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  1. #1
    Big science. Hallelujah. noddin0ff's Avatar
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    FLAC primer - How to Download a Comp thread

    I'm bored so I thought I'd start a "How to Download a Comp thread" inspired by the poll I posted. The problem is that I use a Mac and don't know the PC end very well. I'm hoping someone will step in and follow with a PC primer to fill in the gaps. For the most part though this info would help anyone getting started.

    So first off. File Format. I'm only gonna talk about Lossless. This means the info in the file is the same as the CD. There is no compromise in quality.

    You can have uncompressed lossless and compressed lossless. In terms of sound quality they are identical. File sized for Compressed is on average 55% of uncompressed..

    When you rip a CD to a computer in uncompressed lossless formats, PC's typically write the file as .WAV. Mac's write them as .AIFF. You also have many options for lossless compression. iTunes gives you Apple's lossless (ALE). I believe Windows gives you WMA Lossless (I think this nomenclature is unfortunate because is can be confused with WMA lossy. Apples lossy format is AAC)

    To be cross platform compatible and FREE, a lossless compression format called FLAC (for Free Lossless Audio Compression!) is our choice. You can read about FLAC at the source (flac.sourceforge.net)

    The problem...iTunes doesn't support FLAC (I don't know about Media Player). This means you have to do some conversions.

    On a Mac I use MacFlac (which you can download here). MacFlac will convert between WAV or AIFF and FLAC. iTunes is able to convert files to or import files as WAV or AIFF.

    So to use MacFlac you simply locate the files in WAV or AIFF format and drag them into the open MacFlac window and click encode to make them FLAC. If you have FLAC files, say after you downloaded a comp, you drag the files to the MacFlac window and choose DECODE, selecting WAV or AIFF as an output option. You can then import to iTunes, Burn a CD or whatever. It's that easy.

    To actually download a comp, get the link and visit the page and click download. The downloaded files typically are zipped into one large file by another file compression program WinZip or DropZip or what have you. This also does not effect sound quality. It allows you to bundle files into fewer downloads. Most every computer comes with the ability to Un-zip a .zip file. You should just be able to double-click on it. My Mac came with Stuffit Expander to do this.

    Feel free to ask questions.
    Last edited by noddin0ff; 10-26-2006 at 08:53 AM.

  2. #2
    Forum Regular BradH's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by noddin0ff
    You can have uncompressed lossless and compressed lossless.
    I'm not sure what you mean by "uncompressed lossless". That would just be a standard WAV file, wouldn't it?

  3. #3
    Big science. Hallelujah. noddin0ff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BradH
    I'm not sure what you mean by "uncompressed lossless". That would just be a standard WAV file, wouldn't it?
    Yes. Except that Macs use AIFF.

  4. #4
    Forum Regular BradH's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by noddin0ff
    Yes. Except that Macs use AIFF.
    Okay. I might add that converting an mp3 to a WAV or FLAC or any other lossless format gets you nothing but a full size file that sounds like an mp3. Mp3 is lossy and once that full spectrum is lost, it's lost forever. It sounds kind of obvious to point that out but it does still happen too often.

    Also, the differences between FLAC and APE and SHN or hugely overstated by FLAC advocates, imo. They're all just as easy to use and sound great. But I like FLAC because you have more control over the compression ratio. Plus, it's good to have something resembling a standard.

    I've been messing with lossless for 6 years and always thought it was perfect for comps, I'm surprised it hasn't caught on more. Even if you're sending it snail mail you can drop the FLACs on a data disc and add any cover art or liner notes you want.

  5. #5
    Forum Regular BradH's Avatar
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    Here's something else. If you use a DVD-R as a data disc and drop FLAC files on it you can move a buttload of music that way. I got 4 DVD-R's of FLACs from some dj dude in the Bay Area and it decompressed into 39 discs encompassing 14 live shows. Theoretically, it could've come out to less discs because of the way the tracks were cut but that's still a lot of music.

  6. #6
    Indifferentist Slosh's Avatar
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    There are about a million and six ways to do FLAC on a PC, give or take a couple. And yes, there is a FLAC plugin for WMP (Google Illustrate FLAC plugin) but I prefer MediaMonkey. It's free and a better media player than WMP10/11 IMO. It has native FLAC and APE support (including ripping), plus it plays/syncs/burns WMAL (but does not rip). It can even transcode lossless formats to mp3/ogg/aac to sync to an iPod or whatever. It also has it's own burner built in that can make gapless CDs from FLAC (or just about any other format) plus writes the meta tag data as CD-Text. However I don't use it to burn because it's limited to 4x speed (for the free version). Instead I make a playlist with MediaMonkey (m3u) and import that into Nero. Google Cole Decoder Pack plugin for Nero (5.5 or newer) for FLAC and at least a dozen other formats. Nice thing about Nero is you can still do all of the editing (fade, normalize, split tracks, etc.) without having to convert to WAV/AIFF first.

    I use dBpowerAMP to convert to and from FLAC. It retains all of the meta tag data including album art (if it is part of the file, not merely linked to it). I believe you just get the file name when you import converted FLAC to iTunes on a Mac because iTunes uses xml files that only appear in the iTunes library for Apple's audio formats. Hmm. . . I'll hafta convert a fully tagged FLAC song to Apple Lossless and see what happens.

    NP: "Red Clay" - Freddie Hubbard
    Originally Posted by Troy: She has that same kind of cleft-pallet, slightly retarded way of singing that so many other people find endearing.


  7. #7
    Big science. Hallelujah. noddin0ff's Avatar
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    Thanks for chipping in guys.

    Is there a simple, basic, get this program kind of outline you can give for someone who might be an audiophile with a computer but otherwise new to file formats and software?

    I know there's a zillion ways to do it, but if all you want to do is download a comp and listen to it...what's the simplest path for the PC...or at least a very simple step by step. Thanks!!

  8. #8
    Big science. Hallelujah. noddin0ff's Avatar
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    So far, for me, meta tags from Slosh's comps don't make it into iTunes on my Mac. I don't know where they go or if they were there to begin with. I suspect iTunes just uses it's own incompatible system.

  9. #9
    Indifferentist Slosh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by noddin0ff
    So far, for me, meta tags from Slosh's comps don't make it into iTunes on my Mac. I don't know where they go or if they were there to begin with. I suspect iTunes just uses it's own incompatible system.
    Just for an experiment I used dBpowerAMP to convert a FLAC song to ALAC and all of the text meta tag data showed up in iTunes but the album art was MIA. Same with going from ALAC to FLAC and using MediaMonkey for playback.
    Originally Posted by Troy: She has that same kind of cleft-pallet, slightly retarded way of singing that so many other people find endearing.


  10. #10
    Indifferentist Slosh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by noddin0ff
    Is there a simple, basic, get this program kind of outline you can give for someone who might be an audiophile with a computer but otherwise new to file formats and software?
    It really depends on what software you already have on your PC and if you want to continue using it. For example, there are FLAC plugins for foobar and winamp but I never used them so can't really comment.

    Personally I really like the open-source nature of MediaMonkey. Plus if you've ever used iTunes you'll get the hang of MediaMonkey in no time flat.
    Originally Posted by Troy: She has that same kind of cleft-pallet, slightly retarded way of singing that so many other people find endearing.


  11. #11
    Man of the People Forums Moderator bobsticks's Avatar
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    I have followed this thread with intrigue. This is something I may mess about with this weekend, so thanks for the pointers for those of us that are technologically challenged. If you hear screaming on Saturday afternoon, it may well be me...
    So, I broke into the palace
    With a sponge and a rusty spanner
    She said : "Eh, I know you, and you cannot sing"
    I said : "That's nothing - you should hear me play piano"

  12. #12
    Big science. Hallelujah. noddin0ff's Avatar
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    I had forgotten that for Mac users there is a program called Max which should be the complete file conversion package. And, it’s FREEWARE. You can click here for a download link.

    I haven’t used it because it only runs on OS X 10.4 or higher. (I’m still at 10.3.9). MacFlac, mentioned above is simple and easy and does it’s thing well. If you really want to go multi-format, full-feature on a Mac, then Max is the way to go.

    Quote Originally Posted by product description
    Max is an application for creating high-quality audio files in various formats, from compact discs or files.

    When extracting audio from compact discs, Max offers the maximum in flexibility to ensure the true sound of your CD is faithfully extracted. For pristine discs, Max offers a high-speed ripper with no error correction. For damaged discs, Max can either use its built-in comparison ripper (for drives that cache audio) or the error-correcting power of cdparanoia.

    Once the audio is extracted, Max can generate audio in over 20 compressed and uncompressed formats including MP3, Ogg Vorbis, FLAC, AAC, Apple Lossless, Monkey's Audio, WavPack, Speex, AIFF, and WAVE.

    If you would like to convert your audio from one format to another, Max can read and write audio files in over 20 compressed and uncompressed formats at almost all sample rates and sample sizes. For many popular formats the artist and album metadata is transferred seamlessly between the old and new files.

    Max leverages open source components and the resources of Mac OS X to provide extremely high-quality output. For example, MP3 encoding is accomplished with LAME, Ogg Vorbis encoding with aoTuV, FLAC encoding with libFLAC, and AAC and Apple Lossless encoding with Core Audio. Many PCM conversions are also possible using Core Audio and libsndfile.

    Max is integrated with FreeDB to permit automatic retrieval of compact disc information. For MP3, FLAC, Ogg Vorbis, Monkey's Audio, WavPack, AAC and Apple Lossless files Max will write this metadata to the output.

    Max allows full control over where output files are placed and what they are named. If desired, Max will even add the encoded files to your iTunes library.

    For advanced users, Max allows control over how many threads are used for converting and encoding, what type of error correction is used for audio extraction, and what parameters are used for each of the various encoders.

    Max is free software released under the GNU General Public License (GPL).

  13. #13
    Forum Regular BradH's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by noddin0ff
    I had forgotten that for Mac users there is a program called Max which should be the complete file conversion package. And, itís FREEWARE.
    It's not complete if it doesn't handle SHN but it looks awfully handy if you're a Mac user.

    That "high-speed ripping" kind of sends a shudder though.

  14. #14
    Big science. Hallelujah. noddin0ff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BradH
    It's not complete if it doesn't handle SHN but it looks awfully handy if you're a Mac user.

    That "high-speed ripping" kind of sends a shudder though.
    Well, Max won't even launch on my system so I can't look inside, but it says 20 formats and only 10 were listed...maybe SHN is in there. I had the same reaction to 'high-speed' (even though I'm on the fence as to whether I'd actually be able to hear a bit error...)

  15. #15
    Forum Regular BradH's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by noddin0ff
    I had the same reaction to 'high-speed' (even though I'm on the fence as to whether I'd actually be able to hear a bit error...)
    I don't know about a bit error but if the rip results in a snap or digi-snap or zit or whatever they're called it's real noticeable. If multiple generations are copied down the line it turns into a nightmare because errors keep getting induced in the ripping/burning process. It was never a problem on this board because multiple comps usually came from the same source. But I've heard most of the moderators in the boot trading groups have cracked down and only allow lossless files unless it's a vine where the original audio cd goes from person to person. I used to get discs that were so bad I would throw them away.

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