Okay, so you have a large collection of music, and we’ll assume that it’s on CD at this point. You want to get your music into a format you can play on your computer and other digital devices. You do this by converting (or ripping) the songs on the CD to your hard drive in some computer format. There are tons out there: Ogg Vorbis, FLAC, AAC, WAV, MP3 etc.
Each format has strengths and weaknesses. I myself am going to recommend MP3. For me the choice to do so is pretty simple. MP3 can pretty much play on anything. Computers, home media streamers, all music players including iPods, Xbox, Playstation, many new car stereos etc. MP3 is simply the most supported format for music in the world. It will give you the most flexibility to play pretty much wherever you want because it has no Digital Rights Management (DRM) tacked on.
Now MP3 is a lossy format, which means that when you convert a song from your CD to MP3, it’s going to lose some quality due to the compression. If the best quality is all you are after, then you will want to look at lossless music formats. Just be aware that many of those will NOT play everywhere, have much larger file sizes and will probably limit you quite a bit.
Okay, so if you trust Uncle Greyhawk, you’ll choose MP3. Now you have to get music off of the CD and into the MP3 format in a process commonly called “ripping” the songs. If you look it up online, there are TONS of rippers and jukeboxes you can use. You can do the research and find the program that works the best for you, or you can even use the program that came with your computer. On Windows it’s Windows Media Player and on the Mac it’s iTunes. These programs generally want to rip to their own formats, but if you look in the preferences, you can change them to choose MP3 as your format of choice. Here’s what the changes look like in iTunes.
Now, when you choose MP3, there is also a thing called bit-rate. Without getting into particulars, just know that the higher the number, the better the sound quality. It also makes the file size larger as well, so you’ll want to find a quality/size balance. My recommendation is 192 kps. But, you can try for yourself. Try ripping one of your favorite songs at 128 kps, 160 kps, 192 kps and 256 kps. Listen to them all and see where the quality is acceptable for you. When you find the quality you like you can set it and forget it.
So now all you have to do is put your CD in the computer, the ripper will try to figure out the names of the artist and the tracks, and then you rip the songs to the MP3 format somewhere on your hard drive and we’re ready for the next step. Starting your library. Until Next time, play it loud…
NOTE: I know that people will want to know how to get cassettes and vinyl and mini-disc and the like into MP3 files. I’ll get to that later.