Tools > Options > Encoding
These settings specify the type and quality of encoding (compression) employed during the encoding process when ripping CDs, recording audio, and converting audio formats.
Three separate encoding profiles may be configured using the drop-down selectors below. Configure the profile before performing any of the following tasks:
- CD Ripping
- File Conversion
- Sound Recording
The listed encoders are installed in Media Center by default, and recent versions of Media Center include the most popular encoders.
Note: Some encoders (OGG, MP3, and MPC) are automatically downloaded on first use.
Note: There have been no new encoder versions posted to the plug-ins site since Media Center 12. If you are using an older version, encoder versions are found here [].
- External Encoder: Allows using external encoders such as Xing, Blade, Lame, Gogo, ALAC, etc.. Select this and enter the EXE path and parameters. If the encoder supports long file names, check the box.
- Free Lossless Audio Codec (FLAC): FLAC is a popular lossless, freely available open source encoder. 
- Quality Settings: 0 - 8. Sets the quality of compression (and not sound, which is lossless), 8 meaning most compressed/time/effort.
- Verify encoding: Validates encoding (TBD: does this work?)
- Add 4k padding block: Adds space within the file so minor meta-data additions don't require rewriting entire FLAC file.
- Add seek table (if possible): Allows seeking within FLAC files to perform better.
- Use Ogg as transport layer (*.ogg): FLAC streams wrapped in an Ogg transport layer - leave disabled unless you have reason to enable.
- Monkey's Audio (APE): Monkey's Audio is a fast lossless encoder, supporting all sample frequencies. 
- Compression Level: Fast, Normal (Recommended), High, and Extra High. The last two compress the file the most, but the file will also be slower to decompress and play. The High setting only saves about 6MB of space over an entire CD. Use only when compression is crucial.
- MP3 Encoder: Popular, lossy encoder based on the LAME MP3 Encoder. By default, Media Center is set to encode in VBR/Normal format. Select from the following modes to set quality, bitrate, or any custom command line switches. See More on MP3 Encoder Settings below.
- VBR Mode: Small Portable, High Quality Portable, Normal, High, Extreme
- CBR / ABR Encoding: Target Bitrate: 32, 64, 96, , 128, 160, 192, 256, 320 (Kbps)
- Restrict encoder to constant bitrate (CBR Encoder): forces CBR encoding.
- Faster CBR Encoding: 64, 96, 128, 160, 192, 256, 320 (Kbps). Uses the Go-Go encoder (faster than L.A.M.E., but lower quality).
- Custom Command Line Switches (advanced): Allows configuring custom command line and arguments for lame.exe / gogo.exe.
- Musepack (MPC): High quality lossy format, designed to be musically transparent. 
- For most needs, select Normal and select a compression Quality: Thumb, Radio, Standard, Xtreme, Insane. Or select Custom to enter custom MPC command line arguments.
- Ogg Vorbis: Popular, high-quality lossy format. This format is very compact and has quality that many consider superior to MP3. Unlike MP3, it requires no license fee. 
- For most needs, select Normal and select a compression Quality: Low, Normal/Low, Normal, Normal/High, High. Or select Custom to enter custom OGG command line arguments.
- Uncompressed Wave: Lossless, uncompressed WAV files. Tagging is supported in Media Center and some other applications, but is non-standard and not guaranteed to be portable. Files are large, using about 10MB of disk space per minute of music. [WAV_%26_AIFF_Tagging]
- WavPack: Lossless or hybrid lossy encoder. 
- Compression Type: Lossless, Hybrid.
- Quality: Fast, Normal (recommended), High, Very High (Not recommended for most users)
- Extra Encode Processing: 0-6; trades time spent encoding for possible speed gain during decoding. 0 doesn't invoke extra processing mode, 1 is the fastest encode level, 6 is the slowest.
- Create Correction File: Creates extra file that allows WavPack's recreation of a lossless file from a lossy (hybrid) encoded file.
- Target Bitrate: 32, 64, 96, 128, 160, 192, 256, 320 (Kbps)
- Windows Media: Creates lossy or lossless Microsoft Windows media format files. Select one of the following encoding modes, and choose if personal rights management should be enabled.
- CBR Mode: 48, 64, 96, 128, 160, 192, 256, 320 (Kbps)
- VBR Mode: Low, Normal/Low, Normal, Normal/High, High
- Lossless Mode
- Enable Personal Rights Management
- Audio Interchange File Format (AIFF): An uncompressed lossless format developed by Apple using uncompressed pulse-code modulation (PCM), similar to WAV, that supports limited metadata tagging.
- Encoder setting options: nil
- Apple Lossless Audio Codec (ALAC): A compressed, lossless format developed by Apple that supports comprehensive metadata tagging similar to FLAC. ALAC does not contain integrated error checking, partly due to the use of an MP4 container. Files are stored with the same extension as the lossy Advanced Audio Coding (AAC), i.e. m4a, but they are distinctly different.
- Encoder setting options: nil
- Delete temporary wave files when encoding is done: When media files are encoded, a temporary WAV file is created which is then converted to the desired media format and saved to the final media file. This option should be checked if you want the system to delete this temporary file after encoding is complete. The location of temporary and encoded media files is configured under:
- Tools > Options > File Location > Audio
- Tools > Options > File Location > Program Files > Temporary files
- Normalize to 95% before encoding: A non-zero value adjusts the pre-encoding volume of audio data to the percent specified. Typical usage would be to either disable normalization (with a 0 setting), or select a value between 95 and 100 percent. See More below.
- Record and encode simultaneously: Sound Recorder profile only, specifies that Media Center should record and encode audio data simultaneously.
More on MP3 Encoder Settings
The higher the quality setting, the the larger the file. The quality settings appear in the Advanced tab, after you have selected a particular Encoder that supports these features. You choose the encoding bitrate according to your priorities: Quality (VBR Encoding) or Bitrate (ABR and CBR encoding).
- ABR (Average Bitrate) Encoding: This mode automatically varies the bitrate, while maintaining an overall average. It produces better quality than CBR, and smaller file sizes than VBR.
- CBR (Constant Bitrate) Encoding: This mode encodes the file at the selected bitrate. Lower bitrates reduce storage at the expense of sound quality. The default of 160 Kbps generally provides acceptable audio for many uses, but you may desire to increase the bitrate for better equipment.
- VBR (Variable Bitrate) Encoding: The selected encoding level, from low to high, varies the bitrate throughout the audio file while closely matching the selected quality level. The file size, however, is less-predictable (but often lower than CBR).
Select from one of five modes to balance compact size vs. sound quality:
- Normal: CD quality. This may be the best choice for most people especially for listening to music on the computer.
- High: CD quality. This might be a better choice for listening to music on home stereo equipment.
- Extreme: Archival quality. This would be a good choice for top quality home stereo equipment.
- Fast Mode: This provides the fastest encoding, but the quality is not as good as the “Normal” setting.
- Custom: If your encoder supports it, you can create your own custom commands (select the Advanced button after selecting your encoder). For LAME command line switches, see List of recommended LAME settings or do a search on the Interact board.