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Summary:

The popular media player application VLC just added support for Opus, the new open audio codec co-developed by Mozilla, Google, Microsoft and others. Meanwhile, there has been more speculation on how music platforms like Spotify could benefit from switching to Opus.

Opus

Opus, the open audio codec whose backers include Mozilla, Xiph.org, Microsoft’s Skype and Google, got a little closer to being enjoyed by end users this week: The popular media player VLC added Opus support with the release of new version 2.0.4 Thursday. Meanwhile, there has been some more talk on how Spotify could improve its audio quality by switching to Opus.

Opus has been developed with real-time communication in mind, and is likely going to play a major role in WebRTC, the emerging standard for plugin-free voice and video communication within the browser. However, it turns out that Opus actually also performs really well for music, with Xiph.org’s Monty Montgommery telling me recently: “Opus has lower overhead, no big headers, scales better… it’s just a better codec.”

That’s why it could make sense for Spotify and others to use Opus for their service. Spotify currently uses the free audio codec Ogg Vorbis for most of its streaming. Eliot Van Buskirk of Evolver.fm reported yesterday that the company’s CEO Daniel Ek had told him that it would be relatively easy for Spotify to switch codecs, leading him to speculate that “Spotify could improve” with a switch to Opus.

VLC support should help Opus to get better known among early adopters. Users willing to try the codec can find some examples, including two audio streams that can be played back with the new VLC version, on the Opus website.

Image courtesy of Flickr user ghewgill.

  1. The X Lossless Decoder (XLD) on Mac OS X released an update last week that includes native support for creating Opus files (the previous release supported Opus via a plugin). This lets you easily transcode from various formats and keep all your tags (including FLAC cover art).

    Streaming radio is another area ripe for a better codec but, considering how many streams are still using MP3 (even though most streaming clients support at least Ogg Vorbis), i’m not sure how big the take up will be.

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