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Supercollectors: Digital Music Collections

Thursday, February 16, 2012

We want to help solve your digital music collection conundrums! Our series on Supercollectors continues with answers to your questions about digital music – from ripping CDs to storing MP3s. Eliot Van Buskirk of Evolver.FM and San Francisco-based music and technology writer Geeta Dayal join us to take your calls.

Got a question about your digital music collection? How to store it? How to convert to digital? How to get organized? Leave your question below and we'll try to answer it on the air.


Eliot Van Buskirk and Geeta Dayal

Comments [34]


I have over 1300 CDs digitized as FLAC files sitting on a Linux server in my basement. I have RAID 1 500 GB drives storing everything. They're almost full though so I have 2 3TB drives to replace them that I bought just before the Thailand floods. It's a big operation to replace them that I haven't done yet.

I use the Squeezebox ( to play them on my home stereo. It sounds great. I also use Logitech Media Server to stream them to my smartphone and to a software player at work. I have also synced the collection to Google Music, although I can't tell if it's storing them in the FLAC or in 320Kbps Ogg (I think the latter however from how much CPU my laptop used syncing it over.)

I used to have a dedicated MP3 player (Archos 605) and I still have it, but I haven't used it in about 2 years. I also keep an MP3 copy of all my music on my main laptop. And I have a 3rd 500GB hard drive for backing up the music.

Feb. 21 2012 02:51 PM
Arthur from NYC/Uruguay

I agree that iTunes is a very poor for storage, archival, and retrieval. The months I must have spent in my life and must continue to spend to organize it is a complete hastle. On top of this, when music collections get so big that you have to manage them both on your desktop and external hard-drive, with files in iTunes from both drives, it becomes a nightmare. Sorting duplicates and duplicates on separate drives by having to "Get File" or "Show file" each time, and reorganizing album titles and track orders drives me crazy!!! In addition, I believe I may have just lost my hard drive while moving out of the country. There must be a better alternative that also syncs up with ipods and iphones and if I am starting over again I want to do it right. Please help!

Feb. 19 2012 01:47 PM
Jeff from Melville

For those who want to archive their favorite records with top notch sound quality on a Mac, There's Pure Vinyl Recorder by Channel D Software. You can record up to 24/384 sampling rates depending on your a/d convertor, and you can even do RIAA eq digitally in the software. They also make a player for iTunes called Pure Music, that sounds much better than iTunes on its own, and allows you to go from playing 16/44 files to 24/96 files without having to quit and toggle the settings manually in Audio Midi setup. They offer a 14 day free trial.

Feb. 16 2012 11:30 PM
John A.

For digitizing old analog I used to use a Sony CD audio recorder, I now use a Zoom H4n pocket recorder. They both have linelevel inputs and most importantly have protections for overlevel sounds and can postprocess to make the total soundlevel a norm and not be too soft or too loud.
I Do think that a good pop and hiss removal tool is important too.

Feb. 16 2012 02:48 PM
Mike from Inwood

Absolute sound has been running comparisons of digital file ripping and playback software, along with file types .wav vs flac vs aac etc.) If you are serious about digital sound quality I suggest you go to a library or book store and check out the last 3 issues.

Feb. 16 2012 02:38 PM
rich k from UCNJ

1 - If you sell your CDs, you must delete your files. It's the opposite of the fair use doctrine that allows you to make those digital copies in the first place.
2 - Same as it ever was, if your data (and digital music is data) isn't in at least two places, you do not safely own it.
3 - for me? ALAC of all my CDs for home use, allowing iTunes to down-sample those files as it copies them to my iPod. Can I hear the difference? At home on a good system - absolutely. In Herald Square with the M34 passing, not really.
4 - there are better options, but Griffin's iMic, along with Final Vinyl, has allowed me to dub my grandfather's 78s, even though my TT doesn't play at 78 rpm.

Feb. 16 2012 02:33 PM
Mike from Inwood

A $1000 turn table and cartridge combination with clean vinyl sounds better than a $2000 cd player if you have a decent sound system. But how many people have heard even that kind of quality in either types of playback? MP3 is only suitable for mobile sound while jogging or otherwise not really paying attention to the music. Good reproduction really does make a difference and doesn't need to cost an arm and a leg.

Feb. 16 2012 02:33 PM
CL from NYC

iTunes is an enormously powerful application (and well-integrated with other Apple devices, a big plus), but Apple has done a less than good job of managing its development over the years. Many features that were easily located and used unaccountably changed locations and the ways they functioned as new versions appeared. iTunes still offers great utility, but it has become bloated and more and more software problems seem to crop up (if anecdotal accounts on the Web are any indication). And it is perhaps not coincidental that more problems with iPods-- some very maddening-- are also being reported.

As has already been mentioned, the great convenience of digital storage and playback has been paid for with an undeniable loss of fidelity. Listening to non-trivial, well recorded music on an iPod constitutes a diminishment compared to older, high fidelity systems.

Feb. 16 2012 02:30 PM
Anthony J from Morristown, NJ

Take it from a longtime IT pro - hard drives fail.
Since they're so cheap, I've purchased TWO usb connect external drives
and I mirror all files on both.

Feb. 16 2012 02:30 PM

Three words:


Two places, all the time! No matter what the media. RAID, hard drive...whatever...

Don't learn the hard way!

Feb. 16 2012 02:30 PM
Sam from Astoria

Great product out there called the Vortex'll rip and store 2TBs worth of CDs and DVDs at FLAC quality, keep them properly labeled and playback wirelessly through your laptop/stereo/etc.

Feb. 16 2012 02:29 PM
Chris from Pittsburgh

Got a new computer recently, did a bunch of stuff with it I guess, and now I have two copies of every song in my iTunes, and each extra copy only plays for a few seconds. What happened, and how do I get rid of the truncated duplicates?

Feb. 16 2012 02:28 PM
Edward from NJ

To expand on my earlier comment, Bernie could totally get away with it.

Feb. 16 2012 02:27 PM
Antonio from Mexico

There's a good part of my record collection that is not on my computer, every time I want to listen to them I get my old CD's or vinyl LP's out and listen to them again.

Find it silly to digitalize over and over the same songs, sometimes feel like a cheapened experience.

Feb. 16 2012 02:26 PM
Bill Herman from Brooklyn

Can't believe your expert just told an Android phone user to get their music out of iTunes by drag-and-dropping their files manually! There is at least one well-known, free app that does this much more easily, allowing you to keep playlists, select playlists to drag over, etc etc. See for more. I'm just a user, not an affiliate, but this is FAR superior to manual file management.

Feb. 16 2012 02:26 PM

If you want *state of the art* vinyl transfer, check the Berkley Labs/Smithsonian's IRENE/3D system used to optical transfer the 125-year-old recordings from Alexander Bell's Volta lab. Astounding.

Feb. 16 2012 02:25 PM

I have tons of cassette tapes of operas that I taped from the radio over the past 25 years. Is there any way to digitize these and put these on a hard drive?

Feb. 16 2012 02:23 PM
Different Bernie from NYC

What is the best software for managing a massive (50,000 song) digital music collection? deduping, auto-tagging, multiple formats would be required features.

Feb. 16 2012 02:20 PM
Jon from Manhattan

I have a PC, Windows 7 and a Synology DS411+ NAS and want to automatically rip my CD collection of >2,000 into FLAC files. How can I best do this?

Feb. 16 2012 02:19 PM
Otto Cosmopolis from LIC

Some tracks or whole albums are in my itunes library but when I try to listen to them itunes can't find the actual track.

Feb. 16 2012 02:18 PM
Sam from New York

I continue to buy CDs and rip them in FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) with preserves CD quality sound (2080kbps bitrate) and about half the size of the file on the CD. This is for home use for hi fi listening on higher grade audio equipment. I then downconvert FLAC to 192kbps bitrate for portable playing.

MP3s have killed audio quality and most dont demand it. Some music is available directly in FLAC or AAC (apple lossless) formats and hopefully all online purchases will eventually migrate toward a high quality, audiophile grade choice. This audio data is already available via the original studio recording it is just dumbed down (i.e. lower bitrate) for the market.

Feb. 16 2012 02:18 PM

I found a great program that catalogs and rips etc. ad nauseum, MediaMonkey is a great alternative to Itunes. I can convert to Flac and or Ogg and not deal with Apple.

Feb. 16 2012 02:18 PM
Eric from NYC

What am I supposed to do with my (over) 200 Grateful Dead shows on cassette tapes (Maxell XL II's).... Its over 400 "tapes" .... and all of the shows are now available online (

Feb. 16 2012 02:17 PM
randall from Brooklyn

I rip CD's in lower nitrates for use on iPods, etc, but at the Apple Lossless setting for replay to my high end stereo. I like the Jukebox-ability I get that way. Is there a better setting to use in iTunes for that? How much loss is actually occurring that way? Or, am I being too sensitive about my collection?

Feb. 16 2012 02:17 PM

We are not all I-whores! Please address PC options! Thank you!

Feb. 16 2012 02:17 PM

To sort with iTunes in the mix, use Delicious Library and then you'll get lots of extra info to work with ... Amazon links etc.

Feb. 16 2012 02:16 PM
art525 from Park Slope

I have hundreds of cassettes. A few years back I bought an Ion converter to convert the cassettes into digital files. It worked for maybe 20 or 30 cassettes and then it stopped working giving me an error code number which I don't remember now. I had a couple of little problems before that and they had both an email address and a call number where a tech guy would address the problems. For the first few problems they responded quiockly and addressed the problems and they were fixed. Then when I got that big problem they stopped returning my emails and phone calls. SO I have an Ion digital converter sitting in my basement gathering dust. Along with boxes of old cassettes.

Feb. 16 2012 02:11 PM
Edward from NJ

Bernie from NYC, you can't sell them (legally/ethically) unless you're also going to delete the digital files. You could move the discs and liner notes to CD wallets and trash the jewel boxes to save on space.

Feb. 16 2012 02:07 PM
Ron from Brooklyn, NY

As a follow up to Kevin's question, how can I upload music files from an Ipod formatted for Mac computers to a PC?

Feb. 16 2012 02:03 PM
Bernie from NYC

I have a collection of about 1,700 cds. About 1 year ago I purchased a digital music server from a company called Olive. I sent them 1,000 cds which they ripped onto the 2TB drive in a format called FLAC. I ripped the balance of the CDS after I received the unit.
The total cost was about $2,500. I can now control the unit from my computer, android phone and most apple devices. It is also capable of playing simultaneously in up to 10 rooms and also plays internet radio. I love it.
Do I have to keep all the original cds or can I sell them without going afoul of the digital copyright laws?

Feb. 16 2012 01:51 PM

I have a sonos play5 and a premium mog acct. I can pretty much listen to any album I want with a few clicks and no itunes/storage hassles.

Feb. 16 2012 01:22 PM

Why can't you transfer music files (i.e. legally owned songs that were uploaded from CDs, downloaded from Amazon, etc) from your iPhone/iPod to iTunes on another computer? Is there a way to bypass this since Apple only allows transfers of iTunes purchases?

Feb. 16 2012 01:20 PM

I recently spent a lot of time organizing my iTunes, deleting doubles, searching for track names, etc. Is there an easier way of doing this? Literally took me weeks.

Feb. 16 2012 10:36 AM

Hi Soundcheck:
I'm a broke grad student who lives with my parents. They don't charge rent but my father wants me to transfer music from cds to his iPod. I don't have much of an idea what i'm doing. I have a Mac Book Air and he has an iPod classic. Since my lap top's hard drive is only 64gb, I want to know how I can take music that is currently on iPods, my laptop and in the cloud and put this data on an external hard drive (preferably in mp3 format) . After that, I want to be able to listen to this music from my hard drive and also transfer it to my dad's iPod.

Thanks You,

Feb. 16 2012 09:13 AM

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