What are some 'best practices' for archiving a 600+ CD collection in mp3 format on CD-R?
July 18, 2004 4:43 PM   Subscribe

mp3Filter: What are some 'best practices' for archiving a 600+ CD collection in mp3 format on CD-R?

I have no real experience with mp3s, so I have not yet developed any insight. I am about to change to a highly mobile lifestyle, I want to carry as much of my music as possible, and I do not want to burden my laptop hard drive. I also want to use these disks in a separate CD-R player rather than carry my laptop everywhere.

In addition to general 'best practices', I have two questions: Will albums organized into folders play on CD-R players? What is an efficient method for printing hardcopy tracklists of each CD-R?

I am using CDex to rip mp3s.
posted by mischief to Technology (26 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Just remember that cd-r's are not permanent. Expect them to last 2-3 years.
posted by Hackworth at 5:03 PM on July 18, 2004

CD-R's are only reliable if kept out of excessive heat, and left alone in a CD-Wallet the entire time.

If you back up your shit onto CD-R and play it with a MP3CD player, you are guaranteed to lose your music collection over time. Bite the bullet and

A: Buy a DVD Burner
B: Buy a hard disk based MP3 Player.
posted by Keyser Soze at 5:31 PM on July 18, 2004

I've actually archived my ~1250 CD collection, but found that it took too much organization to archive them all to CD-R.

I ripped them all to 256Kbps VBR "high quality", I wouldn't go any lower than this, but at that level I can't tell the difference between the CD's and the .mp3 files.

At that bit rate, I was able to store about 9-10 albums of information on a CD-R, which was way too much juggling of CD's and made it too difficult to have redundant copies in case anything died or got lost.

The whole collection is currently about 130GB, and I bought 3 160 GB external hard drives, so I've got a main copy and 2 redundant copies. (one of which I keep at my work so that it's offsite).

This works well for me as I'm constantly adding new music to my collection, and any sort of organization that I'd have when using CD-R's would get blown out of the water as new stuff got added. Having redundant big hard drives, is relatively cheap (~$450 for the 3 disks), when compared against the original cost of acquiring all of that music.

I actually ended up selling my CD collection (8 huge boxes worth) to Cheapo and got about $2,000, which more than paid for the storage. Plus, I've been moving quite a bit in the last few years, and having to haul all those boxes around gets to be a PITA.

I know this doesn't quite meet the needs that you're suggesting, but I guess what I'd do if I were you is to have a couple of external hard drives with your music, and then burn whatever you listen to the most to a CD-R when you need it. That's what I do currently to bring music with me in the car (that and an FM transmitted iPod, which kind of has sucky audio quality)
posted by freshgroundpepper at 5:33 PM on July 18, 2004

I've also found that iTunes has a really nice setup for it's ripper. You can get it so that you can insert a disk, and it will automatically look up the tracks, rip the disk and eject when it's done. Automating the process as much as possible is nice, as it gets really tedious.
posted by freshgroundpepper at 5:34 PM on July 18, 2004

I have a Sony portable CD player that will recognise folders on CD-Rs full of MP3s (and WMAs but who cares), so you could put an album (or your own personal playlists) in each folder and it might be easy to find each one that way. The thing also reads the song title and artist name from the ID3 tags (and album title as well, if I remember correctly). I assume other CD players that recognise MP3s will also do this stuff.

[on preview in response to freshgroundpepper] I've never tried archiving an entire CD collection though, so I don't know how much organisational help is really available for that much data. I would definitely second encoding in a higher bitrate.
posted by DyRE at 5:38 PM on July 18, 2004

Keyser: What makes you think burned DVDs will last?
posted by fvw at 5:51 PM on July 18, 2004

Regarding the life of a CD-R - I'm not as pessimistic as these chaps, and I find CD-R's the ideal way of moving my music collection around. I went on a 2-week driving trip last year, took half a dozen CD-R's with me and never heard the same song twice. My first CD-R full of MP3s is dated 1998, and it still plays fine in any drive I've tried it in recently. Having said that, I would keep an archive of it on hard drive somewhere as well.

Regarding bitrate - use LAME's --alt-preset standard VBR setting, rather than, say, a 256kbps VBR setting. I don't know much about CDex, I assume it supports it, but if not, try EAC.
posted by Jimbob at 5:52 PM on July 18, 2004

Buy yourself 2 200mb hard drives. (about $100 each)
back your collection up twice, once to each drive. The odds of 2 drives failing is pretty low, especially if yhey aren't used daily.
Store them off site, but be sure to spin them up once or twice a year.

Also, Jimbob speaks the truth about Lame's alt preset standard setting. CDex does in fact support this setting.
posted by Fupped Duck at 5:56 PM on July 18, 2004

Fupped Duck, are you referring to external or internal hard drives? If external, USB or FireWire? And where, exactly, can you find this for $100 each?
posted by BlueTrain at 6:14 PM on July 18, 2004

Also, some CD-Rs are better than others. I use Mitsui (now MAM-A) Golds for important stuff (and make 2 copies that are kept at different locations). They're more expensive but last much longer than generic media.
posted by jalexei at 6:27 PM on July 18, 2004

I have quite a few CD-R discs which I burned 6 years ago, and they work just fine. Several DDS DAT tapes -- a reasonably durable medium -- from that time are completely unreadable, though they've been used far less. People with CD-R longevity problems most likely aren't caring for them appropriately.

In any case, if you're absolutely certain you want to encode to MP3, and I advise you to consider your audio codec carefully before embarking on a project of this scale, LAME --alt-preset is exactly what you want.

Because of the sheer number of CDs to rip for this project, I would suggest a two-pass approach: rip media as fast as you possibly can, letting it pile up on your hard disk, then kick off an encoding run before you go to bed.
posted by majick at 7:30 PM on July 18, 2004

posted by BlueTrain at 7:47 PM on July 18, 2004

Also, if you are considering buying more drives for storage, consider getting a RAID card and setting up a RAID-1 array, for built in redundancy.
posted by Hackworth at 9:08 PM on July 18, 2004

I'd personally recommend getting a USB or Firewire external drive, and an extra internal one. That way you have two copies, one which is easily portable.
posted by wackybrit at 1:25 AM on July 19, 2004

I second the raid-1 array. As for the ripping itself, make sure you're using EAC's secure mode, and one of LAME's --alt-preset modes. There's no point ripping your collection if you're going to end up with crappy sounding MP3s.
posted by Jairus at 2:18 AM on July 19, 2004

For the ripping process, use CDex and rip everything at the lame alt-preset--standard preset. It's the best compromise between quality and size. Don't bother archiving onto CD, it'll drive you mad, just buy a cheap external hard drive.
posted by ascullion at 3:18 AM on July 19, 2004

skallas, that's a big CD collection to trust to CDs or even DVDs, and ripping is no fun. You don't want to have to do it twice. I second those above who urge you to scrape up the $$ to get a couple of hard drives (one backup, one redundant backup).

Also, somebody around here a while back observed that people who rip their collection into lossy files will feel pretty silly in five years when a terabyte=$100 or less. I will go a step further and recommend you use lossless compression. You may have to buy bigger drives to archive to, but the marginal cost is pretty insignificant, and at any rate it will be worth it to have exact copies.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 6:55 AM on July 19, 2004

To add to what stupidsexyFlanders said:

There are several lossless codecs that have players on multiple platforms. Flac is probably the most well known, but Apple's lossless codec seems pretty good as well, but it may tie you to iTunes. I'm not sure if a third-party has created a player for their format yet, although a quick google search shows that there might be at least a Winamp plugin.
posted by mikeh at 7:56 AM on July 19, 2004

I did something quite like this a couple years ago, and haven't have any problems. My collection (encoded at ~190kbps VBR) came to about 20 discs. I then made new appendix discs for a year, then re-burnt the whole thing. Which is kind of the crux of my system: The CDs are for listening to on the MP3CD player and for moving the collection across state lines. The real backup is generally alive on two computers at a time, with new music being steadily added to one of the computers. Keeping a big alphabatized-by-artist directory on the computer makes it real easy to make well-organized CD copies.

I've had some problems with CDR lifespan, but my redundancy has kept it from being a real problem.
posted by kaibutsu at 8:21 AM on July 19, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks for the responses. I am not planning on selling my CDs, just storing them. Once the disability checks start rolling in, I plan to visit a lot of places around the world for the next 3 years, so portability is the most important aspect.
posted by mischief at 10:44 AM on July 19, 2004

For those interested in archiving to HD, here's a link to Fat Wallet's current thread on the best HD deals. 80GB=$50, 120GB =$70, 250GB=$100 -- they're really getting cheap.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 11:16 AM on July 19, 2004

So if I were interested in archiving to HD, how advanced an enclosure would I need, assuming merely backup duty and a USB 2.0 connection?
posted by mookieproof at 11:35 AM on July 19, 2004

I'm with the HD backup crowd here. Today's 700mb offline storage is tomorrow's 1.4mb floppy. I recently consolidated 70 CD-Rs to 11 DVD-Rs, but only because I currently require that kind of portability. In any other circumstance, I would definitely just get another drive. Now that HD storage is going for fifty cents a gb, it just doesn't make much sense to spend the time and trouble to archive offline.

I also second the sentiment for lossless compression, or for at least 256kbs rips. When mp3 first splashed into ubiquity, I went crazy and ripped about a hundred of my favorite CDs to 128, and then sold them. Now I play those songs and it sounds like I'm listening to them over a cel phone. 300mb lossless albums will still sound great long after 300mb has become like 300kb.

Mookieproof, I don't know what you mean by "advanced." A USB-2 external drive seems totally adequate for backup work... or even most production work.
posted by squirrel at 12:20 PM on July 19, 2004

It seems to be cheaper and more flexible to buy a hard drive + enclosure than an external hard drive--I just wondered how advanced (some are plastic and cheap, some are aluminum with multiple fans) an enclosure I would need if I used the drive for infrequent backups rather than as an everyday drive. But perhaps that should be its own posting.
posted by mookieproof at 1:06 PM on July 19, 2004

mookie, I would just use common sense here, there's not much to these things. If it's likely to tumble three feet and bounce off a tile floor, get a really, really, sturdy enclosure. If not, the cheap plastic is good enough. As far as fans -- is it unusually warm where the drive will sit? If not, it should be fine. By dint the ext. HD not being inside your PC, its baseline temp is probably a lot cooler than those of the drives that are in there.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 1:46 PM on July 19, 2004

Mookieproof, you may benefit from my mistake: I bought an external 250gb drive for a great price recently ($140), thinking that I would just get a generic enclosure for $30 and come out ahead. As it turns out, almost all generic enclosures max out at 120gb or thereabouts. The only enclosures I could find that could handle larger drives came with drives already in them. So, if you're going to buy drive and enclosure separately, make sure the enclosure will support the drive size you're buying.
posted by squirrel at 9:47 AM on July 20, 2004

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