Friday, 24 May 2013

Bits and Pieces

The question is: how did I get myself into such a *!*%#! muddle?  I suppose that being raised on a diet of vinyl discs doesn’t really prepare you for manipulating digital files, but all the same, this will take some remediation.  Those of a techno-phobic nature may prefer to look away now.

The story so far: many years ago I started ripping my CDs to my computer so that I could play them in Windows Media Player.  By default they stored themselves as 128 bit .WMA files and all was well.  I then acquired a Creative Zen MP3 player and using its proprietary software, was able to copy .WMA files directly to it and all continued to be well with the world.  Then it all started to go wrong: I bought a new computer and the darkness descended.

First, the Zen software refused to work in the new Windows 7 operating system which stopped me transferring files and then the Zen died.  In order to avoid the software compatibility problem in future I then opted to replace it with an Apple ipod Nano and the dreaded iTunes.  This is where the problems really began.  Every time I imported my .WMA files into iTunes (so as to sync to the ipod) a new copy file was made in 256 bit .M4A format.  This, in turn prompted Windows to see it as a new file and to automatically re-import it into Windows Media Player, thus doubling everything up.  AAARRGGHH!

In frustration, I deleted one or other of the copies, sometimes the .WMA files and sometimes the .M4A files.  This went on for several years.  Just to add to the confusion, I also downloaded albums from iTunes (.M4A) and Amazon (256 bit .MP3) and converted vinyl albums to 128 bit .MP3 files.  This brings me to today where my entire collection of several hundred albums and songs is split between various Windows and iTunes libraries and ripped to at least 3 different file formats.  Did I mention that my daughter also has an iTunes library on the same machine and we share files?  Blimey!  Technology eh?  This would never happen in the old days where you just bought an LP and put it on a shelf.

So, what to do?  I have decided to eschew both .WMA and .M4A files and use only .MP3 for ripping CDs.  This format can be read by both iTunes and Windows Media Player so no duplication.  Whilst laboriously re-ripping all my favourite albums I am also upgrading them to 256 bit as this seems to be the best compromise between quality and file size.  It also means that I can weed out both iTunes libraries of all the duplicated files and leave only the downloads.

Case solved, but what a palaver.  As a by-product of upgrading files from 128 to 256 bit it has become noticeable how the sound graduates from CD screech to LP warmness.  Perhaps LPs had the right idea from the word go – and you only needed a shelf.


Adrian said...

This all sounds very familiar!

Amusing, too - if you're not in the midst of the files!

There really should be great universality in the world of digital audio.

fyi, we are making Allison's next album as a vinyl LP - very nice idea, and I received the 10 test pressings a couple of days ago...

Now, the challenge is finding ten friends with working turntables/stereos so the test LPs can be tested!

here's to the weekend, and a few hours of puzzle-free r'n'r :)

music obsessive said...

Hi Adrian - It looks like vinyl is making a comeback! I've noticed several new releases doing the same and a new shop selling new vinyl has just opened up in a nearby town. It's just like old times, and not a bit or byte in sight.

Charlie Ricci said...


What's a palavar?

music obsessive said...

Charlie - How can I put's an irritating and usually unnecessarily long-winded routine employed to do a simple thing. Does that ring any bells?