Monday, June 8

Converting Music

Converting Music

Ever have the trouble of submitting music because it is not in the correct format, and you need to convert it but you don't know how?! Check out this help on how to convert music into digital format so next time you won't have that problem!

To convert music into a digital format, you can either start with raw music that you rip from a CD you own or another source, such as the analog line-in on your sound card, if you want to convert music from another source, such as a tape, record or microphone. You can then take this raw audio and convert it using conversion software into a compressed format. Some of the more common conversion and compression tools include iTunes, Windows Media, CD-DA X-Tractor, a free open source converter or LAME, which is a freeware standalone converter normally coupled with a graphical user interface to make conversions easier.

As most converted music will be compressed, you will need to have a basic idea of how compression works in order to choose the right settings when converting digital audio. The most commonly tweaked setting is the bit rate of the resulting audio - for better quality in the resulting track, use less compression and a higher sampling rate. The most common sampling rate is 44.1 kHz and is considered "CD quality" audio - it represents the amount of the audio frequency spectrum that each audio snapshot collects. Audio recording and audio file applications will often use higher sampling rates, from 48 kHz to 96 kHz, and the fact that humans can't hear much above 25 kHz doesn't stop purest audiophiles from arguing the quality of upper-end harmonics in the music tracks. The bit rate represents the amount of audio data recorded per second, with 128 kbps, 128,000 bits per second, being a good balance between file size and audio quality - 256 kbps will provide much higher quality and be closer to CD quality, but will take about twice as much space per song track.

Before you start converting music, you will need to take into account of where you will be listening to that music - will you be listening to it on your home computer, your stereo system, or on your portable music player? Will you be listening to it only on one platform, or are you planning on bringing it with you and playing it with multiple players or computer systems? Based on that, you can then select the most appropriate format. If you will be primarily listening to music on an iPod, than the AAC format is your best choice, as it gives the best quality tracks for that platform. If you plan on burning these tracks to a CD to listen at work, in your car, and then at a friend's place, than the MP3 format is your best option for maximum compatibility.

Keep in mind that once you have compressed the audio, it is no longer identical to the original, so you should only convert music from the source to a compressed format once. Each time you convert and compress data, you will suffer a generation loss of audio quality, so converting a music track to MP3, and then to AAC will give you two generation losses of quality, with audible audio artifacts or defects in the music. Some online music sources only provide audio in specific proprietary formats - if the format doesn't match your music player or device, a common remedy is to burn the music tracks to an audio CD, and then rip the contents of the CD into the proper format, which, while not being the preferred path, may be the only way to get the music in the format you need.

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