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10/21/05 Best format for digitizing my CD collection

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / October 20, 2005 2:11 AM PDT
Question:

I finally decided to digitize my huge CD collection, but I need a little guidance. What do you think is the best format to rip CDs (MP3, MP4, WAV, and so forth), what's a reasonable capture setting (I don't have a huge hard drive, so I can't go too high end), and what software would you suggest for not only ripping, but organizing and playing my music?

Submitted by: Edward H.


Answer:

There are several formats that digital audio tracks can be encoded into. First, let's get some terminology straight. When you say "ripping," what you are doing is extracting the digital audio contents of a CD onto a computer into WAV format. WAV is an uncompressed file format. It is also considered the closest match to CD quality.

Now, let's introduce you to the term "encoding." Encoding is the term used for converting an uncompressed WAV file into a compressed format. Common compressed formats are MP3, WMA, and OGG, among others.

Try thinking of this in the same way you'd think of a ZIP file. A ZIP file is an archive file that can compress and store one or more files into a single, smaller file. Your choice audio file player, in layman speak, looks inside the compressed file and sends the data to your sound card, where the result is sound coming from your attached speakers. The only difference here is that you're normally only going to have a single music track within each MP3, WMA, or other file (although it is possible to combine multiple tracks into a single file).

As far as which format to use is concerned, I personally don't think it really matters much, although MP3 and WMA are by far the most common formats. However, if you plan to buy an iPod (or similar portable audio device) in the future, I would definitely go with MP3, as WMA does not seem to be supported by the iPod.

For your ripping needs, my personal choice is a program called Audiograbber. In the past, it was a shareware (try and buy) program, but early this year it became freeware. If you use this program, you will also need a separate encoder (mechanism for converting from WAV to MP3), but thankfully the encoder preferred by most people who want quality encodes also happens to be a free download. The encoder I'm referring to is called LAME. You might think an encoder is an encoder and it really doesn't matter which you use, but there really is a big difference between encoding with LAME and encoding with a lower-end encoder like Xing. When encoding, you also want to consider the bit rate you want to encode at. The higher the bit rate, the higher the quality of encode. The highest bit rate is 320kbps, which produces "near loss-less" compression but file sizes rivaling that of uncompressed WAV files. With limited hard disk space, this setting clearly will not be the one you want.

It used to be that encoding at 128kpbs was the "standard" quality MP3, but many people now consider that "sub-standard". When thinking about bit rates, consider the lower and upper frequency limits that the average human ear can hear. Let's say the average person can hear anything between 20Hz and 20,000Hz (aka 20kHz). WAV files contain all data in that entire range. But anytime you encode to a compressed format like MP3, you're essentially cutting off some amount of each end of that range. Higher bit rates result in less data cut out of each end of the music, while lower bit rates cut out more. At some point, the amount cut out will be enough to be noticed by you. Since you have limited space, you might consider encoding at 128kbps or at 160kbps if you have enough room. However, the ideal bit rate should be at least 192kbps.

Now to further complicate this whole encoding mess. There are 2 types of encodes: CBR and VBR. CBR stands for Constant Bit Rate. When performing a CBR encode, you're encoding the music into MP3 using the same bit rate across the board. However, there might be certain parts of the music that would be better served with higher bit rates while other parts of the file might not even need as high a bit rate as you decide to use. This is where VBR (Variable Bit Rate) comes into play.

With VBR encodes, you can actually encode each small piece of a file at whichever bit rate is best suited for that piece. Pieces of the file that have no data near either extreme of the audible frequency range can use lower bit rates without affecting sound quality.
Because VBR gives each piece only as high a bit rate as might be necessary to prevent loss of quality, you can actually get reasonable quality encodes without sacrificing so much space on your hard drive since VBR encodes tend to be smaller than their CBR counterparts (assuming overall encode rates are about equal).

If you'd like to try Audiograbber, you can download it from:
http://www.audiograbber.com-us.net/

For the LAME encoder, visit:
http://tinyurl.com/4w5mb

Submitted by: Scott Z.
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by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / October 20, 2005 2:11 AM PDT
Answer:

Digitizing your music collection is a multi-step process. Fortunately, the tools required for this (other than your computer itself) are free. These instructions assume that you are using Windows: if you are using Linux, you are smart enough to do this without my help, and if you are using an Apple, no amount of advice can help you.

Step one is to decide on the format. As you obviously know, there are several to choose from. I recommend MP3: it is widely supported (meaning that you will have a wide variety of players to choose from), and it provides excellent sound fidelity (for most styles of music) at 192 kbps. 192 kbps refers to the "bit rate" -- the amount of data used to store the song. While it is possible to use a higher bit rate, most people won't be able to hear the difference past 192 kbps. Incidentally, I suggest you avoid "VBR" (which stands for "variable bit rate"). While there's nothing intrinsically wrong with a variable bit rate MP3, it tends to throw off the "elapsed time" indication in most MP3 players, which I find annoying.

STEP ONE: CDEX

Digitizing a music CD is referred to as "ripping". This is pretty straightforward. Download and install the utility "CDex" from <http://cdexos.sourceforge.net/>. The first thing you will want to do after you install CDex is to configure the software.

First, the Generic settings (Options -> Settings -> Generic). The important settings here are "ID3 Tag Version", "Track Nr Format", and "Normalize":

ID3 Tag Version: ID3 V1 & ID3 V2
Track Nr Format: 0 N
Normalize: **NOT** checked

Next you need to set up the Filename settings (Options -> Settings -> Filenames). The important settings here are "Filename Format", "WAV -> MP3", and "Recorded Tracks". "Filename format" is a personal choice, but if you want to avoid name conflicts, you need to include the album name, the artist, and the track number, in addition to the song name. Setting this up now will save you grief later. The file paths should be the same for both "WAV -> MP3" and "Recorded Tracks". Whatever path you select, create a "Raw" directory and store the ripped music files there, because you will be processing these further after they are digitized (I'll cover that in a bit). Here are the setings I use:

Filename Format: %1\%2\%7_-_%4
WAV -> MP3: D:\Documents\Music\Raw\
Recorded Tracks: D:\Documents\Music\Raw\

The CD Drive settings (Options -> Settings -> CD Drive) will either be very easy or very difficult. If you are lucky, your CD drive will be supported and you'll have no problems. If you do run into problems here, resolving them is beyond the scope of this Q&A: try asking for help on the CDex support forums. In any event, here are the important settings for this screen:

CD-ROM Drive Type: Generic (try the "Auto-Detect" button if "Generic" doesn't
work)
Ripping Method: Paranoia, Full
Select All CD Tracks: checked
Use CD-Text: checked
Lock CD During Extraction: checked

Next come the Encoder settings. This screen is where you set the quality of the digitized file. It is also possible to create a digitized file that you will not be able to play, so don't fiddle around too much here unless you know what you are doing. Here are the settings I recommend (anything not listed should remain un-checked):

Thread Priority: Normal
Encoder: Lame MP3 Encoder (the exact version may vary)
Version: MPEG 1
Bitrate Min: 192 kbps
Mode: Stereo
Quality: High (q=2)
VBR Method: Disabled
Output Samplerate: 44100

We're almost done. ext is the Local CDDB setting. This is where CDex stores song names and titles for the CDs you digitize. It doesn't really matter what you select here (you can't really break anything), but here are the settings I use:

CDDB Path: D:\Documents\Music\localcddb\ Windows-format CDDB files: checked Store in local CDDB: checked Use Long Directory Names: checked

Finally, set up your CDDB connection (Options -> Settings -> Remote CDDB). CDDB is an online database of song names and titles. By setting up CDDB in CDex, you will save a great deal of time typing in song names. You will still need to check the titles that CDDB returns, but that's much easier than typing them all from scratch. Setting up CDDB is simply requires you to select a free CDDB server, and type in your email address, and checking "Auto connect to remote CDDB".

Now that you have all of that set up, put in your music CD, make sure the song titles are correct, select all of the song titles (either with the keyboard or with the mouse -- only the songs you select will be digitized), and hit function key 9 (you can also click the second icon from the top on the right-hand button bar, or you can select the menu item "Convert -> Extract CD
track(s) to a compressed audio file").

A few minutes later, you CD is digital. Now comes step two: post processing.

STEP TWO: MP3GAIN

You've noticed that not every CD is at the same volume, right? This isn't a big deal with you are listing to one CD at a time, but when you set up your songs juke-box style (all good MP3 players permit this), you will wind up having to adjust the volume constantly. That's where MP3Gain <http://mp3gain.sourceforge.net/> comes in. Like CDex, MP3Gain is free (although donations are always appreciated).

MP3Gain analyzes mp3 files to determine how loud they sound to the human ear. It can then adjust the mp3 files so that they all have the same loudness without any quality loss. This way, you don't have to keep reaching for the volume dial on your mp3 player every time it switches to a new song.

Once you are done digitizing all of your songs on any given day, close CDex and run MP3 Gain. First, configure a few settings (located under the "Options" menu item"). These options should be checked:

Options -> Add subfolders
Options -> Preserve file date/time
Options -> No check for Layer I or II
Options -> Don't clip when doing Track Gain Options -> Tags -> Ignore

These settings will cause you the least amount of headaches and permit MP3Gain to do its job as quickly as possible. The last two of those settings ("Don't clip when doing Track Gain" and "Tags -> Ignore") are particularly important, because they will prevent MP3Gain from accidentally corrupting your digitized files.

Next, set the "Normal" volume, in the little box just above the main file pane.
The default of 89 dB is fine for most uses.

Now that the settings are configured, add the "Raw" folder (where you told CDex to store your digital files) to your list of selected song files, either by typing CTRL-D, clicking the second icon in the button bar, or selecting menu item "File -> Add Folder". The file window will fill up with the songs you just digitized.

The next step is to simply apply the gain. This is done by selecting menu item "Modify Gain -> Apply Track Gain", or typing CTRL-G. Note: you do NOT want to apply "album gain", what you want is "track gain".

Now go have a cup of coffee -- this will take a while. If you have thousands of songs, like I do, it may take overnight. But once that's done, you are almost ready to play your digitial music collection. Almost.

STEP THREE: BULK RENAME UTILITY

The last step is to make sure your song files are named consistently.
Fortunately, this is the easiest step of all. First, install Bulk Rename Utility <http://www.bulkrenameutility.co.uk/Main_Intro.php>. Like the other software in this process, Bulk Rename Utility is free (although, as always, donations are appreciated).

If you install the version of Bulk Rename Utility which includes the "installer"
program (which I recommend), it will create a context menu item, "Bulk Rename".
So simply navigate to the "Raw" directory where you have stored your digitial song files, right-click, and select "Bulk Rename". The Bulk Rename Utility will open, with your Raw directory pre-selected.

Before you rename anything, you need to change two settings. First, in the menu bar, ensure that the setting "Options -> Auto-Select Entries" is checked. Next, toward the bottom of the Bulk Rename Utility screen, there is a checkbox labeled "Recursive". Check this checkbox. The file pane above will then refresh with all of the files under your "Raw" directory.

Now that the files are displayed and selected, you can rename them. In the "Repl. (3)" box, type a single space in the text box labeled "Replace". Then, type a single underscore in the textbox labeled "With". Then click the "Rename"
button, click "OK" on the warning that pops up, and you are done.

What you just did is replace all spaces with underscores. This will save you a great deal of trouble later (for example, if you ever set up a web jukebox on your home server). It may seem a nuisance, but trust me, you are avoiding a host of headaches by doing this now.

STEP FOUR: PLAYING THE SONGS

Because you selected MP3 as the file format, you have a wide variety of players to choose from. For playing songs on your own computer, nothing beats WinAmp <http://www.winamp.com/> (free, of course). However, you don't need to stop there. You can set up a web server and connect it to your home stereo, and then use a program like mp3act <http://www.mp3act.net/> (again, free) to access your home jukebox from any networked computer. Finally, you can carry your music with you on a portable MP3 player, such as the highly-rated Creative Zen Touch (not free, alas, but an excellent MP3 player at an excellent price).

EPILOGUE: ALLOFMP3

If you are like me, you will soon be listening exclusively to your digital music collection, and your CDs will start gathering dust. So why bother with CDs?
AllOfMP3.com <http://www.allofmp3.com/> offers a huge download library of legal, inexpensive songs in a variety of formats. I can't recommend AllOfMP3 highly enough: I spend at least three times as much on music now than I did when I was buying CDs. (MuSeekster has a comprehensive article that answers the most frequently asked questions about AllOfMP3:
<http://www.museekster.com/allofmp3faq.htm>.)

Submitted by: Brandon B.

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First of all, define a "huge CD collection" and a not so huge hard drive. Hard drive space is cheap these days. If there is not enough spare room in the box or laptop go with one of the USB2 external hard disks and keep the music collection there.

Format and quality

Now what is the best ripping software, format and organizing software available? On format, this is a hard one and tends to be of a religious nature. Although MP3 format has established a very broad acceptance Microsoft's WMA format is probably as good. iTunes uses Apple's proprietary AAC format and WinAmp MP4/AAC and MP3 if you buy the software. Musicmatch, acquired by Yahoo last year, still allows the most fine tuning and tweaking of the ripping process. More interesting is the question of the rate used to do the ripping. Depending on the usage, home stereo, PC speakers, mobile music player, car stereo player, it will need some experimenting in order to find out what yields the best results while saving the hard disk space. On a high end home stereo system it always pays back to set the ripping software to the highest available quality (192Kbit per second for the current Windows Media Player version 10.0, 320Kbps for WinAmp's MP4 AAC encoder and custom iTunes Encoder settings). For "normal" ears encoding up to 256Kpbs will suffice. Watch out, however, for solo trumpet and jazz music sporting plenty of cymbal crashes. Slowly decaying instruments like cymbals and harp will easily disclose artifacts of the compression algorithm used. Some additional tweaking might be needed here.

Most encoders come in two flavors CBR (constant bit rate) and VBR (variable bit rate). In principle variable bit rate will produce a higher compression (silent parts are encoded with very high compression) and therefore a smaller file size. However, many portable players will not be able to play these files. Just try and rip one track, play it, if possible at all, and listen carefully if frequency shifting occurs.

Keeping track

Organizing tracks tends to be very personal and not all software is compatible with personal style and preferences in this respect. Portable players generally will make use of the ID3 Windows Media Player offers Microsofts own online CD directory service, others more likely will use Gracenote's CDDB. Both contain a huge amount of CD album name, artist name and track name information provided and updated by end-consumers. Although the idea sounds good the accuracy of the information depends largely on the quality of data entry. Updating wrong track titles with Windows Media Player is cumbersome, non-intuitive and needs a lot of practice. Also the database is much smaller that Gracenote's which means that you will find yourself more often than you wish to type in the album and track titles yourself. Isn't it time that the music industry supplies this information? even as a pay for service? Or even better include artist, album, and track data on the CD itself?

Most ripping software allows you to organize CD-albums in folders. For instance folders for artist and subfolders for album. Complications occur when ripping compilations of different artist. One way to get around this is to store this in a specific folder "Various Artists" with the album name as a subfolder. I myself like to rip CD albums completely and want to listen to the track in track order, not alphabetically sorted by track name. Track, album, and artist information, or so called meta information, in MP3 files is stored in ID3 format. Different versions exist for ID3 (v1, v1.1, v2, v2.4.0) which most portable players are able to read and display. ID3 tags (track numbers are stored in v1.1 and up) can be used to select tracks and play them, but if you prefer to play tracks by selecting files it makes sense to prepend the file names with the track number. This will then allow you to sort the files alphabetically and still keep the right order of the tracks. For editing the ID3 tags. Musicmatch still holds the best cards. With "Super Tagging" changing additional track information is a breeze and very intuitive all other players are quirky or cumbersome or both to do this bookkeeping. one interesting type of meta information is "Genre". As music lets it self less and less uniquely identify in a genre rippers and players divert highly in the number of genres that can be defined. Certainly "classical" music used to be identified as "classical" be it Monteverdi, Bach, Beethoven, Mahler, Wagner, Philip Glass, or John Williams. Here Musicmatch also allows for a very broad set of definitions allowing to add Work, movement, period, classical genre, and conductor, making it the classical music lover's choice.

Submitted by: Johannes K.

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Since hard drive space is at a premium, your best formats are compressed formats - WAV files are right out, since even recording a short song using WAV at any reasonably high quality will result in very VERY large files. Most likely, you'll want to use one of the "lossy" formats - MP3 and MP4 (AAC) are the most popular and can produce very high quality sound files without totally eating up your hard drive. My own music library so far contains more than 1700 songs recorded mostly in MP3 recorded at 192Kbps - a total of 5 days of constant music if I want it and weighs in at a fairly reasonable 9.92 GB of my hard drive. I use MP3 simply because I find that if I want to take my music and play it on other platforms, I have the fewest problems - MP3 is very widely supported, especially on portable players. If taking your music with you isn't a problem, or if your portable player supports AAC/MP4, you may want to use that instead though. Both can produce excellent quality sound files.

As far as capture settings are concerned, I find that I don't notice any real loss in quality at 192Kbps with MP3 - many people don't notice any problems with settings as low as 128Kbps, but to me those files definitely do not sound as good as I'd like - really you need to experiment and let your ears be your guide.

There's so much excellent software out there for ripping and organizing your music library that I couldn't even begin to cover all the options, but for my own use I prefer using Apple's ITunes software. This is an excellent, easy to use "free" solution that makes ripping discs a matter of putting the CD in your drive and making one mouse click, or just dragging the songs into a playlist you name on the sidebar. It just doesn't get any simpler than that, and making album "playlists" to sort your music is very easy. If you ever decide to burn your own audio mix cd-r's or make MP3 cd-r's and dvd-r's, ITunes makes it as easy as making a playlist and a single mouse click and widely supports most any CD and CD/DVD-R drives out there - if it sounds like I love ITunes, you've got the right idea.

Also, if you find that you are not satisfied with any of the "lossy"
formats and settings with MP3 or AAC, ITunes also has the "Apple Lossless Format" compressed format . This does not produce file sizes as small as are possible with the "lossy" formats, but certainly is better than ripping your songs to WAV. Aside from that, if you have a home network, ITunes will let you share out your music on your network more easily than any other software I've seen. You can download ITunes with Quicktime at http://www.apple.com/itunes for either Windows or Mac - you won't be sorry you got it.

Submitted by: Eric C.

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Well, Edward, there are several paths you can take and a few things you need to decide beforehand:

1. The amount of hard disk capacity remaining will determine how much of your CD library will ultimately fit. You should always have at least 20-30% of your hard disk free anyway. You could always purchase an external USB 2 or FireWire drive to add capacity or get someone to install an additional internal drive.

2. Determine how many CDs you want to rip (most people don't listen to ALL of their CDs!!) and in what format. MP3 is the most efficient format, compressing the file to around 10% of the original. However, depending on how much detail you want to hear, you can sacrifice music quality. The compromise is less hard disk space used for lower quality. Typically, MP3s are encoded at anything from 128k to 320k. 320k is very close to CD quality but also uses significantly more disk space. If you were to encode in WAV format (or AIFF), you would get a bit-for-bit copy off the CD and therefore use around 750MB of hard disk space per CD. If you have classical or jazz music which generally has a very wide dynamic range, you may wish to use this format to retain full musical fidelity.

Another format is FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) and is a true lossless format but can usually only save around 50% capacity - ie a CD will encode to around 300MB. Additionally, there are not too many portable players or music management applications that can encode or play FLAC, so it is normally for dedicated music servers, etc.

3. There are numerous applications for ripping and managing CDs. If you have an iPod, you won't really have any choice but to use Apple's iTunes, which does a very good job overall. Windows Media player is another option but limited in the types of encoding. Musicmatch has been around for some time and many people swear by it. Personally, I use iTunes as it works with my iPod, but any player other than an iPod usually has some kind of music management application included. If not, you can connect it via USB and just drag and drop you music files onto it. All these apps connect to internet CD databases to get track, album, artist & genre details which are embedded into the ID tag of each track, which is not just for iPods and other portable payers, but also for network music players like Slim Devices' Squeezebox2 (http://www.slimdevices.com) or Roku's SoundBridge (http://www.rokulabs.com).

Good ripping!!

Submitted by: John K.

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Personally the choice of format should be decided by what you are likely to be doing with your music. e.g. will it reside permanently on your computer or will you use a hardware mp3 player such as an iPod. If there is any chance that you will be using a hardware player them I would recommend that you choose to rip mp3's as they are supported on just about every player there is. Proprietary formats such as mp4, wma, etc., and open source and lossless formats (e.g. .ogg, .flac) tend to be supported by some players, but not by all, and you wouldn't want to spend hours ripping your collection only to find that it isn't compatible with the shiny new mp3 player you got for christmas.

Of course some people would advocate higher quality formats such as .flac or .ogg, but these are as yet unsupported by most hardware players, and most require you to download additional codecs for your software mp3 player.

As for .wav, well unless you have a very large hard drive, or a very small music collection, don't go there. These files tend to take up from 5 to 10 times the disk space of the equivalent mp3.

As for software, well you have a wealth of choices. I'll cover those that I have found most useful. All these are free.

First off, for ripping use EAC. It's free and can compensate for errors on your CD's. It will generate .WAV files, but you can configure it to encode the .WAVs into whatever format you require.

To do the mp3 encoding, use LAME. Personally I would advocate encoding VBR (variable bit rate) rather than CBR (constant bit rate). A VBR file with an average bitrate of 192 kbps will be better than a CBR file with a constant bit rate of 192 kbps, because the encoder (LAME) will use less storage for those parts of a track that require less (e.g. silence) and more for those parts which need it. Personally I am a great fan of LAME's alt-presets and I wouldn't hesitate in recommending these.

Now, the software I would recommend for playing and organising your music.
Personally I would go for WinAmp, though Foobar 2000 and iTunes are also very good alternatives. Really this is completely subjective. Some people prefer the relatively uncluttered interface of iTunes, but I really like the additional skins and plugins that WinAmp uses to enhance it's functionality.

Hope I've helped answer your questions, and happy ripping!

Submitted by: Marcus M.

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Ripping a CD collection? How should I go about it ?

The answer depends on how much you are willing to pay per song and the size of your collection. If money is no object you should rip and leave it intact using EAC (Exact Audio Copy) version 0.95 prebeta 5 in wav format. This is a great engine which goes to painstaking work getting the right tracking especially on your CDs that get a lot of abuse. It comes equipped with a link to freedb.org which is a repository for tags of your albums but expect each songs to use 30-60Mgb uncompressed. A quick calculation is $1per GB of space on a hard drive so at 50Mgb average disk space required per song it comes out ot 5 cents a song for storage UNCOMPRESSED and I don?t look kindly to carrying terabytes drives in my car.

Personally I have 22K songs so pure rip at 30-60Mgb per song was out of the question? I needed to lower that per song cost to 3Mb to 6MB per song? HALF a penny a song that is about right?

SO I had to settle for some form of compression and while the MP3 is far from ideal, it is so pervasive in appliances today that you should seriously consider it before
You choose low adoption formats and algorithms out there. We have 5 Ipods and mp3 players in cars and walkabouts so anything besides MP3s was out of the question for us. Other formats might be good for shut-ins and geeks with way too much time on their hands Also remember that what ever path you go down, if you do NOT keep an original rip what ever format you use hence will forever corrupt your pristine collection and your only choice will be to go BACK and re-rip your whole collection!

My solution which is pure compromise was therefore MP3s

I copied the original recording using EAC into a wav format and then used RazorLame V1.1.5.1342 with the following options -b 128 -m j -p --abr 192 -B 192
That is mumbo jumbo but basically it uses whenever possible Variable Bit Rate at 192K sampling when encoding the songs in MP3 format? It gives a clean sound and it works for me? and it does good work when there isn?t much information to sample? Silence is GOLDEN in compression and nuances often get lost when using fixed sampling rates? ( have I lost you yet?)

In conclusion? these software are free versus what ever other stuff people will try to plug here. I don?t know if my versions are the latest but itwokrs for me and IF it ain?t broke don?t fix it!

Good luck!

Submitted by: didcrywolf

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Hi Edward,
I'm usually one who fights using one application solutions, but in this case, I find iTunes to be a good solution for a complex situation. Since it has become a dual platform music player/ripper/database, I have it, not only on my Mac, but on my Win2k computer, as well.

I still prefer the MP3 format. I just don't care for "prepared modes" of storage that benefit a particular industry that appears NOT to have fan/listener interests at heart. I like the 192 kbps, because I can hear the difference between it and 128 and 160 kbps settings, when I burn a play disk. It's not the most frugal on storage consumption, but it's the best compromise, in my opinion. There are a number of free applications that support MP3, and I maintain those on my machines, as well, for specialized duties. Among those are Irfanview, for a quick preview of a particular song, image, or video clip. I'm still discovering some of the benefits of Irfanview, after discovering it in about 1998. CDex is a great little ripper, if you have special jobs, such as putting an MP3 back to WAV format. It's been a great friend for many years, to me. CDex and iTunes will allow you to copy a play list to text format, should you want to print the list for a label, booklet, or insert.

iTunes gives a lot of the benefits of a jukebox, complete with eye candy graphics, and it will rip, up to my favorite setting of 192 kbps. When I want to archive my hard drive resident music collection, it can be set for that, as well. When you open the archived disks, you can simply view and play them within the iTunes environment and in that way relieve pressure of tons of tunes on your hard drive. Aside from doing general chronological backups of my music, I like doing all blues on one disk, all rock on another, and opera/classical on yet another. This helps with finding specific songs in the archive, since I have nearly a hundred archive disks, dating back to 1996, when I started archiving music in this way.

I have a recent chrono-archive disk that I just made on my Win2k machine, and it transports very easily to my Mac, with full play capabilities, and everything is organized as it was on the hard drive, when I burned the archive. With 3.46 gigs of space consumed, I have 648 listed songs archived on the one disk. Keep in mind some of those "songs" are as long as 8-15 minutes in length. I think it's safe to say that 192 kbps will archive something in the neighborhood of 800 songs on a standard 4.7gig DVD disk. To put the songs back on the hard drive, from an archive disk, you just drag them from the listing back to the main library... very Mac-like in function, with simplicity being the focus.

Submitted by: Charles B.

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CD ripping is a huge undertaking, and will take A LOT of work to do manually. The cheapest, best option is to use Windows Media Player 10. It will rip and sort things. It's not very customizable, but it is free.

Anything that gets you about 100 megs a CD should do you okay. Try not to get too crazy, because as you said, you have a bunch of music.

For WMA, somewhere in the 200 range for bitrate should do you fine, but if you want to use the space, you can go higher. Test some bit rates, and once you can't tell the difference when you go higher, than that's probably where you should stop. Better speakers show off low bitrates, as well as loud volumes. Low bitrate music on my computer speakers sounds okay, but when you play it at 600 watts on two floor standing speakers, suddenly they sound weak and raspy. It's all about application.

WMA is probably the best format, since you know windows will always support it. If you use something exotic (such as FLAC or OGG), you will need to install that software whenever you take your music somewhere else. MP3 is decent, but old, and may become a "hunted" (ie illegal) format depending on how the music industry vs file sharing battle goes.

WMA is also good for it's license security, to ensure your music is not stolen, and to protect the artists of your cds.

Under the "rip music" tab of the options menu, you can select your bit rate, then select "rip cd when inserted" and "eject cd when ripping is complete"
so all you have to do is put in a cd and close the tray.

It will sort things by CD in your "my music" folder, but you can tell it to go elsewhere if you want. Then, in WMP10, click the "library" tab, and you can see all your music, select to listen to a cd you ripped, just an artist, everything, or search for a song, or just about anything else.

You can also re-burn ripped songs onto custom mix cds using the program, too, for when you are away from your computer. Further, it can link to mobile devices so you can listen on the go. Additionally, through MSN Music, you can purchase single songs (or entire cds), and the music is automatically downloaded and placed amongst everything else you ripped, so it will integrate smoothly with that you have.

There are other options for manually ripping music, but...find something as automated as you can, else you will sit for hours and hours ripping your cds. Not fun.

You can do it "by hand", but it will be a lot of work, and you still wont have a program that will sort through it.

Windows Media Player 10 is free, so it may warrant a test drive to see how it works, prior to paying money for a program elsewhere.

Last thing, after you rip all your music, make sure you store your cds in a dark, dry place so you can come back to them if you need them.

Good luck with your task. Digitizing cds can be a huge undertaking, but when done properly, massive amounts of music can be a few clicks away from the speakers!

Submitted by: Andrew M.

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Digitizing a huge cd collection might not be the best idea if you don't have a very big hard drive, it's probably better to selectively pick what songs you really want instead of dumping everything one, but here are some general guidelines. This is all in relation to a PC, Macs will have different programs and may handle certain file types differently, or not at all.

Firstly, definitely do not go WAV -huge size for relatively poor quality (compared to mp4, mp3). There has been some debate over the mp4 vs mp3 issue. Currently mp3 is still the most versatile in terms of digital music players (ipods etc), and is easily converted to using Winamp (the best player and organiser as well), although the free downloadable version requires a crack for this option to work (a fairly common one, just Google it). mp4 is still somewhat in it's infancy, and there are varying reports about it's quality compared to mp3. In general an mp4 with a low bitrate (eg 98kbps) is supposed to be roughly equivalent to an mp3 with a higher bitrate (eg 120kbps), so it might be worthwhile as a lower bitrate means it takes up less room. For an mp3 to sound similar to the original to the trained ear it has to be at least 320-360kbps, but often an acceptably result is acheived from 128 or 190kbps (Of course, if you are planning to write it back to cd later, you'll want the highest possible bitrate.) However, many have found mp4 to be vastly inferior to mp3 in general sound quality, especially bass and treble, so the latter is probably your best bet as it's versatile and easy to convert to and from. You can always change it from mp3 to mp4 later.

Ogg is another recent appearance on the scene which looks promising, but it hasn't become as mainstream as mp3 yet, so, from personal experience, you may have trouble playing it on various digital players.
If you really don't want to take up heaps of space on your hard drive, it is possible to rip and encode your files and burn mp3 discs, so you have them in that format but they aren't on your hard drive (this works for any format, it's really just a data disc). But an added bonus if it's an mp3 disc is that there are cd players out there especially for mp3 discs.
Hope this helps!

Submitted by: Daphne C.

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Personaly, I use MusicMatchJukebox.
It is all inclusive, enabling you to rip CDs (common term for digitalising), play and organize your library. It can manage libraries and play lists of several 1000s tracks. As for the formats: (estimates are for CD quality files: 128 Kilobauds) WAV offer good quality BUT generate very large files: around 12 Mb per minute. MP3 offers reasonable quality with lot smaller files: around 1 Mb per minute. This is a lossy format: some of signal get lost, less if you use higher bit rate. MP3Pro offers slightly better quality than MP3 at roughly half the size. It will play on any MP3 capable player bot at full quality only on pro enabled ones.

I can't say about MP4, as I don't use that format.
OGG offers very good quality with good compression. Less common, I don't know what application generate that format. This is a loseless format. WMA is a proprietary Microsoft format. It offer better quality than MP3 at lower settings (FM quality) but is surpassed by MP3 at higher level.

If you really want to get the smaller possible file with the best quality, I would suggest using "Variable Bit Rate". That option use optimised sampling rate, complex and elaborate sounds are sampled at a higher rate, while simple sounds are sampled using a much lower rate. According to my experience, using a quality rating of 25%, I can get sampling of 160 Kilobaud down to around 32 depending on the complexity of the signal. Using variable bit rate, you can't preestimate the size of the resulting file based on the length of the track, nor can you estimate the duration based on the size of the file. Variable bit rate is available with WAV, MP3 and MP3Pro (to my knowledge).

For the playback, you can use just about any media player you can find to play all of those formats. Winamp is a good free player. It can encode as WAV, MP4 and RAW. The pro (paid) version can also encode as MP3.

Submitted by: Alain M.

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The first thing to consider is what is it that you will do with both the digitized musics and the CDs themselves afterwards. If you are thinking about getting rid of the CDs, either by storing them in the attic or giving it away to someone, then I will suggest you get a relatively high quality digitized version. However, if you intend to keep the CDs at home, for example, while carrying the digitized version in a mobile device (name it be a notebook, an iPod or else), then you can have a balance of quality and the required hard drive space. This way, when you have a bigger hard drive space and/or you want a higher quality music file, you can always re-rip the CDs.

In terms of file formats, I would recommend either MP3 or MP4/AAC for your music. Again, it depends on the device you intend to play them with. Windows XP notebooks are typically easy to extend, with a large amount of choices for multimedia players, codecs and plug-ins. You'll have to be careful if you plan to use a portable music player, as they supports various formats.

The most general is, of course, MP3 (short of MPEG-1 Layer 3). I normally rip CDs to MP3s at about 192 kbps, but 128 kbps is enough for general users, especially when storage space is limited. Some of Windows-based and portable music players support Variable Bit Rate (VBR), where the bit rate of the music varies in a single song. The bit rate variation is determined by the ripping software based on the complexity of the currently playing music bit.

For example, it will lower the bit rate for the song part where only one musical instrument is playing, or on short pauses within the song. The benefit is you can normally get smaller file size. The more common opposite of VBR is Constant Bit Rate (CBR), and that's where the bit rate is constant through the whole song. Before you use VBR for ripping CDs, make sure the player supports it first.

I also found that Joint Stereo will lead to smaller file size while maintaining reasonable quality. The MP4/AAC formats are often considered better than MP3 and WMA (Windows Media Audio) in terms of compression and quality, as well as some other format like Ogg Vorbis and MP3pro. It is essential to make sure that your player supports the format, though. WAV files are normally large and I would not recommend it to use for ripped music.

Lots of CD Ripping software is available out there, from small freeware to full range multimedia suites. I've tried Musicmatch Jukebox, Media Jukebox, Windows Media Player and some others, but now rely on Winamp for most of my ripping needs. The library features is among the best for managing your music collection. As with most ripping software, Winamp can lookup Audio CD data on an online CDDB (Compact Disc Database) storage, saving you the time to enter the song/artist information for each file.

Best of luck and happy ripping!

Submitted by: Nico R. of Jakarta, Indonesia

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When ripping your cd's. You will have to decide what quality you want when listings to your music. When you compress your music to MP3's, You are changing the quality of the cd. Depending on the compression. It can vary from okay sounding to a loss of quality that you can hear when listing to the ripped cd that you bought.

That said. You say you don't have a large hard drive. so mp3 may be the way to go if you can put up with loss of quality. When you rip a cd. It will be ripped into a WAV format. You can do a search here in cnet for a program to convert your music from WAV to MP3. There are many to choose from free to others you have to pay for. The free ones will do just fine. You have to look at the options they have and decide the one you like. They are all pretty straight forward and easy to learn. You just select the ripped cd in the program you choose and let the program convert them. You can set the MP3 capture setting at 192 but 256 is a better sound. The 256 is a larger file size than the 192 MP3.

I prefer to keep mine in store quality sound. But You need a large hard drive for these. Each store cd will be anywhere from 200 to over 400 Meg's.

The best program I found for ripping cd's is called Exact Audio Copy or EAC. It has a database it checks and will rip the cd into a wav format. It also will rip the cd with the track names so you don't have to rename the tracks once they are on your hard drive. You will have to set up the setting so that when you rip the cd's. The names and other info is all there once you rip the cd. It is straight forward and there is help right on the options setting that tells you how to set it up to put the track name and any other info you want.

Once you have it ripped to you hard drive in WAV format.You can get a program to compress the flies using a program called Flac. It is the best Codec for converting your wav file without losing any quality form the original. You can get the latest Flack program at http://flac.sourceforge.net. This will shrink the file size somewhat. You can set the compression to 5 and still have store bought sound.

You can use winamp to listen to your music in this flac format. There is a plug in for it to play flac files while on your computer.

Good luck and enjoy your music no matter what method you use.

Submitted by: Ron

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This is a good question, and there are many answers for it; however, having recently taken on this rather daunting task myself, I'll simply offer up the method that worked for me.

First, I'm a Mac user, so iTunes is my software of choice. Whatever your feelings on Apple and their DRM policies, etc., iTunes is great for organizing, searching and adding info (ID3 tags) to huge amounts of digital music files at a time.

For importing, what I did was to set the preferences to start ripping a CD the minute I put it in the drive, and spit it out as soon as it's done so I could get a little bit of an assembly line going. For a couple of weeks, whenever I remembered, I'd grab a stack of about 10 - 15 CD's and pop them in one after another while I was doing something else, and eventually, my entire collection of about 400 CD's was done.

My import preferences were left at the default iTunes settings of 128kbp/s AAC, but that might be because I bought into the hype, and believe that that setting is (roughly) equivalent to a 168kbp/s MP3 file. However, for greater flexibility as far as the players you'll be able to put your music on later, you may want to opt for the more universally compatible MP3 format. I wouldn't go higher than 192kbp/s unless you're planning on playing your stuff in a concert hall (and then you'll probably have some problems with the RIAA, but that's another story).

Once I was done, I decided to take another step, and back up my entire iTunes library to DVD. This might seem pointless - after all, I have all the originals on CD, but I decided that ripping them all in the first place was labor-intensive enough that it was a procedure I wasn't in a hurry to repeat. And if you want to go even further...
I made myself a smart playlist of all the stuff I had added to my library since the date of my last backup, so that next time, all I have to do is back up the contents of that smart playlist. Once that's done, I can update the date criteria of that playlist for next time.

Hope this helps!

Submitted by: Simon A.

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This area is very compilcated and their has been many forums agruing about this. Which Music Software to use. Their is a few good programs out there such as itunes, windows media player, real player, etc. Have a look at this site for a HUGE list of them

http://www.download.com/Music-Management/3150-2141_4-0.html?tag=nav_dir

Theres reviews and rating on there so I hope that can help. Im now going to tell you about the program I use.

I use iTunes for burning music and organising it. It is VERY user-friendly and its easy to create playlists and import CDs. Also I find it uses less RAM than Windows Media Players. And Im not being paid to say this!!!

One of the best features about iTunes is the Equalizer. It allows you to change the way music sounds eg bass, treble, etc. This actually works and is very good if you like to fiddle with the sound. For example it has pre-built sound setups 'Presets' such as bass booster and vocal booster. Also setups for dance, hip-hop, latin, R&B, etc.

As for what format - it gets compilcated!!.

WAV is basically a raw audio format so this makes files very large!! this is what most CDs use. Approx 9mb per minute!!!

MP3 is a compression format that makes the files smaller than WAV this results in a slight lost of quaility. This is the most common format. Approx 1.5mb per Minute.

WMA is a microsoft format made to compete with mp3, its compression makes files a bit smaller than MP3 but somehow the sound quaility is better than MP3!. Approx 1mb per 1minute. Only trouble with this is its built-in copy protection abilities. This makes it a pain to use on some MP3 players.

Its up to you what format you use. MP3 is most common where are WMA is the best quaility/compression. Just a note - iPods cannot use WMA format so if you want to put your music on a ipod you will need to use MP3.

Hope that helps and good luck Happy

Submitted by: Will R.

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Hi there, Edward.

I can only speak from my experience. I'm a serious collector of classic country music. I have been doing this for several years now. I use only the mp3 format. Others may be technically superior, but mp3 is universal. Even some mobile sound systems (available from Crutchfield) will play mp3s as well as CDs.Using mp3 format will put over 200 tracks on one CD, for an example. Roughly 10-1 compression, depending on bit rate. WAV, essentially duplicates the CD, no compression. What bit rate to use? That's up to you.

If you're a confirmed audiophile, you will probably want 320 kbps. (The highest I know of) higher quality, takes more space. I have some tracks recorded at 192kbps. I have some recorded by others at vbr. (variable bit rate) They sound good. I don't know what, if any, the benefits are. I've used 162kbps. I find them all satisfactory for listening. If this is stuff you seriously want to archive, I'd say 240kbps. But that's just my opinion. Perhaps the best advice is try each, and see which suits you best. It's just a software setting.

It's worth mentioning that most CDs have an extra drive bay and cabling, so that you can install a second hard drive, quite easily. Periodically, Staples has had sales on immense hard drives for around $100. I would definitely suggest this as a first step, if it's an option. I doubt you could fill such a drive with mp3s. I have over 8,500 tracks from various sources, 95% mp3, taking up 36.2 gigabytes on a second hard drive. As I write this, I am listening to a 40+ year old track of Jim Reeves @ 160 kbps.
Sounds like new.

I use Music Match Juke Box. It does it all, and does it quite well and inexpensively. You need the paid version with "Burner Plus". Another good program is Cool Edit. You don't need it to copy CDs, but if you work with old tapes, 45s, etc., you can edit tracks, removing excessive applause and comments and clean up the sound by removing pops, clicks and motor noise.

Music Match will create a "Library" for you, essentially a data base. It takes a while to learn it, it has so many features. It would like to create the file structure. I have arranged folders and sub folders for most of the artists, albums, etc. in my collection, so I can find them without running MMJB. Not necessarily a recommendation. Just what I ended up with. Again try it, and see what works for you.

Have fun, you have many hours of work and a lot of satisfaction ahead.

Submitted by: Vince H.

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Hi,

When it comes to audio compression, MP3 is the king. You have limited hard drive capacity and want better quality. MP3 has been designed just for that. As far as my knowledge goes, mp3 is the best compressed format. In the sense thats the max anyone can compress raw audio. And the best part of it is its almost lossless. When it comes to WAV, its a raw file. Means its in the basic format.On an average a wav file might be something around 50-60MB which is a heavy size taking into consideration if you have limited hard drive then you will end up exhausting your say 20GB with around 400-500 songs.

But mp3 is already compressed, and the compression is much better. An mp3 file might average anything from 5-6 MB, which is almost 10 times smaller than a WAV file. So taking size into consideration its pretty obvious to go for mp3 format.

When it comes to settings, 256Kbps does the best, it is not less not more. Basically with higher bitrate(kbps) the size of the file increases, so if you go for 512 kbps it might be roughly double the size, but better quality than 256 kbps. But in my opinion 256 is an acceptable setting, taking size into consideration.

If you want software of ripping and playing, winamp is the best software available, and the best part is its free. You can use windows media player also, but the GUI isnt that user friendly. With winamp you can install plugins easily available on net to enhance its features, such as dont just listen but also stream audio over the internet and its pretty straight forward process.

So winamp is an all in one software which does everything.

Submitted by: Sumant K.

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I would suggest bringing them in in WAV format - then from that you can downconvert to whatever mp3 resolution you want. If you downconvert to 192 kbps, and decide that's not good enough, then it'll be easy to go back and re-downconvert to 320 kbps, for example. You don't want to try to go up to 320 from 192, your conversion is only as good as your source, at best.

As far as disk space, WAV format will take the most, but hard drives really aren't that expensive, it might be a good idea to get another one, for a backup if nothing else. You'd hate to do all this work to get the music online and then lose a hard drive!

As far as software goes, there are a lot of choices, including Windows Media Player V10. For ripping the music, I really like the freeware CDex, at http://cdexos.sourceforge.net/.

Submitted by: Ron K.
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Other recommendations by our members
by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / October 20, 2005 2:11 AM PDT
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Edward,
I use a little know program called EAC (exact audio copy, http://www.exactaudiocopy.de/). This program will take your cd, and querry the FreeDB online cd database to get the ID3 tag information (track title, artist, etc...). Then it rips the tracks into .wav files and uses an external compressor to compress them into any format you want. I use the free LAME (lame ain't an mp3 encoder, it's a running joke) which easily sets up in EAC to make VBR (variable bit rate) MP3 files. These files are only slightly larger than 128kb/s mp3 files, but have the quality of 320kb/s mp3 files. EAC will also run CRC checks to check the accuracy of your ripping (using "accurate rip") and will name the files and/or folders any way you want.

After the Initial setup of the external compressor and how you want your files named, this program is a single step CD ripper. The thing that makes this program shine, is that it can take severly damaged/scratched cd's and still make excellent copies. Also if you have any problems with those copy protected cd's in other programs, EAC will handle those without problem.

No I don't work for EAC or anything like that, I just happen to have done a similar search to yours a few years ago and have not found anything better (or cheaper!) over the years. EAC rips quickly, and leaves you with very high quality, low file size, totally unrestricted files (unlike wma or other propriety formats). Remember, if you don't like the lame mp3 compressor, you can use ANY other compression you want and still have the small, sleek interface of EAC.

The one thing it does not do, is any type of music library. I personally don't want a music library. I keep my files named correctly in a neat folder structure and never have a problem finding anything. I can always use windows media player or some other player that has a library function if I want it. There are LOTS of other programs out there, I hope I have given you some background and features to compare them to.

Submitted by: Aaron T.

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Hello,
I would suggest the following for digitising your CD collection.

Format: MP3
MP3 is the most widely recognised standard. Whilst MP4 and WMA files have higher compression they are not as well supported outside of your computer. For example I create CDROMs containing several albums in MP3 format, put them in my DVD player and it will play music for hours! However if you don?t want the files anywhere except on your computer I would suggest WMA (Windows Media Format) as the quality is better for a smaller file size.

As for the capture setting you I suggest you experiment to see what suites your taste. There is no right or wrong answer here. The higher the sample rate, the better the sound quality BUT the bigger the file. To find out what you like I suggest spending a little time trying out a single track at different sample rates and comparing the results.

Ripper: CDEX
My preferred ripper is CDEX. Why? It?s free, it?s easy to configure and control and you can plug in a lot of different ripping modules to suit your taste, although the standard one you get is quite adequate.

Player: Windows Media Player
My preferred player is Windows Media Player because it?s pre-installed on windows and because it will also play videos. I don?t like real player much because I find it too intrusive on the machine. However I before using Windows Media Player I used winamp for years which was excellent.

Submitted by: Simon S.

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I compared RealAudio Player, Windows Media Player and several MP3 rippers' file size and fidelity for copying music CDs to my laptop hard drive. My goal is to have the smallest file size with reasonably good laptop music fidelity. For me the best answer for the laptop is 64K fixed bit rate rips using Windows Media Player. For my desktop with lots of hard drive space the best fidelity answer is Music Match's 256k fixed bit rate MP3.

Submitted by: Mike R. of Tulsa, OK

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Hi Ed,

Nero has been the best example have found to rip music etc once you get around the fundamentals of it, it is a great piece of software to use will handle almost any kind of format and very strong. Will handle any regional settings for DVD?s also but can only say once formatted for Nero it is the only platform that will play it?but that is not necessarily a problem. Not so gimmick enhanced as Media Player but successful in its own right and you still get a great sound. Hope this helps Note http://www.nero.com

Cheers

Submitted by: John P. of Auckland, New Zealand

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Hi!

I ripped my CDs using Windows Media Player and found it just fine. Since my computer was short on space I chose the WMA (Windows Media Audio) option at 128Kbps, this format takes up a lot less space than the equivalent quality in MP3 and I cannot tell the difference in sound quality when I playback the tracks on my computer. Windows Media Player now have version 10 which is even easier to use and rips CDs in an instant. Hope this helps!

Submitted by: Cecilia K. of Berlin, Germany

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I am green in this department but I have been transferring a large collection for a while. I have been using mp4 (AAC) because it gives me the most compression and the loss in sound doesn?t seem bad. Of course, I blew out my hearing in the 70?s. I suppose if you are going to store it on a small hard drive, compression is most important. I bought a 300g external hard drive to warehouse the music. If compression is not the overriding issue, so I would stick with .wav because it really gives you more detail and a better sound.

I can?t give you any guidance on the capture setting, as mine defaults to 44, and I have not tried to change it. At one time, I tried to increase the rate a lot, and the rip was a disaster. My approach would be to push it up gradually and see if you get a good transfer and can tell the difference.

Submitted by: Evan S.

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for ease of backing up your music cd's, i would use the WMP wizard. Default works in most cases. IF you want to get more DETAILED, you will have to ask someone else. But i have found that WMP 10 has most, if not all, the tools i need to backup, sort, and play my cd library.

Submitted by: Daniel S.

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In answer to Edward H. on CD rip format.

I recently went through such an exercise myself, so here is my experience. MP3 and MP4 is much more efficient than a WAV file, so I did not consider the WAV format. Although MP4 is more efficient than MP3, it appears that support is not yet very wide. I ended up staying with MP3. Take a look at what MP4 has to offer and decide for yourself if it worth going that way - it is definitely worth considering.

Submitted by: Peter S.

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An answer for next week?s question regarding ripping from CD?..

A: In short, I would choose MP3 format at a reasonable bit rate of at least 256 kbps.

There are two components to this choice, format and bit rate. Let?s talk format first. MP3 is by far the most widely accepted format across computers and devices. You will find a high level of compatibility if you ever get an iPod or another type of mobile player. There are also a number of software tools that exist if you want to manipulate your music. Also, many popular programs (Musicmatch, for example, but there are many others) will rip your CDs while also creating a library for you with full MP3 tag support so its easy to look your files up later. The other formats out there are either not widely supported (ACC, MP4, WMA) or the compression algorithm is virtually non-existent and the files will be huge (WAV).

Now for bit rate. Many of the CD ripping programs indicate that ?CD Quality? sound can be had for 128 kbps. I would disagree. The MP3 files I have that are 128 kbps are clearly of lower quality than those at 256 kbps or 320 kbps. If I make a mix CD or move tracks to my iPod its very clear when I go from a 320 kbps file to a 128 kbps file. I?m always checking if my battery is dying or if something came partially unplugged. You can just tell. If you want to preserve the quality of your CD sound I would go no lower than 256 kbps, or even 320 kbps, although I?m not sure you will sense an improvement in sound quality by going to 320 kbps.

You will consume more disk space by ripping at 256 kbps, but if you are trying to preserve the sound quality of your music it will be worth it!

Submitted by: Mark G.

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iTunes is the easiest, most versatile way to capture music that I have found. It?s free and it works equally well on PCs and Macs. You don?t have to make a fits-all choice on how to import songs: To change import format, go to Edit/Preferences/Importing, and then you can choose between AAC Encoder, AIFF Encoder, Apple Lossless Encoder, MP3 Encoder, and WAV Encoder. Converting songs to the format needed before burning is equally simple: Go to Edit/Preferences/Burning, and then choose Audio CD, MP3 CD, or Data CD. The iTunes library organizes your songs by Genre, Artist, Album, Track Number, and Song Name, and then you can mix them up in your own playlists. I use three PCs and two Macs in the course of a week (work, home, own business), and all of them have my (constantly expanding) music collection in iTunes.

Submitted by: Shelley C.

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Since I use MusicMatch Jukebox to handle my mp3 player, I've been using MMJB to rip my CD's as well. It makes for convenience as the program is in essence my music library organizer. So if you use MMJB to rip, then your albums will be stored and catalogued by MMJB concurrently, thus removing a step or two of the process along the way.

Another thought.. You may find it beneficial to use a file format of Artist - Album - Track Number - Title, then store the tracks in folders such as Artist Name\Album Name. It makes it so much easier to find stuff later, and using the track number keeps your tunes in the right order (so albums such as The Wall play correctly and not jumbled).

Submitted by: Jeff S.

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For ripping CDs you really should go with a lossless format (I prefer the open source FLAC format). Spend a few bucks now and get a larger hard drive or a DVD burner (trust me, you'll thank yourself later). Rip your CDs to lossless, put those CDs in a closet somewhere and never touch them again. The big reasons to rip to lossless as opposed to a lossy format like MP3 or WMA are sound quality and convenience.

When you rip a CD to a lossy format, in addition to compressing the sound file, the encoder removes certain portions of the audio that you're not as likely to notice. The problem here is that every person's ear is different, and each format uses a different algorithm to achieve what its designer deemed to be an acceptable compromise between file size and sound quality.
Let's say you ripped your CDs to the MP3 format, then someone releases a new audio player that you like, only it doesn't support MP3. In this scenario you would have to do one of the following:

1) go back and spend days re-ripping your CDs and cleaning up each song's ID tag (sounds like a fun weekend project huh?),
2) or you could transcode those MP3s to that new lossy format. Unfortunately, transcoding is like trying to clone a clone, you end up doing so much additional damage to the sound quality that the resulting file is typically not worth listening to.

If you had originally ripped your CDs to a lossless format like FLAC, you could setup your ripping/conversion software to 'batch-convert' all of your music unattended while you sleep, work, etc. The ID tags would transfer over to the new files, and most importantly: you would be preserving as much of the original source audio as possible.

If you have all of your music archived in a lossless format, it will save you a lot of time, not to mention unnecessary wear on your albums and CD-ROM drive.
Hope this helps.

Submitted by: Paul A. of Lyndhurst, VA

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Answer:


There are many ways to accomplish this task. It depends upon how much time and energy you want to use.

I use iTunes (Windows version) to rip CDs, download music from the Apple store and mostly to organize and play the music. I especially like the ability to create play lists. Some days I like classical, others I like country & western or jazz.

I also use Windows Media Player to download songs from the Microsoft site. It will also rip CDs. It does not have the organization and playback strength that iTunes has.

Submitted by: Bill C.

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Answer:


The most versitile format is OGG Vorbis, which many players can now use, but the most widespread format will be MP3. Whichever format you use, you should use the "tags" provided by these two formats, to allow you to add detail other than just the filename.

Domino is a tiiny ripper/playerthat gives excellent results (and is especially good at gathering songe names from CDDB databases), but if you want to add lots of stuff such as album covers, genre, recording quaility, etc then something like Media Monkey will do nicely.

Submitted by: Colin M.

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Answer:


I say MP3 format is the better, as it provides near cd quality at an acceptable file size, as a vauge rule of thumb about 1mb for each minute, but this largly depends on what bit rate you rip your CD's at, for example, windows media player will now rip to MP3 and it's own (and equally good) .wma format. to adjust the bitrate in windows media player, go to:

Tools > Options > Copy Music,

at the bottom of the window there is a dop down box, allowing you to choose which format to rip in, (wma or MP3) then below that is a slider to choose the bitrate.

Personally I'd allways put it onto mp3, as it is a globally recognised format, and almost every music player can play mp3 files, plus if you have an mp3 player or similar such as an i-pod, you can take your music collection with you!

hope this helps.
Regards.

Submitted by: Russell H. of West Wales, UK

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Answer:


To answer your first question, I would have to say MP3. That is what I always use and I've had no problems. I recommend going to http://www.ubernet.org/ which is a community of music lovers. They follow the "
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EAC question
by kameha1 / October 21, 2005 12:06 AM PDT

Hi.just checked their site and noticed all their versions have a BETA disclaimer, is there a final version or you are using the Beta and is OK?
Normally I avoid Betas.
Also if is OK to use them what site do you use for download? do not see any USA site.
Thank you very much
David

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EAC beta
by slappie / October 21, 2005 5:03 AM PDT
In reply to: EAC question

EAC has been beta for a very long time and I have had no problems with it. It definately doesn't crash or break like other beta programs. Don't worry at all, it works just fine.

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EAC beta
by kameha1 / October 21, 2005 10:05 AM PDT
In reply to: EAC beta

Hi,thank you very much for your response, again there are two choices to download (with or without CDRDAO package).
Do you have a recommendation, not sure what they are.
Than you again
David

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EAC Beta
by RichM / October 25, 2005 10:17 AM PDT
In reply to: EAC question

I tried the both EAC and the first progam mentioned. Both worked well for me. The task involved ripping from a commercial disk to a folder on my computer. The album is question is a foreign one that is not well known. With EAC I had to type in song tittles and other file information. It is a simple program and easy to use. Audiograber on the other hand, has a lot more bells and whistles. It was easy to get to the music database and grap the file inforamtion. They are both good and it all depends on how much you want out of the program. The commercial program that I have been using is Acoustica Mixcraft but it is more techie oriented.

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Jet Audio
by levekk / October 21, 2005 1:56 PM PDT

I haven't read all the messages but I think Jet Audio was not mentioned. It is free, it rips, it burns, it converts (9 formats), it plays files and CDs and also Internet radio.(http://www.jetaudio.com)

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ripping CDs bit rate question
by brentaye / October 24, 2005 3:48 PM PDT

Lee Koo, et al,
I see any number of recommendations for bitrates from 128 kbps to 320 kbps. I was under the impression that CD audio disc bitrate was 44.1 kbps, which was two channels of something like 80 sps to 22 ksps, with a little bit of overhead/formatting bits added to fill out to 44.1 kbps. Did that change, or was I misinformed? Unless you are doing an analog to digital conversion, additional bits above the 44.1 kbps original rate just increase the file size. Oversampling can be valid for error correction, but it will not increase the fidelity or frequency range of your music. Do the MP3 tags take up that much more overhead file space?

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DIGITIZE
by satryx / October 20, 2005 7:58 PM PDT

Hi!
Just 2 cents here. I have found that ''sampling'' at 160 Kps is quite good, and according to PC magazine, is equivalent to CD sound. However, if you have room, 192 couldn't hurt!

The other thing is that MP3's don't actually ''compress'' sound in the way .zip files do.

When you listen to, say, an orchestra, there are always sounds masking other sounds...brass masking flutes and woodwinds, etc. MP3 encoding sees only the ''front wave'' of the sound and encodes that. Therefore, much less space is used although the sound should be indistinguishable from the original (since the removed ''masked'' material would not be heard anyway ). I am only mentioning this because if you MP3 stuff and then pitch the originals you cannot ''unzip'' an MP3 and have the original WAV quality. Don't know what you plan to do with your CDs but if you use MP3 don't pitch them.
That, at least, would be my advice.
Van

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Digitizing Analog Sources
by David Levine / October 20, 2005 8:35 PM PDT
In reply to: DIGITIZE

Does anyone know the best way to digitize analong music sources (cassette, vinyl) so that they can be stored and played as new digital files (for computer or mp3 player or new cd's with compressed files)?
I have a plain old Dell PC with Windows XP.

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RE: Digitizing Analog Sources
by midfingr / October 21, 2005 4:36 AM PDT

Hi,
Good to see someone else out there that still has cassettes and vinyl Happy

I'm certainly not an expert at this, but here's what I do. Also, please forgive me if you already know this.

First lets talk about cassette tapes. The first thing you will need to do is to connect your RCA cords from the 'PLAY' or output of your tape player to the input of your computer's sound card; usually called line-in. Depending on your setup, you will probably need an RCA (female) to mini adapter. Here is a pic: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/images/items/307905.jpg

This will enable you to record from you cassette player. Assuming you have a standard tape
player. To record on to the computer, a lot of the programs mentioned on this forum will do
fine. Such as: Audio Grabber, dbpoweramp, etc. Any program that allows you to record from the line-in of the sound card. Just make sure that you have the line-in selected from within Windows; double click the speaker icon in the system tray and select Options-Properties-OK-check one of the possibilities: 'Analog Mix', 'LineIn', 'What You Hear'

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RE: Digitizing Analog Sources
by midfingr / October 21, 2005 4:53 AM PDT

Hi,
Good to see someone else out there that still has cassettes and vinyl Happy

I'm certainly not an expert at this, but here's what I do. Also, please forgive me if you already know this.

First lets talk about cassette tapes. The first thing you will need to do is to connect your RCA cords from the 'PLAY' or output of your tape player to the input of your computer's sound card; usually called line-in. Depending on your setup, you will probably need an RCA (female) to mini adapter. Here is a pic: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/images/items/307905.jpg

This will enable you to record from you cassette player. Assuming you have a standard tape
player.

To record on to the computer, a lot of the programs mentioned on this forum will do
fine. Such as: Audio Grabber, dbpoweramp, etc. Any program that allows you to record from the line-in of the sound card.

Just make sure that you have the line-in selected from within Windows; double click the speaker icon in the system tray and select Options-Properties-OK-check one of the possibilities: 'Analog Mix', 'LineIn', 'What You Hear'. This all depends on your sound card. You may have to go into the control panel an select the 'Sounds and Audio Devices' to adjust the record settings.

After you have the cords connected and the record options setup, open the ripping program and select the line-in record option and press play on the tape player. Some rippers can copy the signal in to different formats like WAV or MP3; WAV being the largest, but the best sounding. Decide what you like.

Second. Vinyl recording. The good news. Everything done so far is the same. The not so good news is you need some kind of amplifier between your turntable and soundcard. This can be routed through a receiver in some cases (that's what I do) or if you can't, you will need to purchase a phono preamp: http://www.audioreplay.net/

I hope this helps. Here is an article from PCWorld regarding Vinyl to Computer: http://www.pcworld.com/howto/article/0,aid,46164,pg,2,00.asp

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I tried and need help
by BC'85 / October 23, 2005 10:57 AM PDT

I tried to capture a cassette using Roxio on my Dell Dimension 4700 (Sound Blaster Audiology 2 Zs sound card). I could hear the audio as it was captured, but when I tried to play the file, there was no sound. I tried all formats - mps, wma, wva, and none worked.

Do I need to make adjustments on the control panel to the sound card ot elsewhere?

Thanks

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RE: I tried and need help
by midfingr / October 24, 2005 1:53 PM PDT
In reply to: I tried and need help

Hi
I'm not familiar with Roxio software, I know of it, but I haven't used it. But I do have the same sound card. Just to make sure, were you able to send the audio from the cassette player to soundcard? If so, you should be able to adjust the soundcard's properties from within the Control Panel in Windows. If you're using WinXP, go to Control Panel, select 'Sounds and Audio Devices', from there choose Avanced.. then Options, Properties, Recording. Look at the list below and make sure "What U Hear" and Analog Mix (...) have check marks in the boxes.
Then click OK. This will bring you to Recording Control.
Place a check mark in the Select box under "What U Hear". Try recording something from the cassette. If that doesn't work, repeat the above and place a check mark in the Select box under Analog Mix.

Also. Does the Roxio program have level meters indicating that it is picking up sound?

Try that. Please post back.

Good Luck Happy

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Thanks!
by BC'85 / October 25, 2005 1:24 PM PDT

After a bit of trial and error, it worked. The keys were making sure that I checked every box in record and play and checking "what you hear" in the roxio software.

The Roxio software has meters as well as multiple finishing and cleaning options.

I was attempting to save (and did) a 20+ year old tape of an album long out of print.

Many thanks. This entire feed above was key.

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Digitizing Analog Sources
by kameha1 / October 22, 2005 2:28 AM PDT
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Digitizing Analog Sources
by ellenash / October 22, 2005 2:01 PM PDT

I found out how to do this right here, on this forum. I use MusicMatch Jukebox, which was recommended by several people. I do use a cable recommended right above this post. It plugs into the back of the stereo - which plays vinyl or cassette tapes, and then into the computer. The problem is the tracks - with most of the old records and tapes, you have to type in each track, which is really annoying. But, you only have to do it once, so I guess it's not that bad.
Keeping it all with MusicMatch lets me use music from any format - CD, cassettes and vinyl and put them all into my music library.

I'm not a kid, and I'm not a techie - I'm a grandmother. I didn't know how to do it, but the posts to this forum helped walk me through it all, and in one afternoon, presto! I was recording vinyl to my computer, then making CDs of them to play in my car. How neat is that! So, if I can do it, so can you! Happy listening!

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Digitizing Analog Sources - Try audacity
by RichM / October 25, 2005 10:34 AM PDT

A free program that I've use successfuly is audacity. It work very well but you will have to experiment with it. I used an old tape player using the earphone output to the external input on the computer (not the mike!). It did a fair job taking music from old cassette tapes. You create one or two big files and then manually divide them into the song files. It may take a while to get the hang of it but for me it was worth the effort.

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MusicMatch Jukebox
by hack49 / October 20, 2005 8:23 PM PDT

Thanks for the suggestion of Audiograbber, which I'll now try.
For years I have used MusicMatch Jukebox - also available as a freebie - which I've found handles interformat conversions well as well as being good burning software.
I'm not saying is the best, or even better than anything else, but I've found it reliable and very easy to use.

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MusicMatch USED to be good
by seamusiv / October 20, 2005 11:35 PM PDT
In reply to: MusicMatch Jukebox

I have to say that I am a fan of MusicMatch - I own a lifetime license. But in recent years, somewhere between the upgrade from version 8 to 10, it became an unwieldy audioplayer that is a HUGE memory hog.

I now have 3 audio players on my machine, all for different reasons, and wish I could somehow combine them into one.

For tagging music files, MusicMatch is the best. With a licensed version you can 'supertag' multiple files with ease. Look up CDDB and apply what you find quickly.

For a slim, powerful music player that doesn't hog your system, I like MediaMonkey. You can play tracks from other drives on your network and you can run it from your system tray.

For purchasing music, iTunes is the way to go.

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MusicMatch JukeBox
by rimbaud / October 21, 2005 12:08 AM PDT

I think MusicMatch JukeBox is a great all-in-one solution, especially for those unbale to run iTunes (Windows versions previous to XP). I don't think it's a "memory hog", but must suffer from a "memory leak", or some other problem. It has become "buggy"... I don't run it at work anymore (on my Windows 2000 machine), because it will often cause my system to reboot on exit from the program.

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MusicMatch 10.0
by wdelabarre / October 22, 2005 9:21 PM PDT
In reply to: MusicMatch Jukebox

I've had to uninstall MusicMatch 10.x because it's too buggy(I'm using Win XP). Ver. 9.x is the one that works best.

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Great topic, great response..Pedantic point: CDs are digital
by richwig / October 20, 2005 8:28 PM PDT

Your CD collection is already digital. Compact discs provide two channels of sound digitized at 44.1 kilohertz sampling. So technically you're converting from one digital encoding scheme to another. MP3 and other new formats provide pretty good quality with far less storage space required.

But it was already digital, and already high quality.

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Winamp
by mtxoracle / October 20, 2005 8:35 PM PDT

First i would like to congratulate Scott Z for a great, complete answer.

Now i prefer Winamp to be my personal music player ripper/encoder. with a host of plugins to personalize it and skinable interface, you can do almost anyting. Theres even an ipod plugin, for your next step in to digital muisc, Edward. I would also advise you to invest in a larger hard drive or a 2nd hard drive.

My seccond choice would be iTunes, its verry well supported and the most popular player bar none on the market right now.

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My winamp is noisey...
by thwood40 / October 30, 2005 4:06 AM PST
In reply to: Winamp

When I use winamp I get lots of background noise. Kind of a hiss/static thing. This happens when I'm listening to my own files as well as streaming audio. I've used a few different versions of WA and think that I'm using the latest right now but I've always gotton the noisey playback. I find JetAudio, RealA, and WMP much quieter.

Is there something wrong here? I'd like WA to play just as quietly as the rest...

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Slightly Inaccurate...
by cdreis / October 20, 2005 8:42 PM PDT

It should be noted that reducing the "bit rate" does not reduce the ends of the audio spectrum, it affects the entire spectrum.

Bit Rate refers to the number of times that the audio is sampled each second. If there were ten 1khz notes in one second of audio, and you were sampling at a rate of only 5 times per second, then you would loose all or some of half of those 1khz notes.

At bit rates of 128k+, you can't actually loose whole notes-- you loose parts of the harmonics and interactions between sounds, resulting in less presence and realisim. At a low enough bit rate, the audio waves would have so much missing that the distortion becomes audible.

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Try CdeX 1.51
by gonzalo_san_gil / October 20, 2005 8:53 PM PDT
http://cdexos.sourceforge.net/

You can choose among a variety of formats an decide what you like more while listening. In a format, you have to consider quality, not only compression rates. And only you can decide which you like more... after listening and weight the balance between saved disk space and final quality of the compresed file.
Only your own ears must decide...

I Hope I have helped...
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other audio converter freeware here
by shirtforbrains / November 11, 2005 3:28 AM PST
In reply to: Try CdeX 1.51

I tried CDex 1.51 and it appears to be a great freeware audio program w/all the bells and whistles. I am running win98SE and encountered too many bugs/issues with it, when all I want is a user-friendly converter.

Switch is the answer for me

Download.com keyword Switch

Switch is a program for Windows that lets you convert audio files from one format to another. All major audio file formats can be loaded and converted using this program.

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WMA destroys music more than it needs to, don't use it.
by edge_bit / October 20, 2005 9:11 PM PDT

WMA sounds awful in side-by-side tests with MP3 and the original WAV file.

The reason is WMA adds a strange reverse-reverb to everything. Then end result is everything sounds "swishier" as each sound is preceeded by a kind of "echo".

WMA is -NOT- a format you should ever use.

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Can't Agree
by Zuidema / October 20, 2005 10:31 PM PDT

I chose to rip my collection into WMA for two main reasons.

1) Megabyte-for-megabyte, the files sounded better to me. I chose to rip my collection using variable bitrate WMA, at one notch below the highest quality setting. This results in files that have an average bitrate of about 230 Kbps and about 1.3MB per minute of music.

2) The ripping process couldn't be more pleasant. You can set up Windows Media Player to automatically start ripping once a CD is inserted, and automatically eject the CD when ripping is done. While ripping is occurring, WMP actually starts playing the tracks. Ripping the music is also extremely fast. You will likely be done with the whole CD before the first track is done playing. This is an important consideration if you have a lot of CDs to store.

I made the big move to digitize my collection two years ago. A lot has changed since then. MP3 encoders have become better and faster. However, even with the latest version of LAME it's still not nearly as fast as WMA and the quality only improves if I choose the higher bitrate settings (which results in larger files). You also usually need to twiddle with settings to achieve the optimal results.

It's just not true that WMA "destroys" your music. I simply don't know what wdge_bit is talking about with the reverse-reverb. Neverthless, you should set up a "blind taste test" like this:

1) Pick about 3 or 4 tracks that represent a range of music you like to listen to. Try to vary the instruments used, the intensity, the genre etc.

2) Rip the tracks to your computer, using various compression tools. I have to agree that 128Kbps is simply not sufficient as a long-term storage option. You don't want to have to recompress your whole library in the future. So go with at least 192 Kbps, if not higher. [This is a huge gripe of mine with respect to the iTunes music store, which only provides music at 128kbps.]

3) Make note of the process for ripping. How many times do you have to click and set options? How long does it take to rip and encode a track? These are important factors. You'll be doing this a few hundred times if you have a decent sized collection of CDs.

4) Set up a playlist and listen to the ripped tracks on the highest quality audio equipment you own. Computer speakers won't reveal the subtle differences between the formats. Keep a scorecard.

5) Check the scorecard against the file sizes. Were some of the files bigger than necessary? What was the "sweet spot" for you?

All of the compression algorithms out there today are "lossy." They aren't like .zip files, which can restore files bit-for-bit. All "destroy" parts of music in order to reduce the file size. The key is, which one is going to preserve the music best according to your ears and your hard disk budget. (If money were no object, of course you would save everything as the original .WAV!)

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