need crash course in using digital music.


just getting back into hi-fi and need some help understanding all the new "stuff" that's out there regarding digital music. i have owned an ipod for years but that's really about it. have been a CD guy most of my life and still enjoy them, but would like to venture out a bit.

my basic (and i mean basic) understanding is this:

there is a way to download very high quality recordings and burn them onto a disc. said disc then sounds fantastic?

i need an idiots guide to do the above. from the very basics on up. are there any web source's that can help me or even a book?. would like to do this asap because the timing of my transport/dac purchase just got pushed up. i'd like to be able to use it when it arrives (other then regular cd's that is). was thinking i had a couple months before getting something but now it looks like next week.

have got a PS audio PWT/PWD inbound. from what i understand....it's work fine with most of the "new digital music". various formats and recording resolutions. i'll get the equipment sorted out via the owners manual. need some help with the source music though.

don't need the super technical side of things but do wish to have a good understanding of the various formats, types, methods, materials ect....

it's all new to me. things like 24/48, 96, 192, FLAC, native, ect......currently have little/no meaning. my experience ends with clicking the tab at i-tunes. i've got alot to learn

if anyone could point me in a right direction, it would be greatly appreciated.

thank you
levy03

Try this: Computer Audiophile Academy
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You made the right call with the PW duo - by far the best 'simple' and most versitile implementation available in my opinion.

Your only real concern; be sure you are downloading music ONLY in full resolution lossless files (wav, flac, ALAC). HD Tracks and a handful of other sites are offering hi rez downloads in addition to redbook (16/44.1) formats. If you are a classical fan there are several good pieces out there. No iTunes or Amazon downloads - they only offer lossy formats and a lot of them have digital rights management encoding that won't work with the PWs.

I'm not positive, but I think the PWT will do all the lossless formats out there. If not, a simple format converter like Easy CD (poikosoft.com) can get them to wav format. At that point, just burn them to disk as files (not a music disk) and you are good to go - the PWT and PWD will take care of the rest. For high res, you will need to burn them to DVD disks. Consult the PW manuals for the proper disk format types to be sure you burn what works. If you want to do an all digital library at some point, the PWD will have a Bridge option available in December.

I'm picking up my PWD tomorrow and can't wait to play with it. I've heard the PW series a few times over the last few months and I really think they did it right.
thanks for the tips guys. been "studying" digital music all day and have picked up alot. unfortunately i'm staring from zero and still have a long ways to go.

Shazam-look forward to hearing your impressions. i'm pretty pumped up myself. should have mine next week.

do have a few more questions if you (or anyone else) doesn't mind helping.

didn't see any WAV files at HD Tracks, but did come across the FLAC ones you mention. aiff is a no-no from what i understand so it looks like FLAC is going to be my main option downloading. should i be converting the FLAC too WAV?? (i read WAV was not compressed at all like aiff??)

regarding the downloading and burning:

so don't use i-tunes at all?.... even in that FLAC or WAV mode for importing high res music?. i-tunes is really all i know. feel kinda comfy/safe in my i-tunes world and do like the whole "playlist thing". will step out if i have to. any suggestions on downloading/burning software that is easy to figure out?(if i-tunes shouldn't be used for importing/burning)

got the DVD disc part but didn't know not to do a music cd. just burn data/files/folders is what i'm getting out of this?. they will play in the order burned i'm assuming so "playlist" can still be done.

also...any idea of how much music can be burned onto a dvd in WAV or FLAC?

thanks again
Hey Levy,

What's up? I'm glad to see that you're getting your priorities in order!

Did you ever move your speakers yet?

I'll try to answer some of these.

Levy03: ""didn't see any WAV files at HD Tracks, but did come across the FLAC ones you mention. aiff is a no-no from what i understand so it looks like FLAC is going to be my main option downloading. should i be converting the FLAC too WAV?? (i read WAV was not compressed at all like aiff??)""

The FLAC is the way to go on HD tracks, you shouldn't have to convert it to WAV.

There is a negligible difference between compressed and not compressed files, Compressed is like a zip file, it's compressed however no data is lost, just like unzipping a zip file of photos.

AIFF is Not compressed either, as you are asking above.

ALAC Apple Lossless and compressed
AIFF is Lossless and not compressed
FLAC is Lossless and Compressed
WAV is Lossless and not compressed, but it can also be compressed.
AAC is lossy which means data is lost, it's not an exact copy. It's also compressed, so this is the one to avoid, as well as MP3's.

Goggle the above codecs, and select the wikipedia links.

Keep in mind non-compressed files take up much more space, but hard drive space is cheap now, compared to audio cables, right?

Levy03: ""regarding the downloading and burning:

so don't use i-tunes at all?.... even in that FLAC or WAV mode for importing high res music?. i-tunes is really all i know. feel kinda comfy/safe in my i-tunes world and do like the whole "playlist thing". will step out if i have to. any suggestions on downloading/burning software that is easy to figure out?(if i-tunes shouldn't be used for importing/burning)

got the DVD disc part but didn't know not to do a music cd. just burn data/files/folders is what i'm getting out of this?. they will play in the order burned i'm assuming so "playlist" can still be done.

also...any idea of how much music can be burned onto a dvd in WAV or FLAC?""

You can use iTunes, I love iTunes it works great for me, and I use Apple Losseless or ALAC, with phenomenal results.

I have a MAC, so I use the Songbird Media Player, for High Resolution FLAC Files on my MAC, everything else goes through iTunes.

FLAC doesn't work in iTunes, but there are other media players to choose from.

One High Resolution Album in 24bit/96khz is approx. 1GB-1.25 GB using FLAC Lossy-Compressed). So, approx. 3-4 Albums would fit on a 4GB single layer DVD.

Are you a MAC or a PC (windows)?

You should also read as much as people right here at Audiogon; under LEARN, Audiophile Forums, PC Audio Forum.

You'll eventually get a music streamer, to stream all of your music directly from your computer to your Audio System, so don't go too crazy burning too many DVD's just yet. PS Audio is supposed to come out with a bridge/streamer eventually.

Also Check out the other link for Computer Audiophile in the above post.

This should keep you busy for a while.

Rich
FLAC stands for FREE LOOLESS AUDIO CODEC.

It has several encoding bit rates which allow for it to appear compressed, yet it is simply allowed to reamin lossless in variagble file sizes.

Whatever the perfect Wave plaer setup will read, is your way to go.

WAV issues surround imbedded meta data, ie., tags. Track, album artist info, etc. As they will appear fine on one hard drive (media players) data base, transferring them to some other drive or player you will lose the info associated with them and wind up with Track 01, 02, 03, etc. and have to manually fill all that out later on.

WAV is what many media player/CD burning software use to write with, converting into WAV then into CDA. Some don't though.

J River Jukebox has a GUI which looks like an older version of iTunes... so that could help.... it's free, and supports about every format playback wise. FUBAR too supports a bunch of media types. It's interface however isn't very intuitive. Winamp also affords you many playback options given all the plug in's it allows for. Monkey's Audio also is another choice and has a free version.

I feel the media player itself determines which file type it is best suited to play.

EAC is a really good ripper and allows for various formats with it's plug in, but it's not the simplest to setup and use. Setup is the issue there mostly, afterwards, it's not that hard. natively, it will rip to wav or FLAC... and you can save the wAV files too.

Think of WAV files are temporary files. Waiting to be burned, or converted.

I find it a toss up between WAV and FLAC sonically... and it depends on the media player. If all of them are getting ripped to disc in your deal, I'd recommend you stick with the file types which imbed ID Tags permanently. Discs get scratched, lost, etc. hard drives die too so you'll want to have files whose data you won't need to worry about losing, down the road... BTW... I find FLAC having more resolution than apple lossless too... though not tremendously.

Lastly, the notes on uncompressed and compressed are a bit out of wack IMO. The media player, and system in use will be a key more so than the file type. Are they different sounding? Some. Again, not remarkably though. Burned onto disc I'll say there is, but played directly from the hard drive the sound diffs are quite minimal, and most often you can't really tell if you don't know in advance which is being played... AAC, or AL. I can usually tell FLAC & WAV from the previous two however.

Good luck.
I thought I would confuse you a little More!

Correction: "One High Resolution Album in 24bit/96khz is approx. 1GB-1.25 GB using FLAC Lossy-Compressed). So, approx. 3-4 Albums would fit on a 4GB single layer DVD."

In the above statement, it should read, FLAC Lossless Compressed, not lossy.

Rich
Other than file sizes, is there any downside to AIFF? I am ripping many CDs into itunes in AIFF format, currently used with a WindowsXP PC.
Plans are to add a Squeezebox in the short term to get file access on my audio rig in another room. Longer term hope is to use a better server device(e.g. Transporter, new PS Audio, etc), and control via an Ipod Touch app as remote. The PC might eventually be replaced by a Macbook, but the music files are all being stored(2x) as AIFF on a pair of Iomega 1TB external drives. Does this sound like a reasonably good & safe approach? Thanks,
Spencer
i'm getting there now!. outstanding info and support fella's. thank you very much.

heya Rich!. i did get things moved around but had to put the speakers back temporarily. seems my newly acquired acoustic zen santori shotgun speaker cables are 2 feet too short. couldn't make the turn around that damn fireplace lol!. no worries. decided to get a new vertical rack to solve the problem instead of replacing the cables. that's next on my agenda as soon as the PWT/PWD get here. it did sound great for the few hour's i tried it. good call my man!. think you're right about eventually going to a server too. also...really helpful info on this digi music topic buddy. is there anything you don't know Rich! =)

now back to my digital music education. grabbed EAC because a few of you recommended it. also got "Easy CD-DA Extractor" for conversions ect...(good call per Shazam). i think the software/tools are now present. just need to learn how to use them.

turns out the PWT only reads WAV hi-res files from DVD for now(they are adding FLAC soon). looks like if i'm using DVD....i'll need to convert to WAV first.

still have one question though...

can i mix different res files on the same disc? for example...Redbook along with other higher res files?
or better put...do all files on a disc need to be the same resolution?.

thanks again!
Hey Levy,

""do all files on a disc need to be the same resolution?.""

This shouldn't be a problem, as long as the player can handle the types of files that you have burned onto the DVD.

Glad to hear that things are looking up with your set-up!

Regards,
Rich
Hey Sbank,

""Other than file sizes, is there any downside to AIFF? I am ripping many CDs into itunes in AIFF format, currently used with a WindowsXP PC.""

AIFF is a great choice for sound quality and it's supported by Apple, and it's compatible with iTunes, and the Transporter, Squeezebox, and PS Audio Bridge/DAC although it sounds like this codec will be converted on the fly, however it should work well for all of your needs.

If you find a product down the line that it doesn't work for, then the AIFF Codec can always be converted to some other lossless format down the line.

One thing that I would recommend before converting your music to another Codec, would be to make a copy of all the music first and then convert the copies to the new codec, so you'll still have the originals, just in case there was a problem or you were unhappy with the results.

Rich
Earlier I noted Easy CD-DA for file conversion but forgot that it only supports Redbook format. Sorry for the bad post.

If you are converting between wav and flac, the best tool is going to be the actual FLAC front end - get it here: http://flac.sourceforge.net/download.html

As for the PW DAC - I've posted a more extensive review in this thread here: http://forum.audiogon.com/cgi-bin/fr.pl?ddgtl&1245900512&openflup&56&4#56

Good luck!
Also... if you use EAC... it's default conversion for ripping and burning is the WAV format. you can choose to either have it delete the WAV files after they are reformated into FLAC, or what ever other plug in you use, or keep them in the chosen directory.

AS for how many albums done in FLAC can be placed onto a DVD... that will depend upon the bit rate you pick. More than four or five CD's can be placed onto a DVD if you are controling the FLAC bit rate for the orig encoding. If not you can burn and re-rip them into smaller sizes... it's a lossless codec so it shouldn't account for any actual loss of content.

The software and hardware afixed to the disc reading device is always going to be the decider on what it can and can not read/play. Just as there are DVD players SACD, DVDA, MP3, etc. The maker of these gizmos will tell you what they can and can not read/play...

Mixing files on a disc might amount to nothing more than a short pause in playback, or you may have to stop playback altogether to go to another file type.... check with whomever.

There's another distinct advantage of capturing and playing back directly from the HDD rather than burning things back to disc merely for playing back.

Silver discs limit versatility until their contents are transformed into a softer digital domain.

I'd reccomend using DVDRW, if the machine supports that media.

Good luck.. and remember... BACK UP ALL FILES ONTO AN INDEPENDANT STORAGE DEVICE.