In between CDs and MP3s, there's an awkward half-breed called the MP3 CD--a recordable CD filled with MP3 data and playable only on special MP3 CD players. The technology allows you to store several hours' worth of music on a single CD--much more than a conventional audio CD.
In this tutorial, we'll show two methods for creating your own MP3 CD using your personal computer and a blank CD. A video version of this tutorial is available on CNET TV.
Dedicated MP3 CD players never really took off, but many car stereo models support the format. In fact, if you've got an aftermarket car stereo made in the past 2-3 years that has the capability to play regular CDs, there's a good chance it can play MP3 CDs, too. Many DVD players also support the format.
The quickest way to check is to just make an MP3 CD using your computer and a blank CD-R.
So long as you've got a Mac or PC equipped with a CD drive that can both read and write CDs, it's possible to make an MP3 CD directly from your desktop. To do this, just pop in a blank CDR, drag a collection of MP3 files onto the blank CD icon or folder, and burn it as a data CD. Directly burning a disk from your desktop is the way to go if you want the CD to contain nested folders of artists and albums that you can navigate like an MP3 player using the controls on the device you're using to play the CD.
The problem with this method is that not all MP3 CD players support nested folders, and it can be painstaking to go through your collection and verify the files are in the MP3 format.
The simplest, most fool-proof way to make an MP3 CD is to use a jukebox program like iTunes, Windows Media Player, or Winamp. We'll focus on iTunes, since it's both Mac and PC compatible.
First make a playlist and fill it with all the songs you want to burn to CD. A typical blank CD holds around 700Mb of music, so check the bottom of the playlist window to make sure you haven't exceeded capacity.
Next, while you're in the playlist, hit the Burn Disc button in the bottom right corner. You should see a Burn Settings window with options for Audio CD, MP3 CD, and data CD. Choose the MP3 CD option and hit burn.
The drawback to using iTunes instead of burning an MP3 CD directly from your desktop, is that the default settings create a CD with all your files thrown into one directory, just like the playlist you used to create it. The upshot, is that these playlist-style MP3 CDs are less complicated to create, and navigation is identical to playing a regular audio CD.
It is possible, however, to create an MP3 CD with nested folders using iTunes, with one simple trick--sort your playlist by Artist or Album before burning the CD. To do this, simply click on the Artist or Album column headers within your playlist, so that all the songs are alphabetically arranged by artist name or album title. The resulting CD will include a top directory of folders categorized by the column you selected in iTunes.