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Audio

Information on Audio Quality

High quality digital CD ripper (Audio CD to .wav)

  • AudioGrabber: www.audiograbber.com-us.net
    Free since February 2004. Will rip directly to Ogg Vorbis and most other audio formats.
  • Exact Audio Copy: www.exactaudiocopy.de
    Free, the best ripper (makes useable copies even from damaged disks). It copies to .wav files only. You will need LAME to make MP3's (or Ogg Vorbis to make OGG's).

Best Audio Player

  • Foobar2000 www.foobar2000.org
    This media player's value is that it supports the excellent ASIO4ALL sound system
  • ASIO4ALL sound system www.asio4all.com
    The ASIO Sound System goes around the Windows Kernel Audio Mixer (which apparently does mess with the sound data, by resampling it without your permission or knowledge) and drives the sound hardware directly as it was intended, which results in amazingly improved sound on my system.

LP to .wav recorder

  • LP Recorder: www.cfbsoftware.com
    Simple and yet has all the needed features. Inexpensive, reduced functionality after trial period. The same site also has a .wav splitter which I have not tried.

De-noisers

Used to clean up old LPs or tape recordings from hiss, scratches, rumble and other noises.

Typically, denoisers are the kind of software that makes you want a faster CPU. The fan will run a lot on a laptop.

I have not found a good, free (or open source) de-noiser, even though Audacity has some noise removal capability. There are several good shareware programs though.

  • GoldWave: www.goldwave.com
    Great shareware, moderately priced, you must try it.
  • Groove Mechanic: www.coyotes.bc.ca
    Simple, effective, not very expensive (reduced functionality but useable after trial period)
  • Diamond Cut Audio (DC-Art32): www.enhancedaudio.com
    Full featured, lots of tweaks, more expensive (not useable after trial period)

MP3 encoders and format converters

  • Lame: www.mp3-tech.org
    The best mp3 encoder, and it's free. Go to Encoders -> Windows and download LAME 3.92. Works from .wav files only.
  • RazorLame: www.dors.de/razorlame
    A free GUI front end for Lame (don't even think of using Lame without this) I believe the latest version recognizes ExactAudioCopy and Lame so you can directly copy and mp3 encode CD's from RazorLame. When I did that at home the first time, I ended up with a whole bunch of blank mp3's (something to do with the setup).
  • dBPowerAmp: www.dbpoweramp.com
    A collection of tools, including a nice format converter that goes directly from OGG to MP3 for instance or the reverse (not free, but reasonably priced for home use).

             Notes:

  • I recommend using Variable Bit Rate (VBR) rather than Constant Bit Rate as it creates smaller files at no loss of quality, or higher quality for the same file size, compared to constant bit rate.
  • Recently, the owners of the MP3 format decided to add a license fee to all MP3 players, which until now were exempted. Expect the number of available MP3 players to drop in the near future.
  • MP3 encoders also run your CPU hot. Do that on a cool day :-)

OGG encoder/decoder

  • Ogg Vorbis: www.vorbis.com
    Ogg Vorbis is a new open-source encoding format not encumbered by patents and supported by a growing number of music players, such as the popular WinAmp.
    It is still in development, but it is already a high performance format. It sounds great (make up your own opinion by comparing at http://www.xiph.org/ogg/vorbis/listen.html.
    The current encoder for Windows is Oggdrop. There are also versions for Unix/Linux and the Mac.

Best all-in-one ripping/playing program (MP3 only)

  • MusicMatch Jukebox: www.musicmatch.com
    Includes ripping, mp3 conversion to and from .WAV, CD Audio and line/microphone input, CD writing, playlist editor, label printer, CDDB lookup (finds artist name and song titles from the internet automatically when you insert an Audio CD), and more.

    The free version is useable but is limited in ripping speed and won't let you burn a CD. A few other features are also disabled. However, the registration is inexpensive and well worth paying for in speed and features.

Best all-around multimedia player (audio AND video)

  • VideoLan Client: www.videolan.org
    A free (open source) multimedia player/converter. It pays not only audio files in most known formats, but also video files and streams. It is also a video stream server (to send videos over your lan)

    It has replaced a number of distinct players on my computer. I use it to play all audio files and most video files (.avi, DVDs and such.) It works very well except for some problems playing wmv files.

    The best of all, it loads and starts playing VERY fast.

Audio Editing

  • Audacity: audacity.sourceforge.net
    Audacity is a free audio editor. You can record sounds, play sounds, import, export and convert WAV, AIFF, MP3 and OGG files, and more.
    Use it to edit your sounds using Cut, Copy and Paste (with unlimited Undo), mix tracks together, or apply effects to your recordings. It also has a built-in amplitude envelope editor, a customizable spectrogram mode and a frequency analysis window for audio analysis applications. Built-in effects include Bass Boost, Wahwah, and Noise Removal, and it also supports VST plug-in effects.
  • MP3Tools: www.ko4bb.com/MP3Tools, My own personal take on a program to split or merge (join) MP3 files, and edit ID3 Tags.
  • MP3 Wave Editor: www.mpgedit.org
    A great, shareware MP3 cutter/splitter/joiner/format converter/ID3 tag editor. A lot of useful information about MP3 file format also on the web site.
  • Gold Wave: www.goldwave.com, a full featured audio editing suite, with free eval version.
  • MusiCutter: http://musicutter.host.sk. musiCutter is mp3 and ogg vorbis joiner/cutter (without need to decode and reencode).
  • MP3 Splitter: www.mp3-splitter.com/faq.htm. As the name implies, this is a MP3 file cutting utility.
  • Audio Editting: www.digidesign.com/ptfree. A free audio editing suite.
  • Sound Forge: mediasoftware.sonypictures.com. A very professional suite, now owned by Sony. Limited time free evaluation available.

Digital Audio technical articles

General information on transfering LPs to MP3s or OGGs

More info than you probably ever wanted on sound cards

  • www.pcavtech.com, unfortunately, the page is a little dated now. Check the date it was updated with your browser (with Mozilla, click View->Page Info.)

The proposed Intel/Microsoft TCPA/Palladium technology

Interesting paper on Digital Rights Management