What are the most effective methods for acquiring music under Windows?
April 20, 2005 9:43 AM   Subscribe

My sister-in-law has purchased a Creative Labs Zen Touch 40gb music player. She'd like advice on how to fill it with music. I'm a Mac user who uses iTunes and an iPod, so I don't really have a good answer for her. Can you help?

Her new music player can take mp3s and WMA files, but, unless I'm mistaken, cannot take Apple's AAC-encoded files or Audible's proprietary format. My sister-in-law is perfectly willing to pay for music, though she's wary of Napster's "you can have as music as you want as long as you pay a monthly fee" model.

Where can she buy music online? What file-sharing programs are currently available that do not infest a PC with spyware/adware? Are there utilities that will strip the DRM from an Apple AAC file, leaving a simple mp3? What's the best music-management software for a PC? (By this I mean: what should she use to rip her CD collection to her hard drive, and then add acquired mp3s? Is iTunes the best choice?)

I really feel out of my league on this one, and any help would be appreciated.
posted by jdroth to Media & Arts (10 answers total)
AllOfMP3.com, while of arguably dubious legality is the place to go.


ToFu Hut
posted by FlamingBore at 9:59 AM on April 20, 2005

Allofmp3 is NOT "arguably dubious". It IS dubious. ie, it does not pay the artists or labels.

I receommend emusic. New members can purchase 140 tracks for $20. (90 tracks for $20 and 50 bonus tracks for becoming a new member.) No DRM, simple interface.
posted by dobbs at 10:07 AM on April 20, 2005

dobbs - I didn't say it wasn't dubious ethically, I said legally.
posted by FlamingBore at 10:15 AM on April 20, 2005

A nice AAC to MP3 converter might come in handy. dbPowerAmp for example works fine, but I've never tried to get it to decode any of the iTunes files. Theoretically if you change the file type you've killed the protection... Actually, on doing a little google-fu, I found this conversion guide, which might be helpful.

An alternative would be the old school "Hey, can I borrow that CD and rip a few songs off of it?" method of acquiring digital music.
posted by caution live frogs at 10:38 AM on April 20, 2005

Response by poster: An alternative would be the old school "Hey, can I borrow that CD and rip a few songs off of it?" method of acquiring digital music.

Yes, I've pointed this one out already. Specifically, I noted that the public library system is a vast enabling body. :)
posted by jdroth at 10:46 AM on April 20, 2005

Windows file-sharing programs that do not infect a PC with spyware include Azureus (an open-source BitTorrent client), Shareaza (an open-source eMule/Gnutella/BitTorrent client) and Soulseek (not open-source, uses its own proprietary network). Of course, I do not advocate using these programs to share copyrighted materials.
posted by box at 12:09 PM on April 20, 2005

I have a Creative Zen Xtra and although I had heard bad things about the bundled Creative software, I thought I'd give it a fair shake. Turns out it's buggy, unreliable and has a pretty crappy user interface. It actually stopped working for me altogether. I've found the easiest way to manage the player is through the Nomad Explorer that plugs right into Windows Explorer. It's easy and fast to use. There's also Notmad Explorer, which is supposed to be good.

Check out the Internet Archive's Netlabels Collection for MP3s. (I like Comfortstand myself.)
posted by Otis at 12:22 PM on April 20, 2005

I'll second Notmad Explorer. I have the exact same MP3 player and found that the bundled software was absolutely horrible. Since purchasing Notmad, I have been very happy.
posted by xorowo at 2:40 PM on April 20, 2005

I used the bundled software to load my 20Gb Zen Touch up. It's worked alright, though Otis and xorowo are right about the gross interface and bugginess. It crashed while loading the disc or reading cddb info for about one in 20 cds for me. During that initial run of 200+ cds it was a pain in the ass, but now that I'm only ripping a 5 or 6 cds a month to it, it's not that big a deal and I'm glad I didn't spring for notmad.

To listen to music from my zen touch on my computer I use the nomad zen winamp plugin which lets the zen appear as a device in the winamp library, which I use to manage my mp3s anyway.

Unfortunately the plugin and audioscrobbler don't play nice.
posted by ThePants at 7:58 AM on April 21, 2005

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