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FLAC AlbumGain and more general advice, Audiophile FLAC-newbie seeks general & specific encoding tips
post Jan 18 2013, 02:05
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Hi all. Noob here! Having lurked for long enough, thought I'd dive in at the deep end...

(Edit: This became more long-winded than I planned, so if you're impatient skip to the end for numbered questions!)
(And before anyone asks, very little of relevance comes up on Google for "FLAC" and "AlbumGain" but I've read various forums complaining about wildcard support and discussing Replay/Album Gain, but strangely nothing that comes close to explaining what I need to know, so if you know something please don't just tell me to "search the forum" or somesuch, because believe me I have!)

I call myself an audiophile (I'm a classical musician, it comes with the territory) but have only just converted to FLAC having been loyal to MP3 since it went public all those years ago. (I know, I'm a Luddite, so sue me!) Main reason for this epiphany? One test and I discover that my favourite, 7-Zip, on Maximum compression (taking 10min) arc's a ripped album to a 225MB .7z (which really is pretty good), while FLAC on Best compression (taking, ooh, about 45sec) encoded same collection of .wavs to 166MB. Sold. Ch-ching! However (and this is where I need to milk experience from others), there seem to be some shortcomings in the basic CLI FLAC that I'm struggling understand so I can find a work around that doesn't take three programs and five steps to achieve my desired goal.

If you call yourself an audiophile you probably have what them in the Good Ol' U.S. of A. call a "Type A" personality -- I do! Not much point in diligently archiving my CD collection without every possible piece of published information captured in every available Tag (which of course have to be ID3v2 for all those pesky classical track names of 137 French characters). AudioGrabber, with elegant simplicity, beautifully rips every CD and stores the CDDB data in the Wavs for future use. I haven't found any other ripper that does that, so EAC (somewhat more fiddly) only ever gets used for the rare instance of a suspect CD when AudioGrabber tells me the checksums doesn't match. Having captured said data I can re-encode directly from the Wavs whenever I want to experiment with LAME settings. (For those who like collecting survey data: I find that, so long as I use the best (q0) psycho-acoustic model, LAME's VBR at V7 surprisingly makes the best compromise between file-size [for portable devices] and quality that an ear my age can perceive -- I can hear the difference between V7 and, say, V3, through my nice antique Beyer-D cans, but the difference isn't worth the storage cost when I'm not listening to the result in perfect conditions.)

Anyway, obviously I scoured FLAC's options & switches before starting, given that the SourceForge project has no additional doco (it only repeats what FLAC -H reports!) or even a forum (unique among the SourceForge projects I've visited). Bizarrely I discover that: a) FLAC will not process multiple files (not even from a file list, the only use for a list-file being to present a set of Tag data for the specified file); b) FLAC's Tag switch applies to all specified files, effectively meaning one can only encode a single file per hit; c) AlbumGain can only work (logically enough) if all tracks are specified on the CLI, meaning that one can calculate AlbumGain or capture Tag data but not both. This makes it impossible to use FLAC to calculate AlbumGain! I must encode the files, then use another program to calculate ReplayGain in the transcoded MP3s, or perhaps while it transcodes to MP3. (I wonder if the function built in to WinAmp does it with the best efficiency and accuracy, but how would I tell...?)

So here's the crunch: I want to archive my CDs to FLAC rather than Zipped Wavs, to save space but also because I can start using AlbumGain, but absolutely only if I can properly capture all the Tag data!

  1. How do I use FLAC to encode all the Wavs of an album to benefit from AlbumGain while also being able to use the Tag switches correctly?
  2. Which I suppose leads to the rhetorical question of, why will 'they' not fix FLAC to either take wildcard file-specs or be able to process list-files to present file names and tag data? (Probably a discussion for a different thread, and one I'll send to the SourceForge project when I bother to find their contact.)
  3. What step-wise process, or alternate program choice, would you guys employ to rip a CD, archive to FLAC with tags intact and write AlbumGain tags, and transcode to MP3, in as few steps as possible using as few different programs as possible?

Unsurprisingly, my ultimate goal is a one-click automated process like I get from AudioGrabber at the moment, even if I have to write an involved Batch file to pipe the output of one process in to another -- AudioGrabber gives me a perfectly portable hit-and-run solution on USB key, no install required, drop in a CD, glance at the FreeDB data, click <Grab>, remove key & CD (I don't even have to press eject!), leave. Is it too much to ask? Yes, I know, the answer may well be "yes" but I have to ask the question for my own sanity...

So there you have it. (At last! Sorry... wink.gif ) My plea out in the wild. Anyone willing to throw their experience again it and point me in the right direction (or even give me a complete answer) will receive my great gratitude smile.gif

Thanks for listening

GJE ("Dranok")
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