Langa Letter: Converting Audio Files? Let 'Er Rip!
Readers suggest more MP3 and audio-file tools than you can shake a memory stick at!
Some time ago, a reader wrote in with a problem: He was having a heck of a time trying to process audio files and burn them to CD.
He's not alone. With the explosion in interest in tiny MP3 players, lots of people are converting CDs, tapes, and other music sources to the compact MP3 format to bring with them for use at home, on trips, at work, and elsewhere. What's more, many of the tiny "memory stick" type of MP3 players also feature tiny condenser microphones and built-in audio compression so that you can record a huge amount of speech on the device -- phone calls, training sessions, roundtable discussions, even all-day meetings can fit on a little $100 stick-type player! But what do you do with the files once they're recorded?
Spurred by the reader's original problem (which you can read about here if you wish), I asked your fellow readers to suggest tried-and-true, known tools for converting, ripping, and burning audio files. By the time the dust settled, I'd gotten well over 1,000 replies; far more than I'd ever anticipated. Thanks you to all who sent in suggestions!
In spare moments over the last few months, I've read all the E-mails, and selected a representative sampling of the top four-dozen products mentioned. The reader notes included below are categorized by product, and are listed in the order in which the E-mails arrived. Of course, many products were suggested by many different readers; I've included a variety of notes in the more popular categories to suggest the relative volume of E-mails received. I've also included multiple notes about the same product when different notes contain different tips, different slants on using a given product, or additional information that seemed worth including.
Many letters also mentioned more than one product or program; in these cases, the reader letters are categorized by whatever software was listed first, or was given primary emphasis in the original note.
With all that as lead in, here, then, are the suggestions from your fellow readers for the best tools for converting, ripping, and burning audio, extracted from over a megabyte of original text mail files:
Windows Media Player
Fred, I have several ideas about freeware to burn MP3s and a possible solution to Ken's problems in burning CDs. I use Nero for most of my CD and DVD burning so I do not have a lot of experience with other freeware, but here are two I have used. First, Windows Media Player Version 10 can burn CDs from MP3 files. It can also rip music in MP3 format if you change the rip setting from its usual WMA setting. Look under Tools, Options, and then go to the Rip Music tab. Here is a link to the download. Also, Musicmatch Jukebox has a free version in addition to its paid version. It can also burn and rip MP3 files. Here is the link to the free download. In the past, I have had somewhat the same problem Ken appears to be having when burning a CD. At the very end of a burn (usually 99% complete) I would receive an error saying the burn could not complete. After some research, I found that having autoplay on might cause the PC to read the almost complete CD and try to run it JUST BEFORE it was complete. Turning off autoplay solved that problem. Most CD recording software now does this automatically during the burn process so you can leave autoplay turned on. I am not sure if this would solve Ken's problem, but it appears that he is having the same problem with every CD-burning software he tries so it might just be worth checking. -- Clay Teague
Personally I just use Windows Media Player and never had any problems, it does a fine job. -- Harold
Hello, I have found that the ripper that works best for me is Windows Media Player (now in version 10). You can now rip as mp3 or as wma files in a range of sizes. I prefer wma files as they are smaller for comparable quality, so I can fit more on my little RCA flash player. For burning I have found that WMP burns perfectly to audio every time (and I've made a lot of CDs that way). For making full disc copies, I use the Disc Copier function in Roxio's Easy CD Creator 5 that I got with my computer. I couldn't find a freeware burner for mp3 discs that would work for me when I looked recently, Acoustica MP3 CD Burner has a full-function weeklong free trial period and works VERY well. The interface is fairly easy to use and none of the 30+ discs I burned with it have had any trouble. After the trial period it is $25 for the serial code. However, when I was at Target the other day I found that they are selling Roxio Easy CD & DVD Creator 6 repackaged as "Easy CD & DVD Burning," for only $30. It also makes MP3 CDs, so for that price, it makes sense for me as I am not a true Power User, but I do need to burn CDs and DVDs fairly frequently and program size isn't an issue, whereas simplicity is very important. I do hope that this helps. -- Aerin T
Fred, I use three different tools to rip/burn my collection of music and voice files: Real Audio Plus10, Windows Media 10, and Roxio 7. I have found that Windows Media format has the best compression at the best bit rate. Real Audio is great for keeping files organized (I then use it to transfer the files to my Palm). Windows Media handles files that I've downloaded from pay-for Web sites. Roxio is great for handling mixed media, ie, data and music on the same CD. I'm sure one of these is more than enough, but what the heck. -- Jack
The most straightforward ripper that I have come across is Windows Media Player 10. It is free and is much less complicated than some of the older versions. Once the music file is converted to MP3, anything that can be used to write to CD should work. By the way, Nero Express is still available; however, it is part of the Nero Ultra 6.0 burning suite. It is great and I just updated my copy to the latest release. Interesting, I now have two copies, as two weeks ago I bought a Sony DRU 710A DVD writer and it came with the whole Nero suite. Would you believe that that package only cost me $91.99, including shipping from NewEgg.com. The freestanding Nero Ultra alone is around $100. -- Bob Daun
Fred: I have tried a lot of different packages, but to me the easiest (and cheapest) is the built-in burn function in Windows Media Player 9. I did download the beta of WMP10, but found it cumbersome and unreliable, so I went back to 9. The question now is, why MP3s? I have found Windows Media Audio files give as good sound quality, but usually in 50% to 70% of the file size... I can get over 15 hours of music on one CD-R, and Microsoft even has a free utility to convert MP3's and CD Audio to WMA. -- Bruce Dixon
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