In the living room are just under a thousand compact disks, assembled lovingly over the course of twenty-five years. My CD player, an excellent but 15-year-old Linn Karik, is getting erratic. At this point in history, buying a new CD player doesn’t seem to make sense. It’s time to move it all online.

The Context · Regular readers will know that I am the worst kind of sicko deranged audiophile—well, not the worst kind, I use plain well-manufactured 12ga copper wire. For that reason, and because our house is extremely open-concept, I really have no interest in any of the options for digitally routing background music to unobtrusive (as in, crappy) little speakers in all the different rooms. I want to get the music off the disks and into the carefully-crafted combination of fine electronics and carpentry at the south end of the Big Room where we live, with as little damage as possible to the music.

It turns out that, right next to the table the electronics sit on, there’s a large piece of rather thick wooden cabinetry containing a beefy Mac Pro. The Mac Pro’s many virtues include remarkably silent running, and while the cabinet now has a large ragged hole in its back (consider following that link, it’s amusing), the combination is quiet enough to run even while listening seriously.

Overall Design · So the idea is this: Rip all the disks onto the Mac, take digital audio out of it and into a good DAC and then into the front end of the big stereo. While conceptually OK, there remain a lot of details to sort out.

Storage · A thousand CDs, with lossless encoding, constitute less than half a terabyte of data. I’ll buy more music, but realistically, probably not as much in the rest of my life as I have so far. And certainly not as much in the lifetime of a hard disc drive.

So, I went and bought two Samsung 1TB drives at the wonderful NCIX, approximately the best walk-in geek store on the planet, for under C$250 including taxes. Slapping them into the Mac Pro took only a few minutes, even allowing time for furniture moving and help from a toddler. I thought OS X did ZFS but apparently only in its “server” config, so they’re set up in a straight mirrored RAID which I take to mean that I need never worry about backup.

Software · Well, er, iTunes. Wikipedia says that Apple Lossless can be decoded, so I don’t think I’m losing important freedoms. I find iTunes’ interface, while not perfect, to be mostly OK. Also I can control it from any of the laptops via VNC, and Simon Phipps tells me there’s a great remote-control app for the iPod Touch, if I feel like spending $400+ for a remote.

Digital-to-Analog · This is where it gets interesting. Well, to a sicko deranged audiophile, anyhow. The Mac Pro, of course, has a “line out” socket and if you have a minijack-to-RCA converter, you can run this right up the back end of your high-end preamp, assuming you don’t mind hurting its feelings. I do mind.

I may be an audiophile but I’m also an engineer, so I do understand that bits is bits. However, I do also appreciate that turning dual 16-bit 44Khz PCM data streams into ±1V-potential-difference musical waveforms without sampling artifacts and with enough punch to drive the not-quite-infinite impedance of the preamp is a nontrivial design challenge. And that it’s particularly hard to execute inside a computer enclosure that’s oozing RF energy from all that hotwired silicon.

So what I want to do is get the bits out of the computer and hand them off to specialized bits-to-waveform electronics; in common parlance, an outboard DAC.

And are there ever a lot of them. Precisely because, I suppose, there are a lot of me; people wanting to get good sound out of archived oceans of bits. I already own two; this very Mac is plugged into a cheesy Creative Labs SoundBlaster the size of two decks of cards and much lighter, which has multiple inputs and outputs, claiming to be able to manage seven-channel immersive audio, forsooth; it exists here for the purpose of driving headphones while we scale cultural summits such as Need For Speed and Bioshock. For which it is just fine.

At my office I perversely drive a Cary tube amp and very old but still good Totem speakers from my laptop, via USB into a KingRex UD-01, about the size of two packs of matches, with no controls, one input, one output, and one LED. Endearing little thing, and sounds good over the noise from the bakery downstairs, especially when I turn it up.

For the big system at home, there are many options, ranging from what I have to an $800 Lynx outboard-audio board routing a balanced digital stream to a $5,000 Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC.

The Bryston BDA-1, from a really very good Canadian audio company, checks in at a “mere” $1995. But that price point gives me heartburn, given especially that it has no moving parts and that the key Bryston extra (you can defeat oversampling) seems silly.

Then there are oddball products like the devilsound DAC; also various bits of tube-driven weirdness.

The Process · Someone suggested I not bother ripping the CDs, just go and get the stuff from BitTorrent somewhere. I dunno, it seems pretty effortless to jam ’em in one after another, and I get to clean up the metadata in the (considerable) number of cases where what comes off the Net is broken. Plus I’ve got quite a bit of weird shit the Net doesn’t know. Based on a some early experiments, I think I can get through them all in just a few weeks.

What’s Wrong With This Picture? · That’s not a rhetorical question. What am I missing?


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Jurgen Schaub (Mar 03 2009, at 02:27)

I faced a similar problem when moving to Australia. I had about 800 CDs that I didn't want to take with me. I ended up spending every waking moment for about a month shoving CDs into a fast fast G4 tower, and a little iBook. iTunes was fairly good at looking things up, even for the more obscure members of my collection. That being said, it's not something I'd like to do again anytime soon (my pile of 8mm analogue videotapes just gave me a dirty look).

I designed (on paper) a system for a radio station to digitise their collection of tens-of-thousands of CDs. It involved cheap PC tower systems and lots of CD-ROM drives. I'm sure you can imagine the rest.

What I'd suggest for you is to go through the digitisation process yourself. Consider using one of the many Mac ports of cdparanoia. Don't push yourself too hard, just whenever you're on the Mac, start pumping CDs into it in the background. You should be done in a few months.


From: Fred Blasdel (Mar 03 2009, at 02:41)

It'd probably be better to rsync between the drives regularly than use mirroring — you get to use the full free space, and it's actually a backup.

For the audio an external DAC is a good idea, but don't use a cheezy USB one — use the digital optical out of the onboard card!


From: example (Mar 03 2009, at 02:46)

<i>I thought OS X did ZFS but apparently only in its “server” config, so they’re set up in a straight mirrored RAID which I take to mean that I need never worry about backup.</i>

OMG That is SO wrong. RAID IS NOT A BACKUP. It raid mirroring will protect you from a physical hard drive failure, but it won't protect you from disk image corruption, say if the file allocation table were accidentally overwritten or something like that.

Of course you'll still have all your CDs, so it wouldn't be the end of the world.


From: Ben (Mar 03 2009, at 02:48)

I ripped all of my CDs to Apple Lossless back in 2006, and ended up buying a Slim Devices (now Logitech) Squeezebox to do that bits-to-waveforms conversion.

The Squeezebox (and their other related products, such as the audiophile quality Transporter, etc) are a hardware/software combination. Hardware at the stereo, software on your server, delivery of bits over the network (wired or wireless).

The draw for me was that I could have a dedicated piece of hardware at my stereo, controllable with the supplied remote, that I could mostly just treat like any other audio source.

But on the back end, I can control that same hardware via a web browser using the SqueezeCenter server software to add music, make playlists, etc. And the music storage could be anywhere on my network, not necessarily right next to the stereo.

The software, mostly written in perl, can be a bit of a pain to upgrade, but there is a Mac OS X version of the software, and it does do a fair bit of iTunes integration.

The Transporter, in addition to being their audiophile quality network music player, can act as a quite decent standalone DAC.

Really worth a look. It's slick and it's clean, and the occasional software pain is worth it.


From: Stuart Dootson (Mar 03 2009, at 03:04)

"Someone suggested I not bother ripping the CDs, just go and get the stuff from BitTorrent somewhere"

No, don't. Either a) the music won't be there, b) the torrent will consist of a single RAR and stop @ 95% complete, or c) it'll have been ripped @ 128kbps or something stupid.

I would only consider resorting to torrents for stuff that's unavailable (deleted or such a limited edition (say 500 copies) that you're not getting it.

"Software · Well, er, iTunes".

I've used both iTunes and Windows Media Player (that was before I left Windows for OS X). Both painless. I've never had to type in things like track names for ripped items, even some pretty damn obscure CDs - the most I've had to do is tidy up titles a bit (I can be very picky!) and have a search for album artwork (I do like a bit of Cover-Flow).

If you do need to do metadata editing, the best app I've found is MP3Tag ( Freeware, but Windows only :-( Nothing I've seen on OS X comes close. If only it was open source rather than just free, I'd be tempted to port it to OS X.

Overall - just do it! It's amazing how much more likely you are to listen to something when the "hmmm, where DID I stash that CD" part of the listening process disappears. That (easy navigation) together with easy transportation is, for me, the big win of digital music.


From: Mike (Mar 03 2009, at 03:15)

I like iTunes very much myself, but if you are more indifferent about it, as seems likely from what you say, and want a lossless format, why not use other software so as to be able to use FLAC?

It's not some notion of "freedoms" that make me think of that. It's portability. It's just that if you want at some time in the future to play these on anything other than a Mac (or a Windows box with iTunes installed) you'd have to transcode them.

If it were me, I'd want to forestall the possibility of having to spend time on that. I'd want to do this once, then forget it.

You can get ripping/encoding software for OS X that will encode to FLAC. This site has a very nice solution here:

And has an even more interesting one (that uses aggregated social information to check the validity of rips) under development:

As for playing FLACS on OS X, there are several solutions. There's Songbird; there's an app called Play (from the same developer as Max and Rip); and even iTunes is capable of doing it provided you install components from Xiph that work with QuickTime.


From: Eric (Mar 03 2009, at 03:44)

I've been through this exercise in a couple of rounds, first starting in 1998, and a second round starting in 2004 when I discovered the first round wasn't done very well.

I'm not as much of a hard-core audiophile as you are, but I'm at the pretty extreme end of fussy about metadata. I typically record at 160kpbs MP3, and have almost 12,000 songs on the computer now (about 66 GB).

Some things you'll bump into:

(1) Sooner or later, you'll want to take some of your music with you on a laptop or an iPod. Lossless encoding will hurt you there. A well-crafted smart playlist in iTunes can help you pick off a subset of music to take with you.

(2) CDs are recorded at dramatically different volume levels and you'll tire of scrambling for the remote to protect your ears from a soft-to-very-loud transition. Sound Check doesn't live up to its promise, unfortunately. Take a look at iVolume ( Unfortunately, I think they really screwed up the interface in version 3. Find version 2.x if you can (not sure where).

(3) The metadata on the net is pretty poor quality, especially when you veer off into the "weird shit," as you put it. You'll spend a considerable amount of time on metadata clean-up.

(4) You'll want to check your recordings carefully for scratches and pops. Unless you have been absolutely careful and gentle in handling your CDs, there will be some. Usually they can be repaired by re-recording with different error-correction options; occasionally, you'll be better off going and buying the song online.

Items (3) and (4) will slow you down a lot. I think "a few weeks" is pretty ambitious for this kind of project.

But it *is* a lot of fun to go through and rediscover lost/forgotten gems this way. And it is incredibly handy once it's done. Our CDs are now in boxes in the closet; the online version is the only one that ever gets played.


From: at (Mar 03 2009, at 03:48)

Maybe you are missing the Logitech Transporter. See the web address for some reviews.


From: Martin Probst (Mar 03 2009, at 04:01)

Are you aware that recent Macs can produce digital optical audio output through the regular line out jack?

As far as I understand it, it's not Dolby Digital, but some other way of encoding surround sound in two channel stereo, but if you're mostly interested in listening to Music, that shouldn't hurt, right?

Then you only need an amp that supports the digital optical in and you're done, as long as you trust the D/A converter in your amp (which I do for my Harman/Kardon).


From: Nik Clayton (Mar 03 2009, at 04:04)

Even with RAID-1 I'd still want to perform backups. Both disks were brought at the same time, and come from the same manufacturer, increasing the risk that they'll fail at around the same time.

And RAID doesn't provide protection against accidental data deletion (or buggy software).


From: gvb (Mar 03 2009, at 04:30)

<blockquote>[T]hey’re set up in a straight mirrored RAID which I take to mean that I need never worry about backup.</blockquote>

YOU NEED BACKUP. Sorry for shouting, but it is important. RAID allows your computer (or, in your case, your music) to continue operating with a certain class of hard drive failures, mostly full disk failures. This is very convenient and is a very valuable feature, but it *IS NOT* backup.

RAID does *NOT* protect you against *all* classes of failure. It does not protect you against human failure (variations on the theme of rm -rf *). It does *NOT* (necessarily) protect you against *partial* disk failure.

War story: I had a mirrored pair of hard drives where one of the drives became unable to read certain sectors. All hard drives today have redundancy so the drive would have been happy to substitute good sectors for the now bad sectors, but it *couldn't read the bad sectors* to move the data to good sectors. When the OS tried to read the bad sectors, it simply had to punt.

The identifying clue was that S.M.A.R.T. reported "Current Pending Sector Count" as non-zero. This is indicating the hard drive wants to rewrite the data on was-good-now-bad sectors, but no longer had the data.

As a result of the failure, my file system got somewhat scrambled (grrr) and I had to fsck with some major repairs. Since I had a backup, this was non-fatal - I figured out what files got hit and could get them off backup. (The symptoms that I observed led me to believe that sometimes the OS would get good data (if it read from the good drive) and sometimes it would get bad data, or maybe it always got errors because the two-way RAID didn't know which was the good data.)

What I did after figuring out what had gone wrong and recovering my file system was to break my mirror and write zeros to the entire bad hard drive. Writing zeros (anything) to the entire hard drive gave it data to replace the the sectors that had unknown bad data with good sectors from the reserve. After that, I re-connected the mirror and the mirroring software rebuilt the HD.

My advice is to buy Yet Another 1TB drive (different manufacturer if you are slightly paranoid, attached to a different computer if you are moderately paranoid) and use rsync (I highly recommend rsnapshot, which uses rsync in a very clever way) to keep a backup on your third (backup) drive. FWIIW, I use an inexpensive USB-attached external drive: it doesn't have to be fast and I figure, if I ever have a fire, I'll grab my backup disk and beat feet out. Oh, and my wife and kids too.

Because rsync only copies changed bits, this is very time efficient once the initial copy is completed. I have a nightly cron job that does this for me while I sleep.


From: Sebastian (Mar 03 2009, at 04:36)

A backup plan.

RAID will save from one of your drives failing in the middle of the night... but it will not protect you from a bug in iTunes, or from accidentally pressing the wrong key and deleting an entire directory.


From: don delny (Mar 03 2009, at 04:39)

Umm...the only thing I think you are missing is that you haven't mentioned an offsite backup for your terabyte of music. I mean, once you get done correcting the metadata (and downloading album artwork and lyrics?) you'll have many hours of work sunk into the collection.

I, for one, welcome our audiophile overlord who needs a DAC. Seriously, I'm impressed that you don't buy into fancy cable aesthetics. (Though I pipe my audio into my relatively inexpensive surround sound amp using TOSlink, since it has it's own DAC of unknown quality. I'd love to hear how you make decisions on what kind of preamp, etc to buy.)


From: Graham Parks (Mar 03 2009, at 04:56)

You don't mention the ripping process/software at all. Unless your discs are in perfect condition, there's going to be a certain amount of silent error correction (=interpolation) and/or outright skipping in the ripped tracks, especially since audio CDs have far less inherent error correction/redundancy/etc than CD-ROMs. So if you want your lossless files to be bit-for-bit the same as the CD, you're going to have to choose and configure your ripping software carefully.

That said, I can't offer much advice. iTunes has a preference to turn silent error correction off, but I don't think it warns you when it detects errors - it just puts a big old gap in the file.

Also - and I'm guessing you already know this - remember that optical audio has no method of retransmission, so the DAC has no choice but to smooth over errors/glitches in the signal if it detects them. Something to think about.


From: Mark Drago (Mar 03 2009, at 04:57)

I'm not much of an audiophile, so I don't really have any comment about that side of things. But, I would suggest that you have some kind of a point-in-time backup solution. You're going to be spending a good chunk of time ripping all of those CDs and you wouldn't want that time to be wasted if some application bug or inadvertent 'rm -rf /Music' command wipes out the data on your RAID. Another 1TB drive with a USB2 connection would work. Perform a backup once you're done with the bulk of CDs and then after every few dozen new CDs get added. It'll bring piece of mind. You don't want to end up like journalspace:


From: d2chase (Mar 03 2009, at 05:02)

Heck, maybe you could build your own. Given the way the audiophile market works, there is probably no correlation between price and quality in those DACs you were looking at, and the most expensive one problem uses $50 worth of parts.

Add to that, off-the-shelf electronics nowadays do wonderful things. Yeah, PCM1702, looks pretty good, $25, which is incredibly expensive for a 16-pin DIP.

You can get 2-layer PCB fabbed for $10 + $2.50/square inch, quantity 1.

Go for it.


From: J. King (Mar 03 2009, at 05:12)

We took the plunge converting all our music to more etherial digital form several years ago. Consequently we've had to do it a few times due to stupid data loss, a bad choice of formats and a whole bunch of other garbage. This last time we've hammered out a good process:

1. extract the disc using Exact Audio Copy and have EAC convert to FLAC

2. get freedb tags via foobar2000, fix up (with opera this can be a pain)

3. convert FLACs to ALAC in foobar2000 using iTunes controlled via "itunesencode" for use with iPods.

4. Keep both FLACs and ALACs.

I use this circuitous system because iTunes' disc extractor (at least on Windows) isn't nearly as good as EAC, and in earlier iterations of the collection many of the extracted files had skips and pops. If iPods would just bloody well play FLAC I'd have far less of a headache.

We're not nearly so nerdy about actual output as you are (we can't afford to be, honestly), but the important thing is that you're not stuck in a "garbage in, garbage out" rut, eh? If at some point down the road I do have better output hardware, my FLACs will still be FLACs. I haven't nearly so many discs, either, so the whole thing adds up to about 200GB: not a huge hit on storage.


From: Dave Pawson (Mar 03 2009, at 05:26)

My ex employee, chose Lynx A-D's to convert near priceless analogue tapes to digital. Their kit is high end amateur / low end pro. We deemed it a good price / performance compromise and didn't regret it after converting 12K audio books.

Any way you could test a device without buying Tim?


From: Simon Crosland (Mar 03 2009, at 05:31)

Doing the ripping yourself is time consuming, but does result in the best metadata (i.e. that which matches your view of the world). Another alternative is to pay someone else to do it and there are lots of folks offering this kind of service now.

As for DACs, I would check out Derek Shek's excellent models on eBay (, the Benchmark DAC1 and Lavry DA10, as well as that excellent Bryston. Though they all have slightly different presentation and price points which is going to make choosing tricky.

Also check out the Computer Audiophile blog ( for other ideas.


From: Sean Tibor (Mar 03 2009, at 05:45)


I am not much of an audiophile, but the latest Mac Pros have a dual electrical/optical minijack port on the back.

If you have THAT mac pro, then all you need is a miniplug to TOSLINK optical adapter or cable to put the bits wherever you want them.

As I'm not an audiophile, I can't claim that this will be exactly what you want, but this seems the simplest way to get the bits where you want to want to start turning them back into music. :)




From: ludo (Mar 03 2009, at 06:11)

If you can hold a soldering iron, there are quite a few good quality DIY DACs. From best to (relatively speaking) worst:

* Opus or Buffalo DAC

* amb's y1 DAC

* Alien DAC or Bantam DAC

The first costs 185$ for the USB version, the second costs about 60$ in parts, or ~90$ built for the USB configuration. The Alien costs 40$ in kit, and about 70 built, the Bantam ~30$ in kit.

Then you can of course go crazy with boutique capacitors. :)


From: Bob Aman (Mar 03 2009, at 06:14)

Mirrored RAID... I'm inclined to say it's closer to "worry less about backups" than "don't worry at all", though if you have the original CDs, worst case is you have to rip everything over again.


From: Scott Laird (Mar 03 2009, at 06:34)

All current Macs also have a optical digital audio out; it's a bit silly to run a 1.5 Mbps datastream over fiber, but it's lossless and you should be able to find a reasonably-priced external DAC without too much trouble. Assuming that your preamp doesn't already have one, of course--all consumer receivers made in the last 10+ years does, but that doesn't mean a whole lot in this context.


From: Fabian Ritzmann (Mar 03 2009, at 06:36)

"so they’re set up in a straight mirrored RAID which I take to mean that I need never worry about backup"

That is a very common misconception. One accidental delete and your files are gone, mirrored or not. RAID increases availability, it is not a backup solution. In my opinion, you would be much better off if you used one of your drives to carry the data and the other one solely as a backup drive.

Regarding Apple Lossless: Personally, I would use a format that is more likely to survive the next 30 years in the consumer space. WAV is almost universally supported. FLAC is catching up and there are plugins for iTunes. And FLAC is a truly open and unencumbered format that deserves support.

Generally, I believe you are thinking along the right lines. A decent preamp/DAC plugged into a decent stereo amp is the best you can do. There may be software that is more comfortable to use to manage your music collection than iTunes but I am not familiar with Mac apps in that space.

In the long run, it might become annoying if you have to power up your your MacPro to listen to music and shuffling through your music collection with the remote control from the couch will be difficult if you don't have the monitor in front of your nose. I am running a home-built digital video recorder at home that is dedicated to doing nothing else than that. It has a built-in VFD, which allows for visual feedback without having to turn on the TV. A Mac Mini would be a nice system for that sort of thing if it weren't for the lack of a built-in display.


From: Fred Clausen (Mar 03 2009, at 06:38)

Are you sure you want to spend that many hours of your life locking your audio up in a proprietary format?

How about FLAC? It's open, and it's the encoding of choice for live concert traders.

And you can force iTunes to play it:


From: Ewout (Mar 03 2009, at 06:45)

Raid is not backup. I just lost all of a RAID 1 server, we think it was the controller that went bad. Fortunately we had incremental backups at another server.


From: daveadams (Mar 03 2009, at 07:07)

The one assumption you make that stands out to me is that using mirrored drives means you don't need to worry about backups. RAID (and RAID-like tech) can be used for increasing performance, increasing possible volume size, and increasing availability of data, but it's *not* a backup solution.

All your drive mirroring protects you against is mechanical failure of a single drive. It doesn't protect you against accidentally deleting files or a power surge that crashes both drives or worse things.

Given your parameters (this volume is only for music files, which you presumably don't plan to delete), a somewhat safer solution would be to drop the RAID, set up the drives as two volumes. Use the primary drive for playing music from and for new rips, and use rsync or similar (without the delete flag!) to archive the content to the second drive. That protects you against deletion, and since your data is static and will only be added to, it removes any need to ever run a full backup.

Better still, once the drives are synced and your ripping is done, move the second drive offsite. To your office, say. Future changes will be small enough to easily rsync over the Internet and the rest of the structure stays the same. And this step protects against location-based problems (power surge, flood, theft, fire, etc).

A little more maintenance required than with RAID, but only a little. You're better protected than with the RAID solution, and the only thing you lose is the potential for your music to be interrupted if the primary drive should go out while you're listening.


From: Mike Adler (Mar 03 2009, at 07:25)

I'm surprised, Tim. You still need to backup. If you fat finger a command, your RAID will dutifully trash your blocks on both disks. Why not use one disk as a time machine backup of the other? Then you can go back to before you messed something up.

A geek like you should have a lot of fun playing with a Transporter


From: Russ Weeks (Mar 03 2009, at 07:39)

" I thought OS X did ZFS but apparently only in its “server” config, so they’re set up in a straight mirrored RAID which I take to mean that I need never worry about backup."

Plain old OS X 10.5 does ZFS, read and write too, but you have to get the kernel extension from

I've been playing around with it for a while and it's impressively stable. Had some trouble when I tried to yank a drive while the scrub was in-progress, but that's not a big deal to me.

I would be very worried about backup in a mirrored RAID configuration. This sounds like an archival system in that much of the data will be read very infrequently. Consider the case where one of your drives suffers latent sector errors on data that you haven't read in a long, long time. Then the other drive suffers a catastrophic failure. When you go to rebuild the array, only then will you encounter the errors on the first drive. Far better to set up both drives in a RAIDZ configuration and schedule a monthly scrub.

I'm very interested in learning how you solve this problem; please keep us all updated!



From: Chris (Mar 03 2009, at 07:40)

An Airport Express will allow you to wirelessly stream the music from its new home to your stereo, works great. I use the digital out into my amplifier, but the Express will also go analog.


From: Zach (Mar 03 2009, at 07:45)

You don't say, so maybe your current setup doesn't support this, but why bother with a DAC dedicated to the computer? Why not simply use S/PDIF? I assume that your current preamp/receiver can take S/PDIF in.

If you don't have the ability to handle S/PDIF, I would suggest you consider replacing your preamp with something a bit more modern. They make some that sound wonderful and will take bits directly from your mac pro and feed your amp with nice clean analog signals. Makes more sense to me than trying to buy a new DAC every time I want to connect a new device.


From: Ivan (Mar 03 2009, at 07:45)

I would not equate a mirrored RAID to backup. Consider getting a third drive that is offline for those Doh! moments. You could argue that the CD's themselves constitute a pretty good backup in which case you are only out the ripping time.


From: Carrington Vanston (Mar 03 2009, at 07:48)

This is probably obvious, but my first reaction to the "what's wrong with this picture?" question was this fragment:

"they’re set up in a straight mirrored RAID which I take to mean that I need never worry about backup."

The RAID itself needs backing up. Lots of things can take out both disks (theft, fire, electrical gremlin, an iTunes update that wipes your library...).

The first time you rip 1,000 CDs and correct all their meta data is a bit tedious. But re-doing it all a *second* time around...

I suggest a 3rd TB drive (either in a cheap external case or just use a drive dock and carry case) and SuperDuper for offsite storage. As it's music, you might not want to do it weekly, but after the big collection rip and every once in a while would be a good safety net.

Also, I'd suggest ensuring the meta data (including cover art) is stored inside each file rather than externally in the iTunes library, so you know it's all together when you eventually migrate elsewhere. I've got a handy AppleScript that embeds external meta data into song files if you'd like it.


From: Michael (Mar 03 2009, at 07:55)

I'm pretty sure you can get zfs working on the standard osx with the mac forge project: Afaik, mac forge is run by apple now.

(As an aside, my iPhone corrected a typo above and changed "zgs" to zfs. A sign of things to come?)


From: razmaspaz (Mar 03 2009, at 07:57)

Reading between the lines I have to ask, are you a vacuum tuber when it comes to audio components?

I ask because there are many new receivers that come with DLNA compatibility. I'm not sure what I think of DLNA given that I live a Mac centric life (I'm not sure there are good DLNA servers for OS X), but it is something to look at to get the digital signal to your receiver as cheaply and completely as possible.

I'm also not sure what I think of ultimately saving the music as AAC. You can get MP3 out of iTunes with the flip of a radio button. What is the advantage of AAC? I'm asking because I rip my CDs as 320kbps MP3 and do not filter below 10hz. All of this is achieved thru iTunes.


From: Mark Allerton (Mar 03 2009, at 08:01)

I started exactly this project 18 months ago, and am almost done. About 1000CDs, ripped to Apple Lossless (for the same reasons.)

One thing you don't know yet? It's hard to get good throughput ripping CDs and do anything else at the same time - and of course ripping 1000 CDs without doing anything else at the same time is really freaking boring.

I ended up with a Headroom Desktop Amp (about $900, as optioned) as my DAC, no complaints there - very nice product.


From: Dave Petersen (Mar 03 2009, at 08:01)

Apogee makes a nice stereo and 8 channel semi-pro DAC set. You may not need to A-D side but maybe you do?

Also consider a DAC which can handle 192/24 ala blue-ray. If you don't remember Neil Young's comments on the quality of this setup from last year's (?) java conference, I'm sure they're on google.


From: J. King (Mar 03 2009, at 08:36)

After considering what I'd written earlier I thought it would be a good idea to see if I could streamline my process for ripping a little, and it turns out ffmpeg includes an Apple Lossless encoder since September, 2008 or thereabouts. So now I need only configure foobar2000 with the encoder line `ffmpeg.exe -i - -acodec alac %d` and good ol' foo takes care of transferring the tags for me. All very neat. The ffmpeg encoder isn't as efficient as iTunes', but I don't care: I can now use -both- my processor cores to convert, so that alone is worth a little extra storage space.

Thanks, Tim.


From: Marshall Pierce (Mar 03 2009, at 09:36)

From what I've seen, unfortunately the best way to get the bits off the CD is EAC (as an earlier commenter mentioned) on Windows. There are other things (like cdparanoia) but they don't do as good a job as EAC, and if you intend this to be as close to a perfect archive of your CDs as possible, might as well go for the gold.

That said, I typically don't bother since I run Linux and my Windows install doesn't have anything set up on it... You might wish to invest in a high-quality optical drive, though. Google for whatever is the current best-regarded one (various Benq models have gotten top marks several times recently). High-quality here means about $35 (plus an external enclosure, since you're in a mac pro).

Also, on FLAC vs ALAC: in my experience, FLAC compresses slightly tighter than ALAC does. FLAC is also easier to play in "alternative" audio players. (Amarok, for instance, does run on OS X...)

From that point on, I use EasyTag to adjust tags and filenames.

I use GtkPod for managing my iPod, and it transparently transcodes from FLAC to LAME APS mp3 (or whatever you configure) when I put stuff on my iPod. Best of both worlds.

As far as A/D is concerned, I'd suggest running Toslink (or digital coax -- it's less prone to breakage, but the bits are of course the same).

Finally, you surely already know about, and if not, enjoy. :)


From: Derek K. Miller (Mar 03 2009, at 10:06)

Others here have much better opinions about preamps (I encode to MP3 and play through my 15-year-old Harmon Kardon amp and 35-year-old Altec Lansing speakers that used to hang in a bar somewhere), but you definitely need to allocate more time to your ripping process.

I converted a few hundred CDs to MP3 some years ago in my spare time, and it took months. Admittedly that was on slower hardware, and only when I had time to do it, but if you think it will take a mere few weeks that assumes you'll be doing it as a full time job, which is probably not what you plan on.


From: Tom Passin (Mar 03 2009, at 10:20)

I used to run the analog output from my computer's line output minijack to my amplifier's line in, and took the amp's output back into the sound card's line input minijack. The sound card was the low-end one built into the motherboard.

Rightmark ( provides free audio analyzer software. They claim to be working for a consortium of audio companies, which suggests that the software might actually work well. It runs the basic audio tests - distortion, IM, noise.

Well, I ran it on my system, round-trip. The results were amazingly good, as good as, or better than, any analog equipment used to be back when I used to look at such specs (quite a while ago). I was very surprised.

Yes, those tests may not tell the whole story. But then, my ears are getting old. The system sounded very good. My point is that maybe one doesn't need an outboard DAC system at all.


From: Andrew (Mar 03 2009, at 10:32)

It seems like there should be a ~$200 external DAC that can driven from the mini-TOSlink connector available on some Mac Pros and on the Airport Express but I've yet to find one. I could replace my NAD amps with some sort of home theater receiver that comes with a digital input but that just gives me the shudders. I'm looking forward to seeing how you solve this problem!


From: Roy Abou Assaly (Mar 03 2009, at 11:28)

I think most people have already said this, but don't count on RAID for backup. If a house fire breaks out or your drives get fried by some bizarre electrical surge, no RAID will help you. Buy another HD and put it in a USB external enclosure. Copy all your music there and keep it in your office (assuming you have one outside of your home).

I usually SSH to my home computer and add whatever has been added to my home computer.

This way, it's an off-site backup, and your music is at work too!


From: Max Hadley (Mar 03 2009, at 12:21)

Well: I use an M-Audio Transit USB, providing a TOSLINK optical output to my Quad CDP-2, since my PPC Mac Mini doesn't have one. Works fine: the CDP-2 can act as a DAC/preamp as well as a CD player. Actually, I can't hear any systematic difference between the Transit's analogue output and the Quad (after matching levels). The Transit is a 24-bit ADC & DAC for an amazing price, and it works well. It also support sample rates above 48kSps, if that matters to you.

Ripping CDs is a pain, no avoiding it. But getting the meta-data right is essential, IMHO & this requires manual editing. While iTunes is a good product, it doesn't comfortably support classical music (& similar genres) but there doesn't seem to be any better alternative on any platform.

I am in the process of re-ripping to ALAC, after swapping the Mini's original disc to a 250G replacement: the largest I could find in parallel ATA. Wish me luck!



From: Colin Sampaleanu (Mar 03 2009, at 12:23)

As has been mentioned, you really need to use something like Exact Audio copy to rip the CDs properly. With the error correction that is applied by the CD reader, the multiple reads that EAC and the like do is the only way to verify a proper rip.

You can actually run EAC under Linux via Wine, see here:

On the subject of RAID and proper backups, a pretty cheap solution for media files is to use something like the DNS-323 2-bay NAS box, which is less than $CAD 150, load it up with two 1 TB or 1.5 TB drives, using RAID 1 (mirroring), for a total of 1 TB or 1.5 TB of storage that is network accessible, and then also purchase a simple 1-drive external drive enclosure (whether using e-SATA, USB, or even another NAS), and pop one drive in it of the same capacity. Then back up the NAS box to the other external enclosure periodically, and keep the other external enclosure offsite.



From: Adrian Ross (Mar 03 2009, at 13:19)

DAC vs. Slim Devices Transporter, etc: Given that you have a Mac that's on all the time, there's no point wasting your bucks on all the extra electronics and storage in the Transporter and its ilk - those are for people without computers; surely just spend the money on a really good DAC, and as a bonus you get to use all the extra features of iTunes (or whatever) in a computer-sized UI.

Someone else mentioned the Benchmark DAC: from anything I've read these sound amazing for the money - $1000 or $1300 with USB - and I'll get one for a trial as soon as I can manage it (they're expensive here in New Zealand). As noted, your Mac has optical out, non the non-USB version might be fine, although there's discussion about USB being better (I still don't quite understand why - aren't bits bits?). All you could ever want to read about this here: For bonus points, if you can get any higher-than-cd resolution source material, you can play that back too. For example, the latest Nine Inch Nails album was released for download in 96kHz IIRC.

Airport Express as someone mentioned is brilliant for avoiding cabling trouble. Transfer to the device is lossless, and it has a digital output, so in theory the sound quality loss is exactly nothing.

Apple Lossless vc FLAC: I'm all for open formats but it mystifies me why people behave as if all the software for reading proprietary formats might suddenly and simultanously vanish. Obviously if AL does look like falling out of favour, you'll have plenty of warning and will be able to convert to whatever format suits - it's lossless! Not like you have to rip everything all over again. Select the player you like best - after all you'll be using it a lot - and rip to the appropriate format.

iTunes has a setting to rip a disc when inserted, then eject when done, so all you have to do is sit there feeding the things in while you're working.

I've been backing up CDs to lossless for years - fantastic. Apart from the playback convenience, there are also no more problems with scratched or lost CDs; you can burn another copy if you need to. (Given that the price is 95% licence, 5% materials, replacements should be almost free, but that's another discussion.)


From: Colin Sampaleanu (Mar 03 2009, at 13:31)

For looking up and cleaning up ID3 metadata, the free Musicbrainz database along with the associated Musicbrianz Picard ( software client for multiple platforms is invaluable.

Basically you drag music files into the UI, and it will try to match the tracks to data in the Musicbrainz database via a number of algorithms including some sort of hashing, track length, existing metadata in the files, etc.



From: Jason Swain (Mar 03 2009, at 13:53)

You could consider replacing you Linn Karik with a Linn DS. These are network music streaming devices with an open architecture. There's a whole range from the Sneaky Music DS right up to the Klimax DS. They should sound a lot better than a lot of other options. They play FLAC and ALAC and can stream from your Mac Pro using a variety of MediaServer software, some of it open source. It's worth having a look at.


From: Tan (Mar 03 2009, at 14:38)

I ripped about 1000 CDs as well in iTunes. I started off ripping in Apple Lossless but I found the sound, despite the claims, was actually quite compressed. I decided to go with AIFF. I ripped to a 1TB external drive and still have lots of room to spare. This means that I have full quality copies/archives of my music collection.

The added benefit of this is that in the event of an "Act of God" I can just grab the HDD and run out of the house whereas it would be a bit of a challenge to grab 1000 CDs in a hurry. All my actually equipment can easily be replaced but it would be virtually impossible to replace all my music.


From: Mark Reeder (Mar 03 2009, at 15:14)

@Adrian Ross

You've missed the point of the Transporter (along with the rest of the SlimDevices line) if you think there's nothing to gain from one if you have a computer running 24x7. Here are a few things you get with SqueezeCenter (the server component that you run on that 24x7 computer):

*Stream your music to remote locations, transcoded on the fly if you don't have the upstream bandwidth to support flac (in fact I'm doing that as I type)

*Locate your computer (usually a hot, noisy machine) in a room that's not your listening room (connect via ethernet/wi-fi instead of audio cables)

*Sync multiple players in different rooms

*No need to fire up a display to pick your music (no need to have a monitor/tv on if you're just listening to music)

I could go on, but trust me, there are a ton of reasons. In my opinion, something from the SlimDevices line is exactly what this system is missing (in addition to true, proper backup, which RAID-1 is not).

As for the ALAC/FLAC debate- it's less about being able to move to a different format (because there are 3rd party decoders, though not official) and more about vendor lock-in. If you're fine committing to Apple products (hardware and software) for the foreseeable future, go for it. The open formats choice is about being to easily move to whatever best suits your needs, not being forced into a single vendor's offerings...


From: David Magda (Mar 03 2009, at 15:23)

Does your tuner or amp have optical inputs? I believe Mac Pros have optical audio out (and in). Would that be a cleaner way to move the bits around?

For backups (agree with RAID != backups), you can rsync from the Mac Pro to your Ultra 20: stick in another (two?) 1 TB drives and create a mirrored pool. Then take snaps shots after every rsync transfer (regardless of whether it succeeds or not). Now you have a checksummed version of the library (or NFS export the pool from the Ultra 20 to the Mac Pro, and run iTunes over that?).

If you're going to go through your music collection it may be useful to take an inventory, perhaps something like Delicious Library? If you carry the DL database around (offsite backups?) then you'll know what was in your collection even if something happens to it.

(Remember when all you had to worry about a finite amount of paper documents/information? Ahh, the simple life no more.)


From: Colin B (Mar 03 2009, at 15:49)

As well as encoding the metadata into the actual files, it might be a good idea to create a separate database for this.

The process could be something like:

* rip with Exact Audio Copy or a Mac equivalent that can produce error-free rips

* produce a fingerprint file that uniquely identifies (only) the audio portion of the file. Encoding to FLAC and then producing a FLAC Fingerprint (ffp) file for each album is a good option

* for each track, get FFP from file and then query database to see if identical track already ripped - if so, copy the metadata from that track

* otherwise, query online source to try and obtain basic metadata that you can tweak to your requirements

If you wanted to take it further, you could generate the directory structure and filenames from the corrected metadata (subject to dealing with permissible characters in directory and file names). For each track you might have:

* FFP (or other signature)

* artist (one or many - e.g collaborations)

* title (one or many - e.g. Death Letter > Grinnin' In Your Face > Death Letter)

* performance (e.g. studio, live at XYZ, radio session)

* position in album tracklist (although you could/should make an Album-Tracks table for that)

and for each album you might have:

* artist (one or many - e.g. compilations)

* title

* release (e.g. which record label or which version if remastered etc)

The important parts are to rip the audio in an error-free way and to have a signature which identifies the audio from each track in a way that is unaffected by changes to metadata, filename etc


From: Clayton O'Neill (Mar 03 2009, at 15:58)

The most important thing I'd suggest is to spend the time and do your homework before you get any significant amount into ripping hundreds of disks. There are a number of subtle ways you can get this wrong and you don't want to have to rerip things if you can avoid it. Hopefully it's a one time effort.

I did this a long time ago, and ripped with EAC to FLAC, and then transcoded to mp3. Now days I do something similar for newer CD's, but I use dbPowerAmp's CD ripper and rip to flac, then transcode to m4a and mp3 (m4a at a lower bitrate for the phone).

I'd strongly suggest you look into the type of error correction that EAC and dbPowerAmp can do on discs. Unfortunately, I don't think there is a good non-Windows option for this. As someone else pointed out, even perfect appearing disks will frequently read the different bitstreams on two successive rips. dbPowerAmp has something called AccurateRip which takes the checksum/hash of the track ripped and looks it up online to verify if it was ripped correctly, and will skip multiple reads if things match up. AccurateRip could easily save you a *very* large amount of time. That said, I would say that even though my CDs were in good shape, I spent a very disproportionate amount of time ripping the small percentage of the ones that weren't perfect.

Also, dbPowerAmp has a good source for metadata, but the best fallback is to use the MusicBrainz Picard tool (which is cross platform) to tag things that you're not sure about.

As a format, I think FLAC is much better than ALAC, but once you've decided to go with lossless, you can always switch formats later without *too* much problem. The most important thing is to get the audio extraction piece as close to perfect as possible, and your metadata close enough to perfect that you're happy with it.


From: Rafael (Mar 04 2009, at 00:13)

Apogee makes excellent DAC.

They have a great little audio interface, the Duet.

That interface will satisfy your ears. It may seem overkill (since it's a full featured 2 channel audio interface) but it's not. It's coverters are great.

check it out


From: Rob (Mar 04 2009, at 01:07)

Since I haven't seen it mentioned yet, I'll mention Max <> as an option for ripping/encoding. I used it when I wanted to get a bunch of my older CDs onto my Mac. I also use ID3X and Media Rage for bulk-managing metadata.


From: dave (Mar 04 2009, at 02:12)

At the intersection of metadata, the open and social web and backup techniques you may want to look into integrating into your workflow.

It's a slightly more database-y approach to music metadata and has an API which means if you're particularly picky you can script your own preferences on top of the shared data.

You can also think of it as a backup of your metadata because if you think of the physical CD's as a backup, you will be able to retrieve the metadata (hopefully with some community contributed improvements) by lookup based on the CD-Index.


From: Alastair Rankine (Mar 04 2009, at 03:20)

After you get your new DAC, do yourself a favour and spend a little time performing an ABX test. You may find that re-ripping as lossless is a waste of time.

I did an ABX test on myself a while back. Hit the link for my results, but suffice it to say that I now encode everything at ~160Kbps and am pretty happy.


From: Erik (Mar 04 2009, at 08:43)

That's pretty much what I've done as far as the encoding and management side of things go. I'm less of an audiophile and more of a metadata geek and for the moment, iTunes still offer the best compromise for managing very large libraries that I've seen to date.

The Mac Pro is probably massive overkill for the job though. The new Mini is more than up to the task, especially now that you can push it up to 4Gb of memory, not to mention that it will be much lighter on the electric bill.

A couple of external disks with the Mini form factor keeps the solution nice and discreet (although it's worth trying to find fanless models to keep the noise level down.

Otherwise, you might want to consider putting the music library on a ZFS based NAS so you get RAID protection for disk failure, snapshots for user error or data corruption and zfs send/recv to dump updates to an external disk for offsite backups. OS X works fine with NFS for this kind of thing.

The only current issue I butt up against with this config for me is the size of the lossless files when syncing to flash based iPods. Smart playlists with size caps cover this problem but it would be nice if there was an on the fly encoding while syncing option, but until OpenCL hits, I don't think even a Core2 Duo has the necessary horsepower to do this in a reasonable timeframe. Otherwise, storage is cheap so stick with the lossless route.


From: Mark Reeder (Mar 04 2009, at 10:23)

@Alastair Rankine

Even if you can't hear the difference between 160k mp3 and CD, there are still reasons to rip lossless. First- hard drive space is cheap- 1TB for under $100- that's enough to rip 2500-3000 CDs. Second- transcoding from one lossy format to another is bad news. If there's another format (or bit-rate) that you want in the future, you're not going to want to re-rip.

It's not just about sound quality of the files you've ripped...


From: Matthew Laird (Mar 04 2009, at 11:45)

I agree with other commenters that RAID is not an optimal backup mechanism. What happens if that computer is stolen? What happens if the power supply pops and fries the drives?

Personally what I do is similar with the twin drives, but one drive sits safely locked in a desk drawer, not spinning. It comes out every few months and get plugged in via USB to do an rsync. Then every few months longer the drive safely stored on the other side of Metro Vancouver at my parents' place comes home and gets rsynced as well.

You have a nice, safe non-spinning drive as a backup, and you have all your files online. Best of both worlds.


From: Cecil (Mar 04 2009, at 21:58)

In the spirit of saving you some money on DACs, you should try that mini-jack link from the Mac to your legacy preamp. It might sound quite acceptable to you.

You can do some experiments on encoding. I've got decent enough ears and I saw (heard) no appreciable quality difference between MP3 at 192Kbps vs 320Kbps vs raw CD-Audio files. There are subtle differences and oddly enough, some sound better with the high frequencies compressed by mp3 encoding. That may suggest the original CD wasn't the best audio production. That's a different topic.

It will take a long time. I moved my collection a long time ago. Sometimes you have to drop into real time, as you monitor the ripped songs. There's a good chance you'll have to start over as you learn what really matters to you. Once you figure out how iTunes organizes everything, you might choose a different ripping strategy. That's not fun.


From: g brennan (Mar 05 2009, at 15:18)

I've done this and you are on track.

Apple Lossless is on iTunes is perfect. Because the whole exercise takes so much time, maintaining the integrity of your metadata is critical as you move through software and hardware upgrades over time.

Get a backup drive that you can keep off site and refresh it periodically. Remember, this is going to take a lot of time that you will never have available to repeat.

Best (most naturally musical) external DAC in your price range would be Benchmark or Bel Canto.


From: Daniel Sandbecker (Mar 05 2009, at 22:36)

For AccurateRip on OS X (as Clayton O'Neill mentioned), there is XLD ( Slightly less user friendly than Max it is still very nice and should be my choice of ripper at the moment.

I have ripped most of my music to ALAC with iTunes, but later transcoded it to FLAC with Max. I've just bought a Squeezebox, which supports FLAC natively but transcodes ALAC to FLAC or mp3 on the fly on the server. Since my server is a NAS (low power but also low processor speed) I preferred having the music transcoded once and for all. The Squeezebox is amazing, even navigation on the small LCD screen works better than expected.

As for the problem of moving FLAC files to the iPod/iPhone I've yet to try a seemingly fascinating solution called mp3fs ( It's a filesystem on top of Fuse/MacFuse that maps a directory with a FLAC-collection as a read only-drive full of mp3s. Transcoding is done on the fly on file access, and this should make it easy (but maybe a bit slow) to have one canonical set of audio/metadata (in FLAC) and still use the files on the iPod.


From: Lennon (Mar 05 2009, at 23:43)

Personally, I'm just beginning my adventure into decent audio gear. It started with a good deal on a pair of refurb B+W 601s, followed by a Craigslist score of an AudioSource AMP 200 and a nice old Adcom preamp. I drive the whole thing from a similar Creative USB DAC to the one you have. I'd love to have a more "pure" digital audio path, I can't honestly say that the change would be worth it from a cost/benefit POV, given that 95% of my music listening is done while I'm nominally working on something else (coding, cooking, etc.).

I have been doing a fair bit of conversion of my CD library, though I decided to compromise quality a bit for storage and have been ripping to high-bitrate AAC rather than a lossless format. I'm not likely to impress any audiophiles any time soon, but I think high-quality but lossy compression makes sense for the bulk of my music library for two reasons: 1) most albums are *already* aggressively compressed in order to sound better on bad car stereos and cheap portable players, and 2) I still do almost as much listening on portable devices as I do at home, and maintaining multiple copies of every track is a serious chore.

P.S.: I'm honestly a bit shocked that no one seems to have picked up on the obvious joke about RAID. Seriously, people, did you think that Tim had no clue that RAID was not a backup solution? Sarcasm is apparently wasted on you lot.


From: Pierre Phaneuf (Mar 06 2009, at 07:22)

According to Monty, who discussed with the EAC author, cdparanoia should be pretty much equivalent.

Also, another recommendation for Max, the Mac OS X ripping software. Not only can it use cdparanoia to rip your music (check the settings carefully), but it has another useful feature: it's able to encode to multiple file formats at once (uses multiple threads, goes very fast on my dual core iMac). I use this to encode FLACs for archival and high bitrate MP3 (it uses LAME) for my iPhone.

It's also able to use the Apple libraries to produce ALAC and everything else supported by CoreAudio.


From: Matijs van Zuijlen (Mar 07 2009, at 02:22)

You can set things up so that ripping starts as soon as you insert the cd, and the cd gets ejected automatically after ripping. That would reduce the manual part of the process to the bare minimum.


From: whimsy (Mar 10 2009, at 09:39)

be sure as part of your backup to backup the iTunes library regularly. The metadata your going to do is worth way more than the easliy re-burnable music itself. I lost a years effort in metadata backing up the music folder and forgetting that damn library...

The point about backing up the music is key, too. I've had a bad filesystem write kill a RAID1 - thankfully DiskWarrior was able to bring the data back so I split the raid and used one drive for live data and the second for rsync backups. Ideally, spin down the backup drive when not in use so when the day comes that your main drive freezes from spinning 24/7 for 5 years you can use the backup for awhile longer while you get the drives replaced. Having them both die of bearing failure in close proximity is more likely than the mathematics speculate if they both spin 24/7.

Lastly, go to a high bitrate ACC vs. Lossless - the point about music portability is a big one - you'll find you want it 'someday' sooner than you think you will. And having iTunes encode a playlist on the fly during a sync to iPod does work - but gawd-aweful slow.

And this project will probably take months or more because metadata is so tedious. I kept a stack of disks and swapped them to rip each time I walked by the computer. Later I worked on cleaning up bad and missing metadata. And had to keep a log of damaged songs that showed up when the library played though to go back and re-rip. There will be a few that skip.

Lastly, as it regards playlists - you want to give some thought to rating your music. That is, how to tag for genre and stars. I ran a quick "this album/group is ... folk, live, rock" and periodically I'll sit down and work though my favorite stuff to get it more sane (like Led Zepplin - each song can fit a different combo of Genre's and how they categorize makes smart playlists either brilliant or awful.

And stars - I find them helpful in smart playlists but there is issue of some songs are 5 star for the Album/Artist but 3 star compared to your overall library. I tend to rate the stars on an album basis to ensure some songs I like end up in 4+ star playlists even though, overall, that band may never have written a 4-star song. I still want one or two of them to show up in the mix. Diversity vs. Purity I guess.

I think your reaching for the holy grail of music appreciation. I can say the effort I've put into this has brought so much "lost" music back into my life it is worth the effort. I "only" have maybe 200GB of music and a long road of cataloging still ahead - I only work on it when I'm inspired and it will get done when it does.



From: gregory (Mar 13 2009, at 22:51)

You can also bring the music out via TOS-Link (I bought a cheap board from NCIX) to do the DAC in a more quiet environment. You can also use a Nokia N800 (200) as a nice remote via SlimServer. Have fun!


From: Adam Sloan (Mar 27 2009, at 22:21)

I second/third the comments on error detection, unless you haven't bought anything second-hand and kids haven't discovered them. I've been d'oh!'d enough times that I rip with something that reports errors, even listen to the results in full before letting the source out of my hands if it's really important.

And the experience is diminished. On occasion I still make the "big discovery" and jam a CD for weeks on end, pouring over the liner notes and just enjoying the cohesive whole of it. This must have been a major part of the plan in the gatefold 1970's, check out any Funkadelic album with Pedro Bell artwork - wow, he's still kickin', even has a myspace page:

And I guess this was bound to happen, he's in a Musuem of Contemporary Art tour. Get an original copy to put on the wall and so you can actually read the miles of fine-print funk in-jokes.


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