Burning and Ripping
June 19, 2004 11:13 AM   Subscribe

I need some kind of remedial primer for transfering music off my cds and onto my computer, then off my computer and onto cds. Every music cd I burn is full of pops and weird scratch artifacts. I'm realizing that I don't really know much about audio formats and that I'm probably doing something wrong. Can MeFi help?

FYI, I currently use Windows Media Player to play cds on my PC and to copy music off cd and onto my pc (they save as .wma files). I use Nero to copy music off my pc and onto cd, but Nero has a lot of features I don't understand and can't really figure out how to use.

I've always presumed that I can't use .mp3s without getting a special Mp3 player for both my pc and my car cd player - is this true? I do know that sometimes people give me cds that I can't play on any cd player I own.... is this because they're in mp3 format?

Yes, I know these are all questions I should know the answers to. Please don't make me feel stupid for asking -- I already feel inept enough. I'm sorry, technical things have never been my forte...
posted by anastasiav to Computers & Internet (10 answers total)
I think there's an easy way to diagnose the pops and clicks. first and foremost, you need to make sure the sound artifacts aren't on the original cds. then rip the music using wmp and listen to it, to see if the pops and clicks are there. if not, burn them using neros audio cd option, listen to them again and see if their there. That way you can figure out exactly where it's happening. If they pop up in the ripping stage, you should try another ripper, i think iTunes does a good job, with different formats to pick from. If that doesn't fix it or they pop up in the burning stage, you need to look at the cd burner itself. Sometimes the burner has problems if too many programs are open while in use or it's on a shared irq. it could just be a piece of crap too :)
posted by bob sarabia at 12:11 PM on June 19, 2004

Best answer: I'm not sure quite what you are looking for here anastasiav, so feel free to let me know if this doesn't answer your question.

If the problem is that there are clicks and pops on the WMA files then there was a problem when you ripped the CD to your computer. This is likely caused by some sort of scratch and/or gunk on the bottom surface of the disc. If you are looking for a perfect rip, the best way to copy tunes from a CD to you computer is likely going to be with EAC (Exact Audio Copy). It will come closest to making a perfect copy of your CD, plus it supports several external compressors so you can rip/compress without having to use multiple programs. (Note: as far as i know, it does not support ripping directly to WMA)

If you are a fan of the WMA format, and there are no problems with the WMA files when you play them back on your computer I would recommend staying with Windows Media Player as it (probably?) is the best CD to WMA ripper. In all likelihood, the average listener probably can't tell the difference between a CD to high quality MP3 rip done with EAC and a CD to high quality WMA rip done with Windows Media Player.

As for the popping sounds, if it happens only once you've burned to CD, and it is reproducible on various CD players, it may be the media that you are using or the speed at which you are burning. From past personal experience, I know that some low quality media has yeilded poor sound quality. Additionally, some people find that burning CDs at higher speeds results in noticable degredation of the sound quality as well.

Further, for a CD to be playable on a standalone CD player it must be burned according to Red Book specifications. Nero will do this automatically if you use its default "Audio CD" presets. If your source files are WAV files Nero pretty much just burns them to the CD. If your source files are MP3 or WMA files Nero has to decompress them prior to burning. Nero decompresses MP3 out of the box and will do the same with WMA if you install this plugin.

Finally, I believe (and I am sorta guessing here) the cd players that play MP3 CDs just read the data off of a standard (ISO 9660) data CD, and use an on board MP3 decoder to playback the files. As such, MP3 CDs should be readible/playable in any Windows PC that's been made in the past few years.
posted by darainwa at 12:21 PM on June 19, 2004

Best answer: If you're willing to sacrifice a small part of your weekend, the CD-Recordable FAQ will certainly get you up to speed.
posted by Eamon at 12:37 PM on June 19, 2004

Also, a growing number of portable and car CD players can play MP3s from a data CD. A few DVD players can do the same.
posted by Eamon at 12:38 PM on June 19, 2004

Response by poster: I think Eamon's link was just what I was looking for, thank you.

The noises are not there when I play the original cds on my pc, but appear when the file is copied to the PC and played back on the pc via media player -- which tells me, I guess, that the errors are taking place during the copying process.

I'm not tied to the .wma format, it was just what came with the PC, and its free. 'Free' is something I'm very attached to.

Anyhow, I'm off to read the FAQ - however any other comments, suggestions or tips are welcome.
posted by anastasiav at 12:49 PM on June 19, 2004

Try burning the audio cd at a slower speed. I don't know why or what's happening, but sometimes at full speed some cd writers cause imperfections that play back as audible annoyances.
posted by dong_resin at 1:09 PM on June 19, 2004

Pops and clicks can also result from too much signal -- that is, if the amplitude is too high. The FAQ should cover this, but make sure the signal isn't somehow getting boosted when you rip from CD to WMA.
posted by macrone at 1:25 PM on June 19, 2004

Use Exact Audio Copy and LAME. Works like a charm.
posted by pmurray63 at 5:35 PM on June 19, 2004

If pops and clicks appear after you copy the tracks to your hard drive, they are probably the result of "jitter", which is explained in the FAQ. A good ripping program will compensate for this.
posted by Eamon at 5:58 PM on June 19, 2004

EAC is great, but I think CDex is much more newbie-friendly for ripping.
posted by mookieproof at 12:00 AM on June 20, 2004

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