When we wish to encode our music with real audio technology, our main goal is to get the best sound quality with the lowest file size right? Here is a tutorial that I wrote explaining the history, basics, and getting the most out of your real audio encoder.

When real audio initially developed on the web in the early 1990's, the main purpose of it was to display a person's voice or speech, not music. You may recognize the .ra file, which stands for real audio. As the web got more exposure, they changed the standard to .rm which stands for real media. With this file, you are not only allowed to listen to audio, but watch video as well.

Getting it up:

The difference between ".ram" and (".rm" or ".ra"). A .ram file is virtually nothing. It does not have any audio data. The file is made by using a text editor such as Microsoft's notepad and typing in a link extension to the real media (.rm) or real audio (.ra) file that contains all the audio or video data. It is then saved as a .ram file with the text editor. For example, let's say I have uploaded a ra and a rm file called "mytrack" up to a xoom account with user name "whatever". Then in notepad I would do this:

for the ra file

or this for the rm file

and save the file as an ram file.

Then I would upload the (ra or rm) and the ram file to the server. When providing a link, I would use the one associated with the ram file. In this case it would be the URL where ever mytrack.ram would be located at.

The advantage of ra:

The advantage to encoding your wave file to a real audio (.ra) file is that you extend the compatibility of more listeners. The .ra file can be played on any real audio player ranging from the first real audio player to the current player that is out there. The .rm file was exposed during the real player 5 era (I believe), thus any player before the real player 5 is considered to be obsolete and will not be able to play a .rm file. Thus you lose those listeners who are still using those players. On the contrary, if the file was encoded as a .ra, those listeners with the old ass players will still be able to listen to your music.

Encoding tips:

Now, on to the bit rate of real audio encoded music. Generally, if you encode your music at a higher bit rate, you will get better sound quality since more data will be transmitting per second. In Real Audio Encoder, you do not get a screen displaying bit rate settings but you do get that Target Audience screen. Well, that is basically what sets the bit rate. Nevertheless the drawbacks of setting your bit rate to high rates is that those with slow or normal internet connections (28k to 56k) will have extreme buffering sessions during the listen. Thus you will lose more audience if they get impatient, and we all do sooner or later. Thus the best way to go in some cases is to set your bit rates to a more conservative level around 20kbps and play the role of mastering engineer. Make a copy of the wave file to be encoded and boost the higher frequency levels up by at least 3dB to 7dB, or maybe more. You might even want to decrease the levels of the low ends where the bass and kicks are at (around 60Hz to 250Hz). Make sure the file sounds just right despite some lost of low ends and the increase in the high ends because that will be compensated during the encoding process. Just make sure that the vocals and the instruments are kept within their proportions, and then encode the file that you pre-mastered. You will be surprise on how some files encoded at 20kbps can sound just as good as one at 98kbps with this technique. However, this will increase record noise or hiss in the music if you have any, so you might experiment and find out which sounds better.

Stereo music:

Also, you shouldn't get caught up in stereo music. In general, the stereo option makes the sound quality even worst and increases the file size. Thus unless your music or sound file really requires stereo sound, you shouldn't use it. Try it and hear what I'm talking about.

Written by Mike Nithaworn