Audio Docs

MP3 CD Burning Checklist

1. CD Recorder/Writer Drive

Most new computers come with a CD Recorder (also called CD Burner or CD Writer) inside the box. If you don't have the CD Recorder hardware installed, you can have a new drive installed into your computer.

2. Audio/Music CD Recording Software

Your CD recorder will come with some multi-purpose recording software which may be able to create audio CDs. However, usually this software is too technical and difficult to learn and use. If you want to try a simple, yet powerful software product to use, we recommend Acoustica MP3 CD Burner.

3. MP3 Music

There are two different ways to get your music. The first method allows you to copy your MP3s from your audio CD music library. This involves getting a program called a "CD Ripper" which extracts the music from the CD and puts it onto your computer. You can try using AudioConvert or AltoMP3 Maker to rip your CDs into MP3s or WAV files. The second method is to download MP3s from file sharing programs such as Bearshare, Limewire, or Imesh.

4. Blank CD-R Discs

You need to make sure that you purchase blank CD-Rs. (Blank CD-RWs will not be compatible with most stereo systems.) Also, make sure to purchase "name" brand CD-R discs as not all discs are made equally. Usually "no name" discs are not of the same quality as "name" brands.

5. Label your freshly burnt CD

Use a felt tip pen (such as a Sharpie) to write on the CD. Using a normal pen can ruin the CD and cause it to be unplayable. If you prefer pretty colors and patterns, we recommend using Acoustica CD Label Maker.

 


History of MP3
by Gabriel Nijmeh



In just over a couple of years, the MP3 audio file format has caused a big stir and captured the minds and hard drives of millions of people worldwide.

MP3 is a compression format that compresses audio files with only a small sacrifice in sound quality. MP3 files can be compressed at different rates, but the higher the compression is, the lower the sound quality will be. A typical MP3 compression ratio of 10:1 is equal to about 1 MB for each minute of an MP3 song.

It all began in the mid-1980s, at the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany, where work began on developing a high quality, low bit-rate audio format. In 1989, Fraunhofer was granted a patent for the MP3 compression format in Germany and a few years later it was submitted to the International Standards Organization (ISO), and integrated into the MPEG-1 specification. Frauenhofer also developed the first MP3 player in the early 1990s, which was the first attempt at developing an MP3 player. In 1997, a developer created the AMP MP3 Playback Engine, which is regarded as the first mainstream MP3 player to hit the Internet. Shortly after, a couple of creative university students took the Amp engine, added a user-friendly Windows interface and called it Winamp. The turning point was in 1998, when Winamp was offered to the public as a free music player, and thus began the MP3 craze.

As the MP3 craze mushroomed, it didn't take long before other developers to start creating a whole range of MP3 software. New MP3 encoders, CD rippers, and MP3 players were being released almost every week, and the MP3 movement continued to gain momentum.

By early 1999, the first peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing software application was released, the one which shook the world overnight. Napster, the name engraved in Internet history was developed by nineteen year old university student, Shawn Fanning and his idea for Napster was to allow anyone with an Internet connection to search and download their favourite songs. By connecting people, Napster created an on-line community of music fans.

However, then the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) came. As a representative of the major record companies and owners of the sound recordings, it has successfully battled Napster for copyright law infringement and an injunction was issued that effectively shut down Napster. The RIAA argument is that all the free downloading is in breach of copyright laws and therefore promotes audio piracy. As a result, file sharing impacts their ability to sell CDs and make a profit. Despite the legal problems that Napster continues to face and the fact that they are currently not operational, MP3 file swapping has continued on, and for a number of reasons.

Why the massive MP3 movement?

The main reason that MP3s have became the de-facto audio standard is that the original patent holders made it freely available for anyone to develop MP3 software. This open source model allowed early MP3 pioneers to develop MP3 software that accelerated the acceptance of the MP3 audio format.

The fact that MP3 is just one of several types' digital audio formats does not mean that it is the most efficient or of highest sound quality. Better compression technologies have existed for some time now, but the success of MP3 is due to the relatively open nature of the format. Companies such as Microsoft and Yamaha have developed proprietary formats, but have placed restrictions on how developers can utilize their technology. For example, Microsoft's Windows Media Audio (WMA) audio file format, which they claim to be a higher quality audio format at smaller file sizes, is starting to gain more acceptance as it is bundled as the standard audio format in Windows 98/2000/XP. Microsoft might be able to challenge the dominance of MP3s or at the very least offer a second, popular audio format choice.

All the downloading and swapping of MP3s has attracted the wrath of the RIAA because there are no digital copyright protection associated with MP3s, so millions of songs are freely shared everyday by millions of users. The files are small enough to be downloaded easily, or even sent to a friend as an email attachment.

Another thing that makes MP3s very exciting and compelling is that it is easy for people to become DJs by remixing their favorite songs. A lot of people have created their own compilation CDs of all their favorite songs, mixed them to their personal liking and burned them onto CDs using their CD burner.

Webcasting or Internet radio has also become very popular allowing listeners to "stream" audio on their computers. Unlike downloaded MP3s, streamed MP3 files aren't stored on your hard drive, but are broadcast like traditional radio through your MP3 player. RealNetworks was one of the first to offer streamed audio software, which uses a proprietary format known as RealAudio. If you do a search for "Internet radio" or "webcasting", you will find hundreds of Internet radio stations offering every imaginable type of programming.

Legal Matters Concerning MP3s

Of course, as exciting as MP3s are, there are some legal matters that are being battled. MP3 itself is not an illegal audio format, but when people offer MP3 versions of copyrighted materials, that is considered copyright infringement.

The Home Recording Act allows you to make copies of your music CDs for personal use but by law, you are not allowed to distribute or share these files with friends or family if they do not own a copy of the CD.

The debate rages on as to whether or not MP3 and P2P file sharing programs are good for the music industry. MP3 proponents believe that MP3s help promote music and musicians by getting the music heard far and wide. On the other hand, MP3 critics argue that free music will kill the music industry and the artists who depend on it. Essentially, it is a battle for control of music distribution. Artists can now bypass record labels and distribute their music very easily and effectively.

In my opinion, a balanced and compromised solution should benefit artists and music labels. There is no doubt that artists and musicians should be compensated for their efforts. Yet, a lot of new and upcoming bands distribute free MP3s as a way to get their music heard. As the buzz and excitement builds around the band, people are more inclined to support the bands by buying their CDs and other merchandise. Ultimately, bands and music labels probably don't want to bite the hand that feeds them.

Where do people find MP3s

By now you are probably asking, "Where can I find MP3s?"

This is where Napster started it all and since then so many other P2P file sharing networks such as Gnutella, Bearshare, Limewire, iMesh have followed. These are free software downloads which enable users to search for songs by searching the hard drives of thousands of users who are online. File sharing programs come and go. Some reach critical mass while others eventually fizzle out due to lack of developer support or user interest. Up to now, there has been difficulty in stopping file sharing because of the decentralized nature of these P2P networks. Zeropaid.com is an excellent P2P portal that is up-to-date on all the happenings in this area. Sites like MP3.com allows you to download MP3s from artists who have agreed to share their music for free. MP3.com was the first site to offer this service on a large scale, but many other sites have come on the scene, offering more various style of music and services.

MP3 Tools - Software required

You now want to listen to your MP3s that are quickly filling up your hard drive, and that's where an MP3 player comes in. Since no licensing fees are required to develop MP3 players, many are available as free downloads. Popular players include Winamp and Sonique. An MP3 player works by converting your MP3 audio file back to a standard audio format and sends them to your computer's sound card, which outputs them to headphones or speakers. If you want to play your MP3s on your car or home stereo, you will have to burn your MP3s onto CDs using your CD-R drive. What happens during the burning process is that your MP3 files are first converted into a wave (.wav) file and then burned on CD. In the past, you would have to manually convert (decode) each MP3 into wave before burning. But, MP3 CD burning software has integrated all of this into one process making it so much easier for users. Almost all CD burning software does this and a good example is Acoustica MP3 CD Burner, which is a very easy-to-use and reliable program.

MP3 Software Tools

You will also come across a few other MP3 audio tools that you may or may not need depending on what you are planning on doing. Let's take a look at CD rippers, MP3 encoders and decoders a bit more closely.

CD Rippers

One of the easiest ways to create MP3s is from your own CD collection. To do this, you'll need to use CD ripping software. A CD ripper extracts the data from a CD and converts it to a wave file, which is uncompressed and interchangeable audio data. Once audio data is in this format, it's a snap to create an MP3 file. When a ripper extracts CD tracks into wave files, you are looking at 40 to 50 MB per song. Now, with most new systems coming with 20 or 30 GB hard drives, space is not as big of an issue as it was in older systems. The speed of your CD-ROM drive determines the ripping speed of your CDs. Most CD-ROMs will do a fine job, and rip at speeds of 8 to 12X. At that speed, you can convert an entire CD to wave files in about 10 minutes.

MP3 Encoders

After extracting your audio CDs into wave file, you would use an MP3 encoder to convert (encode) your audio files into an MP3. This is where an MP3 encoder does the job. These applications take the sound data and compress it at a ratio that determines both its sound quality and size. MP3 To Wave Converter PLUS is as easy a tool that you can use to encode and decode your MP3 and WAV files.Some encoders come bundled with MP3 players, CD rippers and CD burners, so if the all-in-one software package interests you, please visit this link. These programs will rip and encode all at once, so you don't have to work with two separate programs to make an MP3 file.

An MP3 encoder takes sound data and strips out some of the frequencies that are in the outer range of what the human ear recognizes. Converting a song to an MP3 is considered a destructive process, so you will lose some sound quality. Depending on the encoding software used, you can determine what the best encoding rate is for you. If you are converting spoken word audio you might not need the same sound quality as some of your favorite songs.

The majority of MP3 encoders offer constant bit-rate (CBR) encoding and/or variable bit rate (VBR) encoding. CBR allows you to choose between several encoding rates and the software will compress the file according to your specifications. For instance, the standard encoding rate is 128 kilobits per second, or 128 Kbps. (Take a look at your MP3 player where it is usually displayed as 128 when a song is being played.) In this case, the bitrate refers to the average number of bits that one second of sound data will require. Higher quality audio files mean larger file sizes. You can encode songs at 192 Kbps, or even 256 Kbps, which is considered the CD quality.

The other encoding option that is available in many MP3 encoders is variable bit rate encoding which is a good way to maximize sound quality and file size at the same time. When a song is encoded using VBR, the program analyzes the file and works within a range such as 128 Kbps and 192 Kbps, to find the optimal encoding rate for each frame of sound. The end result is an MP3 file that is optimized for both size and sound quality. When playing your song in your MP3 player, you will notice the kbps number displayed quickly switching within that range.

MP3 Decoders

Another tool you might add to your MP3 software toolkit is an MP3 decoder. An MP3 decoder works by taking an MP3 audio file and decoding it into another format like wave (.wav). The reason some people choose to decode MP3s is when they want to edit or mix audio files, which has to be in a format like wave in order to do so. MP3 Audio Mixer is a good example of a program that lets you take wave files and edit and mix to your liking.

Heading into the future with MP3s

As we have seen many times over the years, technology trends come and go. However, MP3s have really captured the minds of music aficionados worldwide. With millions upon millions of MP3 audio files out there, and hundreds and maybe even thousands of MP3 related software that has been developed by software developers worldwide, there is no doubt that MP3s are here to stay.
 

How to Avoid Buffer Underrun Problems When Burning Audio CDs.

 

Buffer Underrun Errors - How to waste CDRs

When burning audio-cds, it is absolutely critical that the data-stream from the harddrive to the CD-writer is as continious as possible. The CD-writer has an internal memory-buffer to compensate for small gaps, but if your harddrive or your CPU is interrupted for to long, the CD-writer will run out of data. Because the CD-writer cannot wait, this will cause gaps and noise in the music, or in the worst case, it will ruin the entire disc. Buffer Underrun error is a common problem when burning CDs.

The source of the problem

So, why is the CPU interrupted? Windows is a multi-tasking operation system, meaning it can run many programs simultaneously. The CPU, however, can only do one thing at a time. To solve this problem, Windows divides the CPU-time into small slices and gives each running program a short period of time to execute, before the CPU is handed over to the next program. The more programs you run, the smaller each time-slice gets. If the slices are too small, there may not be enough time for the burning-software to fill the buffer on the CD-writer.

What about the harddrive? Just like the CPU, the harddrive cannot read everything at the same time. If, for example, some antivirus software or a screensaver starts in the middle of your cd-burning-session, the harddrive may get occupied with other things and stop reading CD-data.

The solution

What can you do to prevent "buffer underrun errors"? There are a few things you should always do before burning audio-CDs:

1. Reboot the computer before you begin to make sure the operating system is completely stable (You never know after running a few games).

2. Terminate all programs but the cd-burning-software. Of course you need WinTasks to be able to stop all the invisible background processes. If you are using WinTasks 4 you only have to do this once, since it is now possible to save the currently running processes and their priorities to a preset. To restore the optimal cd-burning process configuration later, you can simply click the preset button.

3. Don't use your CD-writers maximum burnings speed if you have got any gaps or jumps in the music.This way, the CPU will only have to send half as much data to keep the buffer full. Make the whole process less sensitive to errors.

4. Try increasing the priority of the CD-burning software. You may have to try a few different settings before you find the optimal priorities for your system. Use WinTasks to change the priorities, and again, I recommend creating preset in WinTasks for the optimal settings once you have figured them out. You should not modify the priorities of the system processes (red), and use the built-in descriptions to find out what a process does. (WinTasks have built-in decriptions for most system processes, and many other processes as well.)

5. Always cache to harddrive before burning. (This is usually an option in your burning-software)

 

How to Convert LP and Cassettes to CD or MP3

To transfer vinyl LP records to CD and MP3 or audio cassettes to CD and MP3, you will need to take a couple of steps. First of all, you will need to record the LP/tape as one large .wav file (you have to make sure there is enough free hard drive space as it will be fairly large wave files!).

WHAT YOU NEED:

  • A tape deck or record player with "an audio out" (a line-out or headphone slot would do!).
  • An RCA to headphone cable (to connect your tape deck to your computer's sound card).
  • Software to extract the music from the tape and save it onto your computer
  • Software to burn this music to CD!

To start, you will first need to connect your stereo system to your computer with a stereo RCA-to-headphone cable. One end of this cable should be connected to your tape deck's line-out, and the other end should be plugged into the line-in of your sound card (1/8" hole). This cable is available for just a few dollars at Radio Shack or any audio component store.

Next, you will need software that records the music as one big "wave" (.wav) file for each side of the LP/audio cassette. Recommended: Acoustica MP3 Audio Mixer.

To create one big wave file for each side of the LP using Acoustica MP3 Audio Mixer, plug in a 1/8" stereo cable from your tape deck or LP record player, to the "Line In" or "Microphone" slot of your sound card. Next, open Acoustica MP3 Audio Mixer and click on the red "Record" button. You'll then see the recording window with the colored "Level Indicator" screen.

The Colored "Level Indicator" will help you see whether the LP music volume is too soft or too loud. Adjust all necessary volumes accordingly to avoid distorted or quiet recordings (it's best to stay within the green portion). Once everything is in place, start playing your audio cassette/LP and press the "Record" button within Acoustica MP3 Audio Mixer.

Next, you may want a piece of software that will "split" the tracks into separate files (so you can skip tracks on a CD). You can try LP Ripper.

Lastly, you would need Acoustica MP3 CD Burner software to burn this music to CD.

 

How to Remove Vocals from MP3s, Ogg or WMA Audio Files


This is definitely a difficult task, but there may be some hope!

Here's the little trick. You will need an external sound mp3 editor such as CoolEdit.

The trick is to rely on the fact that vocals are usually positioned in the "center" of the stereo field. (Balanced between the left and right speakers).

Unfortunately, there are usually other artifacts such as reverb and effects which are usually panned to one side.

You start with a stereo file and end up with a mono file with the center frequency cancelled. It is not very good for most songs...but it does work for some. This process is also known as the "OOPS effect" as it cancels frequencies.

Here's how it is done with CoolEdit:

  • Load the WAV/MP3 file into Cool Edit.
  • Create a new window with no WAV file in it (File->New...).
  • Set the settings at 44.1KHz 16-bit *mono*.
  • Switch back to the original WAV/MP3 file (with the "Window" menu).
  • Select the entire left channel in the original WAV file. If you move the mouse to the top of the WAV display area, the mouse cursor gets a little 'L' next to it. Pick a spot near the middle of the screen, left click, and drag all the way to the left edge. Then move the cursor back to the middle, right click, and drag all the way to the right edge. You should now have the entire left channel selected.
  • Select "copy". Switch to the new WAV file, and select "paste". Switch back to the original.
  • Move the mouse cursor near the bottom of the WAV graphic until the mouse pointer gets an 'R' next to it, and select the entire right channel the way you did the left.
  • Select "copy". Switch to the new WAV file. From the Edit menu, select "Mix paste...".
  • Select "Overlap (Mix)", volume of 100, and check the "Invert" checkbox. Click "OK".
  • Give this a try to see how it works for you. You may want to just try looking around the 'net for an "instrumental" version of the song (if it is available).
     

 

How To Effortlessly Use Streaming Audio To Add Impact To Your Online Business
By Gabriel Nijmeh


Are you looking to add professional impact to your website and newsletter for almost little or no cost. How about introducing an audio ezine or other informative audio stream to your web site

With the amount of email and documentation that is being passed around, people are becoming overwhelmed with the information overload. I know of a number of people who because of their hectic multi-tasking schedules find it difficult to make the time to sit back and read the books, magazines and articles that keep piling up. Instead they pop in an audio book (CD or tape) while they are working, driving, or exercising. This is an ideal way to maximize productivity and learning in a short period of time.

What can you do with streaming audio?

  • Record tips and tricks relevant to your field of expertise
  • Record your entire ezine or portions of it in streaming audio format
  • Record interviews with other business owners, subject matter experts, and/or customers
  • Make announcements about new products, services or specials
  • Record a speech or talk that you have given
  • Start your own radio station or web cast.
  • Post your audio on various MP3 audio sites.

Streaming audio is another effective communication method to share your knowledge in an interactive way. You are reaching out across the world and adding warmth and a trusted voice to your loyal visitors and readers. You are only limited by your imagination because you probably already have the tools on hand to create some great audio.

If you haven not thought about this because you think that it might cost you too much time or money, let me give you an idea of how easy it is.

What do you need?

1. Microphone
2. Audio Recording Software
3. Sound Card


That's it! It's rather easy to do and won't require too much of your time or require a fancy recording studio. Your computer, an inexpensive microphone and audio software that lets you record, edit and mix, put you in full command of your own home recording studio.

There are quite a number of free or inexpensive audio shareware tools that you can download. For example, MP3 Audio Mixer is a great tool that helps you record and mix your audio. So, if you want to add a music intro between segments, MP3 Audio Mixer will be perfect. You can add background music, intro and outro music or just about any other sounds you think would add impact to your streaming audio presentation.

Another good tool you might consider is Super MP3 Recorder, which lets you record through your microphone, record an existing streaming audio file from the Internet or even music from your CD player or MP3 player.

With your software of choice and a decent microphone (in my experience a simple $10 microphone has been more than effective for voice recordings), you plug it directly into your sound card, hit the record button on your audio software and start recording.

After you have finished recording, a rather large file known as a wave (.wav) file will be written to your hard drive. Wave files take up about 10 megabytes for each minute of your recording and your next step will be to convert this file into an MP3 audio file. This process known as encoding (MP3 converting) will compress your wave file at a 10 to 1 compression ratio into an MP3 audio file. This compression is what makes MP3s such a big hit and so easy to distribute. So, as you see, each minute of audio will now only consume 1 megabyte of hard drive space. In the case of voice recordings, you probably won't need the same high quality output as a music MP3.

Whatever software you decide to use, most software developers include very detailed, step-by-step instructions on how to create very professional audio sound files. For example, take a look at MP3 Audio Mixer's on-line help for a detailed walkthrough of the recording process. Super MP3 Recorder also offers a step-by-step recording tutorial that will have you up and running in a matter of minutes!

After finishing your recording, creating an audio stream using an .m3u file is easy. An .m3u is a play list file that points to a specific MP3 audio file on your server. First, you simply upload your finished MP3 audio file to your server. Next you create a simple text file (using NotePad) and save it with the file extension .m3u. All you need to do is to add one line of text to this file, which will be the pointer to the mp3 file you just uploaded to your server.

For example:

1) Marketing-Minute.mp3 is your newly recording Internet marketing tip that you uploaded to your server. The file is saved on your server to a directory called audio.

2) The .m3u file you just created, which you will name Marketing_Minute.m3u, will have one line that points to: http://www.yourwebsite.com/audio/Marketing-Minute.mp3

3) Create a regular link like i.e. [a href=http://www.yourwebsite.com/Marke ting_Minute.mp3] Click here to listen to today's Marketing Minute

When a user clicks on this link, their MP3 player should open and your newly created audio file should start streaming through their speakers.

Very easy for both you and your listeners and a great way to promote your business and share your knowledge.

Pretty easy! Once you start learning how to record using the software of your choice, it only gets easier. What I have described covers MP3s, you may also consider using Real Audio, Shout Cast or Windows Audio Files (WMAs) as your audio file format. The process is very similar, however because of popularity and compability, MP3 has become the audio standard.

For a very good audio primer, visit Deliver Your Media and check out our descriptions of the various audio formats that are currently in use.

Have Fun!