Archiving Music

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One of the things I’ve been doing is to work on having an archive of CDs. The kids just destroy CDs at an amazing rate (only cassettes are less durable :-). So, here’s my strategy for archiving things. I archive into two formats:
* A lossless format so that I can recover the exact audio content. Right now I’m using “FLAC”:http://flac.sourceforge.net (free lossless audio codec) for this. It is about a 50% compression compared with raw CD format (called PCM for pulse code modulation).
* I also encode them into MP3 as this is a pretty much universal lossy encoding that let’s the kids listen to say the entire Harry Potter Sorceror’s Stone 7 CD collection jammed onto one CD. So, there is less to recover when they use it as a hockey puck.
Here are the exact steps…

First, here are the information sources for figuring this out. The sources change all the time, but these have turned out to be most useful today:
* “Etree”:http://wiki.etree.org/index.php?page=FLAC. According to the etree, WIKI, they are using SHN now, but might switch to the newer FLAC soon as this is a better overall codec.
* FLAC – Free Lossless Audio Codec. This looks like the best lossless encoder although ludwig liked SHN. I’m going to try it and see how well it works. The Windows install adds something called FLAC frontend that you can use to take WAV files and convert them to FLAC files. It also adds a Winamp 3.0 plug-in to play FLAC files directly.
* Lossless audio compression. Top hit on google. He likes RKAU the best, but the data is old, so it isn’t clear how good it is. It is interesting to see that lossless encoding is probably about a few percentage points different, so it is not as variable as the lossy ones.
Here is the recommended stuff to download first:
# “LAME”:http://lame.sourceforget.net. This is probably the best freeware MP3 encoder out there. Stands for LAME Ain’t Another MP3 Encoder.
# “Razorlame”:http://www.dors.de/razorlame/index.php. LAME is a command line utility. This thing adds a Windows frontend to it.
# “Exact Audio Copy”:http://www.exactaudiocopy.de. This is the best utility for ripping and is the most exact although most other tools will do this. Do a copy uncompressed first to get the WAV files out onto your hard disk. Read the setup for how to connect this to Lame.
# “FLAC”:http://flac.sourceforge.net site is another place to get the FLAC for Windows. This installs the Nero burners, the Winamp plug-ins so that you can listen and the FLAC frontend to get WAVs into FLAC and vice versa. With the Flac encoder, I can now have an archive that is lossless. Also see “FLAC for Windows”:http://mikewren.com/flac/ as the original source of the Windows version of FLAC.
# “Winamp”:http://winamp.com. THere is a Winamp 3 and winamp 2 plug-in to read flac files directly to play them or use just about anything to play the high quality MP3. Winamp seems to be the least common demoninator player that can support formats like FLAC.
# “Musicmatch”:http://musicmatch.com. Crazy, but Musicmatch has the best MP3 tag editing, so you’ll need it to add the right tags for MP3 files.
Here is the process when I get a new CD:
# Start Exact Audio Copy utility. I have the LAME encoder tied to this for MP3. So now on the disk are both a WAV and a MP3 that is high quality and very compatible. Set it up so that it works with LAME. For audio, I tend to use the setting –alt-preset extreme. This is a 320Kbps maximum encoding that folks have found to be pretty much audible indistinguishible from the original PCM.
# Insert the CD to be archived. You should see Exact Audio Copy pick it up, do a look up for the track entries. Now choose Edit/Select All and then choose Action/Copy Tracks/Uncompressed. This dumps the WAV files onto your hard disk.
# Choose Start/All Programs/Flac/Frac Frontend to start the FLAC user interface and then start the Explorer and navigate to the where the WAV files live. Drag and drop the WAV files to FLAC. Select Level 8 (maximum compression), make sure that you _don’t_ check “Delete Input Files” so that the WAV files live. Select “Add Tags” as well. This will encode all the WAV files to FLAC.
# Choose Start/All Programs/Lime/Razorlime and run Razorlime. Now drag the WAV files into this window. Click the LAME button to set parameters. Go to the custom section and select “Use Custom SEttings only” and then in the custom box, type –alt-preset extreme. Drag and drop all the WAV files into the LAME file window and choose Encode.
# Choose Start/All Programs/Musicmatch/Musicmatch. Drag the MP3 files you created into the playlist. Choose stop. Then select all the tracks and right click and choose Edit Tags. Then choose Lookup Tags and match them. This will let you tag the MP3 files with the correct songs and names. LAME unfortunately doesn’t do this.
# Delete the WAV files.
# Start up Nero or whatever burning software you have, you can now copy the MP3 onto a CD or whatever and give it to the kids. When they want another just burn another set.
Now you will have the original CD in a lossless format so that you can recover it completely, but it will take about half the space. About 300MB for a typical CD. And, you will have an MP3 version that is about 60MB for your listening pleasure.

One Reply to “Archiving Music”

  1. Lossless compression
    Like rich, I am interested in switching to lossless compression for my music files — Tong Family Blog: Lossless Encoding. I wonder tho how well these work with non-pc devices like my kenwood/phatnoise music keg?…

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