These settings determine what type and quality of encoding (compression) to use during the encoding processes used in ripping, recording, and converting.
To Access Encoding Settings go to Tools > Options > Encoding.
You can set 3 different encoding profiles (drop-down right at the top):
- CD Ripping
- File Conversion
- Sound Recording
To copy ("rip") an audio CD to your computer, an audio encoder must be selected from the Encoder drop-down menu in
- Tools > Options > Encoding > Encoders
The listed encoders are installed in Media Center by default, and recent versions of Media Center include the most popular encoders*.
- External Encoder. Allows using external encoders such as Xing, Blade, Lame or Gogo. 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* format. Select the Advanced button to set quality, bitrate, and any custom command line switches.
- Musepack (MPC). High quality lossy format, designed to be musically transparent. 
- 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. 
- 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. 
- Windows Media. Microsoft Windows media format files. Select the Advanced button to select between CBR, VBR and lossless. You can also enable Personal Rights Management.
* 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 []
The higher the quality, the more disk space the file will take. 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. Like VBR (Variable Bitrate), this mode allows for higher and lower bitrates, while maintaining an overall average. It is better quality than CBR, and produces smaller file sizes than VBR. Select the Average bitrate you want to use in the Target Bitrate box.
- CBR (Constant Bitrate) Encoding. This mode encodes the entire file at the same bitrate. The lower the selected bitrate, the more music you can fit on the disk but the poorer the sound quality. The default is 128 kilobits of data per second of music. This is the number that most people agree maintains CD quality sound while giving an excellent compression ratio. If you will be listening on home stereo equipment rather than your computer, you may prefer the 160 or 192 kilobit settings, or higher (or VBR).
Note: 128 kb/s has been the standard for a long time with slow internet connections and high storage prices. It is not recommended nowadays as it has perceibable lower quality than the original CD (except on portable devices with low quality ear phones). Use 192 (or 160) instead. Above 192 the differences are not significant and cannot be heard by normal listeners (with medium to good equipment).
- VBR (Variable Bitrate) Encoding. With VBR, you select a bitrate (or a mode, from low to high), and the encoder varies the bitrate throughout the track while closely matching your selected quality level. The file size, however, is unpredictable (but often lower than CBR).
You have five bitrate choices 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.
- 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 final media files is set in the Tools > Options > File Location Settings.
- Normalize to 95% before encoding: If you enter a value other than zero here, the volume of your music data will be raised (or lowered) to the percent of maximum that you specify before encoding. Usually you will either set this to zero to turn it off, or use a value between 95 and 100%.
- Rip and encode simultaneously: Only visible for "Sound Recorder". See: CD & DVD > Expert Options > Encode concurrently with ripping.