mp3 or aif?
April 20, 2008 9:13 AM   Subscribe

How should I rip my cds...mp3 or aif?

The cd are taking over my office. I need to digitize.
What do you mefis recommend. MP3 or aiffs?
posted by citybuddha to Computers & Internet (18 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Why did you pick those two? High quality lossy (e.g. mp3 or ogg) is fine if you're keeping the originals and just want to have something not too big that you can play. If you plan on ditching the physical CDs afterwards, going with a lossless format is a good idea, but why AIFF? FLAC or some other lossless compression will get you the same quality with much smaller filesizes.
posted by fvw at 9:18 AM on April 20, 2008

MP3s are more widely-compatible; aiffs are uncompressed and therefore are better-quality. Aiffs are larger than MP3s. It all depends on how much storage space you need, whether your player of choice supports aiffs, and whether sound quality is important to you.
posted by flatluigi at 9:18 AM on April 20, 2008

If you're not an audiophile, use mp3 with either variable bitrate (vbr) or a high (>= 256) fixed bitrate. With mp3, you lose some sound quality to the compression, but most people can't tell the difference.

If you are an audiophile, use flac. It's lossless, like AIFF, but it's also compressed so it doesn't waste space.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 9:21 AM on April 20, 2008

Will you keep the CDs in storage?

What will you use to listen to the files? Just your computer or also an iPod, a car radio?

What is your computer setup?
posted by stereo at 9:22 AM on April 20, 2008

I am involved in a similar project. I decided to rip them to FLAC for the initial digitizing. Takes up a little more disk space than high quality MP3, but it was worth it to me to have lossless. That way I know I'll NEVER have to rerip the CDs looking for better quality.

It took some setting up headaches, but I got "CDex" working completely automated- insert a CD, make sure it picks up the right disc name and click go. When it's done, it ejects the disc and I go on to the next one.
posted by gjc at 9:24 AM on April 20, 2008

The Apple lossless codec (ALAC) is starting to be used by a lot of hardware. It takes about half the space of AIFF and is playable by anything that can play an .m4a, e.g. the iPod, but also, for example, my new Alpine car stereo. It's a little less processor-intensive than FLAC, which isn't supported by many platforms.
posted by ikkyu2 at 9:29 AM on April 20, 2008

It's a little less processor-intensive than FLAC, which isn't supported by many platforms.

Flagrantly incorrect. Source.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 9:51 AM on April 20, 2008

posted by Inspector.Gadget at 9:53 AM on April 20, 2008

Before I digitized my CD collection, which was quite an undertaking, I spent a fair amount of time doing research -- I finally settled on AAC (i.e. the ITunes standard) because it was compact, had a significantly greater quality than equivalent-bitrate MP3s, and yet provides for more compact file sizes than the lossless formats.

However, if I had it to do again, I would have selected MP3. The vast majority of MP3 players don't support it, and neither do many of the other electronic devices that are capable of playing music. This would go for the more esoteric formats (such as FLAC, or ALAC) as well. MP3 quality of is fine for my my 50-year old ears (I encode at 192kbps variable bitrate), and it's supported by everything. You can burn it onto CDs and play it on most modern CD / DVD players. You can be virtually certain that any portable player, or DVD player, or computer, or car stereo, or whatever will be able to play your music.

I have retained the CDs, so the level of commitment I had to summon up may be less than you. But for me, the primary advantage of digitized music is portability.and that is best achieved with the single universal format out there -- MP3.
posted by curtm at 10:04 AM on April 20, 2008

I would only rip to FLAC or Shorten (in general, to an open lossless format.) Then you can forevermore convert to any other format with just CPU cycles and disk space and without having to touch your CDs again.

The only drawbacks are that it takes more disk space (relatively cheap these days), and you'll need conversion to another format for most portable players. But those drawbacks'll be peanuts compared to the drawback of re-inserting every single CD at some future date when you want a different format.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 10:49 AM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

I would second the AAC if you are going to go with a lossy format. AAC gets associated with Apple more often then not, but it is actually an open source codec and more devices are supporting it.
posted by Silvertree at 11:23 AM on April 20, 2008

Actually, AAC codecs is patented, proprietary, and requires licensing to produce a device or codec that uses it (see the Wikipedia article for more information).
posted by curtm at 11:44 AM on April 20, 2008

With the cheap price of hard drives today, lossless is really your best bet. FLAC and Monkey's Audio are awesome if you're not using iTunes.

I do Apple Lossless when I transcribe CDs, cassettes and vinyl. If I need a smaller version (for, say, my iPhone), I can return to the lossless source and rip it down to 128 or 160kbps.
posted by porn in the woods at 11:45 AM on April 20, 2008

Rip to FLAC with a cusheet, so you can re-make your CDs exactly if the original copy gets damaged. From there, you can transcode to any other lossless or lossy format. FLAC is better than Shorten because Shorten's compression sucks, better than ALAC in terms of hardware and software support, better than Monkey's Audio in terms of software and hardware support, and better than WAV or AIFF because you can tag it and the files aren't huge.

Here's a pretty good tutorial, as not much has changed in Exact Audio Copy. Just be sure to grab the latest versions of EAC and FLAC.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 12:08 PM on April 20, 2008

posted by Nelson at 12:09 PM on April 20, 2008

Do you use iTunes/iPods? Rip your CD's using Apple Lossless. If you need smaller filesizes, you can convert it to MP3 or AAC (192 kbps VBR) later.

If you don't intend to listen to your music on Apple products, do the same thing, in FLAC format.
posted by designbot at 1:55 PM on April 20, 2008

How old are you? Chances are that if you are over 30, you will not notice the difference between a decent MP3 rip (192kbs+) and FLAC/WAV format. For most people, their high-frequency hearing starts to drops off after age 30 and worsens as they age. This is not the only difference: MP3 is a "lossy" format, so you do not get the original signal complexity, once a track has been ripped. But for most music, the most important aspect of MP3 is that the bandwidth drops off bigtime after 16kHz, whereas a good HiFi will have a 20Hz-20kHz (minimum) bandwidth. This means, in effect, that you do not hear the highest-frequency sounds and their harmonics (the "richness" of a cymbal, for example). But if you are over 30, this is not likely to be discernable. I am highly unusual that I can still hear tones of 22kHz+ easily [if you are annoyed by the timebase "squeal" from a traditional CRT-type TV, this is a good indicator that you have exceptional high frequency hearing.] Yet I can hear no difference between a good MP3 rip and the original CD. The codec make a lot of difference. I use CDEX with the LAME codec for most rips, although if I am feeling fussy, I will use Exact Audio Copy with a Fraunhofer codec, as you have more control over the detailed digital extraction settings.

My advice is to listen to, and compare the two recording formats on the equipment that you will use to listen to the music. You are more likely to hear differences when using high-quality headphones, so try that setup first. If you can't hear any difference over a range of recordings, then go the MP3 route, as you can play MP3s on just about anything.
Oh - and keep the original CDs, so that you can rip them again when you change your mind or your equipment(!). But remember that a CD is only guaranteed to last about 15 years. After that, the plastic base will degrade. [Keep them dry and dark and they may last longer.]
posted by sgmax at 2:40 PM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

I just found this video on Youtube - you can test your high-frequency hearing. See if you can hear the "mosquito."
posted by sgmax at 7:56 PM on April 24, 2008

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