Kids know how to get music onto their MP3 players. All it takes is a brief phonecall or MSN message, and the word is spread.
It's adults, when I show them my latest MP3 player, that ask, "How do I get my CDs onto that thing?" "You have to rip them," I reply, to their bafflement.
While it is illegal in some countries to make copies of music from others, it is (almost) always legal for you to make a copy of the music you've purchased for yourself. I enforce the rule at home, when my kids, upon occasion, ask if they can make a custom CD of favorites for a friend. "No," is my firm reply.
(The music industry would like it to be illegal for you to make even backup copies of the music you've purchased. They've already taken a step in bypassing our goverment's law -- that says I can make a copy for myself -- by imposing copy controls on selected CDs. It is important that consumers maintain their rights by not purchasing CDs with the copy control logo.)
(Notice that the logo mentions a possible problem with car CD players, and claims to work with computer CD players. But if the copy protection prevents software from working with the CD, then it is not compatible.)
(Another anti-copying step is the music industry's move towards renting music by the month; fail to keep up the payments and you lose the music, sort of like getting booted out of your apartment. Which is why you buy a house.)
Here's how to convert your CDs to MP3 format (slang is ripping"):
1. CDex is one of several software programs that reads music CDs and converts them into MP3 files. You can download a copy free from SourceForge.
2. After installing the software, you can make a number of adjustments. Some of the ones I made include:
- save in 128kbps MP3 format.
- automatically recognize when a CD is inserted
- automatically access remote CDDB
- automatically eject CD when finished.
(There is much arguement over the kbps rate, which affects the amount of compression: I use 128, because it is a balance between good sound quality and disk space consumption. Some use the maximum, 320, for better sound quality, but that takes up 2.5x more disk space.)
(CDDB is a central database that contains the names of songs on CDs. The CDex software reads data from the CD to determine the artist and albumn name. By using the remote CDDB CD database, you don't need to enter in the song titles by hand. This requires an Internet connection.)
3. With the CDex software running, insert a CD into your computer CD or DVD drive. After a few moments, the software should recognize the CD, access CDDB, and fill in the song titles.
(In some cases, a dialog box lists more than one possbility. Select the most likely one.)
4. Click the MP3 button. The software beings converting the CD to MP3 format. process takes 15-20 minutes per CD. The software automatically categorizes the CDs, first by artist name, and then by albumn name.
5. When done, the software ejects the CD. Stick in the next CD, and repeat. I run the software on a notebook computer, which I feed with CDs through the day as I work. I find I get through about 30 CDs a day.
Now that you have your music in MP3 format, here's what you do with them:
- Store them on your computer, and play back using software like (a href="http://www.quinnware.com">Quintessence Player.
- Copy them to your MP3 player, using the software provided by the player.
- Make backup copies on CDs or DVDs. Blank CDs hold about 10 ripped CDs; I use DVDs, because they can hold about 70 ripped CDs.
Why MP3 Format?
CDs are converted to MP3 format for two reasons: (1) the format is a universal standard; and (2) it compresses the music by 10x.
When music is digitized and placed on CDs, it is in a one format. But that is not the only format. Just as there are many classes of automobile, there are many classes of computer file formats. Some are better suited for music than others. Because it was first, and because it is cheap, the MP3 format is the one most commonly used on computers and portable music players. Microsoft, Apple, Sony, and others have alternatives, but they are not as popular, because they include copy protection.
By compressing the music by 10x, you can fit 10x more music on portable MP3 players. Alternatively, the music takes up 10x less space on your computer's hard drive. If the F Instute had never figured out MP3, the typical 1GB MP player could hold only about 1.5 hours of music; with compression, it holds 15 hours of music.
MP3 is short for MPEG-3, which in turn is short for "motion picture expert group, version 3", which is a class of file formats used to compress video and sound. (The similar sounding JPEG, "joint photographic expert group," is the file format used to compress digital camera images.)