Thursday, December 13, 2012

Some Ogg Vorbis Tools for Your Mac

When it came time to choose a format to encode my audio CDs with, I could have set up my own double-blind testing regimen and carefully tabulated the results in a spreadsheet, but the good folks at Hydrogen Audio already did that so why reinvent the wheel? Their conclusion was that Ogg Vorbis offered the best sound for lossy formats, better than MP3 LAME, so that's what I went with.

Obviously Linux comes with support for encoding and playing .ogg files out of the box, but on OS X you have to download a couple of tools first. To play .ogg files in iTunes, download's Quicktime Components (also, check out their FAQ for info on using it with 64-bit Macs). Afterward, you may notice your .ogg files are out of order when added to your playlist. To fix this, download Rescan QuickTime metadata (the second one on the list)* from this page, unpack it, and add it to your home/Library/iTunes/Scripts folder (UPDATE: this script works in iTunes 7, but not 9, I didn't try it with 8). When you restart iTunes you'll notice the item "Rescan QuickTime metadata 2" in the scripts menu. Next, just highlight the songs you want fixed, choose the script from the menu, and your songs will magically be re-arranged in the correct order.

For encoding .ogg files, I'd been using Max for awhile, but recently it failed to look up a CD's metadata. Maybe the MusicBrainz server was down, but since Max was getting long in the tooth (last update 3+ years ago), I went looking for something newer. I went straight to X Lossless Decoder and saw their latest update (10/27/12) still supports Tiger PowerPC. Cool!

(UPDATE: I found a bug where embedding cover images in Ogg Vorbis files makes about half the files play only silence. My simple workaround for now is to disable embedding cover art in the preferences. I'll file a bug report and see what the maintainer says.) The Xiph plugin and my version of VLC were old and don't support METADATA_BLOCK_PICTURE. Newer decoders work fine.

One thing about encoding in the program, by default it dumps all the files into the parent music folder you choose in the preferences. However, if you want to organize your files in separate /Artist/Album folders, you need to go to "Format of filename" in the General preferences and add "%A/%T/%n - %t" to the text field. The forward slashes will create folders.

X Lossless Decoder prefrences

And for playing .ogg files on an iPod? Rockbox will let you do that, though it's not yet compatible with all models. And if you have something newer like an iPhone or iPad, ditch it and get an Android device that isn't crippled out of the box ;)

*Also, this page has an iTunes script that combines the metadata rescan with ReplayGain, though ReplayGain requires vorbis-tools be installed "(e.g. through Fink)."


  1. Good post all round but I wanted to comment on the label rant at the end. Very funny and fitting.

  2. Great post.Since about a year ago I had ipod+powerpc mac+intel mac I had some of my music in apple lossless format.
    Now that the intel mac and the ipod had gone ("traded" by Lenovo X230 and Samsung Galaxy NExus (with poweramp app) I must find a new format, guess you gave me the answer.
    Thanks a lot