Wednesday, February 13, 2013

PURGING & DOWNSIZING - Part 3 (How Nobody Wants Music CDs Either)

Here a photo of three of the four big boxes that have been in the living room for a couple of years now. They contain just music CDs and audiobook CDs. I stored them away in boxes and put them there knowing that I'd have to take one box at a time and rip them to digital. I put them in a room that forced you to see them everyday and spark you to get them done. Well, that didn't work as planned. It's a daunting task as there were so many of them and you never know where to start.

I held off originally buying CDs for the longest time as I didn't want to make the switch over from Vinyl to CD right away. I had a decent record collection and still have all the kids records since they're worth money, but going out and buying another copy of something just because it was on CD left me weary. I did make audio tapes to play on my walkman from my records but technology was moving on without me. It was in the early 90s that I really bought music in CD form. I sold the last of my vinyl rock records back in 1991. I bought CDs here and there in the late 80s but not many. I was more of an audio cassette guy since I had a Sony Walkman. When I finally did switch over to CDs I bought only the best of the best stuff that I really liked. That way I wouldn't be left with crap that I didn't know what to do with, but over the following decade of CD buying you wound up buying stuff you might not like as much or only had one or two songs that you liked. I didn't throw anything out or even trade for something else. I kept it all. Eventually, my shelf in my room hit the maximum limit and I was out of room unless I bought a new shelf. Though at this time the digital realm was hitting and I discovered the mp3 and thankfully stopped buying CDs and only bought the bands I really liked, which was like 2-3. More of a collectibility thing than any other. I had to keep my Springsteen set going though even that went completely digital back in 2007 for me.

I grabbed a box from the living room back in 2010 and took a month to go through the box. I ripped about 10-12 CDs a night and made sure all the labelling was correct and such so that if I loaded them up onto my iPod they'd be fine and in order. Each box contained around 200-220CD so it was better to take them in groups or batches. I saved them all as mp3s at 256kbps and if I really loved it I saved it at the highest mp3 rate of 320kbps. By the way, kpbs stands for kilobytes per second. Looking at it now I laugh as 320 was not available till around 2006 or so I think. The top compression rate was 256 and 192kbps is still used a lot. For those that don't know any of this, when you rip a music CD you get a raw WAV file. This is the audio track in a completely uncompressed form. An average song of 4-5 minutes can range around the 54MB size. That's fairly large so you have to compressed it while not compromising the quality of the track. Here's a list of the audio settings when you then compress them to mp3:

FLAC (Uncompressed Lossless) (1:1 ratio to the original CD audio quality even though it compresses the audio by 50-60%) The downside is that they don't play on the iPod since it doesn't recognize the format, but they will play great on your computer through a media player like VLC. Mostly FLAC is great for preserving and storing your favorite music at the highest level... till the next big thing comes along at least.

320kbps (Studio Quality) (4x the compression from the original)
256kbps (Studio Quality) (5x the compression from the original)
192kbps (CD Quality)
160kbps (Hi-Fi Quality)
128kbps (Tape Quality)
112kbps (Radio Quality)
96kbps (FM Quality)
64kbps (Voice Quality)
32kbps (AM Quality)

I listed FLAC files at the highest though. FLAC is a format that has only been around for a few years now though true audiophiles will tell you this is the only way to go. Like the "1080p or forget it" crowd that's all they deal in. It's a true 1:1 ratio to the original CD. There is no compression while it is compressed into the FLAC container. The sound is great with headphones on though I don't know if the average person would notice the nuances. I'm more mp3 than FLAC in my own collection.

I have personally tested all of these. I've taken the perfect and best rock song ever recorded (it's Springsteen's "Born To Run", Baby!) and converted it to each of these to see what happened as you get lower and lower in quality.

There is no distinct quality drop from 320 to 256kbps. The song sounds superb at either of these settings.

There is a minor nuance of the song that is gone when you save it at 192kbps.

160 and 128kbps are ok and if you were listening to the song blast in your car with the windows down, it would be fine. I know some radio stations play songs at 128kbps as well from being in the studio.

I personally would not go below 96kbps for any music. This setting is like FM radio and if you go lower it just doesn't sound as good. It's just my rule of thumb.

Audiobooks I've seen can range from 64 to 128kbps. I prefer mine to be 256 only to retain that "in the studio" microphone quality. So in general I save all my audio at 256 or 320kbps whether considered mono or in stereo. It's a small amount of work ripping a CD so why not save it at the best quality?

When you buy tracks from through their great mp3 downloader the tracks are all saved mostly at 256kbps. They used to be all at 192kbps back when Amazon first started selling downloads though I'm sure that they do in fact sell some of the newer ones at 320. From some stuff I've downloaded the last week or so, they still have been at 256kbps. Other download places offer everything at different rates depending on what year it was uploaded. Remember that 320kbps wasn't available when ripping started in full force so 256kbps was king of the hill. All this might be over the heads of some who aren't into the digital age so hopefully all this information is at least enlightening people to what's out there.

Now back to talking about my audio collection, I finally finished one full box and then didn't do another one for a few years. Life had gotten in the way. So now with some time off this past January I have dove into the boxes and been a CD ripping fool. In one week I did 199 CDs! Exhausting and boring work it was but it was a week well spent. I did the same the following week and so on till every CD was done! I would do them every night starting after 9pm and say I was going to do just 10-12 CDs but would wind up doing double that each night in the end. If I didn't do it, it just wouldn't get done at all. You can't even send them out for someone else to do. Ha! I think that could be a good business for someone to do. People bring you in CDs and you convert them to mp3 for them for a small fee. It would be cheaper than buying a new version of the music in digital form. Anyway, there are several places you can get high quality music at super cheap prices without going to iTunes. I've personally never bought anything from iTunes as I could get a song cheaper than they're $.99 a song rate and also not deal with their DRM copyright embedded on the track though I think they finally stopped that nonsense with iTunes 11. I can't confirm since I don't deal with them. Screw them since there were ways around it anyway.

So when the month of January ended I had about 450 CDs ripped and backed up onto two drives! Then combined with the 200 some I did a year or so ago I now had a complete digital library. Woo!

Now I sit and look at the physical CDs still sitting in boxes. Yikes. Now what do I do? These are way worst that dealing with DVDs. No kidding. You could make homemade coasters and place your soda cans on them at a barbeque. I looked all over my area and there were no used CD sellers ANYWHERE to be found where you could make any kind of money. None. Zip. Nada. Zilch. We had a few places back about 5-7 years ago and I would find out through my research in selling my DVDs that they went out of business completely. There was a store that had bought used CDs in Bryn Mawr, Pa but they were almost financially collapsed from buying them and trying to resell them. They stayed alive by doing away with CDs and just selling old vinyl (and new vinyl) records since in the past several years vinyl records became moderately popular again. The hipster crowd with their pork pie hats and goatie beards who weren't around when vinyl was out originally were now buying and collecting records. Did my heart good to see that people still liked vinyl (or were introduced to it at least) as it's still the BEST way to listen to rock and roll. Bar none.

I made up a list of all my audio CDs I had for sale and had printed them out and given them to people on my street to see if I can sell them for $1 each. I made $5 tonight selling 5 more CDs. Woo! Next week I'll have to figure out what to do with the ones that don't move. I may have to make a donation to somewhere.

I did keep about 50 or so CDs. The ones I really, really liked (for the CD packaging as well) and the ones that I know I can get money for simply as a collectible or as it had a limited amount made of it. One such as my Batman 1966 Original TV Soundtrack CD. This was released on vinyl in 1966 and then it was re-released only ONCE on CD back in 1989 when the first Michael Keaton Batman movie was coming out. It's still in mint condition and hard as hell to find. Digital bootlegs ripped from this CD are available online for free so I am then limited to those Batman fans who would want the actual official CD. I think once people have the digital version they could care less about owning an original.

Digital has killed the sales of physical CDs and the digital bootlegs that are all over the Internet kill resales of harder to find media. Not that I'm complaining. I love bootleggers and how they go about it all. Some of them do superb jobs that I marvel at. More power to them.

Times change and technology marches on. Here I stand simply trying to downsize my life and minimize it a bit. So far I've been successful, though I've not made much money on it as I thought I would. I write all this just to warn people if they have DVDs and CDs like I did/do that you are screwed as well. Just so's you know between friends.

I'm still waiting on others to give me back their lists, they are taking their time it seems. Haha. I really think a donation may be made next week just so I can see the living room without these boxes anymore.

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