Sharing Audio



One of the most popular applications for file sharing is audio, and more specific music. This guide will introduce the subject and guide you through the different options you have for ripping cd's, editing and compressing audio. The objective will be to achieve good quality audio with a small file size that can be shared.

The guide can be split in the following sections:

  1. Ripping cd's
  2. Processing audio ( between ripping and sharing; between downloading and burning )
  3. Burning cd's and listening on your computer

Ripping cd's

Compact discs are still the most common container for music. They contain audio in a digital format. In some computer systems like gnome (Linux) you can simply drag and drop audio tracks from disks with the file browser, but in Windows this does not work, and there are limits to this functionality such as missing meta data and track names like "track 1.wav". For this reason software has been developed to rip cd's and compress the data all in one go. Extra advantages of software like this are error correction options for scratched disks etc. It is advised that you use such program to rip a cd. Note that quality of your rip also depends on the cdrom drive. A big difference in quality exists between brands.

The most advanced, but freeware software for this purpose is Exact Audio Copy. If you haven't got a bias for other software, use EAC.1 The program is especially tailored to enable you to get an exact copy of your cd, with advanced error handling and to let you know where suspicious areas on the cd are if you have a very scratched disc. This will guarantee the best audio quality. If there is a downside to EAC, then it is that is has a lot of options to set up. Different guides on setting up the program exist. Hydrogenaudio has a wiki on EAC. Other guides can be found via the EAC website.

EAC is a closed source windows program, but you can run it on linux using wine. See the app database from wine for instructions.

EAC can be set up to automatically encode the ripped audio in the codec of your choice.

Processing audio

Which audio format to choose

When you rip a cd, you need to store this audio. The question then arises in which format do you keep it. Uncompressed cd's are big, 700mb, so it is advisible to compress your audio. There are 2 main options: lossy, or lossless. Obviously lossy formats are smaller but try to maintain as much as possible the audio quality. Lossless audio compression allows one to preserve an exact copy of one's audio files, in contrast to the irreversible changes from lossy compression techniques such as Vorbis and MP3. Compression ratios are similar to those for generic lossless data compression (around 50–60% of original size), and substantially less than for lossy compression (which typically yield 5–20% of original size). The choice depends on the amount of disk space and/or network bandwith you have available. For sharing and archival lossless is becoming more and more popular. One consideration to make about lossy formats is that they degrade quality at every recoding. Say you get music in wma, but recode it to mp3, you will lose quality. Once music is in a certain lossy format, it is best to leave it in that format.

If you choose for lossless encoding, have a look on this hydrogen guide to help you choose.

For lossy encoding, some of the pro's and con's have been summed up on this page

Which software to use for encoding/decoding

When ripping cd's, try to use software that will allow you to immediately convert the ripped tracks to the format of your choice (such as EAC). When burning cd's, ideally find a burning application wich will automatically decode the audio and create an audio cd. One convenient example is nero micro2. This is a stripped down version of nero burning rom, without all the bloated components3. It's only 20mb in download and has the audio codecs included, so you can drag and drop virtually any audio format to make an audio cd. On linux, K3b will do the same if you install the right codec package.

If other than that you still want to convert audio between different formats, there is ton's of software around that will do that. Probably the simplest and most powerful one on windows is Multi Frontend. The only disadvantages of it being the fact that the gui is very basic, and that you still need to download the command line encoders for all the formats you want to use. Once you set that up though, you have full control over any conversions.

Meta data

If you need to work on the file names and tags of audio files that you have downloaded, you have two powerful tools at your disposal. The first and maybe most important is MusicBrainz Picard Tagger. This is a tool that will assist you in linking files to the right cd and then it will automatically download and insert the right tags and filenames after the formatting of your choice. Some cd's are not in the MusicBrainz database however, and lest you want to add them yourself, you might want to manually edit tags. For this, the most powerful tool I have come across is Mp3Tag by far.

Both Picard and Mp3Tag support a plethora of audio formats and are intuitive and powerful in usage. Picard is cross platform and Mp3Tag runs under Wine.


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