Getting Music


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For the Serious music enthusiast, there are several programs needed to enhance your audio experiences.   I will not try to explain all the possibilities, but instead, stick with those I have found to be best for my purposes.

Rippers:  There are many excellent high quality audio rippers available, but I chose to stay with AudioGrabber for several reasons.  This program does much more than just rip audio files from an existing CD.  It has many other features, including normalization.

To rip from a CD simply insert the CD in it's drive and open Audiograbber.

All tracks will be checked.  If you don't want certain tracks, simply uncheck the ones you don't want to rip.  Click on the hand icon and Audiograbber will rip the songs from the CD and encode them as Wav file in one easy operation.



In the "Settings" tab you can select certain other preferences such as where the file will be saved.  In this example it will be saved to E-Drive, Ripped songs folder.



If you click on the TV screen (in the first picture) you go to the Normalize screen.

Normalizing is a process that examines the file to find the highest level of audio and brings the rest of the file to that same level.  This is very important if you are serious about the quality of your rips.  Normalizing all the selected songs,  prior to burning it to CD will make sure that all the songs will play back at very nearly the same level.

I always Normalize to 98 per cent (upper left corner).  Notice that just to the right of the Normalizing check box, you can control the range.  I set my program to keep the selections exactly at 98%, but setting the range from 96 to 99 Percent would be satisfactory for most listeners.

About two-thirds of the way down the left side, you will see a button labeled "Add".  You will use this to browse to the folder where the song files are stored.  When songs are actually selected, they will be listed in the lower portion of the window.

Just to the right are three buttons labeled Modify, Test and Preview.  When Loaded with selections, these buttons will be in color.

Test will scan the selections and tell you their level of normalization.
Modify will scan the selections and change their level to 98%
Preview will play the selected song, letting you hear how the final product will sound.



Audiograbber can also be set to encode the ripped selection to MP3 (through another Program) and delete the Wav file after encoding is complete, by simply checking the appropriate boxes in the upper left of the window..

Just below that you can set which encoding program you will use by using the "Browse" button and clicking on the exe file for that program.  In this case, it is set to encode using CD-EX.  Just below this, you can set the bitrate for the MP3.  Remember what I said earlier about 128bps being a good setting?  Notice the 128,000 bps block has a dot in the center.  This means it is set to encode at the recommended 128 kbps.  K is a shorthand way of saying One-Thousand, so 128Kbps is the same as saying One Hundred-Twenty Eight Thousand Kilobits per second.

Below this you will see Internal MP3 or WMA Codecs.  A Codec is the setting that controls the Compression/DeCompression settings.  Microsoft PCM Converter is the default Windows device.

Here, it is set to 22,050 Khz or KiloHertz. For most music selections this should be higher...such as 44,100.  16 bit is the normal setting for Stereo selections.

The second Browse button (on the left) is used to manually browse to a selection for encoding after a song has been ripped.


Downloading Music


  If you are downloading from one of the Free MP3 sites, such as you will get a good download for every selection.  If you are using one of the P2P (peer to peer) programs such as WinMX, Morphius, or KaZaA there are several things that could cost you unnecessary time.

Each of these programs offers a "Search" option so you can find the files easily, but usually your search will locate many different copies of the requested file.  How do you decide which is best to download?

First:    look at the Bitrate.  You probably don't want anything less than 128bps, but remember, the higher the bitrate, the longer it will take to download.

Second: Check the length of the file.  Most of these programs will show the playing time of the selection.  These files have already been downloaded by someone else and some people will keep partial downloads on their computers.  It this is a popular song abut the file length is low, it is probably a partial.  Check all the playing times and it is usually best to choose the longest playing files.

Third:    Check the connection method you wish to download from.  Even if you are using a Dial-Up connection, you usually get faster downloads by connecting from someone who connects using a high speed connection.  Cable or DSL are usually the best.

There is one other factor that effects the downloads.  If the user you are downloading from decides to go offline, or loses their connection, it breaks the link and you are forced to start over.  Also there are a few Jerks who will watch a download from their machine and deliberately disconnect when it reaches about 98 pre-cent.  There is nothing you can do about this, except try to remember their user name and avoid them in the future.

WIn-MX has a feature that makes downloading the file much easier.  It is called "AutoComplete".  By using this feature the program will automatically search for the same file on different users computers.  It will also enable Multi-Point Downloading.  By RIGHT clicking on the selection and choosing AutoComplete, the download will continue until the full file is downloaded, and usually from the fastest connection.

Kazaa and Kazaalite has an even better feature.  After you begin downloading, Right-click on the selection, in the transfer window and look at the choices in the window that pops up.  Select "Find More Sources for Download".  This will tell the program to check sources for this file.  When a new user comes online that has that file they will be added to your download source creating a multipoint download.  The more points (users) you are downloading from, the faster the download will be.  It will now check for more sources, automatically, until the download is complete.

The best feature of these types of downloading is that if all the users who have this file go offline, DO NOT remove the download from the Transfer window.  You can turn the program off or even shut down your computer and still retain what you have already downloaded.  When you reboot your computer and re-open Kazaa or Kazaalite, simply right-click and choose "Find more Sources . . " and the download will resume where you left off (assuming someone is online who has that exact file).  The reason for this is the unfinished file is stored in your Kazaa shared folder as a .dat file  The dat file will remain there until you manually delete it, remove the download from the Transfer window, or complete the download.

Below is a typical search window from Kazaalite.

Notice, I am searching Audio Files (upper left), and searched for songs containing the word "Jukebox".

The 2nd selection has a plus sign beside it and under "User" it says 2 users.  This means there are two users online who have this file.  The more users this file has, the better your chances of getting it downloaded, quickly.

Sometimes you will see the same selection several times with different sizes.  This means that they are encoded at different settings.  Select the one at the settings you prefer.  You can scroll the search window sideways to see what bitrate each file was encoded at.

Select the bitrate you prefer and the song that has the most users.  It is probably a complete version. 


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