Tips to start building audio files using Max

Discuss Max, an open source CD audio extractor and audio converter.
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cenk
Posts: 13
Joined: Sat Nov 29, 2008 2:05 pm

Tips to start building audio files using Max

Post by cenk » Sun Dec 21, 2008 3:15 pm

Dear Max Users,
Can you please help...

I have just got a Macbook Pro and want to start saving my CD collection using Max... I have 3 objectives:
Objective (1): Save my CD collection in digital platform, in a lossless format, for future use with a new streamer (not decided yet but probably a Linn Majik DS) or anything that may come out as an audiophile streamer. Thus, like to keep my files as future proof as possible and be able to convert if required, to an other format.
Question 1:
a) Is saving it in FLAC a future proof format?
b) I would prefer AIFF format (see below, also want to use with Itunes), but I hear that AIFF is not future proof as it does not keep the related information of the music files, metadata? Is this true, is AIFF not such a wise solution or is there a way to keep also the metadata?

Objective (2): Play them from Itunes
Objective (3): Be able to stream with my PS3 using a DLNA application

Question 2: I was thinking of saving my CD's also as MP3 for the above objectives (2) and (3)... Is this a good decision? PS3 does not play FLAC, neither does Itunes?

Question 3: What is the best directory set-up? I plan to use (file format)/(Album title)/(track number)(track title)...
Should I add (Album artist) as a folder after the (file format)? Are the related information already saved with the FLAC files or does the separate (Album Artist) folder play a role? Everybody is recommending to use (Album Artist) as a separate folder in the beginning but I could not understand the reason.

Question 4: How to best keep the cover art.jpeg files and .cue files? When I encode in 2 formats, FLAC and MP3, the files go into separate folders;
a) the FLAC folder: there is one .jpeg file for the cover art in the FLAC folder with the .flac music files. The cover art can not be seen on the .flac files (it is seen on the .mp3 files in the MP3 folder). Is this OK as the absolute solution for a future proof filing system?
b) the FLAC folder: there are no .cue files in the FLAC folder... Is this OK, are all the required information saved with each .flac file? Or should there be a .cue file for future proof filing? If yes, how do I set Max to do so?
c) the MP3 folder: There are .cue files as many as the track files (one .cue file for each track)... Is this OK? No .cue files with the FLAC folder, many .cue files with MP3 folder.
d) the MP3 folder: There are also the images of the cover art on each .mp3 file as well as one .jpeg file for the same image of the cover art. Is this OK?

Question 5: How best to use Preferences... Is there a guide / manual for it?
a) For FLAC; what is the best compression level? is default 5 OK?
b) For FLAC; is 8192 bytes reserve (comes as default) enough / too much for metadata?

Many Thanks,
Cenk

Mike1
Posts: 201
Joined: Thu Sep 21, 2006 3:55 pm

Re: Tips to start building audio files using Max

Post by Mike1 » Sun Dec 21, 2008 6:14 pm

cenk wrote: a) Is ... FLAC a future proof format?
Yes. It's about as future-proof as you can get since it is quite widely used and also well-supported in software (and even hardware) and besides has an open, published specification, so that if all current implementations disappeared a new one could be immediately re-written from the spec. without anyone needing to reverse-engineer anything.

Check-out the information here:

http://flac.sourceforge.net/features.html
b) I would prefer AIFF format (see below, also want to use with Itunes), but I hear that AIFF is not future proof as it does not keep the related information of the music files, metadata? Is this true, is AIFF not such a wise solution or is there a way to keep also the metadata?
If there were, I wouldn't choose that format myself, since it's uncompressed. That means the files are huge. The compression used by FLAC is lossless - meaning no information is lost in the compression (like with zipping, say, a Word document) - so everything is there, but the file is of a more manageable size. Uncompressed formats, such as WAV and AIFF, are only of much practical interest to those who want to actually edit the raw sound data in the file.

As for using AIFF so as to able to play the files in iTunes - no need. Instead you could use Apple Lossless which, like FLAC and as the name implies, uses lossless compression to reduce filesizes. Alternatively, you could use a roundabout method to get FLACs to work in iTunes:

http://earpick.wordpress.com/2007/06/11 ... es-on-mac/

Or you could use Play to play the FLACs. Play is a media player from Stephen Booth, the same guy who coded Max.

http://sbooth.org/Play/

Or another app - Songbird, for example.

But AIFF is just too uneconomical on space to be worth using - besides there's the metadata issue that you mention.
Question 2: I was thinking of saving my CD's also as MP3 for the above objectives (2) and (3)... Is this a good decision? PS3 does not play FLAC, neither does Itunes?
Why not, if you've got the space? You could always keep the lossless files on an external drive, and just have LAME MP3s at the "Transparent" setting available for everyday use.
Question 3: What is the best directory set-up? I plan to use (file format)/(Album title)/(track number)(track title)...
Should I add (Album artist) as a folder after the (file format)? Are the related information already saved with the FLAC files or does the separate (Album Artist) folder play a role? Everybody is recommending to use (Album Artist) as a separate folder in the beginning but I could not understand the reason.
I couldn't answer this. I allow iTunes to manage my directory structure for me. A lot of Windows users (and *nix users, too) seem to spend a lot of time organizing their music. For the most part, I'm happy to have that happen behind the scenes, leaving it to the program, and live in the program's interface myself. Same with iPhoto.

I guess an "Album Artist" tag allows you to keep together a complete album in one place even if the musicians change a bit from track to track. So you might have an album called, say, "Where Wizards Stay Up Late" by Brian T. Hooker with ten tracks. But on Track 1, Brian is assisted by George Harrison; on Track 4, Ted Nugent lends a hand. So you can fill in the "Artist" tag for Track 1 to read "Brian T. Hooker, George Harrison" and that for Track 4 to read "Brian T. Hooker, Ted Nugent". But the "Album Artist" for all ten tracks is "Brian T. Hooker", as it's his album, and the whole album lives in his folder rather than being split up.
Question 4: How to best keep the cover art.jpeg files and .cue files? When I encode in 2 formats, FLAC and MP3, the files go into separate folders;
a) the FLAC folder: there is one .jpeg file for the cover art in the FLAC folder with the .flac music files. The cover art can not be seen on the .flac files (it is seen on the .mp3 files in the MP3 folder). Is this OK as the absolute solution for a future proof filing system?
That'd be down to what formats the Mac - specifically Finder, which is what you're looking at the files in - knows about. Embedded artwork is fine, as Max will be putting that artwork in in the manner approved by the FLAC spec, and the FLAC spec. is open and published (hence future-proof).
b) the FLAC folder: there are no .cue files in the FLAC folder... Is this OK, are all the required information saved with each .flac file? Or should there be a .cue file for future proof filing? If yes, how do I set Max to do so?
Cue files are relevant if you record a whole CD as one large FLAC file with all tracks joined together, rather than a set of small FLAC files, one per track. The cue file is read by any media player capable of doing so when playing these huge single-file FLACs, so that the listener is able to jump around from track to track (because the cue file says where they start and end). Max, by default, encodes one FLAC file per track - there's no need for a cue file, if you do it like that.
c) the MP3 folder: There are .cue files as many as the track files (one .cue file for each track)... Is this OK? No .cue files with the FLAC folder, many .cue files with MP3 folder.
See above - not needed unless you want to have only one file per album.
d) the MP3 folder: There are also the images of the cover art on each .mp3 file as well as one .jpeg file for the same image of the cover art. Is this OK?
Sure. It's just Finder showing the embedded art. You can have either or both. Or, if you're using iTunes to manage and play your MP3s, you can use neither and just let iTunes find the album art at Apple and download it, which ITunes can do.
Question 5: How best to use Preferences... Is there a guide / manual for it?
There will be a wiki, but it's not started yet. In the meantime ask here.
a) For FLAC; what is the best compression level? is default 5 OK?
That's fine. That's the setting most people use.
b) For FLAC; is 8192 bytes reserve (comes as default) enough / too much for metadata?
Sorry, don't know. I'd go with the default myself - the developers probably have most situations covered well by the default they chose.

cenk
Posts: 13
Joined: Sat Nov 29, 2008 2:05 pm

Re: Tips to start building audio files using Max

Post by cenk » Sun Dec 21, 2008 7:35 pm

Dear Mike,

Many thanks... You have made my day, really appreciate it :D
It is really assuring to hear that I am on the right track.

Regards, Cenk

Mike1
Posts: 201
Joined: Thu Sep 21, 2006 3:55 pm

Re: Tips to start building audio files using Max

Post by Mike1 » Sun Dec 21, 2008 8:28 pm

You're welcome.

One other piece of software from Stephen that might be worth mentioning is his FLAC Spotlight importer.

OS X isn't really "aware" of FLAC. Not only do you not get to see the embedded artwork when you look at a folder full of FLAC files in Finder, but the system can't read the metadata in FLAC files so that they get returned in Spotlight searches. I'm not much of a Spotlight user myself, but anyone that's using a large number of FLACs, and is likely to want to search through them using Spotlight would most likely want this.

http://sbooth.org/importers/

lykose
Posts: 15
Joined: Wed Apr 23, 2008 5:00 pm

Re: Tips to start building audio files using Max

Post by lykose » Mon Dec 22, 2008 1:45 pm

well, speaking about lossless... cenk, may i ask why not ALAC?

cenk
Posts: 13
Joined: Sat Nov 29, 2008 2:05 pm

Re: Tips to start building audio files using Max

Post by cenk » Mon Dec 22, 2008 3:13 pm

I do not know why not to consider ALAC... FLAC has been more recommended in most of the web sites and thus, chose FLAC. I will see and review more of ALAC. Thanks.

Mike1
Posts: 201
Joined: Thu Sep 21, 2006 3:55 pm

Re: Tips to start building audio files using Max

Post by Mike1 » Mon Dec 22, 2008 4:40 pm

cenk wrote:FLAC has been more recommended in most of the web sites and thus, chose FLAC..
That's not surprising, since most people don't use Macs and Apple Lossless is only likely to be of interest to people who do.

(I guess it's conceivably of interest to Windows users are absolutely wedded to iTunes for Windows, but I don't know how many people that covers.) If you're a Mac user, FLAC has the distinct disadvantage of not being natively recognized by the media player that ships with OS X (viz. iTunes). Windows users are in a different boat: Windows Media Player doesn't recognize FLAC either, but iTunes is good software and worth using while WMP is not.

Apple Lossless has the disadvantage of not being based on a open specification. That's certainly a disadvantage but perhaps not crucial since the open source people have reverse-engineered it, so even if Apple pulls the format (unlikely) you wouldn't be left high-and-dry, as Apple's implementation is now not the only one.

FLAC is certainly more widely used. FLAC is also absolutely free (in all senses of the word) and open. There is also good support for it on any platform you're likely to use now or in the future - Mac, Windows, Linux, Unix, etc.

Bottom line: if you're serious about "future-proofing" (as you'd indicated earlier) and want to be sure not to be "locked-in" use FLAC.

However, if you really, really like iTunes, so that you wouldn't even consider another media player, it's probably easier to go with the flow and use Apple Lossless rather than using the workaround to get FLAC to play in iTunes that I posted above. If you do move to another platform you can convert the files to FLAC using Max and all you've lost is a few hours' time doing the conversions.

If you're not absolutely wedded to iTunes, till death do us part, there's no particular reason to use Apple Lossless. Use FLAC and play it in Stephen Booth''s Play or use Songbird:

http://getsongbird.com/

... and rest content in knowing you can move your files onto just about any platform out there just as they are and play them with no further fuss.

cenk
Posts: 13
Joined: Sat Nov 29, 2008 2:05 pm

Re: Tips to start building audio files using Max

Post by cenk » Tue Dec 23, 2008 9:12 pm

Mike, Thanks again for the advice. I will take it and continue using FLAC. Are you sure that no cue files are needed for FLAC as long as I am keeping each track a separate file?
Take Care,

Mike1
Posts: 201
Joined: Thu Sep 21, 2006 3:55 pm

Re: Tips to start building audio files using Max

Post by Mike1 » Fri Dec 26, 2008 5:04 pm

cenk wrote:Mike, Thanks again for the advice. I will take it and continue using FLAC.
I wouldn't positively advise any format to anyone, but I think FLAC is a good choice. As far as I can tell the only particular advantage of Apple Lossless is that iTunes will play it natively. Every other plus or minus seems to tell for FLAC. One other that I didn't mention is that every FLAC has an MD5 hash of the audio embedded in it. That means you can run a checking program against your audio archive from time-to-time to make sure no files have got corrupted.
Are you sure that no cue files are needed for FLAC as long as I am keeping each track a separate file?
That's the main use of cue files, as far as I know. But I think a cue file can also be used by some burning programs to "join" tracks that have been ripped separately, if you ever want to burn a CD from the tracks, with the original gap-lengths preserved. (Otherwise, it'd just put in a standard 2 seconds, or whatever, of silence.) Maybe someone else can confirm that. I've never even looked for burning programs with that in mind. AFAIK, all you're doing with that is making sure that all the gaps between tracks are the exact same length as on the original CD. That wouldn't worry me, because I don't see any particular significance in the length of the gaps between tracks, which seem to me to be an artifact of the CD format itself not so much of the material. Nor, I suspect, do the record labels - after all, those that sell downloads as well as CDs always seems to offer them as separate tracks and without a cue file. But the cue files don't, I suppose, take up much room, anyway, so keep 'em if you think you might use them.

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