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Finding a lossless format for itunes and windows media player
vetinry
post Jul 16 2006, 10:03
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Good morning

I am having a very frustrating time trying to find a suitable audio format that I can use in my home network and hope that someone may have a solution.

As an ipod user, I ripped my entire CD collection (500 ish) to the apple lossless (ALAC) format using EAC and itunes encode. I use my ipod in the car as a CD changer, and I purchased a couple of Slim Devices Squeezebox 2's to stream music in the house.

SQ is more important than file size and this is why I chose a lossless format.

I have now recently built myself a Home Theatre PC running Windows Media Center - its main purpose is to house all of my media files (TV, audio and pictures) in one place. It is connected to the screen in the kitchen, and I am going to buy an Xbox 360 to act as media center extender in the lounge. Since the Xbox will only be able to retrieve media files through Windows Media Center, I would like to find a format that will allow me to do this, and therefore not need a separate squeezebox.

I have read a little about the incompatability between itunes and WMP, but it seems that both can play WAV flies, which although disc space hungry, would be acceptable.

This is where the problem starts - I've tried ripping WAV files in iTunes, in WMP, and in EAC but there doesn't appear to be consistency between the folder types.

The ability to capture Album artwork etc through WMP is appealing, particularly when using media center, but although using these different methods is recognised by the different programmes, the file structures which are so important for searching disappear.

Is there a method of ripping WAV files so that they can be viewed in correct folder structures by both itunes and windows media player?

Any help as always would be gratefully received.

Best wishes

Steve
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beto
post Oct 11 2006, 17:50
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You should go with MP3 if lossy is an option for you because this can be played by both WMP and itunes.


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John Lockwood
post Oct 12 2006, 14:28
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QUOTE (beto @ Oct 11 2006, 17:50) *
You should go with MP3 if lossy is an option for you because this can be played by both WMP and itunes.


Yes both can play MP3 and handles tags for that format but this is literally the lowest quality standard. It is fairly easy to get WMP to play AAC and to get it to handle MPEG4 (AAC) tags and AAC for the same bit-rate can give better quality. However as I posted above I have now managed to get Apple Lossless working in WMP and really you cannot get any better than lossless!

QUOTE (LANjackal @ Oct 11 2006, 17:31) *
QUOTE (chelgrian @ Jul 16 2006, 08:50) *
3) There are a variety of programs availiable to grab Album Art from amazon.com based on the contents of the tags in the files and save it into folder.jpg file that you need for WMP for example:

http://www.avsoft.nl/artfixer/


WMP can fetch album art on its own. Simply right-click any audio file in the library and select "Find Album Info". WMP will then query the AMG database for art and metadata, which you can then apply directly to the file with a single click.


WMP only gives you a mere 200x200 pixel image (on average), whereas iTunes gives you a magnificent 600x600 pixels on average. In order to get artwork working in both I tell WMP to "Find Album Info" (to add an entry to its internal database) and then overwrite the resulting jpeg files with higher quality versions taken from iTunes.

Note: Amazon (and Walmart) only give you 500x500 pixels and Amazon often puts an annoying white border around the image.
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soliluna
post Jun 4 2007, 14:46
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John,

thanks for all the tips I finally got my ALAC files in Itunes, WMP 11 and WMC working together in Vista 32.
I just have some trouble with the artwork.

Right now I have all my artwork from Itunes embedded in the each file and I'm trying to get WMP11 and WMC to read that artwork, I guess WMP11 does not read that info from the files tags automatically.

Do you have a work around that problem?

Thanks


QUOTE (John Lockwood @ Oct 12 2006, 10:28) *
QUOTE (beto @ Oct 11 2006, 17:50) *

You should go with MP3 if lossy is an option for you because this can be played by both WMP and itunes.


Yes both can play MP3 and handles tags for that format but this is literally the lowest quality standard. It is fairly easy to get WMP to play AAC and to get it to handle MPEG4 (AAC) tags and AAC for the same bit-rate can give better quality. However as I posted above I have now managed to get Apple Lossless working in WMP and really you cannot get any better than lossless!

QUOTE (LANjackal @ Oct 11 2006, 17:31) *
QUOTE (chelgrian @ Jul 16 2006, 08:50) *
3) There are a variety of programs availiable to grab Album Art from amazon.com based on the contents of the tags in the files and save it into folder.jpg file that you need for WMP for example:

http://www.avsoft.nl/artfixer/


WMP can fetch album art on its own. Simply right-click any audio file in the library and select "Find Album Info". WMP will then query the AMG database for art and metadata, which you can then apply directly to the file with a single click.


WMP only gives you a mere 200x200 pixel image (on average), whereas iTunes gives you a magnificent 600x600 pixels on average. In order to get artwork working in both I tell WMP to "Find Album Info" (to add an entry to its internal database) and then overwrite the resulting jpeg files with higher quality versions taken from iTunes.

Note: Amazon (and Walmart) only give you 500x500 pixels and Amazon often puts an annoying white border around the image.


This post has been edited by soliluna: Jun 4 2007, 14:54
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John Lockwood
post Oct 16 2007, 12:24
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QUOTE (soliluna @ Jun 4 2007, 14:46) *
John,

thanks for all the tips I finally got my ALAC files in Itunes, WMP 11 and WMC working together in Vista 32.
I just have some trouble with the artwork.

Right now I have all my artwork from Itunes embedded in the each file and I'm trying to get WMP11 and WMC to read that artwork, I guess WMP11 does not read that info from the files tags automatically.

Do you have a work around that problem?

Thanks


Neither of the two current plugins for WMP will let WMP read embedded artwork in Apple Lossless (ALAC) or AAC files (both use the same m4a file format and tag format).

While iTunes can also handle external artwork, the way it does this will have no chance of working with WMP.

This leaves two options:

1. Do what I do, which is to manually copy the iTunes artwork to WMP (more complicated than it sounds).
or
2. Try the "MusicBridge" utility available here http://jrmwillis.googlepages.com/ I have not tried this utility for a long time but on paper it sounds perfect for you.


For the benefit of yourself and others I will now detail the manual steps I use to transfer artwork from iTunes.

[NOTE: Yes, this method is complex, but if you are only adding a CD or two at a time it is not torturous. It is also more importantly 100% reliable for me. I have dozens of albums shared between iTunes, WMP10 and Media Center 2005. All with the same high quality artwork and every single track plays and displays perfectly in all three programs. When I started this process, MusicBridge was not advanced enough so I had to do it manually anyway. If I was starting again now I would try it first.]

WMP typically keeps its artwork in four jpg files (it can read embedded artwork in MP3 files, but overall WMP prefers using these jpg files). The four jpg files are stored in the folder of the album, and have names like the following

AlbumArt_{903B2B7B-21D7-4BA2-B72C-5535C4A0A3B1}_Large.jpg
AlbumArt_{903B2B7B-21D7-4BA2-B72C-5535C4A0A3B1}_Small.jpg
AlbumArtSmall.jpg
folder.jpg

These files are created by WMP when either you RIP a CD in WMP (which you will not be doing as you will do this using iTunes), or when you use the "Find Album Info" command in WMP. The long number in the first two file names is a unique reference number WMP uses to associate the files in its internal database with the tracks. While WMP will happily look for just a folder.jpg Media Center seems to need to look up via the unique serial number in the WMP database (this is why I believe it is necessary to ensure you have generated these files so as to register them in the database first).

It used to be possible to use some scripts to 'search' the iTunes Store for the artwork you wanted and display the results in a webbrowser since the iTunes Store is basically a glorified website. However some time ago Apple put in extra steps that broke all these scripts. sad.gif Before it was broken, I used to search the iTunes Store for the artwork, it would display in Internet Explorer, and I would then save it as a jpg. Now the only way to get artwork from the iTunes Store is using iTunes itself.

As I mentioned, iTunes can also use external files for artwork, but these are encapsulated in a proprietary file format with the file extension .itc and stored in a different set of folders to the actual music tracks. It is possible to extract the jpg from within these files. It is also possible in iTunes itself to copy&paste the artwork to force it to be embedded instead. If you buy a track from the iTunes Store it will use a .itc file for the artwork which you get with the track you purchased, and if you use the "Get Album Artwork" command in iTunes (for your own CD ripped tracks) it will download the artwork and save it as an .itc file. These files as I said are stored in separate folders and like WMP also have long serial numbers as the names. Simply looking at the files you would not be able to tell which belongs to which album/track. Therefore either you do this one album at a time (so you only need to find the most recently modified .itc file) or you will have to extract/convert each one until you find the right one.

This site details the .itc file format or at least as much as has been deduced so far.
http://www.waldoland.com/dev/Articles/ITCFileFormat.aspx

As I said the .itc files while proprietary to Apple do contain standard jpg files (in theory you may also come across png files as well, but all the ones I have used have been jpg). As the jpg file format is well known with known start and end markers, it is possible to search for these markers in a .itc file and extract that portion. Several utilities for Mac OS X have been written to do this, however most of them have been written instead on the assumption that the jpg will start a specific length in to the .itc file. This appears to have changed with the latest iTunes so these utilities are not working properly. However GraphicConvertor for Mac OS X does work the other way, that is it looks for the jpg start and end markers and will successfully extract the jpg.

For Windows, I use a command line utility called bitmaprip which also looks for the start and end markers for jpgs and copies them out to a separate file. You can download this here http://mark0.net/soft-bitmaprip-e.html

If you have only got your artwork already embedded inside iTunes Apple Lossless tracks and don't have a .itc file you can still extract the artwork either by finding a utility to do this (most are for Mac OS X), or simply by copying the artwork to the clipboard and pasting it in to a graphics utility in Windows and saving it as a jpg file. However try looking at this utility http://blog.timc.idv.tw/posts/itunes-artwork-extractor/

So by now we should have the iTunes artwork in a standard jpg format.

In theory, just putting the jpg as a file in the album folder with the name "folder.jpg" is enough and WMP will then automatically use it. However I don't feel this is reliable enough, and certainly my experience was that it might work in WMP but did not in Media Center 2005. So I do the following

i. In WMP, make sure the album is in the library
ii. In WMP use the "Find Album Info" command to search the Microsoft database for that album, and pick the best match, it will then create the four jpg files for that album I mentioned earlier. The two small files it creates are really small, the two 'large' ones are only a pitiful 200x200 pixels (a mere ninth the resolution of iTunes Store artwork). As we are going to replace the two larger files, if there is not an exact match in the Microsoft database it will not matter too much.
iii. Now replace the folder.jpg and the AlbumArt_{903B2B7B-21D7-4BA2-B72C-5535C4A0A3B1}_Large.jpg files with the iTunes copy. As you are going to use the magic serial number in the file name generated for that album by WMP it will show up properly in both WMP and Media Center but using the much better quality image taken from iTunes.

Issues to consider.

1. I don't know if MusicBridge keeps the artwork at the full iTunes size when it copies it to WMP. I also don't know if it does all four jpg files or just the folder.jpg file. If it just does the folder.jpg file then you may find it does not display properly in Media Center. However it will cost nothing to try MusicBridge.
2. WMP11 is known to trash your carefully created artwork jpg files and re-replace them with its crummy 200x200 versions. mad.gif WMP10 does not have this fault. You could try locking (making read only) the files after you have created them.
3. Internet Explorer 7 apparently patches the jpg library in Windows and this can result in perfectly legitimate jpg files showing as black squares in WMP. mad.gif As Microsoft never seem to fix bugs (they merely call it a feature) I have chosen not to upgrade to IE7 and WMP11 to avoid these problems. Unfortunately if you have been foolish enough to upgrade to Vista you do not get a choice.


... And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Windows Vista, and WMP11 followed with him. And power was given unto them over 95% of computers, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of Redmond ...
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- vetinry   Finding a lossless format for itunes and windows media player   Jul 16 2006, 10:03
- - chelgrian   QUOTE (vetinry @ Jul 16 2006, 10:03) This...   Jul 16 2006, 13:50
|- - LANjackal   QUOTE (chelgrian @ Jul 16 2006, 08:50) 3)...   Oct 11 2006, 17:31
|- - EuMesmo   QUOTE (chelgrian @ Jul 16 2006, 09:50) Fi...   Nov 11 2006, 23:06
|- - goodnews   I see 2 main things needed to help FLAC to better ...   Nov 11 2006, 23:33
|- - John Lockwood   QUOTE (EuMesmo @ Nov 11 2006, 23:06) QUOT...   Nov 11 2006, 23:48
||- - jcoalson   QUOTE (John Lockwood @ Nov 11 2006, 17:48...   Nov 12 2006, 00:07
||- - EuMesmo   QUOTE (John Lockwood @ Nov 11 2006, 19:48...   Nov 12 2006, 00:30
||- - John Lockwood   QUOTE (EuMesmo @ Nov 12 2006, 00:30) QUOT...   Nov 28 2006, 01:40
||- - sheik124   QUOTE (John Lockwood @ Nov 27 2006, 19:40...   Dec 5 2006, 03:20
||- - sheik124   QUOTE (sheik124 @ Dec 4 2006, 21:20) QUOT...   Dec 6 2006, 12:22
|- - chelgrian   QUOTE (EuMesmo @ Nov 11 2006, 23:06) Actu...   Nov 27 2006, 13:28
- - /mnt   WMA Lossless can be transcoded to AAC or ALAC in i...   Jul 16 2006, 15:02
- - vetinry   Guys Thanks for taking the time to reply. Am I r...   Jul 16 2006, 15:57
|- - chelgrian   QUOTE (vetinry @ Jul 16 2006, 15:57) Guys...   Jul 16 2006, 17:44
- - vetinry   Thanks I think I'm getting the gist of what y...   Jul 16 2006, 19:49
|- - John Lockwood   QUOTE (vetinry @ Jul 16 2006, 19:49) Than...   Oct 11 2006, 17:19
- - beto   You should go with MP3 if lossy is an option for y...   Oct 11 2006, 17:50
|- - John Lockwood   QUOTE (beto @ Oct 11 2006, 17:50) You sho...   Oct 12 2006, 14:28
|- - beto   Just a few comments. QUOTE (John Lockwood @ ...   Oct 12 2006, 14:41
|- - soliluna   John, thanks for all the tips I finally got my A...   Jun 4 2007, 14:46
|- - John Lockwood   QUOTE (soliluna @ Jun 4 2007, 14:46) John...   Oct 16 2007, 12:24
- - Mike Giacomelli   QUOTE (vetinry @ Jul 16 2006, 02:03) I ha...   Oct 12 2006, 14:51
|- - Veej007   this is seems like an appropriate time to reiterat...   Oct 13 2006, 09:03
||- - jcoalson   don't forget to complain to apple too.   Oct 13 2006, 19:07
|||- - chelgrian   QUOTE (jcoalson @ Oct 13 2006, 19:07) don...   Oct 16 2006, 01:07
||- - Nick E   QUOTE (Veej007 @ Oct 13 2006, 02:03) this...   Oct 13 2006, 19:53
|- - John Lockwood   QUOTE (Mike Giacomelli @ Oct 12 2006, 14...   Oct 13 2006, 21:37
- - windmiller   The WMPTSE plugin is certainly worth checking out.   Nov 27 2006, 13:08
- - Gow   For iTunes there is a QT Component that allows the...   Nov 28 2006, 02:32
|- - eofor   QUOTE (Gow @ Nov 28 2006, 02:32) For iTun...   Nov 28 2006, 09:35
|- - xxx666yyy777   QUOTE (eofor @ Nov 28 2006, 03:35) Too ba...   Dec 5 2006, 02:46
- - Klyith   QUOTE (xxx666yyy777 @ Dec 4 2006, 20:46) ...   Dec 5 2006, 03:07
|- - xxx666yyy777   QUOTE (Klyith @ Dec 4 2006, 21:07) QUOTE ...   Dec 5 2006, 05:15
- - Mangix   make sure to enable ALAC in the audio configuratio...   Dec 5 2006, 07:03
|- - xxx666yyy777   QUOTE (Mangix @ Dec 5 2006, 01:03) make s...   Dec 5 2006, 16:34
- - Mangix   now that i just saw it, i can't seem to find i...   Dec 6 2006, 02:45
|- - John Lockwood   QUOTE (Mangix @ Dec 6 2006, 02:45) now th...   Dec 7 2006, 02:40
||- - sheik124   QUOTE (John Lockwood @ Dec 6 2006, 20:40)...   Dec 7 2006, 02:49
|- - xxx666yyy777   QUOTE (Mangix @ Dec 5 2006, 20:45) now th...   Dec 9 2006, 18:21
- - DCoder   QUOTE (sheik124 @ Dec 6 2006, 17:49) QUOT...   Dec 7 2006, 10:11
|- - sheik124   QUOTE (DCoder @ Dec 7 2006, 04:11) QUOTE ...   Dec 8 2006, 01:03
|- - sheik124   QUOTE (sheik124 @ Dec 7 2006, 19:03) QUOT...   Dec 9 2006, 17:24
|- - sheik124   QUOTE (sheik124 @ Dec 9 2006, 11:24) QUOT...   Dec 10 2006, 00:57
|- - John Lockwood   QUOTE (sheik124 @ Dec 10 2006, 00:57) QUO...   Dec 10 2006, 18:12
|- - sheik124   QUOTE (John Lockwood @ Dec 10 2006, 12:12...   Dec 10 2006, 18:25
- - Mangix   as an alternative, you can use foobar2000 with the...   Dec 10 2006, 02:34
|- - sheik124   QUOTE (Mangix @ Dec 9 2006, 20:34) as an ...   Dec 10 2006, 16:34
- - DCoder   QUOTE Anyone have any info on why it may be having...   Dec 10 2006, 19:37
|- - sheik124   QUOTE (DCoder @ Dec 10 2006, 13:37) QUOTE...   Dec 10 2006, 23:31
|- - sheik124   In case anyone is interested, VLC has libavcodec p...   Dec 11 2006, 01:30
- - Mangix   mov and mp4 should be generally the same thing. th...   Dec 10 2006, 21:05
- - ShinKen   Thanks to this forum and this thread, I was able t...   Dec 22 2006, 03:59
|- - Tuono   QUOTE (ShinKen @ Dec 22 2006, 03:59) Than...   Dec 18 2007, 21:32
|- - John Lockwood   QUOTE (Tuono @ Dec 18 2007, 21:32) QUOTE ...   Dec 19 2007, 23:17
|- - Andy2000   All, I have the same problem. Thanks to John...   Jan 3 2008, 17:54
|- - John Lockwood   QUOTE (Andy2000 @ Jan 3 2008, 17:54) All,...   Jan 4 2008, 00:20
|- - grommet   Extenders can stream uncompressed PCM audio. So, ...   Jan 4 2008, 00:54
- - tanner   I probably spent a few time in the last few months...   Dec 31 2006, 05:45
- - DCoder   That's a common issue with Vista. Rightclic...   Jan 2 2007, 08:39
- - Mike Carlisle   Hi, I'm trying to follow this thread to work ...   Jan 4 2007, 15:07
- - Mike Carlisle   Thought I had it working... but no I've bee...   Jan 4 2007, 16:09
- - Cartoon   But what about the other way? How to create ALAC f...   Jan 4 2007, 17:31
|- - eofor   QUOTE (Cartoon @ Jan 4 2007, 17:31) But w...   Jan 4 2007, 18:53
|- - John Lockwood   QUOTE (Cartoon @ Jan 4 2007, 17:31) But w...   Jan 4 2007, 23:59
- - vetinry   As the original author of this thread, I'm del...   Mar 18 2007, 18:32
|- - John Lockwood   QUOTE (vetinry @ Mar 18 2007, 18:32) As t...   Mar 18 2007, 20:30
|- - headcase   Sorry, can I get some noob instructions on getting...   May 21 2007, 04:04
|- - John Lockwood   If your intention is to get Apple Lossless (aka. A...   May 21 2007, 23:16
|- - headcase   Thank you for doing all that work! Couple o...   May 22 2007, 17:09
- - DrButcher   i'm still confused, im hoping you guys can hel...   Jul 3 2008, 00:37
|- - John Lockwood   QUOTE (DrButcher @ Jul 3 2008, 00:37) i...   Jul 3 2008, 06:11
- - DrButcher   thanks for the quick reply, still a little confuse...   Jul 3 2008, 17:10
|- - John Lockwood   QUOTE (DrButcher @ Jul 3 2008, 17:10) tha...   Jul 3 2008, 20:08
- - DrButcher   i tried an AAC track and it did indeed play throug...   Jul 4 2008, 02:40
|- - John Lockwood   QUOTE (DrButcher @ Jul 4 2008, 02:40) i t...   Jul 5 2008, 09:41
- - DrButcher   ok so wmp wouldn't give me any info in the pro...   Jul 7 2008, 16:27
- - DrButcher   i also just re-registered the "file source (M...   Jul 7 2008, 17:50
|- - John Lockwood   QUOTE (DrButcher @ Jul 7 2008, 17:50) i a...   Jul 8 2008, 00:49
- - ptmx2   I ended up here after an internet search to find a...   Jul 8 2008, 02:38
- - DrButcher   i ended up deleting every single filter and then r...   Jul 9 2008, 18:12
|- - John Lockwood   QUOTE (DrButcher @ Jul 9 2008, 18:12) i e...   Jul 9 2008, 22:24
- - DrButcher   to tell you the truth, I don't even have itune...   Jul 10 2008, 05:23
|- - John Lockwood   QUOTE (DrButcher @ Jul 10 2008, 05:23) to...   Jul 10 2008, 11:16
- - DrButcher   BINGO! I ripped a CD to ALAC with itunes and ...   Jul 10 2008, 15:29
|- - John Lockwood   QUOTE (DrButcher @ Jul 10 2008, 15:29) BI...   Jul 11 2008, 11:01
- - Bloggeridge   Hi guys, Seems this is a popular topic, I have a ...   Oct 15 2014, 23:05


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