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View Full Version : Life with a Squeezebox, iTunes, FLAC, MP3, Apple Lossless, and an iPod



illusion8055
2007-02-13, 14:14
I have all my lossless music in FLAC which is great for my SS/SB setup, and I have a large number of songs in lossy formats (MP3 mostly). I use (and love) iTunes for managing the lossy formats and playlists using those files and for playback on my PC. Obviously it also works great with my 60 GB iPod.

I've used any number of programs for managing my lossless collection (MediaMonkey, WinAmp, J River Media Center) and have always come up disappointed. They all seem to lack in some way or another. Not to mention I have two different sets of playlists and sometimes two copies of the same song so that I can have the reference lossless version and one that plays nice with iTunes and my iPod.

Now I know the easy solution is to convert all the files to Apple Lossless. But I have a couple of concerns:

A) CPU/Bandwidth Usage. I know SS will have to transcode Apple Lossless to either FLAC or WAV to send to the SB. I have a P4 3.0 and a wired 100Mbps network. Will this be really taxing on my CPU? If it's a WAV being transported on my network, will I have bandwidth issues with other network traffic?? (I tend to have a lot of Torrents downloading my weekly TV programs, and that MURDERS my network performance to the point that my lossless tracks stutter when streaming and they are currently in native FLAC)

B) Tags/Album Art. How well are these converted from FLAC to Apple Lossless? I am considering using dbPowerAmp to do the batch conversion (~250GB of FLAC). Is that the best program for preserving tags and artwork? I don't mind fixing a couple here and there, but I don't want to fix the whole lot.

C) Replay Gain. Will I lose the benefit of replay gain when I go to Apple Lossless? Is that even a big deal?

D) iPod Storage. I don't care to have lossless on my iPod, my surroundings when using the iPod tend to be less than ideal when it comes to critical listening, besides the obvious fact that I would run out of space on my iPod in no time. I want to have my whole library on my iPod, but all lossless formats transcoded to lossy formats(MP3 or AAC I don't care) when I sync the iPod to my library. Maybe my memory is failing me or maybe I'm confusing my iPod and earlier versions of iTunes with the first generation of RCA MP3 player I bought, but I seem to recall an option where all files above a certain bitrate could be downconverted when copied to the iPod. Is this still possible? I don't seem to see any option for that in the latest iTunes?

J River Media Center seemed to have been the closest at addressing all these concerns, but somehow I felt uneasy about the program and its buggy performance.

Anybody else have the same problem/concern and if so how did you go about correcting it?? Any help is much appreciated.

Craig
2007-02-13, 14:20
J River Media Center seemed to have been the closest at addressing all these concerns, but somehow I felt uneasy about the program and its buggy performance.

How long is it since you used J River Media Center? it's continually being improved. The newest version can maintain a cache of files for direct transfer to your IPod.

Craig

illusion8055
2007-02-13, 15:30
It's been a while to be honest. Maybe I'll check out a newer version. Like I said, it seemed to have addressed all of my issues at once (iTunes-like smooth interface/keeping FLAC files/iPod integration)

I just looked at your plug-in. Great Work!! If I do go with J River I'll surely be using that to make integration even better

I would have preferred a media player that doesn't require my credit card, but I guess we can't have everything.

I'm still open to alternatives though! Any more suggestions?

leping
2007-06-30, 02:17
http://forums.slimdevices.com/showthread.php?p=211648#post211648

GuyManning
2011-07-08, 02:37
Hi . have read que a few things but some conflicting about Squeezebox, FLAC format and iTunes (PC)

At the moment I use iTunes on the PC simply to catalogue/tag my MP3 collection but I would like to now store and play FLAC files as well (via Squeezebox)

How do I catalogue in iTunes but leave the format as FLAC (I.e. no conversions) so that Squeezebox Server can use iTunes for its listings/artwork but I play back the audio in its original FLAC?

Sorry for the convoluted expanation!
Maybe it does this already...just wanted to check with experts!

Guy

aubuti
2011-07-08, 05:48
How do I catalogue in iTunes but leave the format as FLAC (I.e. no conversions) so that Squeezebox Server can use iTunes for its listings/artwork but I play back the audio in its original FLAC?
As far as I know you can't. In its infinite "think different" wisdom, iTunes does not even recognize FLAC files. If you really want to use iTunes to manage your entire collection you could convert the FLAC to Apple Lossless. Or if you want to leave them as FLAC you can use any number of other software packages -- many as good or better than iTunes -- to manage your FLAC and MP3s.

My personal preference is for the latter -- I only use iTunes for sync'ing the MP3 copy of my library with my iTouch. Other than that I stay as far away from iTunes as I can.

GuyManning
2011-07-08, 05:52
I use iTunes simply because the Squeezebox Server software uses iTunes as well to import its cataloguing...that is why

I thought there may be a way to fool iTunes into allowing the FLAC to be included in the iTunes library (if I do not need to play them back)

rayman1701
2011-07-08, 07:15
But you don't need iTunes for Squeezebox and in fact it works better most of the time to not use iTunes with Squeezebox Server. And this is coming from someone who uses iTunes exclusively! I use iTunes for ripping, cataloging and for my iPods, of course I use Apple Lossless instead of FLAC, but I found out pretty quickly that using the iTunes integration with Squeezebox Server caused some issues and was very quirky, at least for me. So while you'll get the Apple bashers, who don't like iTunes giving you the same advice, I thought I'd give the other side from someone who uses iTunes, and I'm giving the same advice about having iTunes & Squeezebox Server trying to work together, don't.

And when I've gotten something in FLAC all I do is convert it to Apple Lossless (with other software) and go on about my life. AFAIK there is no way to have iTunes (at least on a Windows machine) to reconize and do anything with a FLAC file.

GuyManning
2011-07-08, 07:21
Thanks for the advise

Just so as I fully understand...
Do you just point the SQ Server software at a folder where you keep your audio files?

How do you organise the Artists/Albums/Other tag info etc?
Do you rip/import into iTunes to tag and catalogue etc. in there but then NOT use it as the import source for Squeezebox? ie. simply point at the repository folder?

What are the integration issues you mentioned?

What software do you use to convert FLAC to Apple Lossless? (I presume that once converted, these CAN be imported into iTunes for tagging etc.)

ddewey
2011-07-08, 07:40
Quoting GuyManning (GuyManning.4wk4vz1310129641 (AT) no-mx (DOT) forums.slimdevices.com):

>
> I use iTunes simply because the Squeezebox Server software uses iTunes
> as well to import its cataloguing...that is why
>
> I thought there may be a way to fool iTunes into allowing the FLAC to
> be included in the iTunes library (if I do not need to play them back)

This is VERY geeky, but it works really well for me and has for
years. I use it to get music into my iPhone as well as some other
iTunes-specific stuff, or when I want to quickly make a copy of some
music for someone in MP3 format without bothering to transcode it.

What it does is present your FLAC files to iTunes as MP3s, allows
iTunes to catalog them, and then when you play or import one into an
iDevice, it converts it to MP3 on the fly.

This way I don't have to bother with maintaining separate libraries
or even think about it - iTunes sees what it thinks are mp3 versions
of all my FLAC files and is perfectly happy with it. It does take
longer to sync the files since they are being converted in the
background rather than just copied, but that's a minor issue.

All my music is hosted on a Windows fileshare - I mount that to my
Linux box where I run mp3fs, then mount the mp3fs filesystem BACK to
windows and point iTunes at it.

http://mp3fs.sourceforge.net/

aubuti
2011-07-08, 07:43
Do you just point the SQ Server software at a folder where you keep your audio files?
Yep. AFAIK the only additional thing you gain from "iTunes integration" is access to your iTunes "smart playlists" in SBS.


What software do you use to convert FLAC to Apple Lossless? (I presume that once converted, these CAN be imported into iTunes for tagging etc.)
Some of the downloads I buy are in Apple Lossless (eg, WOMAD shop), and I use dBpoweramp to do the reverse conversion (Apple Lossless to FLAC). I presume it works the other way, too. If the original files are tagged then the tagging gets transferred as well, so there's no need to retag in the new codec.

kmr
2011-07-08, 08:23
I pretty much agree with aubuti: I rip everything with dbpoweramp (the only thing that I use Windows for, but I just haven't found a native OS X ripper that I like) to FLAC in one directory tree for SBS, and (using the the multi-encode feature of dbpoweramp) simultaneously to AAC for iTunes into a different directory tree. I then import the AAC files into iTunes for our various iPods. I do NOT use iTunes integration for SBS. I've been using Songbird to create and export playlists for SBS; works fairly well.

The holes in this workflow at this time are:
(1) During the dbpoweramp convert-to-AAC, I volume normalize the resulting AAC using the track gain value; this lets me play back the digital AAC file on systems (e.g., my car's iPod integration) that don't pay attention to ReplayGain tags and still have smooth track-to-track volume. I'd like to do the volume normalize using the album gain tag, but dbpoweramp's multi-encode feature won't work like that since you don't know album gain until you're completely done with the album rip. Solution is likely to do the convert-to-AAC-and-volume-normalize in a batch post-rip, but I just haven't set that up yet.

(2) I buy very little music off of the iTMS, but I'd like to expand that for tracks where I have no interest in finding and buying the actual CD. Therefore, I'd like to figure out a way to automatically grab purchased files (in AAC format) from my iTunes directory, slap ReplayGain tags on them, and copy them to my SBS music tree. But I haven't figured that one out yet.

Except for these two holes, I'm really happy with my two-directory solution and only using iTunes to manage my iDevices.

sebp
2011-07-08, 09:00
What it does is present your FLAC files to iTunes as MP3s, allows iTunes to catalog them, and then when you play or import one into an iDevice, it converts it to MP3 on the fly.
Q: And what do you think will happen when Squeezebox Server queries one of these MP3 files referenced into iTunes' database?
A: mp3fs will transcode the FLAC file to MP3 for SBS as well.

rayman1701
2011-07-08, 09:54
Thanks for the advise

Just so as I fully understand...
Do you just point the SQ Server software at a folder where you keep your audio files?

How do you organise the Artists/Albums/Other tag info etc?
Do you rip/import into iTunes to tag and catalogue etc. in there but then NOT use it as the import source for Squeezebox? ie. simply point at the repository folder?

What are the integration issues you mentioned?

What software do you use to convert FLAC to Apple Lossless? (I presume that once converted, these CAN be imported into iTunes for tagging etc.)

Yes, just point to the music folder. For me (and I do know others disagree) iTunes works fine for ripping to Apple Lossless and I have a separate library converted to AAC for the pods. I know I could get dbpoweramp to do direct conversions to ALAC from FLAC, but I go about it the long way, by converting to WAV then converting the WAV files back to ALAC in iTunes. Yes I know it's a bit cumbersome, but it works for me. Heck now that iTunes actually will export M3U playlists (an older version I have on an old computer doesn't) I can use iTunes to create playlists to save into the playlist folder for Squeezebox Server. I'm comfortable with my system and it works for me, so play around and find what works for you.

One of the issues I had with iTunes integration with Squeezebox Server was that I was having issues with A LOT of iTunes temp files being created and corrupting my iTunes database. Now I'm not sure if it was becasue I was using a external hard drive along with doing stuff with iTunes open while Squeezebox Server did auto re-scaning of the database, or what the issue was. I'm not that technical, all I knew is the longer I used it the more issues I was starting to have. So I quit using the iTunes integration and everything worked much better. Also I had this weird problem of a couple of albums showing up twice in Squeezebox Server, which drove me nuts trying to figure out why. I tried changing the album name, re-ripping on a different machine and importing, but nothing would get rid of the duplicates. I didn't have any playlists at that point, so I knew it wasn't that kind of an issue. I think for some reason it didn't get cleared from the iTunes database and so Squeezebox Server kept picking it up, but like I said I'm not that technical, so I don't know for sure. Also the file totals never matched while using iTunes integration, I don't know why, but as soon as I quit the iTunes integration, everything was perfect.

I also keep a couple of clones of my library, so if anything goes wrong with the hard drives, I can just plug in a new one and I'm up and going. Which you should do no matter what way you rip or collect your music.

ddewey
2011-07-12, 11:49
Quoting sebp (sebp.4wkdlb1310140921 (AT) no-mx (DOT) forums.slimdevices.com):

>
> ddewey;639735 Wrote:
> > What it does is present your FLAC files to iTunes as MP3s, allows iTunes
> > to catalog them, and then when you play or import one into an iDevice,
> > it converts it to MP3 on the fly.
> Q: And what do you think will happen when Squeezebox Server queries one
> of these MP3 files referenced into iTunes' database?
> A: mp3fs will transcode the FLAC file to MP3 for SBS as well.

probably so. I use this solely to get flac's readable by itunes for
loading my iphone, Squeezebox Server only gets FLACs. I don't
connect itunes to the squeezebox server, I try to minimize my
interactions with itunes.