Do you remember when they introduced the CD and where trying to convince people to that those shiny round pieces of plastic where so awesomely pawning that obsolete black vinyl when it came down to durability?
Well, you’ve probably figured out that was a loud of BS as well by now, after you noticed some of you favourite CDs are scratched beyond repair, making some track unplayable, or even the whole bloody CD.
So what do IT geeks do in this case? Take backups of course! We start ripping all those CDs to a digital format so we can always burn ourselves a copy after your dogs decides to use that Fergie album as a chew toy. Oh wait. On second thought, that wouldn’t be that bad. Anyway, the question now is: in what format do we rip so we don’t spend all our diskspace on it, and are still able to get some serious audio quality from it.
Yes, the idea of loosing audio info when ripping to mp3, ogg, or any kind of lossy audio format gives me sleepless nights. That and that recent picture of skinny assed Renee Zelweger. Go get a burger girl, you need some animal fats in your system pronto. To solve at least one of those issues, I started evaluating some audio formats before I started ripping away:
- WAV has 100% of the quality, but no compression at all. This simply takes too much space, thus isn’t an option.
- MP3 is lossy, which is a pity, but even when sampling at high ratios disk space usage is good. Most important of all, everything can handle mp3s. Car stereos, mp3 players (that’s why they are called mp3 players after all), DVD players, that crappy media player installed by default on your Windows machine. Anything.
- OGG is the open source mp3 competitor. Yay! Open source! It rawks! Too bad it doesn’t work on anything but your PC though. The chances you’ll get your OGGs to play in your mp3 player, DVD or car stereo are as slim as you getting a threesome with the Olson Twins. God that would be great. OGGs on your car stereo. Hot!
- FLAC has potential. It’s lossless, which means it’s an audiophile’s wet dream (that and the Olson Twins thing), and it compresses quite nicely compared to other lossless formats. Oh, and it’s opens source again. Yay! Open Source! But when it comes to being compatible with players it’s the same old story again. Not a lot is going to play this out of the box, so you’ll either have to rip them a second time, or convert them to mp3s, which means more disk space requirements, which is sucky sucky.
- AAC. I heard this was a good lossy format again, kicking the mp3 codecs ass apparently. It also seems to be playing on more players, but it’s a bitch to find any tools to encode to AAC. After a few web searches and trying to find some tools to do this easily, I gave up and didn’t bother with it. It’s used on the iPod I read, with DRM of course.
In the end I decided to try and squeeze the maximum quality possible out of the well known and super-compatible mp3 format, making life easy for myself. Which is how I like it really. It turns out bleep.com, Warp’s online music store, also uses mp3s so I guess my decision isn’t that half-assed after all. From their site I also learned they are using the “insane preset” on the Lame mp3 encoder to make sure the sound quality is optimal. I’m doing exactly the same. Insane sounds quite right to me really, when it comes to sound quality.
If you are using CDex for your ripping pleasures, you can select this insane setting in the Encoder tab in the settings (F4). There’s a drop down box labelled “Quality” there, which is a dead give-away isn’t it. Set that one to “preset insane” and you’ll be able to rest on both ears, knowing your CD collection is safely stored on your hard drive, at a pretty damn good quality. Make sure you get a fresh copy of CDex as well, as it’s bound to be bundled with a recent version of Lame, the mp3 encoder.
Now we just have to backup those mp3s somewhere, in case our HDD decides to crap out on us.