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Looking for recommendations for new tools and format
Agrajag
post Dec 28 2006, 10:48
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Guys,

I've been a customer of dbpowerAMP's for several years. I'm starting to grow tired of an ever-growing list of trade-off's and compromises for sticking with its various products. It does some wonderful things but some things are missing and others never work right.

For example, I had decided, for several competent reasons, to use WMA 9 Lossless as my format of choice. dbpowerAMP claims to support this. However, whenever I'd rip my CD's into my PC library, songs would be missing, tags would often be missing in droves necessitating more work than the product saved me. The author convinced me that the problems were Microsoft's and had me switch formats to APE.

I still have many of the same problems I had before except now my music doesn't work on virtually any hardware I have and I'm extremely limited in choice of players, etc. My family is annoyed because they can't stream our nice collection to the Xbox 360 (or any hardware I have for that matter).

For these reasons and others, I figured I'd ask the folks here what a good answer might be? I'm looking to use a format that serves an a good archive backup of my large CD collection. I don't want to rip to MP3 and forever be stuck with a library of less-than-optimal music. Should I desire to go back to full fidelity, I'd like that option. I'd like a solution that works with a decent array of hardware and software.

I'd also like to know if there's anything out there that competes with dbpowerAMP. Is there anything out there that comes close to providing the depth of features their products provide? I like syncing my library to the 3 or 4 different players we have in the house, all with different formats and quality levels (however, this too is buggy in db). I like that it so easily converts anything to anything.

What's out there for me to consider?

Lastly, is anyone aware of a really impressive playlist editor? I have several thousand songs (and I've yet to rip entire CD's as for now I've stuck just with the songs I care about most) and I'd like to be able to quickly and easily create an array of playlists for every occasion (APE format even limits me there). I'd like to be able to have any song belong to many types but without my having to manually place it in 100 different lists. It'd be great to be able to take a single song and define its types in one pass (it's upbeat, dance, rock, happy, My Favorite, Wife's Favorite, etc.) and then just create the lists based on those tags.

Any help greatly appreciated.
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kanak
post Dec 28 2006, 10:55
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Try Foobar or Omni Encoder.
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Agrajag
post Dec 28 2006, 11:19
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QUOTE (kanak @ Dec 28 2006, 01:55) *
Try Foobar or Omni Encoder.


I just grabbed Foobar (2000) and was underwhelmed. It's pretty neat and rather basic without being too basic. However, when I started looking at components for it, it appears as if 95% of the support it once had is gone. Component sites list most of the components as no longer supporting the product. Not exactly the direction I was hoping to go. I'll also check out Omni Encoder.

I also just found something called MediaMonkey that looks compelling.
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LANjackal
post Dec 28 2006, 11:25
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Unfortunately there's virtually nothing out there that supports absolutely everything, so complex needs such as yours will always require more than one program/package/family. Sounds like you need a lot of flexibility.


QUOTE (Agrajag @ Dec 28 2006, 04:48) *
For these reasons and others, I figured I'd ask the folks here what a good answer might be? I'm looking to use a format that serves an a good archive backup of my large CD collection. I don't want to rip to MP3 and forever be stuck with a library of less-than-optimal music. Should I desire to go back to full fidelity, I'd like that option. I'd like a solution that works with a decent array of hardware and software.


Hardware support for lossless audio is currently led by FLAC, but even that's not anywhere near universal. As such, it's probably best to use a combined solution of sorts - rip to MP3 (most flexible) for playback, and tuck the FLAC files away as backups until you get hardware that can play them. Use EAC to do the ripping.


QUOTE (Agrajag @ Dec 28 2006, 04:48) *
I like syncing my library to the 3 or 4 different players we have in the house, all with different formats and quality levels (however, this too is buggy in db). I like that it so easily converts anything to anything.


Tall order, buddy. Most software I know of assumes you're using only one player, and so you'd have to change the settings every time you connected a different one of your players. Not to mention that few such software packages properly support a wide variety of players either. You'll probably end up using something different for each one depending on the manufacturer, etc.


QUOTE (Agrajag @ Dec 28 2006, 04:48) *
Lastly, is anyone aware of a really impressive playlist editor? I have several thousand songs (and I've yet to rip entire CD's as for now I've stuck just with the songs I care about most) and I'd like to be able to quickly and easily create an array of playlists for every occasion (APE format even limits me there). I'd like to be able to have any song belong to many types but without my having to manually place it in 100 different lists. It'd be great to be able to take a single song and define its types in one pass (it's upbeat, dance, rock, happy, My Favorite, Wife's Favorite, etc.) and then just create the lists based on those tags.


Windows Media Player 11 and MediaMonkey both allow automatic playlist generation. WMP's implementation is faster, but MM supports more formats natively.


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Agrajag
post Dec 28 2006, 11:37
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Boy there's some bad news.

I looked at FLAC at the time but the dbpowerAMP author suggested APE was better. Easy enough to change thankfully.

I do use EAC for ripping, though the dbpowerAMP tool is also nearly as good these days.

As far as supporting my array of devices, I guess perhaps dbpowerAMP is looking better. It supports most devices (I have two different iPods, a Rio and a Zune on the way). No iTunes anywhere to be found and none wanted.
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LANjackal
post Dec 28 2006, 13:14
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QUOTE (Agrajag @ Dec 28 2006, 05:37) *
Boy there's some bad news.

I looked at FLAC at the time but the dbpowerAMP author suggested APE was better. Easy enough to change thankfully.


"Better" is subjective. If you ask me, APE rules for archiving while FLAC is a lot better for playback. Since I use lossless for archiving only, I use APE also.

General word of advice: the choice of which software/hardware/format to use is best made with heavy weighting towards what YOU want and need, not what someone else (even an expert) says is the best. This is simply because everyone's situation is different. It's still good to listen to advice, but I've seen too many cases of users who have unnecessarily (for their purposes) inconvenienced themselves by following the words of someone who, though more knowledgeable, recommended a solution optimized for something else entirely.

This post has been edited by LANjackal: Dec 28 2006, 21:21


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UrbanVoyeur
post Dec 28 2006, 16:00
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Media Monkey seems to come closest to supporting all your devices. It's good, but like everything has limitations. I agree with some of the other posters that you may need more than one library manager to get the most out of each player.

SongBird, though far from finished, also has pretty good cross device support.

Format wise, lossless it's tough call. All the major formats - Monkey's, FLAC, WavePac - are all very good. They all have the same core features and are well suported by 3rd party apps.

Keep in mind, no matter which you choose, you are never stuck. If one lossless format emerges as better for your needs, set up a batch conversion and presto, overnight you'll be on the new format.

As far as a player format, mp3 is the lowest common denominator among your players.


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bhoar
post Dec 28 2006, 17:14
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My recommendation is:

1. FLAC for archiving with portability issues in mind.
2. dbpowerAmp or MediaMonkey for handling device integration issues.

I still consider Foobar2000 pre-release, at least for the casual computer user. The version # seems to jive with that. smile.gif

Understand also that spoon is currently in "finishing off a release" mode, so he's not going to be spending time making changes to 11.5. I'd suggest withholding judgement, at least one more time, until v12 (or perhaps v12.0.1, heh) is finalized and released.

-brendan


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Agrajag
post Dec 28 2006, 21:11
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QUOTE (bhoar @ Dec 28 2006, 08:14) *
Understand also that spoon is currently in "finishing off a release" mode, so he's not going to be spending time making changes to 11.5. I'd suggest withholding judgement, at least one more time, until v12 (or perhaps v12.0.1, heh) is finalized and released.


Thanks. I've tried to be patient with them. Let's face it, it's already a rather confusing pile of products to use at times. Half the time I use them I have to remind myself of how they work.

At least half of the time I have problems. I just sync'ed my wife's iPod for the first time in months. Last time I did it, it was fine. This time it complained about the database on the iPod being wrong. No other tool complained and it was working just fine.

Plus the idea that MS can make WMA work fine but Spoon can't? I get the feeling that lots of excuses get made over there. He's dedicated and has a useful product. It's one of those cases where, when you see all these features, you get excited and just want them to work reliably.
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LANjackal
post Dec 28 2006, 21:19
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QUOTE (Agrajag @ Dec 28 2006, 15:11) *
Plus the idea that MS can make WMA work fine but Spoon can't?


1 - MS developed WMA. Of course they can make it work
2 - WMA's a closed source format. (I don't know what tools MS provides to developers who want to use it, though)

Give Spoon a break biggrin.gif


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spoon
post Dec 28 2006, 22:53
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I don't think I would have recommended Ape over FLAC, there is not much between them (although I personally prefer ape-apev2 tags at the end of the file, as opposed to flac / ogg at the beginning). I am about to re-rip my entire collection (with AccurateRip, Album Art and R12) and am moving from ape to wavpack.

I would have recommended ape / flac / wavpack over wma lossless any day of the week, here is why:

to implement wma (it was re-written in R12, so you might not have issues with r12) there are about 4000 lines of code, compare that to 400 for ape, a well written codec. More code, more complexity, more chance of failure.

WMA lossless has no error recovery or detection AFAIK (try to corrupt a wma file by writing bad data into the middle, no program as I am aware can detect this error).


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Agrajag
post Dec 28 2006, 23:15
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QUOTE (spoon @ Dec 28 2006, 13:53) *
I don't think I would have recommended Ape over FLAC, there is not much between them (although I personally prefer ape-apev2 tags at the end of the file, as opposed to flac / ogg at the beginning).


Here's your first comment from 5-16-2006: "The WMA codec is soon to be updated to the new R12 standard, as it is complete rewrite it is unlikely any bug will be duplicated. Kepp you eye on the Beta section of this forum."

Here was the second post in the thread, "Losing Confidence in Products", "Perhaps the problem is WMA Lossless...I personally wouldn't use it (because internally I know what a mess it is), switch over to Monkeys Audio or FLAC and your problems will go."

While you didn't recommend it "over" FLAC, you did mention it first in the same sentence which I suspect is why I ended up there. FLAC has always seemed like a dated solution to me and APE compresses better.

QUOTE
I am about to re-rip my entire collection (with AccurateRip, Album Art and R12) and am moving from ape to wavpack.


Are these all in R11/12? AccurateRip is supported so I assume you're using Audio CD Input for that. Not sure what "Album Art" is other than the obvious that it's album covers but it sounds like you're referring to software there.

What's the benefit of wavpack over APE?

QUOTE
WMA lossless has no error recovery or detection AFAIK (try to corrupt a wma file by writing bad data into the middle, no program as I am aware can detect this error).


Yeah, expect that we all know that since it's MS, it gets nearly universal support with mainstream solutions providers. <grin> Damn them!
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Teknojnky
post Dec 28 2006, 23:25
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I'm a big fan of Mediamonkey altho it does have some limitations, its a very well rounded package with integrated scripting (vb/jscript), mp3 player syncing (ipod/etc) including auto-transcoding during sync, winamp 2 plugin support, cd/dvd burning and much more. There is a base free version (which you can replace the time limited lame_enc.dll with the rarewares or wherever version) and the gold version.

QUOTE (Agrajag @ Dec 28 2006, 04:48) *
Lastly, is anyone aware of a really impressive playlist editor? I have several thousand songs (and I've yet to rip entire CD's as for now I've stuck just with the songs I care about most) and I'd like to be able to quickly and easily create an array of playlists for every occasion (APE format even limits me there). I'd like to be able to have any song belong to many types but without my having to manually place it in 100 different lists. It'd be great to be able to take a single song and define its types in one pass (it's upbeat, dance, rock, happy, My Favorite, Wife's Favorite, etc.) and then just create the lists based on those tags.


With the customizable (just type a name in the field to create a new one) tempo/mood/occasion/quality fields, you can classify tracks a number of ways, then use auto-playlists (gold feature) to generate playlists based on your specifications of those fields. Currently it does not support multiple types per field (ie no mulitple genre's/moods/etc), but the upcoming 3.0 version is supposed to have better support for that.


I've started using the dbpower amp R12 ripper for secure/accurate ripping and have been very impressed thus far. MM rips fine and haven't had any problems, it just isn't a secure ripper.

I'd use FLAC for archiving, and transcode to mp3 when/where needed for whatever else.

This post has been edited by Teknojnky: Dec 28 2006, 23:54


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kanak
post Dec 29 2006, 03:06
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Agrajag, i'd strongly recommend you look at the lossless comparison table in the HA wiki. Make a list of features you can't live without and select the one best suited for your purpose.

Depending on your use, any one of the codecs could be the "best" for you.
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LANjackal
post Dec 29 2006, 07:28
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QUOTE (Agrajag @ Dec 28 2006, 17:15) *
QUOTE
WMA lossless has no error recovery or detection AFAIK (try to corrupt a wma file by writing bad data into the middle, no program as I am aware can detect this error).


Yeah, expect that we all know that since it's MS, it gets nearly universal support with mainstream solutions providers. <grin> Damn them!


Not really. MS hasn't really promoted their lossless technology that much, and so extensive hardware support for it is lacking. Ironically, the lossless codec with the most standalone hardware support is FLAC by far.


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Agrajag
post Dec 29 2006, 10:05
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QUOTE (LANjackal @ Dec 28 2006, 22:28) *
Not really. MS hasn't really promoted their lossless technology that much, and so extensive hardware support for it is lacking. Ironically, the lossless codec with the most standalone hardware support is FLAC by far.


We're not talking apples-to-apples there. If we wanted to compare raw sales I could make the argument that Apple Lossless has the widest support by virtual of iPod's success.

However, what I talked about was its support with mainstream solutions providers. That includes software and all the mainstream players, and most of the minor ones, support it. Xbox and Xbox 360 support it. Several of the hardware streaming products support it.

It'd be great if we could find one the industry could standardize on. We need a ZIP-level standard for this. Oh well, one can dream. <grin>
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LANjackal
post Dec 29 2006, 12:22
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QUOTE (Agrajag @ Dec 29 2006, 04:05) *
However, what I talked about was its support with mainstream solutions providers. That includes software and all the mainstream players, and most of the minor ones, support it. Xbox and Xbox 360 support it. Several of the hardware streaming products support it.


For what it's worth, the Media Center Extender FAQ found here says that the 360 supports "formats for which a DirectShow decoder is installed and registered on the PC". Maybe that fact will be of some further assistance to you.


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jcoalson
post Dec 29 2006, 18:57
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QUOTE (Agrajag @ Dec 28 2006, 17:15) *
QUOTE
WMA lossless has no error recovery or detection AFAIK (try to corrupt a wma file by writing bad data into the middle, no program as I am aware can detect this error).

Yeah, expect that we all know that since it's MS, it gets nearly universal support with mainstream solutions providers. <grin> Damn them!

your original post asks for "a format that serves an a good archive backup of my large CD collection" and you're not worried about that? blink.gif

and its support is not anywhere near universal:

QUOTE (Agrajag @ Dec 29 2006, 04:05) *
QUOTE (LANjackal @ Dec 28 2006, 22:28) *
Not really. MS hasn't really promoted their lossless technology that much, and so extensive hardware support for it is lacking. Ironically, the lossless codec with the most standalone hardware support is FLAC by far.

We're not talking apples-to-apples there. If we wanted to compare raw sales I could make the argument that Apple Lossless has the widest support by virtual of iPod's success.

However, what I talked about was its support with mainstream solutions providers. That includes software and all the mainstream players, and most of the minor ones, support it. Xbox and Xbox 360 support it. Several of the hardware streaming products support it.

pretty much the only hardware that support WMAL are 1) microsoft products; 2) a couple other portables (e.g. gigabeat). FLAC has more choice.

it sounds like you just want something that works with WMAL, a windows PC and an xbox, which is different than what you originally asked.

Josh
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Agrajag
post Dec 30 2006, 04:13
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That's how you took it.

I've tried WMA Lossless because of the experience I ran into with various devices and software products. Flac was pushed as a solution when it wouldn't even work with Winamp at the time (and that was when Winamp was still a big deal).

If any of these worked with most everything I've used, I wouldn't care what format it is. Right now I'm not using WMA Lossless so that doesn't say much about the theory that that's all I want to accept.

I thought about Apple Lossless but then the iPod's about all that would support that (that I use).

Anyway, it would appear that there is no solution, either for compression or for software tools, that improves upon my current situation so I'll just have to stand pat for now. That's the main point of the post.

LanJackal, thanks for the DirectShow information. That's helpful. Obviously it'd be more helpful if every format out there looked into this but this makes APE a possibility for Media Player, the 360 and possibly more.

This post has been edited by Agrajag: Dec 30 2006, 04:20
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UrbanVoyeur
post Dec 30 2006, 05:04
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As far as your ripping with missing tags problems, those might be solved by using EAC.

I've ripped thousands of CD's - first to LAME mp3, and now (later & wiser) to FLAC. I have never had a single missing tag - not even one.

(And check all my rips with Media monkey, where I often do minor adjustments to titles & genres.)

Format wise, I would say archive to an open format, then convert to the flavor of the month, until things settle down in the market place.

I'm faced with the same choice: I use iPods and AirTunes, neither of which supports FLAC. So, if Apple does not introduce the rumored FLAC support later this month, I will clean up my FLAC tags, archive them to external disks, and then run a converting app to change the FLAC's into Apple Lossless.

It's really no extra work - I was going to archive them anyway, and running the conversion is completely hands off.

I guess what I'm saying is this - rather than be dogmatic about a single format, take a long view.

Get a good, clean, error free, well tagged rip to a well supported open format (APE, FLAC, WavePack) using a solid tool (EAC). Then convert to what you need at the moment - which in this case seems to be WMA for the Microsoft stuff and Apple Lossless for the Ipod. Media Monkey can manage it all.


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kjoonlee
post Dec 30 2006, 05:12
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Illiminable's Ogg Directshow Filters support FLAC.

http://www.illiminable.com/ogg/


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Agrajag
post Dec 30 2006, 16:33
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QUOTE (UrbanVoyeur @ Dec 29 2006, 20:04) *
I've ripped thousands of CD's - first to LAME mp3, and now (later & wiser) to FLAC. I have never had a single missing tag - not even one.


I've used EAC for years but as I paid for dbpowerAMP, I figured it would be best with this. My mistake. I'll have to try that myself.

QUOTE
I'm faced with the same choice: I use iPods and AirTunes, neither of which supports FLAC. So, if Apple does not introduce the rumored FLAC support later this month, I will clean up my FLAC tags, archive them to external disks, and then run a converting app to change the FLAC's into Apple Lossless.


Wasn't even aware that was a rumor. I'll be at Macworld in 8 days so I guess I can poke around there to see what's being discussed. That would be great. Apple Lossless is doing nothing for me.

QUOTE
I guess what I'm saying is this - rather than be dogmatic about a single format, take a long view.


Remember, while I saw many benefits in WMA Lossless, I still converted everything to APE so that's not exactly being dogmatic about it. <grin>

QUOTE
Media Monkey can manage it all.


Where'd that one even come from? Snuck up on me. It's a pretty nice tool. I think I'll be registering it shortly.

BTW, regarding these DirectShow Filters, there's still one hurdle. Does anyone know how to get Media Player to not just play songs via this but to allow them to add files of the filtered format type into its library? Without that, there's no way to play them on the Xbox 360.

This post has been edited by Agrajag: Dec 30 2006, 16:35
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Teknojnky
post Dec 30 2006, 18:36
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QUOTE (Agrajag @ Dec 30 2006, 10:33) *
QUOTE
Media Monkey can manage it all.


Where'd that one even come from? Snuck up on me. It's a pretty nice tool. I think I'll be registering it shortly.


Grin


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LANjackal
post Dec 30 2006, 20:24
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QUOTE (Agrajag @ Dec 30 2006, 10:33) *
BTW, regarding these DirectShow Filters, there's still one hurdle. Does anyone know how to get Media Player to not just play songs via this but to allow them to add files of the filtered format type into its library? Without that, there's no way to play them on the Xbox 360.


You'll need Windows Media Player Tag Support Extender (WMPTSE). You can find it here and there's a lively support thread and Wiki for it here at HA also.


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Agrajag
post Jan 1 2007, 05:05
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Thanks LanJackal. Turns out that I suspect my Xbox portion of this is unattainable without WMA as even with the filter and the above, the 360 still says it can't play the file. Everything gets into Media Player just fine. Library filled. Very nice.

It appears as if you must have Media Edition to get it to transcode the files on the file on the PC and send them as PCM to the 360. Why XP can't do that is beyond me. Probably a solution for that around somewhere. It's not like the idea is absolutely beyond the OS to do.
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