Ok, so if you haven’t read part one, start there. Anyway, after picking a format (FLAC) to rip/back up all my CDs to I needed the software to do it. As I said earlier, iTunes doesn’t do FLAC so iTunes is not an option. Even if it was an option, the latest, iTunes 12 is so lousy that I wouldn’t pick it anyway. It struggles enough with my large collection of MP3s and AACs.
This was not an easy task either. There are many more programs for PC than Mac in this area and also several programs that haven’t been updated in five years. Luckily one of the main PC programs is being converted to Mac and I caught it at the tail end of the beta testing and was able to download a copy. It’s called dBPoweramp and it’s currently free to beta test the Mac version – the beta test goes until May 2015. The program is really good and worth buying when the full version becomes available. It uses a thing called AccurateRip which I became aware of while searching for the right program. AccurateRip compares your imported audio file against previously imported songs to verify that you are getting the same thing everyone else is – it also offsets for your particular CD drive since every drive will read slightly differently apparently. Why do we have such exacting programs out there? Because Audiophiles are obsessed. And when you spend hours reading their forums looking for answers you become a bit obsessed as well. One question that appears everywhere and one that I wasn’t sure of at one point was “Is lossless really lossless?” As in is a FLAC just as good as a WAV file. Yes it is because the FLAC just takes advantage of an algorithm to compress the file and when playing uses the algorithm to decompress the file and playing the uncompressed audio.
For playing the audio I downloaded a pretty basic but beautifully designed audio player called Vox that is free and does for now.
It seems easy when it is boiled down to one paragraph with the answer right there for you but it took several days of searching to find a program that would work. For a short time I was convinced I would have to buy a copy of Windows to install on a Bootcamp partition or just buy a cheap PC to rip all my CDs. Thankfully it didn’t come to that. Mac OSX may be getting worse but it’s still not Windows.
I have a lot of CDs. I think somewhere around 400 but I’m not quite sure. I’m sure there are people out there with many many more but 400 is still a lot. I have almost all of them in iTunes in various formats but in preparation for the day they start to not be readable, I wanted to back them all up in lossless format. This is not exactly a minor task, at the least it requires me sitting at the computer putting in and taking out 400 discs. First I had to decide on what format to use and find a program that would do that well on a Mac. Then I got bogged down in the whole Audiophile echo chamber where you can debate everything and before you know it I was reading about if lossless was really lossless. (Answer: Yes)
Format- There are quite a few formats to choose from, but I was deciding among 3 – WAV, FLAC and ALAC.
WAV is the format your audio cd is formatted in already. So that’s a plus. It’s not uncompressed so the files are the largest of any of the formats. You could slightly argue that this is a benefit because there is no digital step of un-compression between the data and the audio but you can also convert ALAC or FLAC to WAV at any time, because they hold all the same data. The other negative for WAV is that it doesn’t support metatagging, you get the name of the file to identify it and that’s it. No organization like we’re used to with iTunes with Genre, Artist, Composer, Album, etc. One thing that I didn’t consider at the time was the fact that WAV is the only one of the 3 that is compatible with the Playstation 3 – more on this later.
Then we have FLAC and ALAC. Huge oversimplification, but they’re basically the same thing except they’re not. FLAC is Free Lossless Audio Codec and ALAC is Apple Lossless Audio Codec. So one is open source the other is Apple. They both compress the audio a similar amount. iTunes and iPods of course support ALAC but not FLAC. You have to get a different audio player for you Mac if you want to use FLAC – not that hard.
So, given all of this information (and a lot more that I’ve saved you from) I decided on FLAC. It’s open-source and widely supported by most of the high end audio companies like Sonos (and much higher end ones). So now that I’ve started I can’t import my songs into iTunes anymore or play them on my iPod. Why would someone so Apple invested do this? Well if you’ve been paying the least amount of attention you’ll have noticed that iTunes has gotten worse (and worse and worse) every time it’s been upgraded recently. This is one of the reasons I’m not loving Apple as much as I used to – I’ll post about this more in the future. And if I really need to put something into iTunes or on an iPod I can quickly convert it.
Ok that was a lot of typing, I’m going to break this up into 3 separate posts, this is supposed to be a blog, not a soliloquy.