AUDIO CONVERSION SERVICES
Choosing Digital Audio Formats
This section discusses the various technical considerations when choosing to convert your digital audio collection to more portable digital file formats. Bonafide owner Robert Dwyer is a longtime audiophile and music collector who is well versed on most aspects involving conversions and managing large collections. If do have any further questions, preferences or concerned about your conversion project, please let us know and we'll work with you to solve your issue.
ARCHIVAL QUALITY (LOSSLESS AUDIO PRESERVATION)
If your aim is to preserve the original CD audio exactly without any further loss, we’d recommend that you choose a lossless compression format for archival quality. The most common format for PC users is FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec), while Apple users would want to use Apple Lossless (ALAC).
These formats have the advantage of reducing the size of the original uncompressed audio WAV files to roughly half their original size. These formats also allow for id3 tagging, which native WAV files do not. We can rip to lossless WAV files if you wish, but this isn’t usually recommended due to the doubled file sizes and poor indexing options. Bear in mind that there is NO difference in quality between the original WAV files and their lossless compression counterparts. AIFF files are comparable to WAV files, but are the MAC variant of uncompressed lossless audio.
Other less common lossless compression formats include Shorten (SHN) and Monkey’s Audio (APE), which are not recommended due to limited device and software compatibility. The concern with older, less utilized formats such as these is that the software required for these codecs may no longer supported or have such limited OS and device support that make their use a bit impractical. However, we would be happy to convert your audio files to any format that suits your personal needs.
PORTABILITY AND CONVENIENCE (LOSSY AUDIO COMPRESSION)
MP3 compression has become a universal standard for most media players and is compatible with most modern systems, whether PC, MAC or Android. This format revolutionized file sharing by compressing large audio files into a fraction of their original size. It made audio file transfers possible via the internet back when bandwidth was severely limited to even a dial-up phone connection!
Lossy audio compression codecs shrink the original uncompressed WAV audio by eliminating frequencies that are allegedly “beyond the range of normal human hearing” – or within the extreme low and high frequency ranges. You can can find a concise, but more detailed explanation here.
The more compression that is used, the more watery or compressed the audio files will sound. Using too much compression may also ad unwanted defects or noise to the audio stream. Choosing the correct bit rate will make the difference between the original CD audio and the MP3 version almost negligible. While most casual listeners won't notice much of a difference, more devout audiophiles preach against the use of compression due to the loss of original fidelity it can cause.
For optimal quality, our default is to use minimal compression at 320 kbps (the highest bitrate available). Some have argued that such a high bit rate is overkill, but it is the safest bet for minimal fidelity loss. And with storage devices only getting larger, space considerations for music files seem much less concerning than they were 15 years ago.
Still, if media storage space is more of a concern for you, we can use a high variable bit rate using the LAME engine (240 kbps avg.) to reduce the file sizes while retaining a comparable level of sound quality. Again, it is your decision which bit rate will be used.
Another more obscure configuration choice that we use is the default of "forced stereo" during compression which provides the best overall sound quality for higher bit rates. One of the other tricks used to make audio files smaller is the use of "joint stereo". We prefer to preserve the original stereo image "as it was" rather than sacrifice more of the original audio data to save space. However, this also comes down to personal preference and storage considerations.
While MP3 is the default lossy format that we'd recommend, we will compress your audio files to any format that you prefer. Other lossy formats include Apple’s AAC or M4A codecs. Less common formats include WMA (Windows Media Audio) and Ogg Vorbis, but we would recommend either due to compatibility issues.
AUDIO FILE TAGGING
Having the correct information embedded in your audio file tags is very important when you decide to import your music into your media player of choice. This is how most software programs and players will index your library. We utilize Freedb, Amazon, MusicBrainz and many other services to help us add and update this information for each and every album or CD in your collection.
However, there is a great deal of personal preference involved with naming, tagging and organizing music files. It can also be a time consuming endeavor that is beyond the scope of what we can realistically provide within our commit time. By default, we will embed the most essential information in each file (Artist, Album, Song Name, Track Number, Year, Genre and front cover artwork).
In cases where the CD in question is not included in any internet database, we will manually enter this information if has been provided to us by the cover art or a handwritten index card.