Friday, May 25, 2012

Computer Audio

Loyal reader Gerardo asks,

"If you hadn't made the jump to digital music beyond CDs, how would you go about doing it"?

Let me start by saying that I'm an analog guy. I use a home-made 2 watt vacuum tube amp. I have a record player and hundreds of LPs.

I made the jump to no-CDs by burning all my CDs onto an external hard-drive. Because a lot of music that I like doesn't come in a lossless digital format (i.e. digital downloads are often MP3), I still buy CDs, burn them onto my hard drive and then get rid of them. Until uncompressed downloads are routinely available, I will probably stick to this ritual. If you are OK with MP3s or are willing to limit yourself to music available as either uncompressed CD quality or higher resolution downloads, then you can get away from having any physical items except a hard-drive.

It drives me nuts that LPs are offered for sale with a free MP3 download instead of a FLAC download.

If you are planning to make the jump to computer based audio, the Well-Tempered Computer is an excellent resource and the Computer Audio Asylum is a lively forum. There are places to get hi-rez downloads, like HD Tracks.

You basically have two choices:  (A) Put together your own system with storage, computer, playing software and DAC, or (B) buy an all in one music server device, like the SB touch or the J-River

The "audiophiles" seem to prefer putting their own systems together based on a computer. Mac minis are popular; I use a Macbook and prefer Pure Music for playback software.  I learned a lot about computer audio from this guy.


Gerardo said...

Thanks for taking the time.

I never digitized, now I'm 14 years behind, minimum.

My students pity me.

Angus said...

LOL, don't get your hopes up. I'm digitized and my students STILL pity me!

Jason Hord said...

I'll just throw $0.02 in...

I've ripped my entire CD collection twice now because I messed up the first time and didn't use a lossless format (like FLAC). FLAC is popular enough now that you can find many programs that will rip and encode to FLAC with the click of a button. Even if you don't go with FLAC, make sure that whatever you go with is lossless (there are several different formats, but in the end they are all basically the same). You can always take a lossless file and convert to a lossy format (like MP3) if needed. You cannot go the other direction.

When ripping, don't forget to tag your files. Many programs will do this for you during the encoding phase by pulling the disc information from a database like CDDB. I messed up the first two times and have had to re-tag everything in my collection. Spend an extra 10 minutes with a CD to experiment and make sure you get it just the way you want it.

One last thing is to only rip when you need to. Feel like listening to a particular CD? Make it part of your process to rip/encode it first and then listen. It's annoying at first, but after a while you'll have most of your collection finished. Also, if you are like me and listen to a single CD for a period of time, this up-front cost disappears very quickly.

Anyways, good luck and welcome to the digital age!

Angus said...

Jason: good advice!

mahasiswa teladan said...

hi..Im student from Informatics engineering, this article is very informative, thanks for sharing :)