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December 10, 2011 3:12 PM   Subscribe

Why does the audio I'm ripping from YouTube sound so weird when I play it through my car's speakers?

I occasionally rip music off of Youtube using one of those Firefox plugins like Youtube Downloader. I have noticed lately that the songs I've gotten from Youtube sound muffled and tinny when played through my car's stereo (via an aux cable connected to my iPhone). What can I do to improve the quality of the sound?
posted by iLoveTheRain to Computers & Internet (8 answers total)
Well, that didn't answer the question.

Those songs were probably originally encoded as MP3. That compression is lossy, meaning that some of the original sound information is no longer there.

When it is uploaded to YouTube, it is compressed a second time, leading to even more information loss. Which results in the muddy sound you hear.

There are a number of "mp3 improvement" programs out there, but after several recompressions we can't really recover the data, so it's just lipstick on a pig.

One possibility is to use the "HD" stream from Youtube as your audio source. It should be less compressed and therefore sound better.
posted by fake at 3:46 PM on December 10, 2011

Does YouTube Downloader do any conversion of the audio it rips, in order to get it into an MP3 or other file encoding? Double-check those settings to make sure you're not going from the web source to a 64 kbps, mono-encoded file, or the like.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:23 PM on December 10, 2011

I don't get why my previous answer was deleted. Again: YouTube videos, for very good reasons, do not contain high-quality sound. Answering your question directly: to improve the quality of downloaded YouTube audio, you should delete the file you have downloaded from YouTube, which will be always be of inferior quality, and replace it with a similar file from another source. That is how you improve the quality of the sound of audio you have ripped from YouTube.
posted by cincinnatus c at 4:26 PM on December 10, 2011

Response by poster: Cincinnatus, that's not really what I'm asking for, especially because when I first started downloading songs from YouTube there was no loss in quality, but thanks for your advice anyway.

I use this plugin:

Mp3 and ACC are my options. What gives?
posted by iLoveTheRain at 4:47 PM on December 10, 2011

Mp3 and ACC are my options. What gives?

I don't use Firefox, so I can't test this plug-in for you. See if you can adjust the MP3 and AAC encoding settings, to increase quality.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:16 PM on December 10, 2011

If you haven't changed anything about the setup you are using to download music from YouTube and get it onto your iPod, then the most likely explanation for why the stuff your've downloaded recently sounds bad is that either the original sources of the files uploaded to youtube are lower quality than you were accustomed to or higher-quality audio just isn't available for them.

Looking over the info on Wikipedia about the audio encoding used for YouTube videos, I'm a little surprised you didn't have a problem until now. The best that YouTube will do is 156kbps AAC audio, and you have to pull down 1080p video to get it. Most videos look like they aren't better than 128kbps AAC, which, in my experience, can have harsh phasing issues when played on open-air speakers like a car stereo.

In any case, I think your best choice with that plugin is M4A (which is AAC). I checked a few music videos, and most of them were only available as 360p video, from which the best available audio was 128 kbps AAC audio.

Good luck. You dismissed cincinnattus_c's advice as not being helpful, but while it may not be what you want to hear, the essential truth is that you can expect that a lot of the audio on YouTube is kind of crummy.
posted by Good Brain at 9:01 PM on December 10, 2011

If this only occurs with the car connection (the ripped songs sound tolerable on your computer and, more importantly, when listening to your iPhone with headphones), then it is probably due to an imperfect cable connection between your phone to the car stereo aux in. You may be able to notice an improvement if you pull the aux cable out slightly from the headphone jack. I've used iPhone 3Gs and 4s models that had this problem with car stereos. This problem seemed particularly noticeable with mono recordings, so you may want to see if that's how the music is being encoded.
posted by yorick at 10:21 PM on December 10, 2011

Best answer: What you do is this: use a youtube video downloader to download the highest available quality version of the video to your computer. Then you play it with mplayer and see how the audio in the video is encoded and then if you have a capable portable music player, you rip out the audio from the video *without* re-encoding it at all. Then you get the Maximum quality possible.
$ mplayer ytBk-nvLsAQ.flv
Opening audio decoder: [ffmpeg] FFmpeg/libavcodec audio decoders
AUDIO: 44100 Hz, 2 ch, s16le, 124.8 kbit/8.84% (ratio: 15598->176400)
Selected audio codec: [ffaac] afm: ffmpeg (FFmpeg AAC (MPEG-2/MPEG-4 Audio))
$ ffmpeg -i ytBk-nvLsAQ.flv -vn -acodec copy BOC.aac
$ file BOC.aac
BOC.aac: MPEG ADTS, AAC, v4 LC, 44.1 kHz, stereo
The trick is to download the video and extract a copy (not re-encode) and to have a player that can play it.
posted by zengargoyle at 11:01 PM on December 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

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