SPEC Kit 329: Managing Born-Digital Special Collections and Archival Materials · 149
rutgerS univerSity
RUcore. Sound Objects
Audio/Video Standards Working Group: RU-CORE and NJDH Standards Analysis for Audio Objects
I. Beard, I. Bogus, N. Gonzaga, B. Nahory, R. Sandler 3 Last update: 8/9/2010
For presentation Audio: MP3 or Ogg Vorbis, using Variable Bitrate (VBR) encoding
Both file formats are widely used by computer end users and supported by most popular audio playback
hardware and software.
MP3 enjoys wider acceptance, but is a format that is encumbered by proprietary compression algorithms.
However, current licensing restrictions indicate that we would not be required to pay royalties for non-
commerical, non-profit-generating use. Ogg Vorbis, while not quite as widely accepted, still enjoys support
from the audiophile community and is an open source format, without any proprietary encumberances. The
drawback however, is that Ogg Vorbis is not natively supported by common players such as Windows
Media Player, Apple Quicktime, and some mobile devices.
For this reason, MP3 is the current standard presentation audio format for RUcore.
Evaluating collection objects that do not meet standards
The working group recognizes that there has been a period of at least two decades where digital audio
has been recorded and exists prior to the establishment of these guidelines. It is important to acknowledge that
there is a prevalence of digital audio objects that may be of immense value to repository partners, but for which
there is no analog master available and the best digital master may not meet our established digitization
In light of this, it is important to stress that the standards we have established are recommendations, and
must not be the only criteria for accepting or dismissing a potential audio object. While we believe it is of the
utmost importance that collection partners strive to meet the standards in order to ensure longevity of their
collections, the advisory committee should consider the overall content and value of the collection before
making a decision as to its inclusion. In particular, the committee may want to evaluate:
The playback quality of the objects, and whether the audio quality can subjectively be deemed
acceptable in spite of not meeting standards.
The importance, prominence, and significance of the content
Whether further degradation of the content can be inhibited by storing the object as an archival
master, or converting an object with lossy compression into a lossless format.
If the advisory committee decides that the benefits of storing an object or collection into the repository
outweigh its lack of standards compliance, then the standards can be waived for that object or collection.
However, in doing so, the point should be stressed to the collection partner that long term preservation of the
object cannot be guaranteed. While the repository and the team supporting it will put forth its best efforts to
sustain the collection, the collection partner should be made aware that the chances of losing the object to
format obsolescence or degradation of integrity are greatly increased because the object has not been digitized
to our specifications.
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