that is, it's really better than mp3 as some of us believe it is)

    btw, I think any comparison of mp3 vs ogg to gif vs png is flawed. Think about it.
  • by segmond (34052)
    I would expect slashdot to provide URL to informations readily available on the web, it is common pratice today. More information is available from http://www.vorbis.com/

  • by raygundan (16760) on Monday August 14, 2000 @04:20AM (#857266) Homepage
    Vorbis sounds awesome!! The one thing I am most interested in, though, is the ability to have a hardware player, similar to the Genica or Pine models, and my trusty Apex DVD player. People aren't using mp3 just on their computers anymore-- it's moving into "real life", and I suspect the format will have a hard time unless there is real, tangible, non-vapor hardware available.

    When we get the first wavelet-enabled version, I would love to see Ars Technica (or somebody else) do an independent technical review of the audio quality vs. mp3 (and maybe vqf, aac, windows media, and whatever else there is...)
  • by markalot (67322) on Monday August 14, 2000 @04:21AM (#857267)
    The last test I did with my ears, vs LAME 3.84, LAME was easily (subjective) better. I encode everything at 160 stereo, and Ogg just didn't sound as good at the maximum bitrate available.

    The LAME team takes extra care in analyzing the output and comparing it the FhG encoder and the previous version of LAME (just in case something broke). How does the Ogg team compare results? Is it with listening tests?

    -mark
  • Fraunhofer (and MPEG in general) and the RIAA are also a bit too friendly behind the scenes, if not entirely in bed together.

    There's been no real reason to think that MP3 will be "controlled" by the dark forces of the RIAA. MP3 is VHS, Ogg is Beta (a bit better - but is it worth the switch?), and the only way that it is going to catch on is through scaring people away from MP3. The RIAA is the best bogeyman to come along, so it's no surprise that they're used; and Fraunhofer - well, Germans always scare people, don't they?
  • oh, this is all fine and dandy news on a technical front, but what will this file format come to be known as? How will real people in the real world deal with such a cumbersome name?

    will they be .vog files? .vo files? will we say V.O.G. or vog or V.O. or voh? .orb? .vorb? maybe we can all wait for the 5th rev, and call them vo5 files! (refers to a brand of shampoo here in the US)

    The word 'emmpeethree' has a certain flow, a rythym that satisfies. I think it is an important element to the continued success of the mp3 format. The histroy of the mp3 format shows the success is due to being in the right place at the right time, but now that we have an easy, universally understood 'name' to use in mp3, Vog Orbis has its work cut out for it. There'll have to be a catchy abbreviation or truncation before this will move forward.

    :)Fudboy
  • by thogard (43403) on Monday August 14, 2000 @04:23AM (#857274) Homepage
    What is being done to help with syncing issues? As multi-media gets more widespread, its going to be very useful to have the sound playback systems independent from the graphics but with a losely controled sync signals. One feature that seems to be missing is to be able to say "play the audio frame 3433 to start in exactly 2.1 seconds". Fixed bitrates make that easy but VBR gets to be a real mess unless there is extra info in the audio data.
  • If there's a Windows version, it should do well ..

    I hate to say it, but there it is.

    Your Working Boy,
  • by acb (2797) on Monday August 14, 2000 @04:26AM (#857277) Homepage
    Remember, Fraunhofer owns the MP3 patents. They can set any licensing terms. They could, for example, do what RSA did with theyr crypto systems, licensing only one controlled implementation for general use, and go after anyone disseminating unlicensed encoders/decoders.
    (Sure, you'll be able to find them on the Net, but if RedHat can't legally put them on their CDs, they're in the same twilight zone as arcade ROMs.)
    As there is a single point of control for MP3, the RIAA could easily pay Fraunhofer a few billion (or even buy them outright through a front company), and get open MP3 pulled, forcing everybody to upgrade to encrypted SDMI formats.

    Owning the patents for a technology you wish to bury can be very powerful. When Macrovision developed the copy protection mechanism embedded in all DVD players, they also created and patented a device for removing the protection. This enables them to sue anyone attempting to sell such a device or distribute the details of constructing one. (Not that it eliminates said information, but it drives it sufficiently underground to keep the ordinary people from seeing it.)

    Once Fraunhofer start getting heavy with MP3 licensing, the penguinhead army will adopt Vorbis in a flash, and hopefully so will Windows-using music fans. Then the battle lines shift to hardware players.
  • by Shimrod (107031) on Monday August 14, 2000 @04:27AM (#857278) Homepage
    is NOT to replace mp3. With the current widespread use of mp3's, I think new codecs stand very little chance of replacing mp3 quickly and completely. The smart way to go about it, is to slowly shift your codec into the market. In this case, I would try to get Ogg-support in WinAmp and the like, and facilitate Ogg-trading on napster and it's peers. If people can transparantly mix their mp3's and oggs, you will get to a point where people are saying:
    "Hey, this piece of music is available in both mp3 and ogg format, but oggs are a lot smaller, so I think I'll download that one."
  • VQF is superior in many ways to mp3, even the encoder will let you encode live streams on the fly (with a fast cpu). Sound quality is much better and files are 30% smaller. How many vqf files have you come across?
  • OggVorbis isn't a player, it's a Codec. You can use the code to create tools & player plugins though. Plugins are available for XMMS and WinAMP last time i looked, a command line encoder is part of the tarball.
  • by ebbv (34786) on Monday August 14, 2000 @04:35AM (#857287) Homepage

    as for me, i plan on investigating it more as soon as i get home today. it sounds (of course) great, we'll see how it /sounds/..

    still, just like mp3, it won't be a replacement for CDs.. i haven't downloaded an mp3 in months, actually. i can't play them in my car, and why would i want to? CDs sound better. sure, there's the hassle of switching CDs, but really, with a nice sized disc-changer, that's just a once-a-month switch.

    at one time i had 13gigs of mp3s available on my machine. that was over a year ago. right now i have none.

    it's useful, but only for songs you don't really care about, you have an urge to hear them, download it, listen to it, and you're done. maybe check out a new album. but songs you care about, ones you want in a collection (i hope i'm speaking for more than myself here), are worth having on CD.
    ...dave
  • There's some validity to this point, but at the same time Word Perfect was pretty sure that they were "too embedded into society" to be dethroned as well.
  • by raygundan (16760) on Monday August 14, 2000 @04:35AM (#857289) Homepage
    Yeah... vqf got screwed because the standard was closed. It made small files, but the encoder was slow and sucked big-time, and for years, there was no way to skip around in the track. Even now, fast-forward is implemented (apparently) by muting the sound and playing the track as fast as the CPU can handle, and rewinding is done by muting the sound, starting at the beginning of the track, and applying the fast-forward algorithm until you reach the point you want to rewind to. This sort of horrible support will be avoided by Vorbis simply because it will be open. People couldn't write their own stuff to work with vqf, and so the format went to hell in a handbasket. Even if Vorbis doesn't catch on, you can *at least* be assured that you will always have a player you can port to your new OS.

    It may not go mainstream, but it will not be defeated like vqf was.

    And if we get hardware players, you can bet I'll be moving all my music to vorbis!
  • They need to release a Codec for Windows Media Player. If they want to get mainstream, they need mainstream sites to publish in their format. And mainstreams sites won't publish in their format unless the mainstream can use it.

    So make a WMP codec. And for that codec, and all of the plugins readily available, make very very good installation instructions, or better yet, automatic installation procedures, so that even the shy-est users can do it.

  • by guran (98325) on Monday August 14, 2000 @04:38AM (#857292)
    Once Fraunhofer start getting heavy with MP3 licensing, the penguinhead army will adopt Vorbis in a flash, and hopefully so will Windows-using music fans. Then the battle lines shift to hardware players.

    Just like we all use use .png instead of .gif today you mean?
    Sorry, I'm in a pessimistic mode today

  • I've got my horse, Bessie. She gets me where I wanna go just fine, why would I wanna buy one of them new-fangled autocarriages?
  • However, the important lesson here is that the foundations were set in stone and wrought from iron before any company had self-interested influence. TCP/IP (brought to you by research laboratories) is elegant and farsighted; it's taken thirty years for it to begin wearing thin. E-mail is similarly brought to you from academia. HTML, on the other hand, (as ultimately brought to you by Netscape and Microsoft) makes good engineers weep and gnash their teeth.

    So, what about Delphi - designed and maintained by a single company for purely commercial interests? It has an elegent design which accepts new features as required, and has been updated over the years to fit new ideas without sacrificing backwards compatability or elegence.

    And then there's C++ - a similar language that, whilst undoubtedly powerful, is maintained by a standards body which means that updating the langauge is a task with a duration measured in years.

    Not all things under corporate control turn out poorly. HTML is not a good example.

  • ...but what will this file format come to be known as?

    They went for the extension .ogg -- vorbis is just one audio component in that stream.

    ---
  • The SGS-Thomson MP3 decoder is really a VLIW DSP with the MP3 decoder in ROM. Early version (perhaps current versions) actually required a firmware patch loaded into RAM before they'd produce good results.

    This DSP is available as a standard supported component, not only as an MP3 decoder. It's therefore quite possible for developers to write a Vorbis decoder for it even without hardware manufacturer support.

    I don't think it's the only low-power DSP available that's capable of this sort of job, so some other semi-custom design is quite possible.
  • by sterno (16320) on Monday August 14, 2000 @04:46AM (#857302) Homepage
    Tapes replaced vinyl and CD's replaced tapes. Why wouldn't this replace MP3? I mean there's no issues of backward compatibility because you don't have to buy extra hardware. I mean if you've got an MP3 player on your computer and a huge library of MP3's what would make you resist getting a player that uses a new format (which will of course still support MP3).

    Furthermore, if this new format prooves to have better quality for lower bitrates then there is an additional incentive to use it. Even if it didn't people don't really have a loyalty to Codecs. People talk about MP3's because that's the only tech out there right now that provides the quality for the space constraints. It could be WAV, or AIFF, or RealAudio for all they care. Since they don't have to buy new hardware to support new codecs it doesn't matter to them.

    ---

  • by mplex (19482) on Monday August 14, 2000 @04:47AM (#857303)

    I went out and bought a minidisc player for about $200. It is a dream since discs are only $1.50 a piece and hold as much as a CD. It supports digital recording and is smaller than almost all mp3 players except maybe that mp3 player in a pen from sony. Anyway, it will save you on flash costs and on long trips, having ALL of your music instead of 32 megs worth is a real plus. Only downside that I have found, realtime recording, but you only record once so it hasn't been a hassle. Check out minidisc.org [minidisc.org] if you are interested. Some players even support text transfer from the computer ect, and it saves so much on media costs.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 14, 2000 @04:47AM (#857305)
    > There's been no real reason to think that MP3 will be "controlled" by the dark forces of the
    > RIAA. MP3 is VHS, Ogg is Beta (a bit better - but is it worth the switch?), and the only way
    > that it is going to catch on is through scaring people away from MP3.

    If you are a musician, and you want to put a recording up on your web site, you owe $15,000 per year according to www.mp3licensing.com.

    That is scary.
  • The big test for Vorbis as a viable codec is its inclusion in mainstream encoders, Musicmatch Jukebox, Audiocatalyst, etc. These mainstream encoders account for most of the mp3s on Napster, billing themselves on speed and ease of use. LAME (the preferred Vorbis encoder), despite being arguably the best MP3 encoder out there, is hardly used by the Napster community because it is slower (and generally more accurate), and harder to use (LAME has the command line; MMJB has skins!).

    The true story here is that the Napster crowd doesn't want a better MP3 than MP3. They don't know or care about "Free" software, and they won't embrace Vorbis unless there's something in it for them. And curiously enough, that has something to do with skinnable apps.

    Does no one else wish to kill Nullsoft for creating this skinning craze? I don't need a skinnable clock, thankyouverymuch.

    --
  • My last experience with VQF was a while ago, but from what I remember, the Yamaha encoder was quite slow and the Winamp Plug-in didn't let you seek through a song. That was enough to turn me away from VQF, and I haven't looked back since; the same probably goes for a lot of other people. VQF needed better player support when it was launched, and so it failed.
  • by FreeUser (11483) on Monday August 14, 2000 @04:52AM (#857311)
    I went out and bought a minidisc player for about $200. It is a dream since discs are only $1.50 a piece and hold as much as a CD.

    Blank CDRs are going for about $0.50 / disk. Using ogg or mp3 format, they hold roughly 10 CDs worth of music on one disk.

    MP3 players which double as CD Players are the perfect solution -- you can burn your own music collection onto CDs and listen to them anywhere. As the original poster correctly points out, we need ogg support on these hardware mp3 players! Fortunately, most are flashable, so upgrading to new, better formats (such as ogg) shouldn't be a problem.
  • There's already an MP4 in existence, as far as I remember it's more of a MIDI on steriods type of file format. It contains a description of how the sound source is meant to sound along with the notes.

    This [mit.edu] is probably a good place to start looking.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    You didn't use the flags to make an appropriate comparison like he mentions in the article, did you? He says they haven't implemented something which will improve the quality a whole lot. Besides, haven't the LAME people said they'll default to OOG in the future?
  • The main reason Beta died (except for use in the video industry) was that it was proprietary. Sony wouldn't let anyone else make a Beta machine. JVC allowed (for a fee, of course) anyone to make a VHS machine. Ya, Sony did finally allow licensees, but by that time it was too late.

    So, you might want to re-write that statment:
    MP3 is Beta, Ogg is VHS.

    The biggest difference is that Beta and VHS came out around the same time and fought it out from the start. MP3 is already established, so it might be hard for Ogg to de-throne it.
  • by Jeffrey Baker (6191) on Monday August 14, 2000 @05:01AM (#857325)
    With the current popularity of ed, does anyone hink that vi can really take over? Even if vi is better, ed is the standard! [gnu.org]
  • by ethereal (13958) on Monday August 14, 2000 @05:05AM (#857331) Journal

    and I expect you to actually make it a link, like this: http://www.vorbis.com/ [vorbis.com]. You shouldn't lambaste /. for being lazy if you are too :)

  • It sounds as though there are some fundamental changes under the hood, but in the end it's just another codec for audio. It might be better, but the previous install base of mp3 will hold it back from becoming mainstream.

    It sounds as though there are some fundamental changes under the hood, but in the end Linux is just another operating system. It might be more secure, but the previous install base of Windows will hold it back from becoming mainstream.

  • Lossy compression is still an active research field, and so the later you design a standard, the more research and experience is available to help improve your product.
    Besides, there are no aclaimed institutions for teaching lossy compression techniques. Thus the only definition for expert is one who has researched or studied the research in the field. So who says the Ogg group aren't experts?
  • by ebbv (34786) on Monday August 14, 2000 @05:14AM (#857344) Homepage
    Blank CDRs are going for about $0.50 / disk. Using ogg or mp3 format, they hold roughly 10 CDs worth of music on one disk

    but this isn't all good, it's a question of quantity vs. quality :P obviously. but i thought it needed to be said... some people don't realize, but if you listen... at least, i can't help but hear the difference. mp3s soudn awful to me.

    MP3 players which double as CD Players are the perfect solution -- you can burn your own music collection onto CDs and listen to them anywhere. As the original poster correctly points out, we need ogg support on these hardware mp3 players! Fortunately, most are flashable, so upgrading to new, better formats (such as ogg) shouldn't be a problem.

    the whole hardware-mp3-player hype is mind boggling to me. i mean, i understand it, as a fad and gadgetry thing, but.. you're basically making a downgrade in your audio system when you go from a CD player to a straight-up mp3 player. the hybrids are the obvious, good, middle-ground.. as long as the price difference is reasonable.

    the hardware fad is so bizarre though,.. there was never this kind of reaction over MOD or S3M ;P
    ...dave
  • by Vakor (8219) on Monday August 14, 2000 @05:14AM (#857345)
    The Vorbis format actually consists of two layers - the low-level vorbis packets, and a sync/framing layer called Ogg (which isn't vorbis-specific).
    Ogg is designed to allow seeking to sample precision, and indeed the current library can do exactly that (the players only seek to a given time, rather than a given sample, but that's a limitation of the players rather than the format). All the info is there, and the library gives you everything you need to use it.

    Ogg also allows for multiplexing of streams (so an (as yet non-existent) ogg video codec could give you one stream, and vorbis give you another, all within the same file, and all with the syncing info you need.
  • Without mainstream support, VQF files quietly went unnoticed.

    The reason that VQF had no mainstream support is that it was closed. No one could make VQF files, and no one could play them. I think it was only available for one or two platforms.

    Vorbis has that particular problem licked, since it's open.


    ---
  • As long as there was parity in features and software support, nobody would care about origin of their music files. FWIW, I would take free music if it came out of my ass. Nobody cares about the format, either. When on uses Windows, there are almost too many options when downloading video: should I download the RealVideo/QuickTime/Windows Media/AVI/MPEG format?

    I think the real question is whether the format will get an appealing name. Ogg Vorbis? It does not sound nearly as good as "MP3", which rhymes with "MTV", and BOTH just happen to mean "music" (less so with the latter). The only cool expression I can think of for OV is "ogg hunt". With Napster, et al that term should not matter.

    To extend on that idea -- should some other format replace MP3, will the world ever completely drop the term? Musicians regularly release new "albums" or "records" without pressing a single platter of vinyl. People still use DSL and ISDN "modems". I think it fair to say that MP3 will be around in some form or another, if only by name, for a long time.
  • by Q-bert][ (21619) on Monday August 14, 2000 @05:19AM (#857353)
    CDex is a cdripper for windows that's GPLed. It comes with Vorbis support in its 1.30 beta2 version. Very nice program I use it when I'm in windows and don't want to reboot to use cdparanoia. It also includes LAME 3.84 as it's default encoder. Currently it's the only program that i've found that makes encoding Vorbis .ogg files easy. CDex Homepage [n3.net], and Source Forge [sourceforge.net].
  • I've been looking at a lot of the posts, and most seem to be wringing their hands over whether or not this will end up outgrowing mp3, complete with obligatory references to the VHS/Beta cliche. The most important thing that can be done to ensure that Ogg Vorbis catches on and eventually dominates is to establish transparent support with the major playback software giants. Getting the codecs prepackaged with pieces like WinAmp and the rest of the herd will ensure that kids will be able to play what they download, and if the quality difference is important to them, they'll eventually make the switch, as it were. Of course, this strategy cannot be executed in a vacuum with the expectation of success. The word needs to be put out through the major mp3 distribution channels that Ogg Vorbis is available, that music in that format is available, and that using that format isn't going to be a hassle at all, as long as you have the latest version of your player of choice. Thoughts?
  • Just like we all use use .png instead of .gif today you mean? Sorry, I'm in a pessimistic mode today

    Hey, PNG did pretty well. The only place I ever see GIFs anymore these days is on the web. Everywhere else, PNG has kicked GIF off the face of the earth. Except for my browser cache, there aren't any GIFs on any of my computers at all.


    ---
  • i can't play them in my car, and why would i want to?

    Sure you can. Just put a PhatNoise system in there! Guaranteed to have the same quality experience as a traditional CD player. Works great BTW :-)
    http://music.zdnet.com/features/phatnois e/ [zdnet.com]
    http://www.phatnoise.com/table.htm [phatnoise.com]

  • Can this be done with minimal, or *no* loss of quality? IOW, can ogg represent the exact same DCT parameters, block sizes, etc, as mp3 does? Because it would just be that bit of icing on the cake if I would wave my wand and have all my mp3's magically become oggs.
    --
  • Pirates! Thieves! Anarchists, the lot of you! These Vorbis project people should be locked up for creating tools for copyright violation! Anyone with a .ogg file on their hard drive is guilty of conspiracy to defraud musicians!
  • I just tried out OGG by encoding an MP3 file from my Moby CD (Porcelain). MP3 was sized at 5.64mb @ 192kb/s and the OGG file was a nice 3.64mb. I saved 2mb there! Encoding from MP3 to OGG took about 2min on my Athlon Thunderbird 700 @ 950 For arguments sake lets say that encoding to OGG saves 2mb per file then I will save about 300mb! (150 files x2)

    As for sound quality I noticed no difference between 192kb/s from the MP3 format to the 119kb/s from the OGG format.

    I feel that we have a winner here and it will just be a little longer before that OGG will be dominant over MP3 if not its equal. I just hope they get the support they need.

    OT: I did find a small and annoying bug in the plugin player. When you are playing an OGG file and try to peruse the playlist it will always bring you back to the song that is playing. You'll have to stop the track to cycle through the other songs, no biggie though.

    Just in case you are wondering where the downloads are, http://www.vorbis.com/download.html [vorbis.com]

  • My quality point for MP3 is about 192 (LAME, VBR). Xing I can always tell.

    That said, Ogg Vorbis seems to deliver the same 'I can't tell' thoughts at 160. Even at 128, it's rather hard for me to tell, sounding better than a 160 LAME mp3. I was using a older version, and there was a bit of cross-channel noise they have since ironed out preventing me from saying 'Gee, looks like I need to reencode those backup tapes of .wav files to Ogg Vorbis at 128!!'
  • Ow ow ow!

    That's my usual reaction whenever anyone suggests anything like this. You DO NOT convert from one lossy format to another. You don't even want to reencode something in the same lossy format. Both are BAD. I'm not going to talk about how much you'd lose doing this conversion (though I could) because you SHOULDN'T EVEN THINK OF DOING IT.

    Ugh. Glad I got that out of my system. Remember: reencoding in lossy formats is always a bad idea, no matter what.
  • ... isn't just that it's already roughly as good as MP3 on quality and better on compression, but that it can continue to be developed freely until it's much, much better in the future.

    Much has been made of the fact that it's free of the MP3 patent problems, but it gains in another way as well: freedom from the inertia and politics of standards committees, and freedom to depart from a single key idea or solution (MP3 is inherently a straightjacket). This pretty much guarantees that its development will proceed at a much faster pace than multi-corporate commercial developments in the same area, as long as its main proponents don't abandon it for a few years.

    With that proviso, it seems to me that these inherent advantages put it in a very strong position similar to that of open-source operating systems versus their closed counterparts.
  • Download [vorbis.com] one of the converters and see. Available for Win32, Linux, and BeOS.
  • The big test for Vorbis as a viable codec is its inclusion in mainstream encoders, Musicmatch Jukebox, Audiocatalyst, etc. These mainstream encoders account for most of the mp3s on Napster, billing themselves on speed and ease of use. LAME (the preferred Vorbis encoder), despite being arguably the best MP3 encoder out there, is hardly used by the Napster community because it is slower (and generally more accurate), and harder to use (LAME has the command line; MMJB has skins!).

    I wouldn't say that. Asking around, it seems like most of the heavy Windows MP3 makers on Napster have moved over to Albert Farber's open-source CDex [n3.net], which does a better, more reliable job of extraction than the other rippers and uses the LAME encoder in a graphical interface.

  • The two main reasons that come to mind are:

    • Patent controls - the algorithms used by Vorbis are not patented and were therefor never researched commercially.
    • CPU requirements - the Vorbis algorithms were considered too computationally expensive at the time MP3 was created for companies to use.

    Either of these arguments could have equally well have been applied to Elliptical Curve Cryptography when compared with the RSA algorithm, and ECC is only now being 'discovered' again long after its initial description.


  • Not always...look how DivX came and conquered. If you create something that's just plane better then the rest, sometime the support for it comes crushing in....
  • Yes, but though its unethical (especially to the Constitution framer's original concept behind granting patents), having a patent (and thus, publishing the details on how to make something) does grant them the right to license that technology at a fee.

    Anybody who does the work without securing a license is in violation.

    And if they refuse to license anybody, then every "clone" of the product is illegal.

  • If you read the article, he says that they have not yet implemented optimization based on the similarities between the left and right channels on a stereo recording. Thus, the only way to compare the results at equivalent bitrates is to use a mono stream, on which the stereo optimizations can't be done. I never heard of the Vorbis project before this morning, but their claim is that they will do better than mp3 eventually, not that they are there for general purpose just yet. But if you have any mono spoken voice streams to encode, Vorbis away!

    Walt
  • No... even if it sounded 10x better than an MP3, it'd still be absolutely pointless to convert an MP3, an already degraded sound, into another format.

    Looking at the computer world as it is right now, the only way that it could really hope to catch on is if it was integrated into WinAmp, QuickTime, and Windows Media Player for starters, so that people could just merge this new format into their current collections...

    I can't tell by the interview if that'll be possible though. Is it GPLed, or under a more BSDish type license that'll actually encourage people to integrate it into their products?
  • While it sounds like Mr. Montgomery has a great grasp of the technical aspects of his effort, I'd have liked the interviewer to ask some questions about the project's strategy for getting the eventual product adopted at large. The scenario that comes to my mind is the GIF format. Unisys started enforcing its patents to this technology in 1994, requiring developers to pay a fee to use the GIF format [redundant usage I know, but it seems to read better]. There was widespread grumbling and talk of revolt, but here we are, six years later, still using it while its anointed successor, PNG, languishes. The reason is all of the legacy code out there that must be accomodated. MP3 has gained such a foothold that any tool is going to have to support it. That being the case, the 'good enough' mindset takes over, and it becomes much harder to displace a technology that's already doing an adequate job. If there's a battle-plan to get VQL adopted, I'd like to hear what it is. I might even help :-)
  • I don't know much about patent law, but can't the courts force a patent holder to license something if the patent holder, by not licensing it, is harming the growth of a market or otherwise stifling progress? I recall a judge in one of the DVD flaps at some point saying something about forcing the DVD-CCA to grant licenses so competeing players can be built. I thought limiting licenses or charging outrageous licenese fees was illegal? Yes? No?

    -Vercingetorix
  • MP4 blows MP3 out of the water, in terms of quality, and although it's not "mainstream" yet, it looks set to be the cross-industry standard for all forms of sound, as there are seperate encoding methods optimised for different types of sound input.

    VQF is also superior to MP3 (which is, frankly, the worst lossy sound format currently out there), some of which went into the making of MP4. It has free (as in beer) encoders and decoders for Windows (and has had, for some time).

    Up against opponents like this, Ogg Vorbis is going to have to pull some amazing rabbits out of the hat, if it's going to be seen as a serious alternative.

    Now, I'm not saying that's impossible, or even unlikely - the (truly) Free software world has the benefits of strength in numbers, strength in minds, strength in flexibility, and no paymaster to kow-tow to, every five minutes.

    What I -am- saying, though, is that Ogg Vorbis isn't going to achieve anything remotely considerable as success if it's chiefly being compared against a dead & decaying standard, that is only staying upright by the sheer will-power of a few million zombie high-priests.

    IMHO, Ogg Vorbis has to (at least) match, if not surpass MP4, in EVERY respect, if it's to be a genuine contender in the War of the Formats.

  • Ogg might have the opposite effect of keeping MP3 alive : by ensuring there's a sensible alternative to MP3 waiting in the wings, Fraunhofer will be unable to assert heavy control. Therefore MP3 fees will not grow, and MP3 will stay.

  • Funny, but you're missing the point. When the automobile started to replace horses, it wasn't the case that horses were getting signifigantly better and easier to manage every day. These days, as storage (both volatile and non) prices continue to drop, the question becomes not whether Ogg Vorbis is better than MP3s, but whether its better enough to make lots of people really care about it. If, as another poster suggests, I can get similar results with at 128 with Ogg Vorbis as I can at 192 with MP3, who cares if I'm not sample-rate limited?
  • by generic-man (33649) on Monday August 14, 2000 @06:12AM (#857404) Homepage Journal
    I'm running Winamp on a Windows NT machine (PIII-550) and I've noticed a significant increase in CPU utilization when playing OGG files. MP3 playing tends to run the CPU load to 1-2%, but I get around 10% or more when playing OGG files. It takes about half a second to start playing a file -- not terrible, but still a noticeable lag.

    Also, I'm listening to Trio's quintessential "Da Da Da" song, which the encoder actually made _larger_ in OGG format. Quality's decent, but you have to wonder what causes some files to become larger. Most of the files I've encoded get smaller -- around 60-80% of the original size.
    • The .gz format was created because free software couldn't get a Unisys patent license for the LZW algorithm at the core of the .Z format and because Phil Katz's deflation algorithm.
    • The .ogg format was created because free software couldn't get a Fraunhofer patent license for the MPEG layer 3 algorithm at the core of the .mp3 format and because the xiph.org people had a better algorithm.
    See the similarities?
    <O
    ( \
    XGNOME vs. KDE: the game! [8m.com]
  • I don't know about RAR vs. BZ2, but they're both a lot tighter than ZIP.
    <O
    ( \
    XGNOME vs. KDE: the game! [8m.com]


  • The point here isn't that everyone needs to convert their MP3's to Vorbis. They'll just need to start encoding their music files from CD using the Vorbis codec. The value-add is the quality and size. It's much more believable that the Vorbis codec will gain widespread acceptance as a format whereas with a proprietary format like SMDI, where's the value-add for the consumers? On top of this, the value-add for software publishers is that this is a free codec, so the only cost of adding it to MusicMatch Jukebox or AudioCatalyst is the development. Thanks to competition in the market, I'd bet that the developers will be quick to add this to their encoders so their marketing materials can boast that the product supports the superior Ogg Vorbis format.


    As for hardware support (portables, DVD players), I'd bet the manufacturers like Diamond and Apex are salivating over the widespread embrace of a new format like Ogg Vorbis. There's no way they'd just provide a flash upgrade to enable OV support! To them, a new format is a new hardware purchase. For something like the Empeg [empeg.com], they'd probably be happy to provide a software patch that would bring support for a new format like Ogg Vorbis.



    Seth
  • Or even easier:

    ogglame foo.mp3 foo.ogg

    (ogglame is an encoder/transcoder)

  • Which brings right down to the real issue: there are dozens, if not hundreds of mp3 players out there, on all sorts of operating systems. Replacing those with vorbis enabled players will take years, and all this time mp3 will be the default.

    The best way to get a smooth adoption for this codec is to support as many players as possible (through plugins etc.). In addition, support for encoding software is essential as well. It is dead easy for joe average to convert his cd's to mp3s now. Since he won't understand the difference between vorbis and mp3 anyway, it will be quite a challenge to get him to use it.

    In any case, I can't hear the difference between a 128 kb/s mp3 file and a 196 kb/s mp3. I don't really care about bitrate anyway since I have more harddisk space than I can fill with mp3 right now.
  • Actually, using "modem" with DSL (and possibly ISDN) is actually still accurate as modem means modulation/demodulation and DSL definitly uses modulation of a carrier wave. I'm not so certain about ISDN: I think it's very similar to ethernet in principle, but I imagine calling your 100M nic a modem would still be accurate.

    Bill - aka taniwha
    --

  • Similar things were said about the GIF format before Unisys started sending out all of the letters about "Your website owes us $5,000 in licensing..."

    Frauhopper (sp?) has, as alluded to in the article, already started exercising some of that muscle. The price of freedom is truly eternal vigilance...

    ~Hammy
  • I was thinking that hardware support was key also - and I was wondering since the eMpeg (car mp3 player) had the source availiable, has anyone tried adding Ogg support to it yet?

    ---> Kendall
  • The question is one of control. What happens when Joe Small Band offers mp3's on his site for promo purposes and he get's a letter saying "You owe us $20,000 for use of our compression format." If the implication made about Fudgehopper and the RIAA holds true, this could be used to squeeze the indies and guarantee that music production and distribution stay in the hands of the mega-corporations.

    This is just one scenario of many. The fact that Vorbis is available will keep their actions in check. (Similar to the concept that the existance of Debian keeps the other Linux distros in check.)

    ~Hammy
    "Freedom lost can no longer be defended."
  • by lient (95355) on Monday August 14, 2000 @07:09AM (#857438) Homepage
    Binary is dead. Given the current buzzwordiness of XML, we need a human readable XML based audio format like so.

    <beep>
    <frequency>50hz</frequency>
    </beep>

    <guitar>
    <style>bass</style>
    <note>high C</note>
    </guitar>

    ...

  • One can apply the same statement conversely. An imperfectly encoded piece of music is listenable, but a badly encoded viedo isn't really worth watching. It's all rather relative and subjective. It all depends on the level of imperfections- some people have a higher level of tolerance than others. The point I was trying to make (Which you completely missed, btw...) was that our eyes will pick out imperfections out of an image quicker than your ears will pick out imperfections in an audio stream. (Did you know that for all the "quality" of a CD or DAT, it's still very imperfect (the sound is composed of linear approximations that are performed at 44 and 48kHz respectively)? Most people will not pick out the imperfections in encoding in those media, but they can notice artifacts in an MPEG2 stream from a DVD if they're using a PC monitor or HDTV monitor to view them.)
  • the whole hardware-mp3-player hype is mind boggling to me. i mean, i understand it, as a fad and gadgetry thing, but.. you're basically making a downgrade in your audio system when you go from a CD player to a straight-up mp3 player. the hybrids are the obvious, good, middle-ground.. as long as the price difference is reasonable.

    In the portable market, it's a no-brainer. No moving parts, so no skip, no wear, ever. Music is easily downloaded from napster (you don't think anyone pays for the music on their portable mp3 player?) As for the component system mp3 boxes, I don't see those lasting, no.
  • Either of these arguments could have equally well have been applied to Elliptical Curve Cryptography when compared with the RSA algorithm, and ECC is only now being 'discovered' again long after its initial description.

    Crypto moves forward slowly for another reason too: safety. RSA has been hammered on like mad, we're still not sure that ECC doesn't have some fatal weakness.
  • Tapes replaced vinyl and CD's replaced tapes.

    Sure, but in each case the successor was significantly better. Advances in technology can really be grouped into two categories: speed/performance/convenience and features.

    Tapes replaced vinyl because you could carry tapes around in your back pocket. They didn't dwell on the fact that they were considered to have lesser quality. That advancement was mainly for the form factor.

    And then CDs came out, and tapes were gone. CDs are random access, and have much higher quality. But you could no longer record on them. So new functionality was the motivator for the change in public use.

    Of course, now we're all working in the digital domain, random access, but we have these huge expensive players called computers. Computers are general purpose machines, so they're not tied to a certain format like CD players and turntables.

    So the format matters less than having adaptable players. If we have an abundance of software players for all the major operating systems, and have format upgradeable hardware devices, we'll be set, and will be able to take advantage of the latest digital music format of choice.
    -o
  • So says Handgun Control Inc. And you didn't even get the stat right. The lie they put up is that a gun is 22 times more likely to be used against someone you know. The thing they neglect to tell you is that that includes people you have just met before. The other thing they don't tell you is that most home defense is against people you know. Kinda makes sense, doesn't it?

    Stop swallowing what the media tells you and actually research things yourself.

    --
    alSeen@narnia.net
  • Furrfu. I make a lot of use of compressed digital audio. Why would I stop using one sort of compression that's totally tied up with patents to go and use another sort of compression that's totally tied up with patents? N F W (and that's not "fscking" way, this time). I've been following Ogg Vorbis with great interest despite not being able to find Mac binaries. I mix my own recordings on an analog board and _know_ I can get the most out of Vorbis, and my artist agreement with mp3.com [mp3.com] totally permits me to go make vorbised versions of any or all of my tracks and host them on a vorbis-oriented hosting service. But if they go and get into 'defensive patents' they can go pound sand, I won't help in the slightest.

    Quick clue session: there is no such thing as a defensive patent! A patent is a patent. The notion of a 'defensive' one is the intellectual property equivalent of passive-aggressive behavior. At the end of the day it's just a patent and has inevitably, unavoidably put the control in one person's hands, or one entity's, along with all the tools for abuse. There is NO such thing as a defensive patent. If people's desire to create and share their OWN INTELLECTUAL PRODUCTS is not enough to protect them legally- then we need a revolution of legal expectations, NOT 'defensive patents'. Are we not clear on the fact that the Vorbis people are doing their own work, in public, pointedly avoiding potential legal problems? Just how much credibility do we want to give potential attackers here? I'd rather be ready to scorn the potential attack and wave lots of evidence of prior art, instead. At some point that HAS to be enough. If it's not enough the system is so totally screwed that it's morally and ethically intolerable to cooperate with it in any way at all...

  • by hsidhu (184286) on Monday August 14, 2000 @07:41AM (#857454) Homepage
    http://www.vorbis.com/download.html [vorbis.com] They already have plugins for Winamp, Sonique, and XMMS.
    Also they have ecoders for Linux X86, BEOS and WIN.

    Forget Napster Gnutella already has support for every freaking format there is or any new formats you could ever come up with.
  • Yes, but you'd have to sue them to get the courts to even consider it ($$$), THEN you'd still be responsible for paying for the agreed upon licensing ($$$).

    for most people, its too much ($$$) to deal with.

  • This guy is one-upping what the Fraunhoffer institute did practically single handedly? Guess it goes to show that there is always someone smarter than you...

    "What a waste it is to lose one's mind. Or not to have a mind is being very wasteful. How true that is"

  • Last time I checked "Carpe jugulum" Nanny Ogg & esp. Granny Weatherwax didn't like the priests of Om at all, and Vorbis is definitely the most prominent of them :-)

    Seriously speaking, Vorbis is named after the Pratchett character, but Ogg is not named after Nanny [xiph.org].

    Best regards,

    January

    P.S. Cuius testiculos habes, habeas cardia et cerebellum. :-P

  • I agree with your main point here, but man! This is the one field in which you just _cannot_ overlook MacOS (pre-OSX MacOS). A shockingly high percentage of professional music studios and pro-quality content producers (not soundcard people, people with actual studios) are MacOS based. Why? Because it will do hard realtime applications like digital audio or MIDI sequencing with perfect results on any Mac even vaguely capable of handling the task- digital audio on Nubus powermacs and some 68Ks with Digi boards, MIDI on anything even including the old black and white Mac Pluses and earlier. What happens is you lose the interface- the MIDI or digital audio records/plays perfectly without a bobble and screen redraw or mouse movement gets shaky if there's not enough CPU. No professional would have it any other way- interface responsiveness is _not_ worth a .01 second dropout in a final take in a recording studio billing hundreds of dollars an hour. Macs rule for this- ask the Geeks In Space guys- think of them as a funny sort of embedded system that happens to do a personal computer impression ;)

    So to hell with the 'Dozers, their soundcards won't be producing clean enough recordings to flaunt Vorbis anyways (except for the few mad dozers running kilobuck soundcards, that's different)- if there's anybody capable of doing it, get this stuff deployed on MacOS _pronto_, then do something like make an extension that adds the Vorbis codec to Quicktime. Hell, just whip up a quick and dirty SIOW port for just the CLI tools and have people use that for now- but get it into the hands of the serious professional audio geeks. Heck with the soundcard people! The majority of CONTENT is not generated by CD rippers- I'd say that content was the digital audio, and the ripping is just translating content that already exists. Wouldn't you rather have the artists releasing Vorbis content themselves?

  • There will be no sync issues with Ogg Vorbis. The quality of an N-Sync song is so low that not even Ogg Vorbis can make it sound better. Therefore, n-sync is not supported.

    ----------
    AbiWord [abisource.com]: The BEST opensource word processor
  • by Chris Johnson (580) on Monday August 14, 2000 @08:21AM (#857466) Homepage Journal
    One percent royalty on music downloads? I am making upwards of $400 from mp3.com, the bulk of which is from free downloads (there's an incentive program, a million bucks divvied up among the musicians by mp3.com). That would be four bucks either from me or from mp3.com just for using the format.

    But wait, it gets better! A minimum of one cent per download??? Just how much do they freakin' think I _make_ from the downloads at mp3.com? I don't CHARGE people for those, it's part of the incentive program. As near as I can figure this would be in the thousands of dollars! O_O

    Oh, man, you are right, this _is_ scary. Hopefully I can get paid what I'm currently owed while still remaining 'blissfully ignorant' of this situation. To me, the one cent minimum royalty on each download is the CRUSHER- that is an absolute showstopper. Makes me glad I never invested in an encoder beyond BladeEnc (say what you want, if you have the capacity of pre-emphasising the highs you can get a really smooth full sound out of it that's not over-dull).

    Who knew? I could see a scenario in which mp3.com itself switches to Vorbis- that is, if it is actually possible to levy an mp3-distributing tax of a penny a download. Oy... this is nuts... looks like I have to teach myself C programming just to be able to compile and build Vorbis binaries for my Mac just to be able to operate as a musician... talk about 'not in the job description'! o_O

  • go to www.empeg.com [empeg.com] and see what you think. 36 Gb of mp3 files in a unit that fits in your dashboard like a standard stereo, but it runs Linux and it rocks!
    I zapped all my CD's onto mine, downloaded a couple of ones and put on some of my own band - it is seriously versatile!


    Frog51
  • It's actually codecs for the ACM, Audio Compression Manager, part of Win32.

    And i'm sure someone will make a OggVorbis codec for windows, just as they already have one for winamp.

    -Jon
  • The winamp and napster people could very easily get ogg in there with very little effort. Here's how:

    In napster, add some code to include .ogg files as part of the music collection (and I guess they'd have to do a little to read the files for bitrate, length etc).

    In winamp, add an ogg codec as part of the standard release (I think one already exists as a plugin) and add the file association along with the winamp lightning bold icon. Windows doesn't even show file extensions by default - it'll take some people a while to even know it was there.

    mp3 carries no brand loyalty - this could be very easy indeed.

    "What a waste it is to lose one's mind. Or not to have a mind is being very wasteful. How true that is"

  • They appear to be talking in terms of charging royalties for internet downloads on the order of a minimum one cent per download, as applying to a content provider making their music available through mp3. I don't see that they're acting on this- yet.

    If they start doing so, it's an absolute showstopper. I for one can't afford to share my music freely under those conditions- I'd be owing them hundreds of dollars by now thanks to mp3.com. Currently mp3.com expects to pay _me_ for this- I hope they do before they hear that knock at the door. One cent per download totally screws anybody's intent to promote themselves via free downloads, and also hoses attempts at micropayments for those who are into that. It might not seem like much if you're just downloading a few songs, but if you're hosting and you are doing a good amount of download volume, it will add up real quick- plus the required accounting procedures to keep track of all this.

    I'm ready for Vorbis. mp3 is GIF waiting to happen. Anybody want to earn a few bucks as a conslutant helping me port the Ogg Vorbis stuff to MacOS? I'm not a good enough programmer to do it without help, but I do have a current copy of Codewarrior, and MPW.

  • by Angst Badger (8636) on Monday August 14, 2000 @08:37AM (#857475)
    What are you, high? We here at AmigaRut Industries have been working for friggin' years to bring a hardware MOD player to market! The advantages are obvious -- with such a small file size, you can fit tens of thousands of derivative, unimaginative techno dance tracks on a single CD at a sound quality that approaches a rusty gramophone being played through a walkie-talkie sealed inside of a ziplock bag and submerged in a toilet!

    I guess the lack of press coverage for AmigaRut's products is just another lamentable sign of the media conspiracy against forward-thinking Amiga-friendly companies striving to keep the hype alive for the latest, most bleeding-edge 80's technology.

    Unfortunately, our MOD player has been delayed because we have been working to incorporate not only S3M files, but also the old Apple II faux-stereo PCM files, complete with a codec that faithfully reproduces the wonderful warm, buzzy sound of the Apple II system speaker.

    You're not going to find value like that in any johnny-come-lately MP3 player, bucko!

    --
  • by Don Negro (1069) on Monday August 14, 2000 @08:40AM (#857476)
    It's not about storage, it's about bandwidth.

    Bandwidth *is* increasing, but not at the geometric rate that storage has been (~50x over the last 5 years). Not only that, we've hit the first of the infrastucture bottlenecks with broadband (Quick show of hands - How many of you are getting your Broadband via DSL _through a DSLAM_? Not many, huh? Didn't think so.) If you can't get broadband now, odds are good that you won't have it for at least another year. (18-30 months where I live, a hour from Austin in the I-35 corridor. God help you if you're in the sticks.)

    But that's just last mile stuff. 3 years ago, the combined US backbones (OC-48s at best) could handle ~300,000 simultaneous 16kbps RA streams given the exclusion of all other traffic. It's way larger than that now, but so is the online popluation, and if you want to stream audio and have enough listeners to make it worthwhile, you're gonna need a thin stream and a shitload of bandwidth. In real terms we still don't have the infrastructure. A T-3 will only handle ~2800 16kbps streams, and that's not a lot of listeners for the money. Many novel solutions have been proposed to this dilemma, but you always end up looking at a bandwidth problem at the backbone or the last mile.

    Any technology that reduces the bandwidth required will quickly find a home. If a ogg/vorbis encoded song is 30% smaller, streaming or absolute, it signifigantly changes the economics of the bandwidth equation and lowers the time cost for any user who's not fortunate enough to have broadband.

    Don Negro
  • by Analog (564) on Monday August 14, 2000 @08:46AM (#857479)
    Don't know about TwinVQ, but AAC (I'm assuming that's what you meant) has positively brutal licensing terms.

    Let's look at the situation for mp3...

    If you want to sell a program that decodes mp3's, it'll cost you 50 cents/unit shipped, with a $15,000 annual minimum royalty (if you give it away no licensing fee is necessary). Should you want to ship an encoder, free or not, it'll cost you $2.50/unit if you develop your own software, or $5.00/unit if you use Frauenhofer's, again with a $15,000 annual minimum.

    So, what if you're a musician and you want to sell your music on the net in mp3 format? Hey, it'll only cost you 1% of the price you charge per mp3 (1 cent minimum), again with that pesky $15,000 annual minimum. Such a bargain.

    Now, compare that with an encoder/decoder that costs you exactly $0, and makes better sounding files to boot. The musician makes an extra $15,000/year minimum just for switching formats. Diamond gets to keep another $0.50 per Rio (and this in an industry where they spend millions to whittle a few cents off the per unit price); those selling encoders get to keep an extra $2.50 - $5.00 per unit. Do you really think the Vorbis guys will have a hard time getting people to use their format?

    It may take a while for the finale to come, but I think it's a good bet that mp3 is already the walking dead.

  • Owning the patents for a technology you wish to bury can be very powerful. When Macrovision developed the copy protection mechanism embedded in all DVD players, they also created and patented a device for removing the protection. This enables them to sue anyone attempting to sell such a device or distribute the details of constructing one. (Not that it eliminates said information, but it drives it sufficiently underground to keep the ordinary people from seeing it.)

    Not true. A patent itself distributes the details of constructing the device. Plus one can get patent details on www.patents.ibm.com [ibm.com] and www.uspto.gov [uspto.gov]. It is part of the tradeoff of a patent. Anyone can freely describe how to make it, making the actual invention is what is not allowed. Source code for doing so is a gray area - is it a description or a product or a means for making the product? I'm not a lawyer, so I can't say.

  • But that was only for a size comparison - that is, if you wanted to see how well the compression will stack up against mp3 in the end do an encoding in mono in both formats.

    As far as quality, it's supposed to be pretty good already.

    That said, I plan to do my testing against the beta 2 which another poster stated is improved...
  • by xiphmont (80732) on Monday August 14, 2000 @09:35AM (#857490) Homepage
    A few people either missed points I made in passing (as I don't believe in <blink> or <font face=really-frickin-huge>) or asked made decent points the interview didn't touch. I want to catch a few of them now.

    First, Beta 2 is not out yet!. It'll be on www.vorbis.org and www.vorbis.com in inch high letters when it is :-) We're still shooting for releasing tomorrow.

    "No one will switch to Ogg Vorbis because mp3 is dominant"
    Consumers are not going to switch, the industry is. Both small and large industry players are going to try to avoid mp3 because of the licensing. For a small artist, $15,000 is alot of money. For the big companies, a flat percentage/per track fee is a huge chunk of cash. I stand to save my sponsor, iCast, around eight figures next year and they're not even one of the industry 'heavyweights' (yet ;-)

    ...and when the industry switches, so will the consumer.

    Now, the Slashdot crowd is not the typical herd of consumer sheep, but we're also a drop in the consumer bucket (we have more weight as techies than marketing segments). Ogg Vorbis will achieve market penetration top down because it saves everyone a ton of money and frees business plans from a large, uncontrollable external influence And if *companies* will use Vorbis to eliminate being yanked around (who says mp3 prices aren't going to go up? Remember, FhG reserves the right to set licensing case-by-case; MusicMatch gave away around 20% of their company for a free encoder license), the Right Thing for individuals is even more clear.

    "Ogg Vorbis: Don't sell your Soul (or your equity)"

    "There's been no real reason to think that MP3 will be "controlled" by the dark forces of the RIAA. MP3 is VHS, Ogg is Beta (a bit better - but is it worth the switch?)"
    Actually, this is backwards. Beta died exactly because Sony strangled the format with licensing in order to keep complete control of it. VHS won because of relatively open licensing.

    "I compared LAME 3.84 to Ogg Vorbis and LAME always sounded better."
    First off, you're probably comparing beta 1; there were several analysis bugs that are fixed in CVS and beta 2.

    Secondly, I mentioned although I did not emphasize, that Ogg Vorbis does not currently have channel coupling. If you're comparing Ogg Vorbis to LAME, you're comparing an essentially 'bundled mono' compression [today] to mid/side stereo in mp3. If you tell lame to compress two mono channels (like *current* Ogg Vorbis is), you'll see that you need to hike LAME up to about 192-225kbps to compare to Vorbis 128kbps in non-mid/side stereo. The fact that Vorbis (l/r stereo) still often beats LAME (m/s stereo) is astounding.

    Yeah, it's not fair to say 'we're better than mp3 if you cripple mp3'. The point is that this is the next feature we're implementing and at that point, our bitrate, for a given stereo quality, will drop by about 40% just like in mp3. From Segher, a hardcore mp3 hacker and friend:

    You say m/s stereo reduces the needed bitrate in mp3 by 30-50 kbps. My experience shows me that a 224kbps stereo is about equal to a 128kbps m/s-stereo for most material (i.e., material for which m/s is beneficial). That is about 100kbps.
    (I was being conservative with 30-50kbps)
    "There is no dark conspiracy between the RIAA and MPEG"
    You're right. There's no secret conspiracy. It's all very out in the open. MPEG (FhG especially) is fundamental in developing SDMI, and RIAA-mandated SDMI is an integral part of AAC/MPEG4.

    Courtney Love and others go off on this particular rant much better than I do, so I'll let it go at that ;-)

    "Not all companies are scum and many have acted in technological/public interests."
    Correct, but that is not the case here.

    MPEG is not non-commercial (why do people thing they are?). It is an industry standards consortium. The aim of the RIAA and MPEG is to *make money* and maintain the necessary control to do so. That does not mean that they will act abusively, however the chances of them doing so are greater without any moderating agent.

    Who here remembers the old phone company joke [back when AT&T had a monopoly in the US]: "We don't care; we don't have to. We're the phone company."? Extrapolate and roleplay accordingly. Why do people get up in arms about Echelon controlling/monitoring email when it's perfectly OK for MPEG/RIAA/SDMI to do the same thing?

    "Decode takes up about twice the CPU of mp3"
    Also true for now. Vorbis decode is *not* more complex than mp3, I'm simply a better engineer than I am an optimizer. Decode is bound on the iMDCT and iDRFT transforms I wrote (couldn't find any open source for them at the time) and they're not particularly speedy. Segher, Takehiro from GOGO/LAME and others are looking at making my solid but slow code a little less station-wagon-like :-)

    (BTW, if you're using top to see CPU usage, you're suffering from undersampling inaccuracy. At a minimum, compare mp3 decoders to vorbis decoders using 'time' not 'top' ;-)

    "How will you defend against patents? Why should I believe this 'patent free' claim?"
    IP patents are slowly turning into "watch the USPTO go clinically insane", so there are no guarantees. However, iCAST is footing the bill for an independent patent review of Ogg Vorbis. I'm probably not allowed to make an official statement at this time, but I will say (whether I should or not ;-) That the patent attourneys involved do not believe there are any plausible infringement claims possible against Vorbis.

    We'll have an official statement eventually, but the Wheels of Justice are already grinding much faster than the lawyers involved are used to ;-) I will also say I've been pleasantly surprised at how technically sharp the lawyers we're working with are.

  • You know, converting back and forth between two lossy formats can't be too good for the quality of the music.

    I don't think ogg-to-MP3 will really be necessary, assuming that WinAmp (and XMMS of course) will have plugins for Ogg.

    When I start using Ogg, I'm going to leave my Napster MP3s alone, and just work on re-burning my legal MP3s (surprisingly, about half of my collection) as Oggs from the CDs.
    --
    No more e-mail address game - see my user info. Time for revenge.
  • by MadAhab (40080) <{moc.baha} {ta} {rehsals}> on Monday August 14, 2000 @02:03PM (#857523) Homepage Journal
    In looking over what big media companies are spending to have Real Networks stream their audio, and in looking at what iCast is doing by supporting this, it's a great example of where self-interest can create a public good, especially if it's a smarter self-interest than what others are excercising.

    Streaming is nowhere near economical as is. The existing commercial formats take way too big a bite of a would-be streaming company's budget. To make way for small broadcasters, you need Ogg or something like it.

    Running a company like iCast, you see your margins get shaved to hairs by the likes of Rob Glaser and Bill Gates. But it's not feasible to engineer a new format from scratch and force its adoption on the market. So what do you do?

    Find a smart, dedicated believer in an alternative format, and fund his dream project. In the end, you give away the product, but you also liberate yourself from crushing per-stream licensing and expensive, unstable, coercive OS choices. You give away the milk, and in return, you get the cow. If the standard takes off, they will be able to compete against Real, and iCast's investors will be slapping each other's backs over the best investment they ever made. Just keep the smart guys who made it possible, treat them well, and if the format takes over, you can get all the business for outsourced streaming (and very few companies want to do it themselves) since you are, after all, the source of the streaming server software that powers it.

    That's why you should pay very close attention to the article and parent comment's mentions of hardware players and industry support. These guys have made a very smart play, one I wish I was in a position to make because I saw it coming.

    Boss of nothin. Big deal.
    Son, go get daddy's hard plastic eyes.

  • by akey (29718) on Monday August 14, 2000 @08:52PM (#857549)
    The last test I did with my ears, vs LAME 3.84, LAME was easily (subjective) better. I encode everything at 160 stereo, and Ogg just didn't sound as good at the maximum bitrate available.

    The original Vorbis beta only supported ~128 kpbs VBR, so no matter what command-line flags you passed to LAME, you got the same output for Vorbis. The second beta should actually support more bitrates.

    ---

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