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Need help choosing a FLAC conversion process
ccmrockman
post May 14 2012, 03:25
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Greetings,

Don't want to take a lot of your time. I'm probably essentially a "seasoned" newbie to the world of audiophilia. I'm a music collector, and an audiophile contacted me back in 2004 with the hope of exchanging mp3s made from albums that I had a CD copy of which he had a different format copy of (CS, LP, etc.) - probably the most legal form of music file sharing there is aside from requiring substantial proof of ownership over and above the written or typed word. At that time I knew nothing about music file conversion.

Quick summary - My audiophile friend basically helped me set up EAC, RazorLame, MP3Gain and Godfather to do ripping, encoding, gaining and tagging of mp3s, and also introduced me to Audacity which I have only used to do minor editing of WAVs for my mp3 conversions. That's all I know how to do - basic operation of those programs to do a 4 step conversion from WAV to mp3. I got into the world of PMPs - mainly iPod, and have only really used iTunes to organize my digital music thus far. My friend eventually got to the point where he wanted to start getting FLACs from me, but since iPods don't take those, I wasn't interested in doing that then. But after getting a new computer with my first DVD burner a few weeks ago (2.7GHz, Win 7 Home Premium 64b, 4 GB RAM and 500 GB HD), I'm now interested in doing a better quality archival of my 1500+ CD collection and hopefully have all of the necessary gear to do so. I contacted my audiophile friend, who was initially interested in giving me the same assistance to share his preferred method of conversion. However, before we could get started, he revealed that he has an unspecified mental handicap (alluded to frequently in years past, but I always thought it was physical) that had advanced to a level where he wrote that he was no longer able to help.

What am I asking from any of you who might have a few minutes to assist and share your valuable expertise? - just to help me decide what to use and point me to the online guides that can get things set up for me. I don't think I'm ever going to be able to make the time to become a full-out audiophile like most of you unless I become chronically unemployed/unemployable for a long spell - not likely being a degree-ed engineer. I became familiar with this forum when i was trying to decide what LAME version to use with RazorLame back in '04. But now, as back then, I am lost as a goose when trying to understand 90% of the posts in these forums. I am not afraid to read online guides, but am only interested in learning the minimum that I have to in order to make lossless file archives of my CDs that could be back converted to the original WAVs should something happen to my original CDs. I'm interested in doing both FLAC and ALAC unless it will take more DVD-Rs than I want to have to keep track of (in which case I'll do only FLAC). I would also like to have the gaining feature on my lossless files if possible. I bought a Sansa Clip+ b/c that's what my friend says he uses for his walking around FLAC playback. I also took the plunge and installed Foobar2000 - the only program my audiophile friend has ever used in our association, which will definitely be a challenge for me since the extent of my real experience in PMPs so far has been solely using iTunes. Hopefully, I can learn what I need to in Foobar through trial and error and online research as I don't think I will ever become the script writing type. So I think I'm all ready now, just need to figure out a way to do the conversions with peace of mind that I'm getting the best results a "lazy" newbie (who just wants to hurry up and get the conversions going) can.

Here's what I've got installed on my computer so far:
EAC V1.0 beta 3
Foobar2000 V1.1.11
Audacity 2.0.0 (Unicode)
Godfather 0.80
MP3Gain Ver 1.2.5 (Back end mp3gain.exe Version 1.4.6)
RazorLame V1.1.5.1342

I would prefer to rip first to WAVs and then to do individual conversions to FLAC and ALAC using the best most secure method available that will get me the most error free back-convertible lossless files, and to also convert to mp3 using the methods I already know (will upgrade to latest version of LAME and attempt to match my previous 3.90 settings unless this is not recommended). I don't have any super hi-fi audio equipment so I probably couldn't tell the difference with my equipment between a general good quality FLAC conversion and one that has been tested and "perfected" by an audiophile.

I've already used EAC to do a few basic FLAC conversion using the default settings, but I'd feel a lot better if I had set EAC up using a guide from someone who knows what they are doing and is giving their educated opinion. The only online guides I have been able to find so far have been for EAC 0.99 prebeta 5 (http://blowfish.be/eac/Setup/setup1.html), some version of 0.99 (http://wiki.slimdevices.com/index.php/Beginners_guide_to_EAC) and a guide to a one or two step conversion process using Foobar2000 (http://www.howtogeek.com/howto/15577/how-to-rip-an-audio-cd-to-flac-with-foobar2000/). The Foobar method looks to be the simplest, but I was wanting to get WAVs too for my other conversions, not necessarily rip straight to FLAC from the CD, bypassing the WAV ripping. I haven't been able to find any installation guide for EAC like the ones above that were using the version I have installed, which I think is the latest. I tried to follow the setup steps in the wiki guide above but ran into an issue right away - couldn't find a method to configure AccurateRip (i.e. establish Read Offset), which this guide says would be automatically triggered in whatever version he's using. I was also able to find a guide for V1.0 beta 2 (didn't note the URL for that one), but when trying to follow that, I saw many differences in the options menus between that version and beta 3 and wasn't sure whether I could duplicate in 1.0b3 what was being recommended. I found a thread or two about EAC setup in this forum, but started getting befuddled when I saw terms like 'image file' and whatnot - was hoping to steer clear of all of that advanced stuff and just stick with a.) extract WAVs, b.) covert to FLAC, ALAC and MP3, c.) delete WAV, and then d.) tag and gain...if gaining isn't supposed to be done in the second step.

I'm not asking anybody to prepare an installation guide - just looking for additional links to online help, references to previous hydrogenaudio threads recommended for and tailored to simple EAC (or other FLAC conversion program) setup for newbies, or, most importantly, your seasoned advice and guidance for what would be the best and fastest way to get started that would yield decent quality archival FLAC files that could reproduce my CDs in an emergency with the lowest chance of errors. With as many CDs as I have, I would obviously like to start doing things right from the start. I'll gladly take any recommendations of pages/threads with general info that I might want to be sure to check out before starting the full time conversions (though I'm pretty settled in my choice of FLAC and ALAC). I'm also ready to uninstall this version of EAC and reinstall one of the earlier versions or maybe a different conversion program which has a decent guide already prepared online or in hydrogenaudio if that's what most of you recommend, but obviously I need something that is Windows 7 friendly. It looks like I will have to start using a different tagging program as Godfather doesn't appear to be Win 7 friendly (was not able to close the program after opening it for the first time to check the version! wacko.gif )

Thanks for any help you can give. It is most appreciated. I hope most of you aren't rolling your eyes thinking I'm another of those lazy newbies who wants to get all the answers from other people without trying to read anything on my own. I have tried frequently to find things I can use in this forum with my limited knowledge, but it's so overwhelming most of the time. If most of you who've read my post think the default EAC 1.0b3 settings are just fine for the "average" non-audiophile who's mainly focusing on archival and not enhancing or tweaking, then just say so. I haven't looked closely at ALAC conversion methods yet, but do have a MacBook that I got recently, so I'd also be interested in any advice/direction for the best program/method to use for ALAC conversion on either platform (Win or Mac OS). And if there's Mac programs out there that will do FLAC conversion as good as EAC or other Windows programs, will keep the process simple, and are "recommended", then I'll be glad to check any of those out too. But your seasoned recommendations are what I'm really after!

Rock on,
Christian "ccmrockman" Hancock
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JJZolx
post May 14 2012, 04:56
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Yeah, it can be a little overwhelming, but maybe you just need to take your time. It's a very good idea (IMO) to figure out what's going on first before launching into a very large project of ripping and encoding 1500 CDs. You won't want to do it again in five years, and you shouldn't have to if you do it right.

It's really not all that complicated. Your friend didn't have any great knowledge that you can't learn in a few days of casual reading and the asking of more specific questions. There's a lot of info here at HA on the nuts and bolts of ripping and encoding CDs.

Using EAC to rip your CDs is a good starting point. You might want to begin reading this article in the HA Knowledge Base, and just keep on reading until you have some idea of what's going on:

http://wiki.hydrogenaudio.org/index.php?ti...xact_Audio_Copy

The only specific comments I'd have to your questions above would be to ask:

  • Why do you want files in ALAC if you'll already have FLAC? Both are lossless, and you can convert between them using various free programs with no loss in quality.

  • Even if you really do want both ALAC and FLAC, you don't have to rip the CDs twice (you ask about MAC programs similar to EAC). All you need to do is run the FLAC files through a conversion program like foobar2000 or dbpoweramp.

  • For storage of your library, 1500 CDs encoded in FLAC should require only about 500GB of disk storage. You might not want to worry about burning them to DVD-R unless you really cannot afford the drive space. That's something you might have done 10 years ago when hard drives were much more expensive. But make absolutely sure you keep at least one backup, so plan on maybe a 750 GB internal drive for keeping your library, and another external drive of similar size for a backup.

  • Consider using a lossly file format such as MP3 for your portable players like the Clip+. You'll get many more songs in the portable's limited storage, plus you'll get much better battery life because of the smaller files. For the environments that most people use portables, it's highly unlikely that you'll be able to tell any difference.

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ccmrockman
post May 15 2012, 04:50
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Thanks for the tips and for helping to put things in perspective. I'll check out this Wikipedia page over the next week and see if I can use that to start getting a better grasp of the available options for FLAC conversion. I've been waiting so long to get this new PC and to start up my conversions again after the last PC I bought near the end of 2005 - primarily to use for mp3 conversion - died on me after 3 years. I've been chomping at the bit the last week or two for a new round of compressed files from my collection to throw onto a player and start shuffling - CDs that I haven't heard in a long time (years) because my collection is so large now. I could hardly bear the thought of having to take several more weeks or months to climb this learning curve before I'd have some FLAC files to listen to. But after your wise comments, I think I'll just settle for some more mp3 conversions to hold me over until I have a little more confidence with FLAC compression. What I wouldn't give to be able to take 3 weeks off from work and spend 5 or 6 hours a day on this stuff until I start getting it! I tried to find a "FLAC for Dummies" book when I first started looking into all of this, but to no avail.

Thanks for clarifying about ALAC as well. I didn't know the formats were that similar, or the conversion between so simple. I was only wanting to cover my bases with both Apple and PC. As for the DVD-R question...I have always been under the impression that well-cared-for supposed high quality (i.e. with the gold dye) archival discs were a lot more reliable than hard drives for long term storage. But now that you mention it, I've never had a HD totally crash on me {knock on wood}. And the only external backup drive I've ever had is still working fine after 4 years, though only turning it on a few times a year probably helps. So I imagine the more sensible way to go is like you said - with extra internal and external backup drives. Thanks much for the help. smile.gif

I do have a bunch of different iPods (as well as an iPhone) to hold mp3s - I didn't need the Sansa for that. I've always instinctively shuddered at the thought of having a primary backup copy for each title in my collection that has never been played through to verify perfect playback. I've had a couple mp3s files turn out flawed without obvious error messages during the conversion process...at least that I noticed...so I didn't know if that sort of thing is unheard of with FLACs, or if any problems I might run into will be obvious from tons of error messages during the conversion. Feel free to set me straight in this area too if I'm getting concerned over nothing.
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JJZolx
post May 15 2012, 05:14
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In the HA Knowledge Base article linked above, toward the bottom of the page are links to EAC configuration guides for using different encoders. The one for FLAC is here:

http://wiki.hydrogenaudio.org/index.php?title=EAC_and_FLAC

If you already use EAC and understand the differences between secure and burst modes, and you already use AccurateRip (highly recommended), then everything you need to get started ripping CDs to FLAC is right there. Just follow it to the letter. I don't think I've personally ever had a bad FLAC encoding, but you'll notice the -V option in the 'additional command line parameters'. This option tells the FLAC encoder to verify the encoded data, so it should give you a little extra assurance. It's not required, but it sounds like you may want to use it.
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