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Why is reading ISRC so difficult?
imazed
post Dec 16 2012, 15:12
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This is my first post so apologies if it is not in the right place.
I plan to convert totally to digital replay keeping all my files on a media server and using a dedicated quiet PC for playback - nothing unusual about that.
I wanted to ensure that when I rip my CD collection I only do it once, that the audio is bit perfect, and the metadata is as compete and informative as possible.
I have spent a lot of time trying various ripping programs, validating metadata against Freedb, MusicBrainz, GD3 and I am now at the stage I can proceed with ripping my music collection EXCEPT that it seems to be almost impossible to get a reliable method of reading and storing the ISRC.
I have tried EAC, DBPoweramp, J rivers, MBRipper and Cuetools.
I have some CDS which will always give a valid ISRC, seven out of twelve, and the remaining five which I am unable to read. This is with any of the programs, any of three different drives, and two computers one running XP and one Windows 7. I repeat results are entirely consistent either ISRC is always there or it is never there.

YES, I do realise the seemingly obvious conclusion is that no ISRC exists but these are mainstream CDs by popular artists from labels like EMI and Columbia. As the entire music industry is paranoid about collecting royalties and the main identifier of who is playing on any track is linked to the ISRC I do not believe that the "obvious" conclusion is correct.
Interestingly the wikipedia article on the Red Book standard states:
The basic specifications state that

Maximum playing time is 79.8 minutes[5]
Minimum duration for a track is 4 seconds (including 2-second pause)
Maximum number of tracks is 99
Maximum number of index points (subdivisions of a track) is 99 with no maximum time limit
International Standard Recording Code (ISRC) should be included

If this is right then ANY compliant CD must have an ISRC encoded on each track.

On scouring this and other audio forums there are four alleged reasons why the ISRC cannot be read and these are:
1 - Your drive cannot read them - well if that was the case I would not see any of them.
2 - You have not set up the ripping program correctly - same response as point one.
3 - The ISRC does not exist on the tracks - I have no evidence to the contrary other than that previously stated.
4 - The ISRC cannot be transferred to the metadata and can only be seen in a cue sheet - I have tried writing Cue sheets and get identical results 7 out of 12 work.

The ISRC website states:
In the case of Compact Discs the ISRCs and other PQ-data are encoded in the disc sub-code (Q channel) in the disc mastering process. For this reason, ISRCs must be encoded for each track in the Pre-Master for CD. Most commercial mastering software applications have a field dedicated for ISRC. For electronically distributed formats, the ISRC of each track should be associated with it in the metadata of the file.

Does anyone have a set-up where they can reliably read ISRC?
Is there more than one method of encoding the ISRC on the CD? My understanding is that ISRC is 12 digits, case insensitive and is the first thing in the Q channel.
Is there any explanation as to why some codes are not detected by any of the programs I have listed?
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chi
post Dec 16 2012, 15:49
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QUOTE (imazed @ Dec 16 2012, 16:12) *
The basic specifications state that

International Standard Recording Code (ISRC) should be included

If this is right then ANY compliant CD must have an ISRC encoded on each track.


You are jumping from “should” to “must” here. See, e.g., RFC 2119 for a common interpretation of these terms.

QUOTE
Is there more than one method of encoding the ISRC on the CD?


Yes, it can also be included in CD-TEXT data (if so, it is usually in addition to the PQ subcode).
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imazed
post Dec 16 2012, 16:04
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QUOTE (chi @ Dec 16 2012, 14:49) *
QUOTE (imazed @ Dec 16 2012, 16:12) *
The basic specifications state that

International Standard Recording Code (ISRC) should be included

If this is right then ANY compliant CD must have an ISRC encoded on each track.


You are jumping from “should” to “must” here. See, e.g., RFC 2119 for a common interpretation of these terms.

QUOTE
Is there more than one method of encoding the ISRC on the CD?


Yes, it can also be included in CD-TEXT data (if so, it is usually in addition to the PQ subcode).


Fair comment Should does not equal must but as the requirement was built in to the specification to satisfy the music industry can we agree "should"="probably, or at least better than 7 out of twelve"

Thanks for pointig out the CD text, I did know that and realise I phrased my question badly. It should be:

Is ther more than one method of encoding the ISRC in the Q channel?
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chi
post Dec 16 2012, 18:49
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QUOTE (imazed @ Dec 16 2012, 17:04) *
Fair comment Should does not equal must but as the requirement was built in to the specification to satisfy the music industry can we agree "should"="probably, or at least better than 7 out of twelve"


In my experience, younger CDs from major labels almost all have ISRCs. Many older releases do not. Which twelve albums did you check?

As an example, I own a CD (“I’m your baby tonight” by Whitney Houston) that was released in 1990 on Arista, though the pressing is probably from 1995 or so. This CD does not have ISRCs.

QUOTE
Is ther more than one method of encoding the ISRC in the Q channel?


No, there is only one way to do that.
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imazed
post Dec 17 2012, 20:10
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QUOTE (chi @ Dec 16 2012, 17:49) *
QUOTE (imazed @ Dec 16 2012, 17:04) *
Fair comment Should does not equal must but as the requirement was built in to the specification to satisfy the music industry can we agree "should"="probably, or at least better than 7 out of twelve"


In my experience, younger CDs from major labels almost all have ISRCs. Many older releases do not. Which twelve albums did you check?

As an example, I own a CD (“I’m your baby tonight” by Whitney Houston) that was released in 1990 on Arista, though the pressing is probably from 1995 or so. This CD does not have ISRCs.

QUOTE
Is ther more than one method of encoding the ISRC in the Q channel?


No, there is only one way to do that.


Sorry I did not keep a note of the CDs with No ISRC so I have just repeated my test using ExactAudioCopy v1.0b3 and with a different batch of CDs. This time I got a slightly higher proportion with ISRC, ten out of fifteen. Again they are quite consistent either always providing ISRC or never. The five CDs not returning any ISRC information were:
These five CD consistently give CATALOG 0000000000000 and do not show any ISRC field.
Pink Floyd - The Division Bell - EMI 724389842 - 1994
Keb Mo - Just Like You - OKeh 48411723 - 1996
Seasick Steve - Dog House Music - Bronzerat BR04 - 1999
Tom Waits - Mule Variations - Anti/Epitaph 6547-2 1999
The Verve - Urban Hymns - Virgin/Hut 45 - 1997

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