How to "Rip" Music

Of all the things I have written about, I merely forgot to start at the beginning.
Many people, particularly of my age (and older) aren't up with the whole "Digital music" thing - downloading, MP3's, iTunes and ripping.

Ripping, by the way is the 'hip term' to describe copying music from a CD onto your computer and making it understandable to other programs.

Before you download iTunes and shove a CD in your computer - read all of this.
It is important and will makes things easier and better for you in the long term.
Even if you think you know what you are doing - have a read - there may be a couple of things you missed out on before.

Well, bit of history (history is cool). You've been listening to Digital Music for decades.
I don't want to get technical because it is boring and that is what Wikipedia is for - however, Pulse Code Modulation (PCM) is pretty sweet.
Look at this picture -
Cool huh? It shows how an analogue sine wave is converted into a digital pattern.

Important, when we continue.
Look at it - What do you notice? It's not perfect - it's 'blocky'. You could reasonably say that if the red line was removed, that the blocky graph represented a sine wave.

Well, that's digital music in essence - a representation of natural sound.

When CDs first came out, lots of people said they sounded flat and without character. Sort of true, sort of pretentious gumbo. Technology has improved, leading to better understanding of how to record, so that the 16bit 44.1KHz sample rate sounds as good as you are likely to get. It is not perfect and anal types will go on about "Vinyl sounding better". There is better quality out there (DVD-Audio etc) but to 99.999% of the world, it would mean nothing.
Next I will explain why you and I are in that 99.999%, without exception. (I am talking about you Mez)

The problem with CDs is that a 120mm disc only contains 74 minutes of music. So people wanted something that could contain more. The most popular, thanks to Creative and the Fraunhoffer institute was the MP3 format.

Storing a music CD on your hard drive would take in WAV format about 650MB of space - a pretty big footprint in the 90's. MP3 is a way of compressing the file down by being "lossy" - a bit like JPG pictures. Bits of the sound you would not normally notice would be left out or 'estimated'. How it works is not important.

What is important is that using a standard setting of 128kbits/s reduces the file down to about 1/11th of it's normal size. The expense is recording quality, but only by a bit.

Jumping forward a decade or so, iPods are prevalent as the media for playing music on and other file formats exist that are better at compressing music down. Better in the means that the files are smaller, and the quality is higher. But only just.

I want you to ignore that.
Sure, Apple, iTunes and iPods won the war as to the means to play music at the start of the 21st Century, but the format that won was MP3. Why? Because every darn music player uses it. My car CD player uses it, all computers can play them. You can transfer them between computers and DVD players, iPods, cars, phones - nearly everything.

If you want to be super-anal and forget that CDs are inherently representations of a recording, rather than reality, go and rip your CDs to another format. Nobody will thank you, but you can think of yourself as super smart and elitist.

The majority of the time, I listen to music on my headphones in the street, on the train, or in the car. All sorts of other noises are impeding on my listening pleasure, so quality is not the deciding factor.
It is a factor, but not at the cost of space. More important are the speakers you use, the system you are playing through and the room you are in.
Does wine taste any better from a crystal glass than from a mug? That's the level of difference we are talking about.
The only situation when ripping to a 'different' file format at an extortionate bit rate is if you have a dedicated listening room and that is how you want to listen to all your music.

Go and download iTunes NOW.

Splendid - you have joined the rest of us.
"But I don't like it"
"Isn't there a better way of doing it?"
"I don't like big companies"
Boo Hoo.

Right - some truths: Big Companies get big because they are doing something right. There are better ways (quality-wise) of ripping CDs, but they are troublesome and annoying. iTunes just bloody works right out of the box. And well. Like the iPod.  It is annoying, but their products are really, really well designed.

Before you get going, you are going to want to do some things in it's set up so it does things right for you.  

Please do this - it took me far too long to realise.  I have 370 days of music on my hard drive, and I care about it too much.

Number one - Click on "Edit" and then "Preferences" - this will pop up.
I don't really mind what you have ticked in your "Sources" box at the top. What I do care about is two thirds down - "When you insert a CD:"
Make sure it says "Show CD" and that the next 2 boxes under it are ticked. These (unsurprisingly) automatically cross check the CD in your drive against a database and finds the names of all the tracks, the Album name, the Artist and finds the cover art. How it does it is really quite clever, but let's pretend it is magic instead.

Next Click on Import Settings:
Firstly - ensure that you are using the MP3 Encoder - otherwise everyone will hate you. It is not the best, just the best for you.
Secondly - make sure "Use Error Correction" is NOT ticked. It takes forever to import CDs with that. Only tick it if you have a scratched or old CD.
Thirdly go into Settings on the drop down menu - like this:
That's right - set it above what they call "High Quality" and to 320kbps. Hard drives are cheap and you can afford the space. A 320kbps MP3 is equivalent to normal or high quality file of Apples own format. I like VBR - but it isn't important. Set the quality to "High" or "Highest" and make sure the others match the picture above. Don't use smart encoding adjustments.  They aren't. And don't filter Frequencies below 10Hz.
Click OK.

You are nearly there.

Almost all the other tabs (Playback, Store, Parental etc) you can change to what you want. Doesn't matter to me.
Click, however on "Advanced" and this will pop up:
Firstly - Put your music somewhere memorable - either like me on a drive of it's own, or at the very least in a root folder of it's own.

The next two tick boxes are the most important of the whole blody thing.
Make sure they are ticked. They help organise your music filing. If you rip something, they will name it correctly. If you import a bunch of MP3s from someone else, they will file them on your harddrive properly.
If you fail to do this, you will have files you won't know what they are called, or where they are.

Now you can put a CD in your computer.

It will, after a while populate the screen with the names of the tracks and all the other bumpf.
Down in the bottom right is a button marked "Import CD".
Click it.

In a couple of minutes, tops, it will have captured, converted and transferred your music onto your computer.

Now, either repeat this like I did thousands of times, or just jump in and start rating your music and making Playlists....

Enjoy - and on a final note - back your drives up - especially your music.
But you do that already, don't you?


Edit:
"What about importing music files from my harddrive or a disc of MP3s?"
Good call.
If you want to import a single file from your harddrive - double click on it. Wherever it is.
It will open up and transfer to iTunes and begin to play. Amazing right?
And because you ticked that box up there "Copy Files to iTunes Media Folder" it has copied and filed it nicely for you. You can delete that original file.
If you want to import a folder or from a disc click on "File" and "Add Folder to Library".
Exactly the same process will occur - iTunes will copy the files to your media folder and add them to your library.

Piece of piss.
Must sign off - Pink Floyds "Pulse" is playing in the background and it is bloody amazing.

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

Rip them in their raw form, you then never have to rip them again if a better encoder comes out. Storage so cheap you can have more than one digital copy, an original and an MP3 or whatever comes next. Their are better rippers than itunes for PC and Mac, they checksum the rip and validate checksums with an internet db. This way you know you have a perfect rip and never have to do it again. Hope all is good.

Matt

thegeej said...

Your comment is fair. I kind of agree and disagree.

Agree bit: "Yes, you are right! Why didn't I say this! Hardrives are so bloody cheap, even with my hoard of music, this makes sense." And I genuinely mean it.

Disagree bit: "If any of the following apply to you, follow my original comments: Hard Drive space is a problem (only a few hundred gigs) and can't update (laptop) you only listen either on headphones/the car/non-audiophile music system. It's just not worth it. You would never hear or be able to appreciate the difference.

As for rippers - no argument. You are right. It's just for first time users, or non-geeks - iTunes is just easy. One button - which is how tech should be.

I think I'll look into other rippers though - any advice?

thegeej said...

Even better bit here on an experiment on Bit Rate Quality... Have a read!

http://lifehacker.com/5921889/concluding-the-great-mp3-bitrate-experiment

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