The Great MP3 Project

AltoMP3 at work...I think it was back in 1998 or 97 that I put my faith in the MP3 data format. Some of the guys that I worked with at PictureTel were compiling every Rush CD they had and encoding it to a server. This was big stuff back then! The drives were slow, the encoders were slow, the files were big. I mean 65MB for a whole CD worth of music was pretty cool, but you have to remember that we had 4GIG drives in servers, and 1GIG drives in desktops. This is how I was able to obtain everything that Rush ever recorded from the beginning to 1998. It fit on two 650MB CD’s!

It was around this time that I decided to rip everything I had to MP3. The Great MP3 Project was born. After about 20 CD’s I was pooped. (Mind you this took hours – because on a P133 and a 12X CD-ROM it took close to 35 minutes to rip a CD…) I figured if this was ever going to get done – and done right, I would have to make some changes as to how I listened to, and ripped CD’s.

First the data. 128KBps seemed to be the “standard” of the day. Even now I only go so far as 168KBps. I do consider myself an audiophile, but I had to sacrifice sound quality for size. I’ve listened to MP3’s on some of the best stereo equipment around and I can’t tell the difference. If you can – cool. I can’t, so I continue to rip at 168.

CDDB: A godsend. Let me tell you – writing in the track info takes like a good 3 minutes. Now I just have to check the track info for errors. There are unfortunately a lot of errors in the CD Database. One of the most annoying things is: The person that captured the data for CD #1 in a 2 CD set, may not be the same person to enter the data for CD #2. So, I often get
#1: “The Smashing Pumpkins – Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness Disk One – Dawn to Dusk”
and #2: “The Smashing Pumpkins – Mellin Collie (CD2)”
This kills me…

ID3 Tags: Well, I missed the boat on this one. While they were deciding a standard I decided to forgo ID3 Tags and make sure my file and folder names were correct. This was good and bad for me. All of my music is in a folder called MP3, with the artist as a sub folder, and the album as a sub-sub folder. The track numbers are always labeled on the files. I get furious when WinAmp pulls up a disc by alphabetical order. Do you think I want to listen to Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” in alphabetical track order?? So if it’s song number 3 on the album, it’s called “03 Another Brick In The Wall Part 1.mp3″, and WinAmp lists it accordingly. Now all the portable MP3 players out there look only at the ID3 tags and pay no attention to the years of work that went into my folder / sub-folder / track layout. Plus, since none of the track numbers are in the ID3 tags, an iPod would pull up my copy of “The Wall” alphabetically!

File Sharing: I’m all for it and I dislike it at the same time. I am selective about who gets to copy from the Kris collection. So, you won’t see a track list of mine up on Kazza. Most people out there are not as particularly anal as I am when it comes to music. I got frustrated when people would just blast crap up at 65KBPS to say they did something. Or, have only 2 songs from the album available for download. I’m picky. I want it the way I want it. The whole album, in 128K or better, with correct track and ID3 tags. I don’t need to know it was “_-=R1PPED BY D@-FR3$HMAN=-_.”

Cutting the cord. There is a cable that allows you to listen to CD’s by piping the analog sound directly to your sound card from your CD-ROM. I removed this. Then I went out and bought a great set of speakers for my computer. Now I have done 2 things. 1: The best sounding stereo in my house is my computer. 2: In order to listen to that new CD I just bought, I have to rip it.

Now I’m on a 1.4GIG AMD with a 32X CD-RW. I found that the CD-RW drives are way better at reading marginal CD’s then your average Memorex CD-ROM drive. It takes only 10 minutes to rip a disc and I don’t feel like I’m a slave to it anymore. Having enjoyed music all of my life I have a lot of CD’s. More then average. Over 300. Doing a radio show in college didn’t help. I’ve made the decision not to take these 3,000 miles across the country with me, but to rip the remaining 20 or so CD’s, and back them up to DVD. (I’m on DVD #5 right now… :) )

I have since solved my ID3 tagging problem and continue to fix older ripped tracks on my HD. I broke the 20GIG mark several months ago and continue to add to my impresive collection. *Horn toot.

What I use:
AltoMP3 Maker: After using MusicMatch and watching it turn into corporate shit software. I had a friend of mine recommend AltoMP3 to me. It takes care of the ID3 tags, automatically places tracks in sub folders according to preference, and generally makes toast. Worth the $20 shareware fee. It uses the Lame encoder – which is a public open source project that gets faster every year.

MP3 Tag Tools: Speaking of open source goodies, this one is a brute. A complicated interface to get used to at first. MP3 Tag Tools does it. Say you want to take every Megadeth album in your collection and mark it’s ID3 track tags as “Classical?” Click. Now you’re done. I recommend backing up your MP3’s or using a test directory to get used to it’s power. You can wipe out old tag information if your not careful.

WinAmp: I had to list it. It’s still the best. I’ve been using it for 7 years now! They didn’t go corporate. They finally dumped version 3 and they are back on track!

– Kris

About The Author


Hardware hacker, technology integrator, and maker. He enjoys staring blankly at code, voiding the warranty, and touching things in the back. When not doing that he is building and racing a rally car.

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06 2004

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  1. 1

    Yeah, I went through this on the G4 about a year ago. I actually settled on AAC for encoding because it was the latest and greatest Mac OS thing. It’s all automated with iTunes and, if I ever want to switch formats, I just pop the CD back in the drive, iTunes says “you already ripped this, do you want to do it again”, I select the new format, and it will replace each track one at a time with the new ripped format. Very simple.

    I probably did about 15 or 20 discs a night for a few weeks. Just in my spare time, pop a disc into the desktop or Powerbook while watching TV, and let it do its thing.

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