View Full Version : I need a ripping solution
I have a library of close to 2500 CDs. I started ripping them years ago when storage space wasn't so cheap and at the time thought that 160kbps MP3s was a decent compromise. We have a few Apple products (computers, iPods etc.) and also 3 Squeezeboxes so 160kbps MP3s was a) playable by everything and b) good for fixed and limited space devices such as the iPods.
Anyway, that was then. :)
I now want to reconstruct the library so that it gives me the best of both worlds; FLACs for hi-fi listening via the Squeezeboxes (and their use as an archive format) but also MP3s (probably go for higher bit rate than 160 or VBR) for use on the iPods.
I thought Max was the solution but there are a few things to iron out. From reading it seems the best way is just to rip to FLAC with Max and then use the flac2mp3 utility to convert to MP3s. However, how do you then get the converted MP3s into iTunes? Of course, if I rip my entire library to FLAC, convert to MP3 then all I need to do is drag-and-drop the MP3 folder onto iTunes and it will pick up all the files. But what about subsequent CD rips when I buy new albums? Having to rip the CD with Max and then convert it to MP3 and then drag-and-drop the MP3s into iTunes manually for every single album would be quite frustrating.
That's not even touching on the subject of album art but I know I'm in safe hands with Media Rage :)
Can anyone offer some advice? I want to get it right this time, I've a long road ahead :)
take a look at dbpoweramp. It can do all that you want and there is a batch program that could help you with that 2,500 CD library.
Neil, I too am in the same situation. I'm not so worried about the mp3 issue, but I want FLAC, and I want a great GUI to work between my Mac an squeezebox duet. There's a lot of discussion on other forums that suggests MAX is the better alternative than the dBpoweramp thang. I've had to use iTunes, and while its great for the stuff I wnat to hear on my daily commute, it's not the best solution for what I'm trying to achieve.I dunno, but hope some of these experts point us in the right direction.
I spent the whole day yesterday playing around with this and I think I now have a strategy.
The latest stable release of Max was not working for me at all - perhaps it's not fully compliant with OS X 10.5.2 yet, who knows. Anyway, the 0.8b version solved the problems I was having. The other issue with Max is it's CDDB. It uses Music Brainz and many of my discs (I deliberately chose obscure ones as a test) were not recognised. Plus, the ones that were found never had any genre information. I subsequently found out that genre is not supported by Music Brainz. One of the problems with my current library is that it's probably only 50%, at best, tagged properly with genres and this is something I wanted to fix with the rebuild.
Some poking around on the Max forums revealed quite a neat little script (from Steve Booth himself) that will grab the Gracenote information from iTunes and dump it into the CD info for Max. You need to have iTunes running as well as Max (set the "On CD insert" option to "Show CD" in iTunes to prevent it trying to play/rip the disc) but it works very well and as a bonus for me, even grabs the genre and year. Running both Max and iTunes seems to have a slight performance hit as you insert a new CD - seems like both programs are trying to ID the disc at the same time - but it's negligible; once the ID phase has finished the two programs don't interfere with each other.
It's easy enough to set up multiple format ripping in Max so I won't cover that. However, I ripped a few discs to just FLAC first and tested out the "flac3mp3" perl script that has been mentioned on here many times. It works well but on the computer I was doing the testing on (MacBook, 2ghz dual intel, 2gb RAM) it was very, very slow at transcoding the FLAC files, very much slower than Max. Given that they both use the LAME codec, I didn't see the advantage to doing it in two stages with 'flac2mp3'. Of course, just ripping to FLAC is much faster so you'd get through CDs at a better rate and you can always just leave 'flac2mp3' running overnight without any interaction. Both methods work fine. However, it's important to get your tags and album art correct in your FLACs *before* converting to MP3s with 'flac2mp3'. Which brings me onto the thorny subject of Album Art.
Max is rubbish at doing album art. It doesn't do it automatically at all. You have to remember to manually download and attach it (within Max itself) before proceeding to encode the disc. This works fine most of the time but you only have the option of Max searching Amazon for the artwork (although you do have several choices of country). A few of my test albums weren't found and I had to resort to doing a Google image search where you can then drag-and-drop the image into Max's album art drawer for the currently inserted album. Most of the time I was able to find pretty good resolution images (500x500-ish) but for some of my obscure discs it was difficult. iTunes is far better at this as it was much more consistent at getting good quality art. You can actually drag-and-drop album art from iTunes to Max, the only problem is you have to rip the CD in iTunes before it will grab the album art. That's a really shame as it's a handy feature.
So, onto getting the music onto Squeezebox and iTunes.
An option I'd like to have seen in Max would be the ability to specify different output folders per format. As it is, Max puts all formats into the same Artist/Album folder for each disc. Initially I thought this would be a major issue but I caught two lucky breaks here. Firstly, as pointed out by another user on here, in the server settings for SqueezeCenter scanner, you can specify file types to ignore. This means that you can point the scanner at your library and even though it contains both FLAC and MP3 version of the same discs, it will only pick up the FLAC version. Secondly, iTunes doesn't support FLACs and so when you need to add newly ripped albums, you can safely just do "Add To Library", point it at your library folder and it will only pick up newly added MP3s while ignoring the FLACs. You can do this as many times as you like and iTunes will only add the new files. You need to set a couple of options though; in Preferences->General, "Keep iTunes music folder organised" and "Copy files to iTunes music folder" should be OFF to prevent iTunes from, well, messing about with your files :)
- set up Max to rip both FLAC and MP3, making sure you manually grab the album art before pressing "Encode" (turn off automatic encoding in prefs)
- set SqueezeCenter to ignore MP3s when scanning
- use "Add to Library" function in iTunes to add the MP3s to its database
I'd love more automation to the album art process but on the other hand, having had to manually fix about 60% of my existing library, I don't mind getting it right at the point of ripping the disc so I can be confident I won't ever have to go back and resolve incorrect or missing images. I'd love some automatic way of getting the files into iTunes but that would need some kind of scheduled task that periodically forces iTunes to do a "Add To Library", specifying your music library location. I might have poke around on Doug's Applescripts to see if there's anything useful on there.
Apart from that, I don't think I can get the process any better.
Edit : Slight mistake - I assumed that if your FLAC album had album artwork then 'flac2mp3' would take the artwork with it when it outputted your MP3s. This doesn't seem to be the case. :(
This is what I do on my set up:
iTunes is set not to rip inserted CDs.
Max is set to rip in CD paranoia mode.
I have three outputs set up in Max; one to encode to iTunes mp4 lossless, one to encode to flac, and one to encode to OGG format for my portable player.
The process goes like this:
Insert CD and wait for iTunes and Max to do their CDDB thing. Don't bother correcting any of the tags in the resulting Max window as it's way better to do this in iTunes, however if the track name fields are empty add these tags now because it makes the tracks easier to identify later.
Encode to iTunes mp4 lossless only. Drag 'n' drop the resulting album into iTunes, then once iTunes finishes the import delete the original album as iTunes has now created its own version in the iTunes library.
Now in iTunes correct and add any tags, remembering to double-check to see if exact copies of tracks between different albums also have the same tags. Take time over doing this as the resulting music files will be used as the master sources.
Now for the artwork. I check out allcdcovers.com first, then Amazon.com/Amazon.co.uk, then Google images, and finally to scan the original cover, in that order to get the particular image. I then use a combination of ChocoFlop and Preview to correct contrast/crop etc.
Now drag 'n' drop the artwork into iTunes and wait for it to complete. We should now have a perfect iTunes lossless music library which we can use to create our Squeezecenter version, so:
Drag 'n' drop the album from the iTunes library into Max, alter the outputs to encode into flac and any other required format, in my case OGG for my portable player, and hit encode.
Now drag 'n' drop the resulting flac album into the SqueezeCenter music directory. On my set up both this, and the iTunes library, are on separate NAS devices so I automatically get lossless backups. If one drive fails I just need to re-encode using the other drive as the source.
After you rescan the music library in SqueezeCenter you'll find the embedded artwork in the flac files now appears automatically.
To complete I then move the resulting OGG album over to my player.
It's then just a matter of repeating the above for any further albums that need ripping/encoding/tagging.
Sounds like quite a process but once you get the hang of it it's really easy. I open three Finder windows, one shows the contents of the Music directory where Max sends its output, one shows the iTunes library, and the other shows the SqueezeCenter music directory (tip: use Show>Show View Options to give each finder window its own background color scheme).
By all means use your experience to speed things up when possible. One way is to create the iTunes library first and then batch drop multiple albums into Max and let it churn away overnight for example. If you do this I highly recommend setting Max to only encode into flac and no other formats at the same time as I've noticed Max can 'crash' on the flac thread if you attempt multiple encodes at the same time.
The artwork is embedded so if you need to print out the library you cannot use a third-party SqueezeCenter program that requires the image files to be in the album directories. If you want this functionality I suppose you could add a copy of the image to each album before transferring it to your Squeezecenter music directory in the appropriate step above, but it's something I haven't done.
And to finish, one final tip: take it easy, with a large CD collection it'll take quite a while to do the ripping, encoding and tagging and you'll get periods where you'll want to give it all up. Walk away, have a beer, have a sleep, and come back later refreshed. And get some sort of back up system in use before it all goes $*@^ and this long laborious process has to be repeated...
Edit: Just noticed the OP's original comment regarding doing it one at a time and the time it will take. I cannot really see any way of speeding things up with regard to the actual ripping of the CDs, as it's the state of the text entries in the CDDB databases that leaves a lot to be desired. If I remember correctly in all the CDs that I've ripped over the years there's only ever been one or two where the tags have been correct from the start. The rest have either had bad spelling, capitols where there shouldn't be any or vice-versa, or punctuation that's been downright wrong and I've had to go in and correct them. It's better to do this stage slowly and methodically and then once the iTunes library is correct to then go in and batch encode multiple albums overnight if necessary.
The only thing I can see that wouldn't work for me is that you don't seem to have album artwork for your OGG files? Or at least I can't see the stage in your process that you do (if you do). For me I'll be using MP3s for my iPhone and in-car iPod so I want covers for those files too.
Caves... I don't see why you're ripping to ALAC then converting to FLAC. I have no issues at all with SLim playing Apple lossles files, with the exception of no FFwd or Rwd, but I can deal with that compared to DOUBLING my storage requirements and the time it takes.
I agree that iTunes is WAY better at handling tagging than MAX, so why not just stick with ALAC?
Can you explain your thinking a bit more?
I tried ALAC too so that iTunes could automatically grab the album art (which it is very good at, admitedly). Only problem is, iTunes album art is not compatible with SqueezeCenter album art and so further processing is required to get the covers to show up.
Unless someone knows different?
It seems everyone has their own different solution for what you're trying to achieve-audio quality, ease of importing, and the bloody artwork issue. I've been in the lab testing various settings that appeal to me and find no matter how you cut it, there's a fair amount of work involved. Caves mentioned that once you've developed "your" process, stick with it if it works for you. I personally don't have time to spend working on tagging each and every file in my ginormess collection of music. So far ALAC and iTunes seems to do the job fairly well, and while I was tempted to try MAX, it sounds like I'll have to spend more time running two programs, tagging files, and pasting artwork if I went that route. Looks like you've all done a fair amount of work into it. Good show everyone.
Have alook at this thread http://forums.slimdevices.com/showthread.php?t=43979
Ripping software at http://www.ripfactory.com/rsmicro.html
If you have a Windows PC, then it may meet your needs.
I've now settled on method and have begun the slow process once again :)
Rip : Max to FLAC using cdparanoia method. Set Max to not retrieve album information but instead use Steve Booth's Applescript to pull the meta data from iTunes. Gracenote CDDB seems to be the best one and that script gets you access to it without having to actually rip the files using iTunes. Having said that, you still need to be vigilant as Gracenote also accepts user contributions which are unfortunately not always as accurate as desired.
Album Art : manual attaching to FLACs (embedded) from within Max. I can't find a more automated solution to this.
Transcode : not completely decided on this yet as I now have two methods to chose from. Using Max to do the transcoding to MP3 taking advantage of Max's ability to process with simultaneous encoders (I'm using a Mac Pro) or using a modified version of 'flac2mp3.pl' as described in this post;
I'll do some more testing on the MP3s that are output from the two transcoding methods but in terms of processing time there's nothing in it really. It will be a few weeks before I get to transcoding anyway :)
I've now settled on method and have begun the slow process once again :)
Rip : Max to FLAC using cdparanoia method.
I know this is an old post, but I've started working with Max a bit and wondered what you set your FLAC settings to?
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