Kevin Savetz's recent article about the MP3 audio format (see "Move Over MTV, Now There's MP3" in TidBITS-455) sparked a great deal of interest from audiophiles on TidBITS Talk. Although some discussions focused on downloading music from the Web, the threads quickly centered on converting audio CDs to the MP3 format, and the overall quality of MP3 audio.
Better Breakfast Tools -- Although readers mentioned several utilities for burning CDs containing MP3 files, Alastair Sweeny <firstname.lastname@example.org> suggested Adaptec's programs Toast and Jam and their related mailing list.
"The best way to become a CD audio expert is to subscribe to Adaptec's mailing list. Send a message to <LISTSERV@LISTSERV.ADAPTEC.COM> with the command "SUBSCRIBE ADAPTEC_CDR your full name" in the body of the message. The list is a good clearing house for tips and hassles. If you have a CD-R drive, you can avoid burning coasters by checking out this list."
For those looking for tools to edit the music before you burn to CD, Travis Butler <email@example.com> recommended Peak LE:
"There's also Peak LE, from BIAS - only $99 when I picked up my copy a few months ago. Has some rough edges, and the interface is sluggish at times on my 7500/120, but does the job quite well for the price. You can also get a plug-in for Peak LE that does fairly automatic filtering of some common audio problems - hiss, pop, and the like. A demo of the plug-in ships with the program, and there's a demo of the whole program at Bias's site."
Why MP3? A few readers questioned the utility of the MP3 format when existing CDs work just fine. Dan Frakes <firstname.lastname@example.org> answered:
"As one example, I use a PowerBook 2400 for computing on the go. I prefer to travel as light as possible, so I don't want to carry a portable CD player, MiniDisc player, etc. I convert a CD, multiple CDs, or just a bunch of tracks to MP3 format and save them to the 2400's hard drive. With an application like MacAmp, I can then plug in a set of headphones and listen to as much music as I have saved. The MP3's play in the background, and don't cut down on battery life too much."
Chris Gibson <email@example.com> envisioned the potential of computer-based music systems:
"You don't see it much (yet!) on the Mac, but on Windows many CD extracting/ripping utilities can link to CDDB databases on the Internet that use the ID# of the CD to download artist, title, and track information. You can also add genre or other details to manage the CDs. The promise for the future is what gets me. I have a volume on one of our computers with tons of MP3's (all ripped from my and my wife's CD collections). I share that volume on our home network, and any computer in our house can play music - all at the same time! It's not hard to envision an appliance that could access that same central collection over virtually any of the home network protocols that exist or are coming. So, perhaps, you could have a tiny device in your kitchen that accesses music data over a power line carrier-based home network. And, with just a bit of intelligence, it could store playlists, etc. I could go on, but the point is that MP3 isn't a substitute for CDs, but a whole new way to access music that provides new vistas of flexibility and scalability."
Finally, following up on capabilities to customize the track information, Martin Gleeson <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
"I find that the combo of InCDius, Track Thief and Mpecker is the best. InCDius uses CDDB to get the title and track info, Track Thief creates the filenames as the names of the tracks, and Mpecker just adds an .mp3 suffix to the end of them, saving a lot of typing. A future version of Mpecker will support direct-from-CD encoding. Oh, and all three of them are freeware."