I’m doing lots of little bits of MP3 mucking about at the moment, mainly due to mix CDs being supreme Burning Man barter/friend-making material. Right now I’m trying to create a bunch of audio CDs from MP3s, which is not a particularly difficult task in itself (especially with the likes of Nero) but their levels are all over the place and they need to be normalised either before or while burning. Lev and I spent a while arsing about with CDCopy but couldn’t get it to actually do what it said on the tin, which is a shame as otherwise it’d be ideal. But after doing some looking around I realised that I’ve enountered so many different bits of MP3-related Windows (sorry) software recently that I should probably blog a few of them:
- Let’s start at the beginning of the MP3 life-cycle: ripping. It is now possible to get thoroughly decent ripping software absolutely free, and that software is dbPowerAmp Music Converter. Not only is it a great CD ripper, but it gives you a “Convert To…” context menu for files, supports LAME, BladeEnc (R.I.P.) and Ogg Vorbis, and comes with a load of other lovely goodies too. Plus, it doesn’t force a shitty “Ooh, this is funky multimedia, let’s go all non-standard” UI on you.
- There’s another method of making MP3s, which is building them out of other ones. (Don’t know if you’ve noticed, but it’s been all the rage lately) MixMeister is tops for this (unless you want to go for heavy-duty sound editing, in which case you want something like CoolEdit). It does automatic BPM calculation, and the interface gives you a great visual overview of your mix. I did my boots with this, and want to do some more conventional mixing with it too – here’s a recent collection. (Note that boots are what the Americans refer to as mash-ups. They’re made of music, which is what the Americans refer to as electronica.)
I came across Mixmeister when looking for MP3 DJing software, which is a massive blog entry in itself, so I’ll save that for another time.
- Of course, the other method of getting MP3s is simply downloading them. Now that Audiogalaxy is gone (but not forgotten… never, never forgotten!) only poor shadows remain. Gnutella is slow and painful, Kazaa is proprietary and nasty. I’ve been having the best luck with SoulSeek, which is quite Napsterish in various ways, but that’s the best we have right now. (Note for existing Soulseek users: if you’re wondering where soulseek.org went, Nir’s been suffering NetSolitis)
- Many downloaded MP3s turn up a bit garbled. Many can be fixed with OK Uncooker or QuickPhix/QuickDetox.
- Editing MP3s is often a pain, since most programs require the MP3 to be decoded to a more editable format (e.g. WAV) and then re-encoded once the editing is over, which degrades the quality. There are a couple that can edit natively, though: mp3Trim doesn’t do much but it does it well and for free. MP3 Surgeon is cheap and does a lot more, including full-on visual editing and batch normalisation.
- I’ve now solved the burning-with-normalisation problem while writing this entry; turns out the answer was under my nose the whole time. Nero hides its normalisation features in the filters section, which you get at by looking at the Properties of the tracks you’re recording. You can also do fade-in/out, start and end markers (without editing the sound files) and all kinds of other stuff. Yet another reason to buy it.
- Oh, and before I leave the subject, check out Replay Gain, which aims to standardise normalisation on included metadata rather than peak analysis.