January 21, 2004

A week or so ago, I read about the new company RipDigital in a Metafilter thread. RipDigital takes your audio CD collection and rips them to MP3s for you en masse. 100, 200, 500 CDs? RipDigital says they get is done in a couple days.

Michele and I would really like to have our music available in this form. Most of our CDs live in a cabinet up front and we rarely dig through it. Converting these one at time is quite unappealing.

I had a few questions about the way they tagged the MP3s and I wrote off an email to RipDigital. I recieved a reply from Dick Adams, the founder, offering to send me a sample disc so I could see for myself. Kick ass.

The CD arrived today with 5 clips encoded at various bitrates. The RipDigital site says they encode at 224Kb/s, but the sample disc had a wide range.

I don't have a 'golden ear' so the 224Kb/s MP3 sounds great to me. AAC is a good format that Apple uses in iTunes, FLAC is a lossless codec, MP3 is the de facto standard for digital music, and WMA is Windows Media Audio. I'm guessing that RipDigital could encode to any of the standards, but I'd ask them rather than make an assumption.

I opened up the MP3s in an ID3 tag editor and took a look. The filename is the way I like it: Band - Album - Track # - Song. Too me, this is one of the most important things. A sucky filename would kill the deal.

The basic ID3 tags are loaded. It appears to be ID3 v2, for those that worry about such things. There were no extraneous entries or any info in the extended fields.

Each MP3 did have a small image of the album cover included. When playing in Windows Media Player or JetAudio, the image appears. Pretty neat actually.

Overall, it all looks great.

There is one issue though that remains of concern. RipDigital says that in each file, they "include a unique identifying mark with each file to encourage responsible use of digital music". It's not an ID3 tag, so it's probably an audio water mark that their encoder includes. I work with audio watermarks at the office and they aren't hard to add. They don't affect the audio in any perceptible way.

I don't plan to upload my library to the net or P2P systems, but it is a bit strange to have an ID stuck in my MP3s. I'm not sure of the exact type of watermarking they do, but it's possible it could move to the WAVs if I make the MP3s into a CD for a mix.

But since I don't plan on sharing my MP3s on the P2P networks, it's not a such a huge deal. I do wish that RipDigital was explicitly clear on what exactly is going on and in what cases they would release the information.

So I'm going to go count our CDs and place an order with RipDigital. I'll report back when it's all done and how it turned out.

Posted by michael at January 21, 2004 09:39 PM