|Organizing Your Music On a Server|
|Home Theater Feature Articles Audio Related Articles|
|Written by Bryan Dailey|
|Sunday, 01 May 2005|
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AV Education on RHT
Organizing Your Music On a Server
Written by Bryan Dailey
If you don’t yet have an iPod and are feeling a bit like an outsider, have no fear. Creating an archive of your CD collection and putting it on your computer and/or iPod can be very simple and could potentially save your collection of music in the event of a disaster. Another advantage in taking on the project of archiving your music is that by physically ripping all of your discs, you will find that you are reintroduce yourself to music you know and love but had forgotten you own. It is likely that you will even head out to the record store or iTunes to buy even more music to round out your collection.
An Old Argument – Mac or PC
Apple’s newfound dominance and ultra-easy-to-use interface gives them a head start as the best vehicle for archiving and managing your music. Factor in the plug and play ease of use of the iPod and the simple integration of buying music through iTunes and you can see why over five million people bought iPods in the fourth quarter of 2004 alone. With an iMac and a few accessories, you can have an entire computer that can host your music collection for well under $1,000. I highly recommend that you archive your music on to some sort of external drive. I prefer Lacie Firewire drives. For around $200, you can have 250 gigabytes of storage (or a few thousand songs) on one single drive.
There is nothing Microsoft wants more than to get into the entertainment business on your PC. They are working hard to create software applications that successfully manage and archive your music for traditional PCs, as well as components like HP’s Media Center PC. To their credit, they are doing some amazing stuff in the world of HDTV with Windows Media 10, but they are a little clunky in the world of music storage when compared to Apple. The advantage of PCs are their cost. Everything for the PC is cheaper than the Mac, but it also is usually more complicated to use and far less sexy. If you have an old PC or have the urge to upgrade to a new one, your old machine outfitted with a USB2 external hard drive could be a perfect place for you to archive your music for very little money. It’s a little harder to use, but for some, it could be the answer.
More AV-oriented components from server companies like Escient, ReQuest and QSonix offer music storage that is designed to archive your collection. The scope of this how-to feature is to discuss general ideas on archiving your collection. There are many ways to do it, using all sorts of different hardware. For our purposes, we are going to focus on the most popular and easiest to use system: iTunes. ITunes can of course be used with PCs and with iPods in the Windows environment.
Importing Music Into iTunes
As with any computer program, there are many options available in the “preferences panel” of iTunes. There are small variations in the different releases of iTunes, but for the sake of this article, I will refer to the most current version at the time of this writing, which is 4.7.1. Most people who rip their CDs into iTunes are probably not aware that they can set the sampling rate at which the files are imported. This is important to know, especially if you don’t have a lot of room on your hard drive or have a small iPod. You will need to toy with the different settings to find the audio quality level you are happy with but can still handle storage-wise. There are various formats that you can use for importing songs. The one that I found to have the best sound quality uses the AAC encoder, with the sample rate set at 192 kbps. To keep the relative sound quality of your archived collection, you’ll want to burn everything at the same sample rate. Nothing can kill the flow of a relaxing ambient background mix faster than going from a higher-resolution MP3 file to a tinny, compressed 32 kbps ripped song. Audiophiles who have plenty of hard drive space may look to 320 kbps for their archives, but if you plan to keep your CD collection after you archive it, it begs the question: why not listen to the actual CD instead of the archive? The decision is yours to make based on your available hard drive space and how you think you will use your archive collection.
If you are importing any kind of volume of CDs, there are some settings that can help make the process go much faster. Under the “general preferences” tab in iTunes, there is a setting that says “on CD insert.” On this tab, select “import songs and eject.” This will keep your momentum going, as the CD will automatically pop out when you are done burning it. It is very easy to forget that you are ripping CDs in the background – 15 minutes can easily fly by and you forget that the disc has long been done. If you are archiving a collection with more than two or three hundred discs, every minute you can save ends up saving you hours when all is said and done.
By setting iTunes up to automatically connect to the Internet, the CCDB database information that contains song titles, album titles and other album info will automatically be attached to the files. The task of naming each song and album manually takes even longer than ripping them, so using the CCDB database is the single most important time-saving feature on iTunes. Occasionally, if you get a very obscure CD, you will not benefit from the database, so sometimes you will need to name the songs yourself, but this seems to happen less than one percent of the time, in my experience.