Commentary
7/22/2005
02:28 AM
Fred Langa
Fred Langa
Commentary

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:



Audacity
Acoustica MP3 CD Burner
Adaptec CD Creator
Ashampoo
Audio Catalyst
Audiograbber
Burn Quick
Burn4Free
BurnAtOnce
Burrrn
Cakewalk Pyro
CD Burner Pro
CD Burner XP Pro
CD'n'Go
CD Extreme



CD to MP3 Freeware
CDex
Cheetah Burner
Creative OEM Software
DeepBurner
Disc Master
dMC/dBPowerAMP
Easy CD-DA Extractor
Exact Audio Copy
Express Burn
Feurio
Free Rip
HotBurn
HT Fireman
iTunes



J. River Media Center
JetAudio
K3b
Musicmatch
Nero
PlexTools
Real Audio
RecordNow
QuickBurn
Quintessential
Roxio
Shorten Files
Winamp
Windows Media Player


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

CDex
I'm using CDex 1.40 Release for ripping, this one is free, downloaded from Cnet. I'm using this software for about three years now, I haven't tried to upgrade yet because I'm still satisfied with it. Here's the link for the latest releases. Then I use my software that came with my Sony CD writer for making audio cd for personal compilation.
-- Bryan C. Bulusan

Simple, free, and it works ...
Regards, Adri Genis

There is one tool, and only one, for ripping MP3s -- CDex. Free, high quality, a bit complex on the initial configuration (but the defaults mostly work OK), and after that, it's toss in a CD and let 'er rip. It's available on sourceforge.
-- Charles Miller

They are FREE, Windows apps, really fantastic: cdex 1.51: Makes the WAV files from CDs. And Oggdrop makes the encoded .OGG (like MP3) computer files. It's a simple drag-and-drop GUI encoder; no nonsense, just works. It's really so simple, no joke. To make high-quality ogg audio files, from a CD.

All I do is ...
1) Use CDex to make the .wav files FROM a music CD. 2) use Oggdrop, just highlight all of the WAV files and drag and drop them into Oggdrop. At this point, the WAV files are not needed and deleted, and the original CD is also not needed, can be given away or returned to the library.
-- Alan Neill

DeepBurner
I've had good luck burning data disks with Deep Burner.
-- AG Wright

jetAudio
I use jetAudio. It will burn, rip, convert, record, broadcast, and play more media files than I care to mention. The free version has no limitations that I can find. I use it on all 3 of mine, 2 of my sisters' and my mother's computers without any problems. This thing just works. It will convert and rip between 10 formats for audio. I use it on my Duron 650 with no hiccups or glitches. You can rip, convert, or burn while playing whatever you want. I don't use anything else other than foobar2000 for playing.
-- Bill Harder

Fred, jetAudio is the best of all the tools I've used... jetAudio does it all, I haven't found a need for anything else. Rips, converts, burns, etc. I do have the paid version but I believe the basic (freeware) version will do what you need...
-- Aimé Watts

Use jetAudio Plus, it works, enough said. It will rip from CDA to mp3, and allow you from mp3 320khz to burn an mp3 or CDA back at the target.
-- Andrew Beiler

Hi Fred, I use jetAudio for all my mp3 needs. It's free for the basic download and the mp3 add-on pack is only $8.95. Not bad for everything you can do with this application.
-- Brian

Exact Audio Copy
I've found that Exact Audio Copy (FREE!) works best. It's available here and a good page that tells you how to tweak it is available here. It uses the LAME 3.90.3 (by Dibrom) codec, which is by far the best.
-- Brad Pollina

Hi Fred: I'm sure you have heard by now: Exact Audio Copy is the free tool Ken has been looking for. Although it requires a "little" tweaking to get it going with MP3s (it invokes an external MP3 codec routine, such as LAME), this audio application is simply unmatched when it comes time to compress or decompress your audio CD collection. With a true Beginner mode and several online tutorials available, the setup -- and use -- is painless; we are talking one-button operation here, literally. But if you happen to know your way around WAV files and burners, boy, are you in for a treat. The Expert mode yields more customizable parameters than you could ever have dreamed possible, and then some. This gem supports FreeDB access (no need to type-in the album and individual song titles) as well as cue sheets -- for people in the know ;-). Here is the link. Andre Wiethoff wrote the code and supports it through a public discussion board, the Digital-Inn. This software is 'Cardware': you are supposed to send a postcard to Germany for registration... I have yet to find something as powerful yet as easy to use as EAC for the same price.
-- A. Grenier

Fred, I spent a good decade or so collecting audio recordings of live shows (many bands actually allow audience members to record their shows, e.g., the Grateful Dead, Phish, etc.), and there are a lot of resources for traders. Let me next say that live-show traders can be some of the most particular and exacting individuals I have ever met -- especially any trader who actually recorded the show himself with his own equipment. The slippery-slope fear of show-trading (i.e., the same artists that allow people to record their shows also allow them to be traded and copied for non-commercial use) is that poor recordings and trading habits contaminate the 'pool' and threaten to eradicate the 'clean' recordings. Now, in the days of analog, you expected to get third- or fourth-generation cassettes, because there was only one original copy. The onset of the digital age allowed something entirely new: making exact copies of the recording and passing on the ability to make further exact copies without actually possessing the original master. Of course, for this to work, we had to get the growing numbers of traders educated about lossless compression and DAO burning. Casual standards started to emerge, and the overall winner of the CD burner software of choice became Exact Audio Copy. The guys making the original recordings made sure to split tracks on sector boundaries, so if your software was able to burn the discs properly, there would be no little clicks or gaps between tracks. The Internet Archive and the music-trading community have a page set up that includes just about every worthwhile piece of software for the audiophile: Scroll down the page for the playing/burning/ripping software. Take care! Christopher Harvey

EAC, aka Exact Audio Copy, takes ANY CD and rips it; it's free. Then I use MKW to convert to .shn's and MP3's. If you are installing mkwACT for the first time on a Windows 95/98/NT PC, you must install the mkwACT Runtime Libraries first! If you are using Windows 2000 or XP, you do not need to install the mkwACT Runtime Libaries. I did my own tutorial for making shn files.
-- [name not given]

I use Exact Audio Copy (EAC), and have found it excellent -- it can produce variable bitrate mp3 files, thus complex music has a higher encoding rate, whereas simple speech has a lower rate. This facility optimizes the mp3 file size, without compromising quality. A separate encoder has to be downloaded from LAME (see below) to make use of this facility. Alternatively, a set bit rate (128, 192, etc.) can be used. Link for details, plus good links on how-tos and mp3 encoding files. Hydrogen Audio is a good place to start. Link for recommended LAME Encoder file.
-- Regards, Andrew Willard

Fred, Here's a few guidelines to use when burning MP3s to CD, regardless of what software you're using:

  1. Always use brand-name media -- not the "label-less" discs you get on sale at CompUSA, Fry's, etc.
  2. Don't burn audio CD's any faster than 24x, or 4x if you're burning the discs specifically to use in a car CD player.
  3. Always finalize the disc after burning, and use the "disc at once" mode rather than the "track at once" mode.

As far as the software side of the equation goes, I believe that Exact Audio Copy will burn back to disc just as easily as it rips from discs. You would just need to download the Nero ASPI Layer (if you don't already have CD-burning software) from here, placing that file in the same directory as Exact Audio Copy. Hope this helps!
-- Doug McCloud



Audacity
Acoustica MP3 CD Burner
Adaptec CD Creator
Ashampoo
Audio Catalyst
Audiograbber
Burn Quick
Burn4Free
BurnAtOnce
Burrrn
Cakewalk Pyro
CD Burner Pro
CD Burner XP Pro
CD'n'Go
CD Extreme



CD to MP3 Freeware
CDex
Cheetah Burner
Creative OEM Software
DeepBurner
Disc Master
dMC/dBPowerAMP
Easy CD-DA Extractor
Exact Audio Copy
Express Burn
Feurio
Free Rip
HotBurn
HT Fireman
iTunes



J. River Media Center
JetAudio
K3b
Musicmatch
Nero
PlexTools
Real Audio
RecordNow
QuickBurn
Quintessential
Roxio
Shorten Files
Winamp
Windows Media Player




BurnAtOnce
I've used BurnAtOnce for a couple of years now and never had a coaster in the bunch. I've donated to help cover costs, although this great app is free.
-- Danzig

BurnAtOnce.
-- Alan Williams

Audiograbber
Hey Fred, Another favourite is Audiograbber, former commercialware that IMO compares with the best. The main reason I settled on these two is because I found I don't use a tenth of the features of popular commercial bloatware. I don't want a cluttered interface, cutesy wizards, or a $75 bill for 10MB of useless options. I just want to get right down to ripping and burning. Cheers!
-- Fred Hoeflok

Dear Fred, I have been ripping, burning, and converting mp3 files to various bit rates for more than 5 years now. Thousands of CDs. Ripping I have always done with Audiograbber, which is excellent and now freeware; using it you can rip tracks as .wav files and later convert them to .mp3 using another program, or convert them on the fly to .mp3. Either one seems to work well, but I usually rip .wav files and then convert them to .mp3 using MusicMatchJukebox, again the free version. This has the disadvantage of automatically playing any CD loaded while it is operational, but does a very good and speedy job.

Many like the increased accuracy of EAC (Exact Audio Decoder) but my requirements aren't that stringent, and I enjoy the extreme simplicity of Audiograbber. For burning, I started with Roxio EZ CD Creator but had occasional problems with it on a machine using Win98. For the past 6 months have used Nero 6.3 with no problems on an XP notebook.
-- Bob Scott

I use Audiograbber for ripping and converting my music files. Have been using it for months with no problems, very easy to understand, quick to get the job done. This is a free program. For burning I use Roxio, which is also real easy, works great.
-- Kimberly

For standalone rippers, check out Audiograbber, which you can learn about, and link to, from Tom's Audioguides -- once again, using LAME, DLL, or EXE as the encoder/decoder. Audiograbber was up until recently, shareware, and is now released as freeware.
-- Dave Melhado

Burn4Free
I have used Burn4Free for about a year now and have never had a problem with it burning CDs or MP3s. I also have Ashampoo which I paid for but don't use much because I prefer burn4free.
-- Allen

I have been using Burn4Free since the beta and have had no problem with it at all. It is great with converting MP3s to CD audio and also the DVD burn works wonderfully! Sounds like Ken got a buggy version from somewhere.
-- Barbara Geiger

Roxio
Fred, I currently use Roxio 6 for burning all my music. I have had no problems burning MP3s or formats to be played in regular CD players. There are decent freeware out there if you want to spend all day downloading, installing just to find out they do not work. Roxio is an affordable program for any type of ripping.
-- Allen Barnett

I've been using Roxio's software for years with no problem. I just got a DVD burner and Roxio is doing great with that, too. Soundstream, a part of the Roxio package, makes burning CDs, DVDs, and my new MP3/WMA player as easy as you could possibly want it to be. I'm still using version 5 Platinum. Great stuff!
-- Curtis Barmes

I've been using Roxio for years now. The latest version is great for everything except backups. It's not free, but you get what you pay for.
-- Shel Cain

I use Soundstream (in EZ CD Creator, now Roxio) to go from MP3 format to WAV format on CD for normal CD playing. The interface suffers from a problem I've found most interfaces don't deal with well: large fonts. So things look funny with my large fonts (high resolution means larger fonts for me). But functionally, it works quite well. There are various options available for burning or cleaning up the music (removing pops, crackles, etc), but I've only used it once (and it did work as advertised). Soundstream can also convert from MP3 to WAV without burning to a CD, which is handy when you want to edit the track using the included wav editor. I've used the editor frequently with splendid results.
-- Charles Gaefke

HotBurn
Fred, Normally the CD Burner comes with a burning software. Generally this bundled software is Roxio, Nero, or HotBurn. Any of these programs shall burn and/or rip the CDs efficiently so why go looking for third-party software? I have an Iomega CD Burner and therefore I naturally use HotBurn.
Best regards. -- Amarnath Wanchoo

Fred, I purchased an Iomega USB 2 SuperDVD burner in October 2004. It was clearanced out at Staples for $140, with a $40 rebate (which I did receive within the 6 weeks) I have not had much trouble with Iomega's stuff in the past, and this is no different. It comes with what is called Iomega HotBurn Pro, evidently by Xaudio. The basic GUI is just that, VERY basic, but it runs well on my HP nx7000 with a Centrino processor running at 1.4 megahertz and with 512 of memory. There is an advanced GUI that offers about every option that is available to burn any disk. The unit was clearanced out because it does not handle dual-layer disks, and I suppose that there will not be a firmware update to do so. I used Creative Media Source Player to record services at a religious convention, and then converted the wav files to MP3 and burned to disk. The process seemed seamless and worked very well. I'm pleased with the bundled software and the burner.
-- Bill Hawkins

Express Burn
Howdy, Fred, Here, try Express Burn, it's free, it even burns Real Audio tunes to CD (and everything else), and it works real nice. And, the same people, NCH, also make a nice, free Sound Conversion Software program (called "Switch", found under Freeware on their index page).
-- Art Schwack



Audacity
Acoustica MP3 CD Burner
Adaptec CD Creator
Ashampoo
Audio Catalyst
Audiograbber
Burn Quick
Burn4Free
BurnAtOnce
Burrrn
Cakewalk Pyro
CD Burner Pro
CD Burner XP Pro
CD'n'Go
CD Extreme



CD to MP3 Freeware
CDex
Cheetah Burner
Creative OEM Software
DeepBurner
Disc Master
dMC/dBPowerAMP
Easy CD-DA Extractor
Exact Audio Copy
Express Burn
Feurio
Free Rip
HotBurn
HT Fireman
iTunes



J. River Media Center
JetAudio
K3b
Musicmatch
Nero
PlexTools
Real Audio
RecordNow
QuickBurn
Quintessential
Roxio
Shorten Files
Winamp
Windows Media Player




CD Burner XP Pro
I've been using CDBurnerXP Pro at work because it's free and better than what comes with our CD burners (Iomega HotBurn). I've been though several versions without any problems. One thing I did notice early on -- if I try to access the burned CD before ejecting it, the system doesn't recognize it. If I eject it and reinsert it -- no problem. I've used it to burn from MP3's and also to rip from existing CDs and it works great -- especially for free!
-- Art Hoffman

I use CDBurnerXP Pro 3 and have not had any failures with XP SP2. I went to this burner when the provided program couldn't burn a bootable disk from a file (a la Langalist instructions for making a XP SP2 bootdisk).
-- Cary Orlandi

Musicmatch
Fred, Musicmatch has a free version that can burn MP3s to CD. The free version is feature-limited -- burning a CD is enabled, but might not be at full speed. For the turntable-to-PC connection, Radio Shack has a Magnetic Cartridge Stereo Preamp (part number: 970-1018) for $25 that will solve the line-input-level issue. Thanks.
-- Curt Bates

Fred, I've been slowly converting ALL of my tapes and vinyl (incl 78s!) to MP3 files and ultimately I burn CDs from the best of the bunch. I spent weeks researching the best tools to use for the conversion, giving preference to free utilities but not to the point of obsession. All told, I have 8,665 "tracks" of music in my dbase. (I have ripped about 3,200 of those from "old media"). In the last 6 months I have burned 150 CDs. I use Musicmatch Jukebox on my Power Laptop but MMJB is a bit of a resource hog so I use WinAmp on my old Win 98 desktop (both applications are free but I spent the dough to upgrade to MMJB Pro for the extras, particularly the easy sync to my MP3 players). WinAmp has a lot more bells and whistles, but I don't like it as much. There are a lot of programs to remove tape hiss and crackle and pops, but IMHO the easiest to use (and the most bang for your buck) is Magix Audio Cleaning Lab 2005, which costs $39. However, I use an old utility (Cool Edit 96) which you can still find FREE on the Net and I get acceptable results with it on when converting good tapes and records (that haven't been terribly abused).
-- Bill Hartford

The best program for burning CD's will have to be Musicmatch Jukebox. It's not free, but is worth every dime.
-- Bill Wylds

Fred, the program that I use the most for burning is Musicmatch. I find this to be the best piece of software that I've downloaded and paid for. I can rip music into mp3, mp3 pro, wma. I use Musicmatch to convert mp3s to mp3 pro format (smaller format so you can put more on a CD) and I use the program to rename files in bulk. Musicmatch will also create a CD label or CD jewel box with up to 150 titles on the insert. It will also search for album art and place it on the cover. When burning mp3s Music Match will show you in red the file names that are too long for a disk and also will do a smart split if you have too many files for one CD. I have a CD/MP3 player and I create a data disk placing my files in directories. I use Musicmatch for burning all of my data disks, too. It's just the best program all around -- you have to register it for $19.95 to get the burner part of Musicmatch, but I've been using it for a few years now and it's really is the only piece of software that I use for burning. I have Sonic Record, Nero, Click and Burn, and have tried a variety of the free programs out there but have always gone back to Musicmatch for playing, ripping, burning, labeling. I LOVE this software.
-- Colleen Simpson

You can't go wrong with Musicmatch Jukebox.
-- Blakader68

Hi. You'll probably get a ton of letters about this, so I hope mine doesn't get lost in the shuffle. I've been into the whole MP3 thing since back when Napster was free, and the best burning software I've ever used is Musicmatch Jukebox. You can pick up a freeware copy of version 10 (the latest) at musicmatch.com, but I highly recommend the getting older version 8, as its more reliable. There are still sites out there that archive the older versions all the way back to the program's beta. Try it.
-- Gabe Sepko

My free versions of Musicmatch and RealPlayer have CD-burning features. I believe Windows Media Player does also, although I've not tried it. The only problem I've found is that they will only copy music files that are already loaded onto the players. You can't, for instance, copy photo files or other documents with them. I use Nero for copying just about everything to a CD, but have used the others when I was having trouble with Nero. Incidentally, Nero apparently has a compatibility problem with Service Pack 2, but there's a free download with an updated version that solves this.
-- Bob Fakler

Hello, Fred, I always read your newsletter with interest, but find myself mostly on the learning side of things rather than the sharing side. I am pleased to share my fantastic experience with Musicmatch CD Burner. I have burned hundreds of CD's with this tool, not only music (almost all mp3, some wma) but also general storage of all kinds of other files and picture discs. Nothing but good to report with this software. Hope this helps...
-- Roland

Musicmatch has a free player that rips to MP3, and burns CDs from MP3s, but at a slower rate than the paid version. The paid version is only $29.95, and well worth the price, in my estimation. I bought the retail version at v7.2 which is a couple of years old. They are up to version 10, I believe, so I can't tell you about the current version. The newer versions also have better support for downloading to portable MP3 players, although some players supply a separate plug-in to be used with Musicmatch. Hope this helps!
-- Bryan A. Gerbis

Nero
Hi Fred, I've used both "Nero 6" and Roxio's "Easy CD Creator 6" with no trouble at all and I can highly recommend either one. "Nero Express" is included in the bundle with Nero 6 and Roxio 6 includes "Creator Classic" which is my favorite for burning anything, be it a Data CD, Music CD, or an Mp3 Disc, very quickly.
-- Bernie

Hi, Fred, I have used Nero 6.0 with InCD and have had no troubles at all. I have a Memorex 52 x 32 x 52 CD burner and have on occasion downloaded a song from WinMX. These songs have an extension of MP3 but work very well on my CD ROM drive. InCD is used to format CD RW discs to be used as large capacity floppy discs. I put all of my digital photos on those type CDs and there's room for about 1,000 pictures on each disc. The downloaded songs may be converted to an actual MP3 designation by using db Power Amp Music Converter, which is freeware. Once converted, they can no longer be played on anything but an MP3 player. Since the RIAA trials have scared everyone (including me) off, I haven't been downloading any music for fear that it would be illegal. Warm regards.
-- Chet Smith

Hi Fred. In the blind community we're always burning or ripping CDs. I started out a few years ago using Roxio's Easy CD Creator but most of the programs that come with it blind people can't use. I think it's overkill. Last year, I started using Nero Burning Cdrom and I like it well enough. It has some programs that blind people can't use, but it has a straightforward interface and it works quite well with screen-reading software. I also like Easy CD-DA Extractor from Poikosoft and when I just want to copy CD to CD I choose CloneCD. These are all fine programs.
-- djc



Audacity
Acoustica MP3 CD Burner
Adaptec CD Creator
Ashampoo
Audio Catalyst
Audiograbber
Burn Quick
Burn4Free
BurnAtOnce
Burrrn
Cakewalk Pyro
CD Burner Pro
CD Burner XP Pro
CD'n'Go
CD Extreme



CD to MP3 Freeware
CDex
Cheetah Burner
Creative OEM Software
DeepBurner
Disc Master
dMC/dBPowerAMP
Easy CD-DA Extractor
Exact Audio Copy
Express Burn
Feurio
Free Rip
HotBurn
HT Fireman
iTunes



J. River Media Center
JetAudio
K3b
Musicmatch
Nero
PlexTools
Real Audio
RecordNow
QuickBurn
Quintessential
Roxio
Shorten Files
Winamp
Windows Media Player




CD to MP3 Freeware
Try this CD ripper.
-- Bill Carmean

iTunes
Fred, Re: burning MP3 files to CD -- I've stayed with the first thing I tried: Apple's iTunes. It's free, supports Windows as well as Macintosh, and doesn't require that you open an account with the iTunes store (where you can buy songs for 99 cents each). iTunes (the free player/burner) is so convenient and straightforward that it quickly became my central point for managing all of my digital music files well before I decided to open an iTunes account to add some selected songs to my library. I've burned several CDs using it, not only for backup of the tunes I've purchased but also to create mixes for our CD player. It's been great -- and couldn't be simpler.
-- Matthew Blaisdell

Hi Fred, Just wanted to recommend Apple's iTunes for both burning and "ripping" MP3's. In fact, I use it on my computer for all my music needs. It seems that by leaving out any support for video, Apple was able to design the perfect (IMHO) audio software. It can be used to set up playlists, either by song, or by criteria of your choice. As for burning CDs, you can choose to burn audio CD's or mp3 type CD's. The only quirk in the interface is that you have to go into preferences to make most changes; a bit unusual, but easy to get used to. Although I will probably never own an iPod, I think iTunes is a terrific piece of freeware.
-- Bruce

Dear Fred, For simplicity, to solve your reader's quest, I would suggest iTunes 4.7.1 for Windows 2000 or XP. For power users, I would suggest foobar 2000. For foobar, one must install the Audio CD Writer plug-in, which uses the engine from Nero Burning Rom. This is available from foobar's download (components) page. Both are free, have a track record, and are without known spyware. Of course, there are many other excellent programs that will produce reliable audio CDs from MP3 files that have a 30-day free trial period such as dBpowerAMP CD Writer 1.1. I hope this information is helpful.
-- Chuck Joseph

Fred...I was thinking of your upcoming long trip, since you said you aren't an MP3 maven, and your comment that you would rather carry an MP3 player than an actual CD player. So as requested, here are my experiences as well as suggestions for your trip, etc. This is a summary of what I use, that reflects my personal tastes at this time, but is always evolving and I hope will supply you with much discussion.

There are a number of tasks that you will need to do to keep your DAP (Digital Audio Player, please no MP3 Player) running smoothly. Four tasks that you may need software for are the following:

1) A ripper program for taking tracks off your CDs and turning them into FLAC or Monkey's Audio. I prefer FLAC 1.1.1 over Monkey's Audio 3.99 because of smoother playback and better hardware support. Also, FLAC is compatible on MAC/Linux, 24-bit support, and has sector boundary alignment. In addition, I use NERO 6 Ultra Edition 6.6 to make backup copies to DVD. It is much safer to rip to a lossless codec, such as FLAC, then transcode as new codecs evolve for MP3, WMA, OGG, etc. If you have a large CD collection, you only want to rip once.

2) A tagging program to organize the tags attached to your music files.

3) An audio-editing program for deleting bits of songs you do not want, joining songs, etc.

4) A program for creating the database so you can select the music you want to play by genre, artist, or album.

A) Rippers: I rip using fault-free EAC (Exact Audio Copier) to FLAC and then make Ogg Vorbis files for my iRiver H340 (DAP, yes it plays mp3s). I personally think WMA is no better than and probably inferior to MP3s at mid to high bit-rates based on my own personal listening tests.

B) Taggers: I use Tag and Rename 3.1.7

C) Audio editor: I use Audacity 1.2.3 , it's simple and free.

D) Database generators: I use Irivium Explorer 8.7.0 software by Red Chair Software. They make software for a number of the better DAPs on the market. Fred, you may find the iRiver H340 ideal for your trip since it not only supports MP3, WMA, ASF, and OGG music files, FM transmission to your car radio, but has an integrated voice recorder for your musings.
-- dr_cj

Fred, I've used several programs, including Musicmatch (not free, by the way). I'm happiest with iTunes, believe it or not. You can burn music files to CD in MP3 format, in AAC format, or in the format used by audio CDs. I've never had it fail. It's free, of course. I installed it to buy music from iTunes, but later figured out it was a great program for organizing music files. (For the record, I only bought an iPod quite recently.) The only downside is that it is a big program.
-- Matt Chambers

Just my two cents worth: Apple's iTunes software is the best I've used so far in ripping and burning MP3s. Using it to make an audio CD is a snap: make a play list, insert a blank CD, click a button. That's it. Regards.
-- Daniel J Zook

Feurio
Hi, Fred, Regarding burn CD, the best free software is Feurio, try it and you will love it, I have burned hundreds of CDs with this software, you can even create a CD label with this, too. This is shareware, so if you want to register to help is fine, or not, the trial version is full featured, it just nagging you to register. This is a German software program, excellent: You can also visit cdfreaks.com for more programs! Happy burning :-))
-- Nguyen

Fred, I have been using the best one for the past few years now, a program named Feurio. While it's not exactly freeware, it's shareware, you can download an unlimited trial version that isn't crippled in any way, for free. To me, this is the absolute best program for burning audio CD's (freeware, shareware. And retail) available.
-- Daniel L. Belton

CD Burner Pro
I have been using CD Burner Pro for several years and have had zero problems with it.
-- Bob Pitcher

HT Fireman
I found your article on mp3 burning helpful and informative. I have had many of the same problems with freeware. (Unusual interface, spyware) But there are exceptions where the freeware version becomes my preferred application. HT Fireman is a program I have used for many months to do data backups. I was impressed with its simplicity, speed, and reliability. I was surprised to hear that it had trouble with audio burning, but since I had never used it for audio I put in a disc and tried it out. It performed the task quite well and all of the discs I asked it to burn worked in my stereo system.
-- Bob Smock

Ashampoo
Fred: I sympathized with Ken Laninga, looking for a neat MP3 burner. I, too, had a similar round of experiences including Nero burning at 52X on 48x CDR. I am trialing the Ashampoo downloadable from here or here. It's donation-ware. No nags or adware and from monitoring my firewall, it does not appear to be doing any communicating away from my PC. I just burnt a 440-MB CDR of my daughter's favorite tunes: easy to use and throws in a radio tuner. It's German-designed software. Happy burning to your readers.
-- Mike Boyce



Audacity
Acoustica MP3 CD Burner
Adaptec CD Creator
Ashampoo
Audio Catalyst
Audiograbber
Burn Quick
Burn4Free
BurnAtOnce
Burrrn
Cakewalk Pyro
CD Burner Pro
CD Burner XP Pro
CD'n'Go
CD Extreme



CD to MP3 Freeware
CDex
Cheetah Burner
Creative OEM Software
DeepBurner
Disc Master
dMC/dBPowerAMP
Easy CD-DA Extractor
Exact Audio Copy
Express Burn
Feurio
Free Rip
HotBurn
HT Fireman
iTunes



J. River Media Center
JetAudio
K3b
Musicmatch
Nero
PlexTools
Real Audio
RecordNow
QuickBurn
Quintessential
Roxio
Shorten Files
Winamp
Windows Media Player




PlexTools
I have a Plextor CD writer and a Creative sound card and just use the tools that came with this hardware. The Plextor CD writer came with a piece of software called PlexTools. One part of this is "Audio CD Maker." This is very easy to use, you just drag and drop the audio files (MP3s, WAVs, etc.) into the "Audio CD Maker" window. It reads the artist and track title from the source file if present or you can enter it manually. Its only limitation is that the audio files must be "CD Quality" (i.e., 2 channels/16 bits/44100Hz). If I have files that are not 2 channels/16 bits/44100Hz, then I load them into the "Wave Studio" program that came with the Creative sound card and use this program's "convert format" option to convert them to 2 channels/16 bits/44100Hz. I know this information won't help people who don't have this hardware, but I'm perfectly satisfied with these programs.
-- Bruce Robson

Acoustica MP3 CD Burner
Hello Fred! I've used a program called "Acoustica MP3 CD Burner" through 2 1/2 computers (2 different CD-RW drives) and it's performed very well for me. I can't remember the last coaster I made. I had tried a lot of the available products back when I originally picked this and none were as simple to use or as flawless in their operation. I have version 3.1 and it's now up to 4.0, according to their Web site.
Best Regards.
-- Bullitt D.

RecordNow
Fred, et.al, I personally use Sonic-RecordNow and I don't think it can be beat. Wonderful program and I have NEVER had any problems with it... Here is a link to the main site and below is a little more info.

After you get there, scroll down and have a look at RecordNow Deluxe Suite v.7.2. Sure, it costs money, but if you want quality, you have to pay for it. If you don't see the actual one I am talking about, go to this link. Hope this helps and I highly recommend it.
<-- Burt

Here's my 2 bits' worth -- I have a program which was bundled into my Compaq; it's called RecordNow. When I tried to burn a CD, it was reasonably clear and easy to use. However, when I tried to play the CS back it would work up to maybe the 9th or 10th track, then freeze up. I have managed to get working CDs by reducing my burn speed to minimum (what a pain! - why bother having a higher speed burner?) and not filling the cd to the max. I leave about 5 megs free space. Cheers.
-- Dave Spragge

Burrrn
The best I have found is Burrrn. It has a very simple GUI, reads metadata from the mp3 files to burn CD-audio, will even normalize volume if you want it to (good for making mix cd's). In some cases -- if the files have been encoded with the popular LAME encoder -- it can even produce "gapless" audio CDs, which is a pretty rare feature (mp3 files tend to have slight breaks at the beginning and end even when the burner is set to have no gaps, which become audible when music is continuous from one track to the next, as on a live album or dance mix cd, etc.). Burrrn handles several other formats out of the box as well, as you can see on their Web site
-- Burt Frennolds

Winamp
Fred, I use Winamp to convert the MP3s to WAV format; then use Roxio to burn the wave files to CD. Using Winamp CTRL-P for preferences; then under 'Plug-ins/Output' select "Nullsoft Disk Writer" plug-in...(out_disk.dll). Just 'play' the selected MP3s; there won't be any sound, but they'll be quickly converted to the output folder specified. Be sure to change the output back to "waveOut plug-in (out_wave.dll)" for regular playing of MP3s.
-- Jim Chaisson

Adaptec CD Creator (now part of Roxio)
I make great CDs with my old Win98 and Adaptec CD Creator that came with the computer. I think it's a 4x burn. It converts mp3s to wavs and burns the disk in about 20 minutes.
-- Chris Aichelman

Creative OEM Software
Aloha, Fred, I got the Creative Nomad Zen Xtra 30gb model for Xmas. I chose that model over the iPod because of the battery issue that the iPod seems to have -- this player has a user-replaceable battery. I have only used it briefly but I'm heading on a month-long vacation and will be putting it to the test. At this point I have more than 1,600 songs on it, less than half of my personal collection, and still going. It seems that if you have a mainstream player it would have come with burning/ripping software, at least this one did, so I wonder why this person isn't using the software that came with his unit? As far as the software that came with my Nomad Zen, it works like a breeze. Connects to the Web and pulls the data needed for the album; track names, album name, etc. You can catalogue the music in your HD folder by artist, genre, or album, and a few other qualifiers, actually three of these qualifiers are always in effect and you can decide which ones and in which order you want your music displayed.

The question was about burning the MP3 to a CD audio format creating an audio file and again the Creative software says that it can do this. I, too, am new at this, but so far I am very happy with the Creative product. I tend to take long trips and am looking forward to not lugging around a bulky & heavy pack of CDs and still only having 20 or so albums with me. I am just thrilled as I continue to dump albums into this unit and it doesn't get any bigger or heavier! 8-). I will still bring some small speakers for listening in my hotel room, though. Before I realized that the software that came with my unit worked so well I did many searches for ripping software, these seemed to be the best-rated ones .... Ripper, RipperX, and Freeware.

This site in general has many programs related to ripping and converting music, a good place to start.
-- Chris Broussard

QuickBurn
Dear Fred, Although I wouldn't normally recommend shareware (tend to avoid it unless I've absolutely no other choice, as is the case here), the best burner I've found thus far for audio CDs is Quick Burn (R.M. deBoer Software). This one shows you exactly how much space is used/left, and hasn't created nearly as many coasters as the other freeware/shareware alternatives.
-- Steven Burn

Real Audio
Real Audio should be worth a look. Burned a CD last night (first time) for a friend. It included MP3 and MOV files. The software put them on the CD and another machine, and also using Real software it played both types of file back. The instructions suggest you can create files for audio CD as well as MP3 players.
-- Dale Huffington

dMC/dBPowerAMP
I have found a very good ripper called dMC from dBPowerAMP. DMC is a very fast ripper that has the ability to create a variety of file types from the standard CD audio, WAV, and MP3 to less-known types such as MP4, AAC, APE, Real Media, and OGG Vorbis, down to obscure types like Sun Audio (AU/SND), FLAC, MPC, MP3Pro, and the Atari SAP Music Archive (SAP). These file types are all supported through free add-ons in the Codec Central page. Also, while ripping, dMC connects to the CD Database and automatically downloads all the track information. While the burner portion of the program is shareware, the ripping part is free.
-- Dan

Hi Fred. I use PowerAmp for ripping, using the LAME codec. It can be found here. I use Nero for ALL my burning needs. There is a program that claims "perfect, bit for bit lossless audio," called Monkey's Audio. But I've not checked it out yet. It can be found here. Hope this helps.
-- Daniel

Some of the tools I've used that I still use are: dbPowerAmp. DBpoweramp is my workhorse, takes CDs and rips them any way you want. It also includes a converter so you can convert from one format to another, i.e., MP3 to Ogg to Flac to Monkey's Audio and any other codec if that is available for plug-in. Winamp is what I use if dBpoweramp can't do it; it's a lot more difficult to rip/convert with this. Both of these are freeware. For tagging the file I use Mp3 tag tools. To group all your mp3's in a folder, open it up with this program and you can mass-tag them (author, album, year, etc.) and it gives you various info such as encoding type. Now what happens if the mp3's are too loud, too soft, clipping, etc.? Use mp3 gain -- from what I understand it's not a normalizer and it doesn't change the files like a normalizer would so you can always make changes without affecting the file. Now how do you organize them for burning on a CD or uploading them to a MP3 player? Well, most MP3 players and CD players that play mp3 allow you to put the files in folders to organize them the way you want, but they don't allow you to put them in a particular order unless you rename them with numbers such as 001 song.mp3. Rather than going thru this process, you can use AlbumWrap -- enter them in the program in the order you want (you can enter the same song multiple times if you want), then it will wrap them like a zip file for mp3's and allow you to play the large file in any player. Beware of vbr files, though, because some of them don't play right once you wrap them. You can always convert them to cbr via dBPowerAmp and then wrap them. I use the Cowan iAudio CW300 mp3 player, even though there is some limitation with it such as no uploading mp3's back into your computer and the voice recorder is in a proprietary format. The primary reason I got this one is because it takes AA batteries, which I can get very cheap (100 units for less than a $1). I have tried many programs and still do if something catches my interest, however, these are what I have been using for years and they are all freeware except for AlbumWrap, which is $15. Oh, by the way, just in case no one mentions it, most standalone DVD players can play mp3 files; you can have 4.7g of mp3s playing out of your home theatre setup, stereo setup, or however you listen to music at home. You can have mp3's play nonstop for days this way!
-- Dick Sasaki



Audacity
Acoustica MP3 CD Burner
Adaptec CD Creator
Ashampoo
Audio Catalyst
Audiograbber
Burn Quick
Burn4Free
BurnAtOnce
Burrrn
Cakewalk Pyro
CD Burner Pro
CD Burner XP Pro
CD'n'Go
CD Extreme



CD to MP3 Freeware
CDex
Cheetah Burner
Creative OEM Software
DeepBurner
Disc Master
dMC/dBPowerAMP
Easy CD-DA Extractor
Exact Audio Copy
Express Burn
Feurio
Free Rip
HotBurn
HT Fireman
iTunes



J. River Media Center
JetAudio
K3b
Musicmatch
Nero
PlexTools
Real Audio
RecordNow
QuickBurn
Quintessential
Roxio
Shorten Files
Winamp
Windows Media Player




Easy CD-DA Extractor
Fred: One I have used and love is actually an mp3 RIPPER (from a CD) but I have found it has a great built-in burner as well as being good at it's "real" function...making MP3s from CDs. It also has an audio format converter. It is called "Easy CD-DA extractor 7.7" and can be found here. It has a free 30-day trial, then the full version is $30. I hope these suggestions help.
-- Darrin Ross

K3b K3b If you don't have Linux installed, you can use any Linux Live-CD that includes K3b for burning (it rips, too). Works great, even better than Nero for burning those cheap CDs that tend to give burning errors. Check out the K3b features here.
-- Jose J. Rodriguez

Fred, For free CD burning, you might consider a different approach; open-source software on a Linux platform. Before anyone grumbles about the pain of partitioning and installing a new OS just to burn some CDS, I am talking about using a LiveCD here. That is a CD that boots an entire operating system, complete with tons of software, from the CD; when you are done, you log off, remove the disk, and your original OS boots back up off the hard drive. The best one I have found so far is Knoppix 3.6 and/or 3.7. The free download is a .ISO image file, any CD burner software's "burn image to disk" function will give you a bootable CD. If you don't have any software to burn CDs (and something should have come with the CD burner when you got it), you can also order a pre-burned CD from places like CheapISO.com for around $3 plus shipping, or OSDisc.com. I have booted from both 3.6 and 3.7 in several machines, had it recognize both a USB CD-RW and an internal DVD-RW, read music files off both FAT32- and NTFS-formatted hard drives, and burn both CDA (normal Audio CDs) and playable MP3 disks. It also converted file formats on the fly, so I could use MP3s to make audio CDs, or WAV, CDA, or OGG Vorbis files to make MP3 playable disks. All with no configuring or setup; you boot from the CD and it goes. It has a lot of other software built in, like Audacity to record from the audio in port on your soundcard or edit WAV, AU, and MP3s files; and GRip, to let you rip your CDs to hard drive, so you can include them on your MP3 disks. And a whole lot more; through compression, they manage to fit a couple gigs of free software onto a single CD. It does have one drawback; since the operating system is on a CD, you need a 2nd Write or ReadWrite device to burn to. There are a number of other LiveCD builds that will do the same job, like Dynebolic (for the true multimedia fanatic, lots of audio and video tools) or Morphix. But Knoppix is the only one I have tested for burning CDAs and MP3 CDs so far.
-- Jer

Fred, I've been using Nero on my Win2k machine at work, and we at home use K3b (Free, for Linux) on our machines at home with no problems.
-- Dave Kiwerski

Cheetah Burner
Cheetah. Fast, free, simple, hasn't failed yet even burning at 1x speed thru an old usb1 CD burner.
-- Mike Ochsman

Quintessential
I use Quintessential Player for ripping audio files to the hard drive. It's not the very best but it's free, easy to use, and works well. I use RecordNow Max to burn. It's not free, but I have never had a problem burning anything with it. I have a version that was published by Stomp -- RecordNow is now owned by Sonic Solutions, which has merged with Roxio, so I'm not sure of current availability. I still use version 4.5 (Sonic is up to version 7.2) and it has worked flawlessly for me. I have used (or tried to use) just about everything else, with little luck.
-- Everett

Shorten Files
Hi, Fred: Friends do not let friends source audio CD's from MP3's -- they are garbage. Point your reader to the loss-less compression community Shorten Files here or ape Files here. Those guys at etree would string a guy like your reader up. MP3, although good to listen to, degrades the quality of the audio when made into CD's.
-- Fred Freely

J. River Media Center
Hi, Fred- I have used J. River Media Center 10, MediaMonkey, and JetAudio to manage my collection of mp3's, oggs, and Flac files, and they all burn well, although I think they use the Nero burning engine. MediaCenter is by far the best of the bunch, but it's not a free program, while the other two both offer free versions. I think it's worth mentioning that Nero produces the software that sets the industry standard for burning, and that either it or competitor Roxio software comes bundled with most CD-burners. It's worth paying a few extra bucks when buying a burner to get this software.
-- Jason Turgeon

Audio Catalyst
Fred, I successfully use Audio Catalyst to rip the MP3s and Nero burning to burn the MP3 CD.
-- John J. Dion

Free Rip
Fred, Free Ripis a neat little program.
-- John Weidner

Cakewalk Pyro
I feel your reader's pain. CD burning has given me more than my fair share of trouble over the years! I've had good results burning MP3's with CakeWalk Pyro. It's not free, but a new copy is only around $25 (from Amazon.com). My version officially only supports Windows 95/Me/98 but, it works on XP for me. Pyro 2004 is around $40 (from Amazon.com), and officially supports Windows Me/2000/XP/98. The Cakewalk product pages are here. You can download it from their Web site (for $49).
-- Kevin Davidson

Disc Master
I use the free trial program interVideo Disc Master. I haven't had any problems with it.
-- Mary Aman

CD'n'Go
CD'n'Go has worked quite well for me. Here's CD'n'Go's Web site.
-- Mr. Jiggs

CD Extreme
I just use the CD Extreme software that came with my Sony Spressa Pro burner. It's an older SCSI unit, but the software translates MP3 files on the fly to standard audio files. I just use regular Verbatim ValuLife blanks and the disks play everywhere I try including car and portable units. I do use the Musicmatch Jukebox to do the MP3 conversion and build my playlist. Then you just drop the files into CD Extreme and burn as an audio disk. Very simple and straightforward. My .02.
-- Quinton Lee

Burn Quick
If you have a compatible burner, I have 2 registered copies of Burn Quick. Burn about 60 CD's a month. Average 60 good burns. Not free. $19.95, Excellent.
-- Richard Courter

Audacity
Fred: I really feel for Ken as I also have tried quite a few MP3 conversion packages, but initially, I used Windows Media Player (not the current version). I have been using two free programs which have zero junk in them; both are excellent: Audacity, a great editor/burner. This program allows splitting-up of WAV or MP3 files into separate files. For instance, you rip a vinyl platter into a single file, and this program lets you break it up into individual tracks ... it will even attempt to do it for you. Great stuff, and for free! Also, dBpowerAMP. The CD Writer software portion is shareware, only $14.00 after 30 days, but this program is an excellent format converter, too, and that part is in the free download. I would also suggest downloading, and installing, the free LAME MP3 encoder. I would install LAME before either of the above programs, although dBpowerAMP has a copy supplied with it. Even the older versions of Windows Media Player do a fairly respectable job of burning CD's from MP3 files, and Roxio's burner (not for free except with some CD-burner drives) does a good job.
-- Wilson A. Caselli

What's your favorite MP3 and audio tool? Join the discussion!



Audacity
Acoustica MP3 CD Burner
Adaptec CD Creator
Ashampoo
Audio Catalyst
Audiograbber
Burn Quick
Burn4Free
BurnAtOnce
Burrrn
Cakewalk Pyro
CD Burner Pro
CD Burner XP Pro
CD'n'Go
CD Extreme



CD to MP3 Freeware
CDex
Cheetah Burner
Creative OEM Software
DeepBurner
Disc Master
dMC/dBPowerAMP
Easy CD-DA Extractor
Exact Audio Copy
Express Burn
Feurio
Free Rip
HotBurn
HT Fireman
iTunes



J. River Media Center
JetAudio
K3b
Musicmatch
Nero
PlexTools
Real Audio
RecordNow
QuickBurn
Quintessential
Roxio
Shorten Files
Winamp
Windows Media Player



To discuss this column with other readers, please visit Fred Langa's forum on the Listening Post.

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