While large cheap hard disks allow you to keep your audio collection in a lossless format such as FLAC on your home network, when you are on the move you probably want to squeeze the most out of every gigabyte by using a compressed format. This article takes a look at three tools aimed at making audio conversion for portable music players a painless task.
The KDE desktop offers audiokonverter, while GNOME provides audio-convert and audio-convert-mod. The latter two are separate projects despite their similar names. audiokonverter provides packages for Debian, Ubuntu, openSUSE, and generic RPM distributions on its home page, even though the distribution repositories for Gutsy, Fedora, and the openSUSE Build Service do not offer packages for audiokonverter. Packages for audio-convert are offered for Gutsy as nautilus-script-audio-convert. The Fedora repositories contain audio-convert-mod, but it is not packaged for other distributions. For this article I used the generic RPM for audiokonverter, installed audio-convert from source, and used audio-convert-mod from the Fedora repository.
As the article involves encoding to Ogg and MP3, I'll put a brief word about encoding settings up front. When encoding audio into Ogg format you get a choice from 1 to 10 for a quality setting. The default is 3, which the Vorbis FAQ claims gives the equivalent decoded audio to an MP3 encoded at 128kbps. Personally, I would use Ogg at a quality setting above 3, perhaps a setting of 6, which the FAQ claims yields near CD quality, and I would encode MP3 at 192kbps if I were forced to use MP3 format. The quality setting is a trade-off; the audio output circuitry on a portable music player, coupled with the earphones used when on the go, will probably modify the audio more than the artifacts introduced by lossy encoding.