pc vs mac, eac vs itunes

Multi part question: (1) Thinking of going to a musicserver rather than a wall full of cds. I have not been a mac user and would lean toward a pc based system. However, I have not completely closed off the mac option. Main concern is not degrading or changing the data. I have heard that EAC is the best option to insure this and I am wondering if the mac options will ensure the same integrity. I am not concerned with cost of external drives, my plan is to store on a number of external drives and make backups to a spare set of external drives. Looking for feedback on comparison of EAC with a mac option (or is it possible to use EAC with a mac?). (2) Goal is to be able to access everything from sitting on the couch. Any suggestions - both pc and mac based - would be appreciated.

I used EAC and created a cue and sfv. Actually if I did it again I would probably create maybe 1 0r 2% par files instead of the sfv. Ripped with EAC and the offsets properly set up you have an exact bit for bit copy. So much so that I can then use the cue sheet and burn the files to a CDR. If I then check that CDR with accurip it will show up as an exact match of the original. The other thing I would say is to create a backup. I had to rerip a large number of discs because of a hard drive crash on a brand new drive.
The Mac vs PC thing is a classic debate and, as with most topics in audio, there isn't a single answer. I rip CD's using either my Mac or PC and then transfer the data to a Linux-based music server. So in a way I use both or neither, depending on how you look at it.

What else do you plan on doing with the computer besides having it as a music server? That will help to answer your question, because there are things that Mac's are very good at (video editing, for example), and there are things for which there is only software available on the PC. (Although you can actually run Windows within a virtual machine on a Mac using software such as Parallels.) It all depends on your personal preferences, willingness to learn at new system, compatibility with things at work and home, etc.

There is a Mac's FREE application called MAX: http://www.macupdate.com/info.php/id/19873 that does what EAC is doing (only better). It can create exact copy (CDparanoia algorithm with "no skip" option) but also converts any format to any format and can obtain metadata (if missing) decoded by Itunes and download covers to finally output to I tunes in any format selected (I use Apple Losless).
Sufentanil: I plan on dedicating the hardware to the music system, i.e., no other uses but for music.
I prefer dbpoweramp over EAC. AFAIK, they're the only two to use accuraterip. I find EACs interface easier. Make sure you use the correct offset for your drive.
Hmm... If you're planning on having it as a dedicated system, you could either go with a Mac Mini ($600) or an iMac (which I feel is the best bang-for-the-buck in the Mac lineup, and extremely versatile), or you could get a relatively low-powered PC. Either way, I recommend two external hard drives of at least 1TB: One for music file storage, the other to serve as a backup. Depending on how much music you have, you may need two external RAID boxes for ganging multiple drives together; you can choose RAID level 0 or 5 depending on whether or not you want redundancy. None of the Mac's currently have eSATA interfaces, which would theoretically yield a higher data transfer rate to the drives, but Firewire 800 or USB 2.0 should be more than sufficient for most uses.

Music servers don't generally require a lot of CPU power, so you can get a relatively inexpensive computer from a CPU, RAM, and graphics standpoint and put the money in your drives and backup system. The other way of looking at this is that you don't have to dedicate an entire machine to this purpose, and can use it as a general-purpose computer with the music server function in the background. Whichever system you go (Mac or PC), it will likely work just fine for you.

Seditious3, How does one determine what the correct offset is, and why does it matter?
You can determine the offset via a database of cd/dvd drives (via accuraterip website), or by using a known cd in accordance with EAC/dbpoweramp instructions.

As to why,


Most people who rip for archival purposes use the proper offset, which is one of the main advantages of EAC/dbpoweramp.
How much memory required per CD (or per 1000 CDs if that is easier) to store in WAV or AIFF? How much to store in a lossless compressed format?
FLAC (lossless compressed) is about half the size of wav (lossless uncompressed).
And 1 cd = about 500 megabytes uncompressed (wav), so 1000 is about 250 gig in wav, 125 gig in flac. Of course, it depends on the length of the individual cd.

I archive in flac. Or you could use windows media lossless or apple lossless, about the same size as flac.
Sufentanil - I'm not sure why you need RAID. Single disk is fine and Firewire 400 works great. You need to keep backup disk outside of your residence in case of burglary, fire etc - I keep it at work.

My statement was that you might need RAID if you have a lot of media files (ie, multi-terabytes). With some of the computer-based movies, this is somewhat of a reality. For music-only, it's less likely that you would exceed the 1-2TB / drive capacities seen now.

Either way, I agree with the offsite backup (I keep mine in the safe deposit box). And while Firewire 400 will work fine, you'll appreciate the faster interface when it comes to making the backup (which can take hours to days depending on several factors).

Sufentanil - Safe deposit box is a great idea since i won't touch this drive after I'm done ripping. You are right that backup takes long (forgot about that) - I have only firewire 400 and have to do it overnight.
Sufentanil: You raise an important issue as to going with a RAID. As between RAID and concantenating individual drives (JBOD) RAID is probably a better idea. My understanding is that RAID or JBOD has the primary advantage of allowing the system to see one large partition rather than a number of different partitions. Say that one had, for eg. three external 1 terabyte drives (with the artists separated alphabetically i.e. A-H drive J, I-P drive K and Q-Z drive L) and was willing to simply look at the respective drive to grab the music, would the only advantage of having the single large partition be that you didn't have switch between drives, or am I missing something more fundamental here - such as software limitations in accessing the music held on separate partitions.
Musicnoise - As I understand RAID drives work either in stripping or mirroring mode. Stripping increases speed (not needed here) but makes security even worse (one drive fails - you loose both) while mirroring provides automatic backup (writes to both disks at the same time) but is also not very secure since protects only from drive failure and not from virus or OS going crazy. The best in my opinion is separate disk kept unpowered in remote location. There is no need for more than one disk since 1.5TB mentioned previously would hold about 6000 CDs in Apple Lossless. There is no need for separating disks alphabetically unless you have more than 6000 CDs (not likely).
EAC is a pain in the butt and offers no advantage whatsoever over DBpoweramp which uses the identical error correction program which is what makes EAC so good. DBpoweramp is very easy to use and you can rip to whatever format you like. I used FLAC as it was identical in every way to WAV (dont listen to those guys who say WAV is better, I spent hours upon hours of comparing WAV versus FLAC rips and they are IDENTICAL, absolutely, period, end of story!). WAV is pita and it does not hold tags and takes more space, there is no reason to use WAV for anything.

I would not rip using iTunes as it does not do error correction. If you want to use a MAC use DBPOWERAMP and rip to AIFF.....If you want to use a PC rip to FLAC.
Acurus - If I remember correctly EAC reads offending sector up to 16 times and picks better 8. MAX (free application) uses CDParanoia error correction algorithm (reading CD as data CD) with option to specify number of attempts or set it to "no skip".

You are right about Itunes - it either doesn't correct at all or does it poorly. I found disks that are completely rejected by MAX in "no skip" mode (I need to lower iteration or polish them to pass) while I tunes rips them skipping over problem area. During playback I hear gaps.

RAID and JBOD (Just a Bunch Of Drives) is somewhat different. First, RAID (except RAID 0, which just mirrors drives) puts different pieces of the data on different drives. JBOD usually functions as multiple drives melded into one. So with RAID data could likely be spread across multiple drives, less typical with JBOD. When reading, this means that each drive can access different parts of that data and the controller pieces it all together, and could theoretically be faster. (There is a penalty, however, when writing.)

Your assertion that reliability is affected by RAID because "one drive fails, you lose both" is incorrect. First, if you only have 2 drives, you use RAID 1, which basically means that each drive is a mirror image of the other, so losing one means you still have an identical functioning copy. With 3+ drives you can use RAID 5, which spreads that data across all drives and also scatters redundant data such that effectively the total of one drive is used to store the redundant information. Now if you lose one drive it is completely reconstructable using the redundant information scattered across the remaining drives.

RAID's purpose (except for RAID level 0, which offers no redundancy) is to preserve data in the event of a drive failure. I repeatedly warn people, though, that it does not protect against other common causes of lost data, such as accidental deletion of files, user screwups, viruses, etc. That's what backups are for!


Raid level 0 (stripping mode) can and is often used with two drives to increase performance. My Dell computer at work is set at this mode and I used to have home built computer that had two drives in stripping mode. Striping increases speed both for Read and Write http://www.prepressure.com/library/technology/raid

Your assertion that Raid 0 is not used with 2 drives is incorrect. Here is standard Dell Aurora Desktop configured as default 2x500MB=1TB Raid 0 http://www.dell.com/us/en/home/desktops/alienware-aurora-alx/pd.aspx?refid=alienware-aurora-alx&s=dhs&cs=19&~oid=us~en~29~alienware-aurora-alx-anav-1~~

Another advantage of stripping is space. Putting drives in Mirroring wastes one disk. It becomes backup that can be damaged at any moment by OS or virus. In addition I don't see any need to backup data constantly. If there is any need to backup data constantly on MAC it is better to setup second drive as time machine for the other drive. I don't care much for Raid since I had many programs (like "Go TO") that refused to be installed on Raid drives.
Sufentanil: As my music collection is too large for one 1TB drive I am considering using two such drives and saving copies of those two drives to two external 1TB drives as backup. Is there any reason that this is not feasible? Will playback software be able to automatically search across both drives to search for an item with or without having to tell the software which drive to look at? In other words, what do I gain or lose by having two drives - two partitions as opposed to one large partition?
I use a NAS 1TB LaCie 2Big in Raid 1 (mirror). I set it up wireless. It has been working fine so far with MAC Itunes and an airport. My only issue is our microwave which interferes with wireless comms.

I usee Apple lossless and I can get about 3000 CD's with 1TB of space.

I think we're basically making the same argument: RAID (0, 1, 5) is OK, but backups are imperative.

Musicnoise, how large exactly is your music collection and how fast do you anticipate it growing? If it's slightly over 1TB, then the least expensive option would be to get 2 1.5 or 2TB external hard drives, one for production use and the other for periodic backups. If it's in excess of 2TB or threatening to go there, then you should probably look at external enclosure that gang together at least two drives and run them in RAID 0 (no redundancy but maximal use of storage space). You will need two of these gangs of drives, because that's how you'll make your backups.

As an example of something you might consider, Try this from OWC.

Can you use two completely separate external HDD's to store your data on? Yes. Most software (including iTunes) should handle this just fine. And you can even create some trickery using symbolic links if you're on a macintosh to make those external drives appear as though they're available elsewhere on the filesystem. (Go to the command prompt and type 'ln -s source_directory target_directory' but this is an advanced exercise that I don't think you'll need to do.) But there are enough relatively inexpensive external enclosures that accommodate 2 drives and automatically provide RAID 0 that I'm not convinced there's a real benefit to having two separate external drives (and then another two for the backups) when you can simply have them in the same box.

It should be kept in mind that for any RAID mode other than 1 (I believe), if the RAID controller hardware fails, and if the same or a similar controller is no longer available, the data on the drives may be irretrievable even if it is perfectly intact.

It should also be kept in mind that besides RAID 1 not protecting against os malfunction, accidental file deletion, virus infection, etc., it also doesn't protect against both drives being simultaneously corrupted by a failure of the RAID controller hardware. That is certainly unlikely, but it can and has happened, as reported in various places on the net.

-- Al
Al: You hit the nail on the head as to one of my concerns. The more common and generic an item the better the chance of being able to replace it when it fails. If I can avoid the more specialized system parts and still accomplish the same end result without giving up too much along the way, that would be my route.