The usual suspects concerning file formats…

Most of the time, .MP3 formats are not used in trading communities and “circles”.  Why do you ask?  Well, the short and simple answer is that when most live performances are taped, they are transferred to a .WAV format.  Transferring them from a .WAV format to an .MP3 format usually compresses them, and the audio loses some of its quality (this is considered lossy compression of an audio file), even when converting the .WAV file to .MP3 (320 Kbps).  Usually with .MP3 files, the higher Kbps bit rate, the higher quality of audio.  But, with every conversion to .MP3, no matter the Kbps bit rate, there will always be some type of loss of quality.  Most traders do not recommend using .MP3 formats due to this issue.  To be frank, if you traded an .MP3 formatted recording with someone, it must be discussed in great detail that it is NOT formatted in a lossless format.  If this discussion does not take place, and a trader receives a live performance formatted in .MP3 format, you will most likely be shunned and “called-out” in any and all trading communities as a “ignorant” or “bad” trader.  Traders take great steps to ensure the quality of the recordings that they trade.  To trade what’s considered to be a “watered-down” copy of a live performance…it never ends well.

In the trading world, the required formats to convert to when transferring from a .WAV format is either .SHN or .FLAC.  What is .SHN?  What is .FLAC?

The .SHN file format is known as Shorten.  Shorten (SHN) is a file format used for compressing audio data. It is a form of data compression of files and is used to losslessly compress CD-quality audio files (44.1 kHz 16-bit stereo PCM). Shorten is no longer developed and more recent lossless audio codecs such as FLAC, Monkey’s Audio (APE), TTA, and WavPack (WV) have become more popular. However, Shorten is still in use by some people because there are legally traded concert recordings in circulation that are encoded as Shorten files. Shorten files use the .shn file extension.

The .FLAC file format is known as Free Loss Audio Codec.  FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) is a codec (compressor-decompressor) which allows digital audio to be losslessly compressed such that file size is reduced without any information being lost. Digital audio compressed by FLAC’s algorithm can be typically be reduced to 50–60% of its original size, and decompressed into an identical copy of the original audio data.

FLAC is an open format with royalty-free licensing and a reference implementation which is free software. FLAC has support for metadata tagging, album cover art, and fast seeking.

Though FLAC playback support in portable audio devices and dedicated audio systems is limited compared to formats like MP3 or uncompressed PCM, FLAC is supported by more hardware devices than competing lossless compressed formats like WavPack.

.SHN conversion software can be found here: etree.org – shorten.

.FLAC conversion software can be found here: FLAC.

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~ by Jason Ewert on December 2, 2011.

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