Best way to store and play audio CD from a PC

  Housebuilder 01:23 22 Aug 04

I have a healthy collection of CDs but as they now take up an entire wall I want to store them electronically and be able to create playlists. Any ideas on the best way to do this? Best PC for this? Best supplier? I'd connect it to a pretty good NAD amp and my audio speakers are B&W 603s so they'd make up for some possible shortfall in quality because of playing from a PC rather than a dedicated CD player but it seems there are thousands of options and I'm lost already. I'm completely new to electronic music storage so please answer in simple terms!!

  GANDALF <|:-)> 09:51 22 Aug 04

You do not need a powerful computer (£599 job from PCW will be more than enough) but an external HD is a good idea as it keeps the songs safe. Copy using Windows Media Player (>2 mins per CD)and store the songs on the HD. WMP will then get the track titles and album cover so you do not have to mess about will need an internet connection but the service is free. I have over 200 CDs on my external HD and there are only 3 compilations that WMP has failed to get the track names . You can use Windows Media Player to sort out your songlists as well, it is triple easy and the player is free.

You will hear the anoraks stating that you can tell the difference but I use Celef studio monitors connected to Naim pre and power and I cannot tell the difference between CDs and the ones from the there!


  Stuartli 09:52 22 Aug 04

You can record them to the HDD using Windows Media Player9 and create playlists, but it will take up a lot of capacity unless you compress the files.

If you have WMP9, go to Tools>Options>Copy Music tab. The files would be saved in My Documents>My Music by default unless you select another path and destination.

Quality can be adjusted with the slider.

  Stuartli 09:57 22 Aug 04

As GANDALF <|:-)> rightly points out, getting the playlists is simple via the Internet route.

I just play my audio CDs but once you have stored the playlist, it will come up automatically when you play a disk.

There are also the excellent visualisations if you like that type of thing - my favourite is Musical Colours - Colours in Motion.

  Stuartli 09:59 22 Aug 04

I still use my superb 25-year-old NAD 7030 tuner-amp regularly - it's a genuine Japanese built model rather than the later Taiwanese examples.

  Curio 15:33 22 Aug 04

Music Match (available on CD Sept issue PCA) is another alternative. Does the same sort of thing as Windows Media Player and is simple to use.

  davidpage 17:13 22 Aug 04

Try Apple iTunes, it stores audio in MPEG 4.0, or MP3 and is nicely customizable through its COM interfaces

  Mister Splendid©®™! 20:27 22 Aug 04

click here for Cyberlink Power Encoder mp3 plug-in for Windows Media Player9. I use this to put cds on my pc at bit-rates upto 320Kbps.

  Mister Splendid©®™! 20:32 22 Aug 04

I do have one concern aboutm what you want to do. I think that far from compensating for any shortfall in quality delivered by your pc, your good quality amp and speakers will just expose the shortfall and make you want to go back to a cd player.

  OU812 21:43 22 Aug 04

I too would recommend WMP9 for its ease of use and because of its ability to encode your CD in lossless format (ie mathematically identical to the source CD but at about two 3rds of the size).

There are other music encoders out there such as Monkeys Audio - so called because its files use the suffix .ape - gedit!, FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Compression)that will do this, but I have found them more diffcult to use and prefer WMP9.

Yes you'll need plenty of disk space to record losslessly (though WMP offers less disk space hungry options)but hard disks are cheap these days. It might also be worth thinking about outputting your content via a dedicated sound card (such as the Audigy 2 I use)which can make a real difference if audio fidelity is important to you.

Only other issue is if your PC is in another room from your hi fi (as mine is) is how you will control and play your collection at a distance from your PC. There are variety of wired and wireless methods by which this can be achieved.

Finally its a little laborious ripping lots of CD's to the HD but you'll be glad you did once done.

However prior to doing so give some thought to the level of quality you want to encode at and backing up you music once done to save you having to do it all again if your HD goes US, such as to a DVD (a 4.5 gb can hold 8-10 albums in lossless format or a great deal more than that if lower quality encoding is used), or a second Hard Drive etc).

  Nick2002 09:50 23 Aug 04

For a grabber,you should use Exact Audio Copy, and for the encoder, LAME 3.91 and upwards (I prefer 3.92) if you wish to encode in MP3 (--alt-preset standard VBR), or the OGG encoder produces even higher quality files.

In my experience, a dedicated grabber produces much better results than all-in-one jukeboxes such as WMP, MusicMatch or Winamp. By all means use the above programs to play the files, just not to rip.

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