The ultimate music archive cleaner -- looking for application to convert hudreds of GB of music to MP3
January 11, 2009 3:27 PM   Subscribe

What's the best program to convert hundreds of gigabytes of music files in different formats all to MP3, while maintaining ID3 data and bitrates?

I have about 130 GB of music files in about half a dozen different audio formats. It's always a huge pain in the butt to put my music on different mp3 players/computers because of the different formats and DRM junk so I’m looking for an application to clean my music archive.

Features I'm looking for:
+ PC based -- Sorry, no Mac available here.

+ As automated as possible -- The more hands-free/automated the better. Since there's so many files and so many directories, I'd just like to set it and forget it otherwise this could become a month-long process.

+ Maintaining ID3 info & converting to an equivalent/better audio bitrate is mandatory -- I’m not interested in losing all my data or audio quality.

+ The more formats it can convert the better -- I suspect there’s about half a dozen different formats in the archive – from Midi to M4A to Wav to MP3 -- but there could be more. So the more formats the software can convert, the better.

+ ID3 updating -- The ability to connect to the Net and update ID3 data that’s incomplete would be excellent (although the majority of these files are already filled out so it's not a deal breaker).

+ Cost – Free would be fantastic. But this is such a huge, time consuming job, I would be willing to pay a bit for the ultimate “set-it-and-forget-it” application that would go into the hundreds of different folders I have, convert the files and deletes the old format files.

+ DRM conversion, flagging or deletion -- I suspect there’s a handful of DRM-protected files in there. If this ultimate software could convert those to non-DRM MP3 that’d be even cooler. I’m at the point now where I just want to throw away any of that DRM b.s. though, so it’s not a deal breaker. If it could identify or flag DRM files that would be a excellent and I can take them out back and kill them off.

+ Cures cancer -- I know I'm asking for a lot here. :D Thanks for any help you can offer! I've been meaning to do this for so long.
posted by jkl345 to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
DBPowerAmp ?
posted by jmnugent at 3:44 PM on January 11, 2009

I believe Winamp Pro will do this (see here). It also has the awesome plugin ml_org which will move all your files into a neat directory. It can also automatically fetch ID3 data which is good, although (the genre especially) needs sanity checking (REM = "General Adult Alternative Rock", Sigur Rós = "Post-Modern Art Music", NIN = "Industrial Dance"). And it gets album art.
posted by katrielalex at 4:01 PM on January 11, 2009

MediaMonkey, foobar2000, Winamp, DBPowerAMP can all do this; at worst, their converters will hang on or skip DRM-protected files and you'll see a list of ones that won't convert. Bear in mind that to the same end you could try to find as much of the music as possible in cough scene mp3 releases, Soulseek, or torrent sites before you convert the rest just to ensure you're ending up with as many songs as possible in tagged, reasonably good quality CDDA->mp3 format as possible.

A lot about p2p mp3 sharing annoys me in terms of organization/tagging, but at least what you find there usually isn't a bunch of transcodes that sound like the band is playing underwater.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 4:02 PM on January 11, 2009

If you want to try it out, Winamp Free will convert everything to e.g. ogg.
posted by katrielalex at 4:02 PM on January 11, 2009

+ Maintaining ID3 info & converting to an equivalent/better audio bitrate is mandatory -- I’m not interested in losing all my data or audio quality.

You will not be able to maintain the same audio quality for any file if you are converting from one lossy (lossy = compressed, for example OGG, m4a, aac, ) codec to mp3. Only FLAC, APE, ALAC, WV, and some WAV files are lossless , which, if you're converting to MP3, you would be 'downgrading' the mp3 because mp3 is a lossy codec too.

That in mind, the programs that others have mentioned are suitable for the conversions, but don't expect the audio quality to stay the same.
posted by fizzix at 4:28 PM on January 11, 2009

dBPowerAmp is kind of weird with its plugin architecture, but it's probably the best you're going to be able to find that is free. Once you get it set up, it's pretty slick. (I recommend getting the CLI Encoder plugin and pointing it to LAME for MP3 encoding, but I'm kind of particular.)
posted by neckro23 at 7:11 PM on January 11, 2009

I've been using dbPowerAmp's converter for years and love it, but I don't know that it can do the one-button job you want. I just tried to point it at a top-level directory that contained subfolders of music, but it wouldn't just act on all files in all subfolders. I'm using an older version, however, so perhaps the latest version can do it.

It can handle multiple files in one go, and does preserve ID3 tags if you want, but has to be pointed directly at the files in a given subfolder. It does offer you the option of where you want the outputted converted files to go, but I think you'd still have to point it to each batch of files within a given folder and then do a separate action for the next folder and the next. Sounds like that isn't what you want. Winamp sounded promising.

As fizzix says above, you lose a little quality any time you convert from one lossy format to another. There's no way around that if you already have your music in lossy format, but you might not notice. Do some test conversions and put on the headphones and see if you can tell the difference between the original and the conversion. If most of your music is encoded at 128kbps, which was the norm for mp3s traded online for years (and sold in itunes until last week), it might be an issue. I've read that almost nobody can tell the difference at rates higher than 196kbps, though, so if your files are encoded at that rate or higher, it might not be a problem.
posted by Askr at 10:32 PM on January 11, 2009

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