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Old Jan 2nd, 2006, 01:50 PM
bravocharlie bravocharlie is offline
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Post Selecting the Right File Format & Workflow for Ripping CDs

Ripping CDs is a time consuming and sometimes tedious process if you don't have a CD that is properly encoded with track names, etc.

The purpose of this post is to describe in detail for those who may not be aware of all the options for ripping CDs before they invest considerable time doing so and then realizing later on that the time spent was in vain. This thread is written in summary format based on conclusions I have made after extensive research and reviews of other threads on the SONOS forum and other websites.

Hopefully, this will save you the time I spent researching these issues.

File Format

This is perhaps the most important decision you will make before ripping your CD collection. There are numerous websites that provide detailed information regarding the various file formats for ripping CDs.

There are two basic types of file formats:

Lossy
or
Lossless

Lossy
Lossy formats compress the data and remove data from the original data source. Generally, you'll lose high and low frequencies in a compressed audio file. Thus, the file sizes generated can be substantially smaller than the original file found on the CD. If storage space on a hard drive is a factor for you, then you should consider a Lossy file format. The AAC file format (stored as a *.m4a file extension) is an excellent option. At the 128 or 192 kbps setting, the AAC sound quality is near CD quality (most can't hear the difference). AAC files can be generated from iTunes which you can download for free at: http://www.apple.com/itunes/

AAC files are in essence MP4 files which are the next generation of MP3 files (new and improved)

Once you install the software, make sure your file formatting is configured properly. To do this, go to: edit>preferences>advanced tab>importing tab

Select Import Using: AAC Encoder
Setting Custom: (select your desired rate) I'd suggest 192kbps; however most files ripped at 128kbps will provide excellent quality on most systems.

An average size CD ripped at 128kbps in AAC is approximately 40MB.

You can read more about the AAC Encoder here:
http://www.apple.com/quicktime/technologies/aac/

Lossless
The clear choice based on a majority of reviews on the web, experts on the SONOS forum, and audiophiles is the FLAC lossless file format (Free Lossless Audio Codec). iTunes or Windows Media Player do not support FLAC files. Therefore you will need another CD ripping program to create FLAC files. FLAC is a Lossless compression which means the file is still compressed; but no data is lost. Therefore, you are getting every bit of data that was on the CD into the file when you rip it. This is truly an archival type file. The advantage to FLAC is that as technology changes, you can convert your lossless FLAC file to some other format if necessary without losing any quality or degradation of the original audio from the CD.

Also important to note that if you rip to FLAC, you can always convert FLAC to other compressed file formats later....always retaining the original archive quality FLAC audio file. This may be useful for MP3 or iPOD users who require a MP3/4 or AAC file format.

If you'd like to have your FLAC files show the correct icon, download the appropriate installer from FLAC's website here: http://flac.sourceforge.net/download.html

An average CD converted to FLAC is approximately 300MB.

Workflow

Ripping a CD collection can be very time consuming. I have researched and considered a number of CD ripping software programs. I have found that Easy CD-DA Extractor (Professional) is an excellent and seamless software program to rip CDs into a number of audio file formats including AAC & FLAC. You can download a free trial version at: http://www.poikosoft.com/. After 30 days, the license costs $34.95 and can be obtained online in real time.

Once Easy CD-DA Extractor is installed; you'll need to configure it to your desired audio file output. If you're ripping to FLAC files, Compression Level 0 is the fastest (it still compresses the file). The help files are very user friends and provide explanations to every option in the software. Make sure that you have Error Recovery & Repair mode selected in your preferences.

If you're ripping to AAC, make sure you select your kbps value. Again, 128 or better yet 192 kbps will provide excellent results and still keep your file sizes within reason.

Spend a few minutes going through all the options and configuration menus in the software to make sure everything is the way it should be. You'll also need to decide how you want the files written to the hard drive. I prefer to have each folder named for the artist and then all the artist's albums contained within the folder. You can choose your desired format easily and quickly. What you don't want to do is change midstream on a large CD ripping project.

Select a master folder for your music library. On my computer, I've called it Music Library High Def. Make sure the Enable Metadata is selected.

One of the nice features of the software is that it allows you to modify any of the metadata fields for the CD. If there's a typo or it isn't categorized properly for Genre, you can change it before ripping it. So, make sure you check your metadata before clicking on Rip CD.

Start ripping your CDs. After the first one, check to see that the file format and track naming is the way you want. As you go along, there's a built-in check for this...keep reading.

Album Art

There are a number of freeware programs available on the internet that allow you to grab album art for your music library. I've found through use and reading reviews that at best, they work o.k. but not great.

In order for album art to appear on the SONOS controller, you need to copy a jpeg, bmp, or gif file into the album folder. Name the graphic file folder.jpg. By using the word "folder" the computer knows that this is the graphic to link to all files within the folder.

I've found that while the Easy CD-DA Extractor is ripping the CD, there is time to go to http://images.google.com/ and type in the artist name and album. You'll find a multitude of options. Find one that first of all looks good (not all are scanned or generated equally). Image sizes larger than 200x200 are simply not necessary, so search for a good size and quality image. Once you find the image, click on it. At the top of the google website screen, you'll see a hyperlink to "See Full Size Image" click on that to get a clean view of the image. Once the album art shows on a new screen, right click on the image and select "Save Picture As..." Go to your music library folder where you're ripping the current CD and rename the image folder.jpg. Save the image to the album folder. Again, the name of the image file will be folder.jpg. This will be the same file name for every album you download album art.

By grabbing the album art while the CD is ripping, you'll be able to check on the folder name for the album that you're ripping to make sure its ripping to the correct folder name. If its incorrect, you can change the name after the CD is finished ripping.

Backing Up

External (and internal for that matter) hard drive storage is inexpensive. Consider the countless hours ripping your CD collection to your computer. If your hard drive has a catastrophic failure, you will have lost all the time ripping your CD collection. Instead, considering backing up your music (and digital photos too) to a separate hard drive. Its very cheap insurance.

Last edited by bravocharlie; Jan 7th, 2006 at 05:19 PM.
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  #2  
Old Jan 2nd, 2006, 02:19 PM
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TCassio TCassio is offline
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Of all the posts reguarding the ripping of cd's, I've not come across any mention of JRiver Media Center 11. I have been using to rip my CD's. It has a FLAC plugin, It automatically goes out and gets the album art and stores it as folder.jpg.

Am I the only one using this?

Any comments on this software.

I originally purchased JRiver MC 11 to use with Mainlobby and MusicLobby for my whole house audio. Since I went with Sonos, I figured I'd user what I already had.

All comments welcomed.

Thanks.
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  #3  
Old Jan 3rd, 2006, 08:47 AM
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RO53BEN RO53BEN is offline
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Just a quick nitpick....

.m4a extension files can be both 'lossy' and 'lossless' depending on the format used. AAC is indeed lossy, but the Apple Lossless codec also uses the .m4a extension.

It's all down to the listener but I think AAC 128 is pretty poor, 192 is better and a bare minimum in my opinion.
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Old Jan 4th, 2006, 01:58 AM
Formix Formix is offline
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You're not the only one, I use MC10, but it has just never worked as well as I would've liked.
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  #5  
Old Jan 5th, 2006, 01:46 PM
r21442 r21442 is offline
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Bravo or Ben,

The ZP80 and 1.3 announcements inspired me to finally place my UK bundle order - arrives tomorrow. I'd bought EasyCD-DA and ripped a couple of FLACs in prep for trials. I've never ripped anything before since mobile music is not a priority for me - just need it distributed around the home.

Now with Apple Lossless supported and me about to order up my NAS and do the deed I need to choose a format. From the rush of threads I interpret the nub of the choice to be down to

a) ease of artwork integration
b) willingness to support Apple corp.
c) ease of playlist admin
d) ease of track/album/disc/artist etc. admin (or is that a Sonos issue?)

I don't mind effort up front but don't want to have to do it again so what to use?

Another question for the uninitiated - is 320kb/s the best bit rate? Goddam I wish the ripping software bit was easier - why is there not in either Easy or iTunes a pull down with "Apple Lossless" instead of worrying about the settings?

1) FLAC, AAC, WAV or...?
2) iTunes or Easy CD-DA - is there one or other integrate with Sonos better?

Appreciate folks out there have different loyalties - try to be impartial! IN an ideal world I'd prefer to avoid the proprietary nonsense.

Answers on a postcard....!
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  #6  
Old Jan 5th, 2006, 02:05 PM
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Majik Majik is offline
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You don't mention which platform you're on, so I'm guessing it's Windows.

Many of the users here are already wedded to iTunes because of their existing use of iTunes.

As you are not, I would recommend to steer clear. Not that it isn't a good program... it is. It's just you can avoid getting trapped into Apple proprietary format. This will give you added flexibility and futureproofing.

Lossless is best, as there should never be any need to re-rip. If you do get a portable player and need to convert, you can do easily and without loss of quality.

Conversely, if you go with one of the many lossy formats whilst it's true that most people can't hear the difference between lossless and 320k MP3, if you ever need to convert to a different format you will degrade the audio quality.

If you're going lossless, the most popular, broadly supported, and futureproof format is FLAC.

It has good tagging support, volume leveling and cue sheet support (the latter not being supported in Sonos yet). Really the only criticism of it is that it doesn't support embedded album art. Quite frankly unless you are messing around with your files a lot this won't matter to you.

Album art doesn't have to be embedded with the file. Many programs and systems handle album art separately. This includes Sonos. So the lack of album-art embedding shouldn't effect you at all.

The reality is most tagging programs aren't good at album art. You are advised to go with a separate album art program (I use the excellent Albumart which is also free).

As for ripping programs, there's a range of options that others can recommend (sorry I can't as I use linux) but FLAC is reasonably well supported on the PC.

Cheers,

Keith

Last edited by Majik; Jan 5th, 2006 at 02:09 PM.
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  #7  
Old Jan 5th, 2006, 02:26 PM
r21442 r21442 is offline
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Thanks for the input Keith,

Yep its Windows. The coy I work for used to use all macs in support of Apple as its biggest customer and it was purgatory - eventually saw the light of day.

I've some pretty good gear. Whether I can hear any difference I don't know but storage is relatively cheap and I'd rather keep the integrity of the original as a point of principal.

Interestingly, What Hi-Fi in the UK keep raving about the better quality of AAC over others at the same (reduced) bit rates. Not sure to believe them since they are usually comparing in different players too?

Off topic I was surprised to see the Sonos UK site say they just shipped their 1000th zoneplayer. I would have thought the sales would be bigger given the widespread good press? Guess we have typically smaller houses in the UK so less target market? But, I see lots of us Brits on the forum. Can only see Sonos getting stronger.
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Old Jan 5th, 2006, 03:05 PM
bravocharlie bravocharlie is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Majik
You don't mention which platform you're on, so I'm guessing it's Windows.

Many of the users here are already wedded to iTunes because of their existing use of iTunes.

As you are not, I would recommend to steer clear. Not that it isn't a good program... it is. It's just you can avoid getting trapped into Apple proprietary format. This will give you added flexibility and futureproofing.

Lossless is best, as there should never be any need to re-rip. If you do get a portable player and need to convert, you can do easily and without loss of quality.

Conversely, if you go with one of the many lossy formats whilst it's true that most people can't hear the difference between lossless and 320k MP3, if you ever need to convert to a different format you will degrade the audio quality.

If you're going lossless, the most popular, broadly supported, and futureproof format is FLAC.

It has good tagging support, volume leveling and cue sheet support (the latter not being supported in Sonos yet). Really the only criticism of it is that it doesn't support embedded album art. Quite frankly unless you are messing around with your files a lot this won't matter to you.

Album art doesn't have to be embedded with the file. Many programs and systems handle album art separately. This includes Sonos. So the lack of album-art embedding shouldn't effect you at all.

The reality is most tagging programs aren't good at album art. You are advised to go with a separate album art program (I use the excellent Albumart which is also free).

As for ripping programs, there's a range of options that others can recommend (sorry I can't as I use linux) but FLAC is reasonably well supported on the PC.

Cheers,

Keith
I concur 100%. Go FLAC not Apple Lossless. This is a once and done ripping project.
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  #9  
Old Jan 5th, 2006, 03:22 PM
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RO53BEN RO53BEN is offline
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Go Apple Lossless and convert it to FLAC, it's quicker
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  #10  
Old Jan 5th, 2006, 03:23 PM
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Majik Majik is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by r21442
Yep its Windows. The coy I work for used to use all macs in support of Apple as its biggest customer and it was purgatory - eventually saw the light of day.
Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against Apple. They make good products and I prefer Mac OS X to Windows.

Quote:
Interestingly, What Hi-Fi in the UK keep raving about the better quality of AAC over others at the same (reduced) bit rates. Not sure to believe them since they are usually comparing in different players too?
AAC is better than MP3. Note that AAC is actually an industry standard: it's the audio part of the MPEG-4 Standard (MP3 is the audio part of the MPEG-2 standard).

OGG is also a good codec, from an open-source background, but doesn't have as much support as it should. If you're going for lossy then AAC isn't a bad choice at all.

Quote:
Off topic I was surprised to see the Sonos UK site say they just shipped their 1000th zoneplayer. I would have thought the sales would be bigger given the widespread good press? Guess we have typically smaller houses in the UK so less target market? But, I see lots of us Brits on the forum. Can only see Sonos getting stronger.
This is only one of several Sonos resellers in the UK. I suspect the number is higher than this one site indicates.

Cheers,

Keith
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