Archive for the ‘Hi-Fi & Music’ Category

TapiTunes Library Updater

30 Jul 2013 10:40 by Rick

I only require iTunes on Windows to manage an iPod. I am sure there are a lot of other people who do the same. I use other software to manage my music library, partly for historical reasons and partly because we like more control than iTunes offers.

For us there has always been a feature missing from iTunes—the ability to update/synchonise the library with a music collection obtained from other sources. Perhaps people who use it for their music management also miss this feature e.g. when buying tracks from Amazon, but all through its (currently) eleven versions, Apple has failed to add the capability. For that reason, I was grateful some years ago to discover a (Windows) program called iTLU—iTunes Library Updater by Borja Fernandez which did this for me; I think iTunes was at version 9 then. Version 1.22 (2008) was the last version found and it was known to work on Windows XP, I don’t know about any later versions. As well as adding new tracks it will clean out “orphaned” entries for files that no longer exist.

Then, calamity, Apple published their slightly controversial iTunes 11 version and it all stopped working. This was a major rewrite and, it seems, they had removed the API that iTLU relies on to function. Also, since then, the author’s web site has vanished.

But I can now gleefully report, with iTunes 11.0.4, it all works again. It must have been an oversight that Apple have (silently) corrected. Just a pity that there isn’t a Mac version of iTLU.

TapWhat is a media download?

20 Feb 2012 12:46 by Rick

When buying a CD you actually buy two things; the plastic media and an implicit licence to play it. The plastic is a thing—a property, the licence is not. You cannot copy the content or play it for an audience; that is not part of the licence. This has been relaxed a little to allow the making of backup copies and alternative media for cars & MP3 players etc. but these copies do not contain the implied licence. If you sell the CD, the licence transfers with it. You can also give it away or bequeath it.

Unfortunately (!) there is no written copy of these licence terms anywhere, it is even worse than the shrink-wrapped licence terms on software. But, it is really no different to the situation that has always existed with books but few people thought of copying those – at least not in their entirety.

For this reason I have been careful to retain the physical media for all of my ripped digital (and analogue) music. These are the licences to own/play. If you sell or give away the original CD you should also destroy any ripped, duplicated or backup copy. You must not sell or give away any duplicates as these do not contain the implicit licence.

How about legitimate downloaded media—you don’t own it, it is a license to listen—a license isn’t property, therefore you can’t sell it. There is no physical media to which to attach the licence. I think the license is effectively for life—your life—so you can’t sell it, give it away or bequeath it. For this reason, even disregarding the production & distribution costs, downloads should be cheaper than physical media as they have a lower long term value. This may all be written into the iTunes and whatever terms and conditions, but I doubt it.

The public perception problem is that the button used to obtain the music is marked “Buy” not “Rent” or “Licence” which blurs the understanding.

If it is not “property” then you can’t steal it. You can be an unlicensed USER of a service, but you can’t STEAL it, you are not depriving someone of anything tangible.

There has been some discussion of this recently. Which Magazine raised the issue of a looming problem. What is going to happen to all of the digital media people have bought when they die? Children brought up on their parents music collection will suddenly find that is no longer available to them as it would have been when they had the physical media. There are issues of trying to transfer or merge accounts; something that the media companies either refuse or cannot do.

Matt Gemmell has an interesting article on his view of why piracy is rampant (beware strong language; so bad in fact, that I wish I didn’t have to link to it) and he has a good point but blurs the ethics somewhat. I agree that almost everyone wants to be honest, but the tipping point is not price. If something is just expensive then we go without. The thing that tips us over the edge is being ripped off. For example being made to pay over and over again for the same thing just because the distribution format has changed; just like we used to copy our records to cassette to play them in the car. Or, as in the example above, being made to pay again because the original owner has died. Curious Rat comments on this and mostly misses the point. First piracy is not theft, you need to understand the difference, but also he twists the arguments back in ways that the original author never intended (nor said). I don’t think Matt would object to you pirating his iPhone app if the DRM gets in the way—so long as you have paid for it in the first place.

Some related points…

When they talk about Intellectual Property (IP) Rights, that really refers to the full rights which includes copying, marketing and distribution.

Re-digi have tried creating a market for “used ” iTunes—by ensuring that all copies from the seller were deleted. I think they are just creating a honey-pot for lawyers.

An interesting point is that “used” copies are indistinguishable from “new” ones which is what worries the retailers; why buy a new one if you can’t tell the difference.

TapI can no more…

23 Apr 2011 09:01 by Rick

The words from near the beginning of Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius (words by Cardinal Newman) sum up Easter Saturday.

Sanctus fortis,
Sanctus Deus,
De profundis oro te,
Judex meus,
Parce mihi,

Firmly I believe and truly
God is Three, and God is One;
And I next acknowledge duly
Manhood taken by the Son.
And I trust and hope most fully
In that Manhood crucified;
And each thought and deed unruly
Do to death, as He has died.
Simply to His grace and wholly
Light and life and strength belong.
And I love, supremely, solely,
Him the holy, Him the strong.

Sanctus fortis,
Sanctus Deus,
De profundis oro te,
Judex meus,
Parce mihi,

And I hold in veneration,
For the love of Him alone,
Holy Church, as His creation,
And her teachings, as His own.
And I take with joy whatever
Now besets me, pain or fear,
And with a strong will I sever
All the ties which bind me here.
Adoration aye be given,
With and through the angelic host,
To the God of earth and heaven,
Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

Sanctus fortis,
Sanctus Deus,
De profundis, oro te,
Judex meus,
Mortis in discrimine.

I can no more; for now it comes again,
That sense of ruin, which is worse than pain,
That masterful negation and collapse
Of all that makes me man.

…And, crueller still,
A fierce and restless fright begins to fill
The mansion of my soul. And worse, and worse,
Some bodily form of ill
Floats on the wind, with many a loathsome curse
Tainting the hallowed air, and laughs, and flaps
Its hideous wings
And makes me wild with horror and dismay.

O Jesu, help! pray for me, Mary, pray!
Some Angel, Jesu! such as came to Thee
In Thine own agony…

Mary, pray for me. Joseph, pray for me.
Mary, pray for me.


11 Feb 2011 22:44 by Rick

by Fat + Frantic—another song with no lyrics on the internet.

Words by Jim Harris

Sung as angry and fast as possible to a 2/4 beat accompanied by guitar and spoons.

Be Proud you are English, boy, be proud you are white,
Be proud you’re a man, be proud that men are always right.
Be proud you are comfortable and smartly dressed and clean,
Be proud that you are all the things you’re ancestors have been.

Oh boy, be proud that you are tolerant, be proud that you are nice,
Be proud you’re vaguely liberal, be proud you don’t think twice.
Be proud of your education, I am proud of mine,
Be proud that you have got a job and don’t stand on the line.

Chorus: Oh boy, but I am proud of nothing when I see God’s children cry,
When I see God’s children hungry, when I see the cities die,
When I see God’s children told they are not God’s because they’re black,
People say “I love you, God,” and then “push off” behind his back.

Be proud of you’re arrogance, be proud of your spite,
Be proud of you’re brutality, be proud of well armed might.
Be proud of your hypocrisy, the things you never said,
Be proud that you are still alive when half the world is nearly dead.


But I am proud of Jesus, I am proud that he loves me,
I am proud that Jesus lived and died to set the people free,
I am proud of Jesus’ passion, I am proud of Jesus’ rage,
I am proud that he is shouting at this evil, godless age.

I am proud when people fight for Jesus’ justice and shalom,
I am proud when people rise at the oppression of the bomb,
I am proud that in South Africa and in El Salvador,
Jesus’ righteousness is frightening the oppressors more and more.


But I am proud of Jesus, I am proud that he loves me,
I am proud that Jesus lived and died to set the people free,
I am proud that in South Africa and in El Salvador,
Jesus’ righteousness is frightening the oppressors more and more.
My Jesus’ righteousness is frightening the oppressors more and more.

TapVolume Levelling and Replay Gain

4 Feb 2011 13:38 by Rick

Ever since recording began there has always been the problem of varying volume levels—with a big horn gramophone you sat closer, with record players you kept getting up to adjust the volume. Sometimes this was the fault of lazy recording engineers but often it was inherent in the media; the peaks had to be limited to avoid clipping (or worse on vinyl) whilst still maintaining a respectable amplitude bandwidth. With digital media there should have been a solution at source. The bandwidth stretches below the threshold of hearing but recordings are usually made with the peak just a few dB off the maximum. The impact of this is that recordings with a wide dynamic range such as acoustic and classical music sound very quiet when compared to highly compressed pop music (compressing pop is an issue for another time).

DJs learn to “ride the fader” to keep the apparent volume steady over a session. At home we have to resort to the remote, but there is a solution with media that you have control over—or at least there should be. Digital formats such as MP3, WMA, Flac and AAC have developed mechanisms to adjust the decoder output to a user defined level. A good description of the technique is described on the MediaMonkey FAQ pages (scroll down to the last chapter).

The three different methods are

1. Recode the audio to the level you require; this is potentially destructive as information (and hence quality) is lost each time you do it and it is not reversible so few systems employ this method.

2. Code the reference level on each audio frame so that standard decoders can interpret them. This is the method used by MP3gain and MediaMonkey “Level Playback Volume” and is the most universally successful. However there is some doubt over whether it is truly reversible without loss. It is also not possible with files protected by rights management (DRM).

3. Code the adjustment required in the metadata without touching the audio stream. This truly does not lose any information but requires support from the player to interpret the tags. It is supported, amongst others by WMP “Volume Levelling”, MediaMonkey “Analyze Volume” and iTunes “Sound Check” and by players to varying degrees.

The way they all calculate what adjustment to make goes by the grand name of Psychoacoustic Analysis to judge how loud the listener perceives the music to be. The two ways to do this are by track, what used to be called “Radio Levelling” and is what you would want if you were a DJ or playing a party mix; and by album which used to be called “Audiophile Levelling.” This preserves the relative volume of the tracks on an album to respect the artist/engineer’s requirements and is what you would want if listening to a symphony with each movement as a separate track.

The problem

The definition of many of the metadata tags for method 3 are not standardised, particularly for the most common format—MP3. Different encoders do it in different ways which means that players have to decide which, if any they support. This is partly as a consequence of multiple independent tagging systems.

Replay Gain

The first format to adopt what it called Replay Gain was Flac (Ogg Vorbis) and that is (nearly) standardised using the tags REPLAYGAIN_TRACK_PEAK, REPLAYGAIN_TRACK_GAIN & REPLAYGAIN_ALBUM_GAIN. There is also a REPLAYGAIN_ALBUM_PEAK which most encoders ignore. The loose point in the standard is that it specifies a reference volume of 83dB above the threshold of hearing whereas everyone now accepts (and implements) 89dB as a better level to avoid stretching the analogue amplification too far. The technical description for the standard proposed is

…the ReplayGain tags stored in the files are 6dB above the gain adjustments required to make the files “sound as loud” as a -20dB RMS pink noise signal when replayed in an SMPTE RP 200 calibrated system. The -20dB RMS pink noise signal will measure 83dB [89dB] SPL at the listener’s seat in such a system.

Encoder/Taggers such as MediaMonkey also use these as sub-tags of the TXXX {user defined text information} ID3v2 tag in MP3 files. They have the advantage that they are easy to read.

Windows Media Player

It is predictable that the proprietary organisations should do it differently. “Volume Levelling” has a system for its own WMA format using PeakValue and AverageLevel tags (these are “track gain” only) which it also uses to code MP3 files as sub-tags of the PRIV {Private} ID3v2 tag. It is coded in binary. I have seen reported elsewhere on the internet that WMP uses WM/WMADRCAverageReference, WM/WMADRCPeakReference, WM/WMADRCAverageTarget, and WM/WMADRCPeakTarget tags but I can’t find evidence for this in my files. What ever it does, WMP does it very slowly just like its collection of other meta data.

Apple iTunes

“Sound Check” is different again. I can’t analyse AAC files as I can’t find a structure definition document but for MP3 files it writes an iTunNORM sub-tag of the COMM {Comment} ID3v2 tag. There are 40 bytes of binary data in there but what they mean I haven’t discovered.


Surprisingly, this very popular public domain encoder also uses a unique system called the MP3 INFO tag. Replay Gain uses bytes 167-174 (not 175 as the documentation says) of the tag coded in binary—Track Peak Amplitude (4 bytes floating point), Track Gain (2 bytes), Album Gain (2 bytes). The format of the latter two is as follows—3 bits; type code, 000=Not Set, 001=Track, 010=Album. 3 bits originator code; 000=Unspecified, 001=set by producer, 010=set by user, 011=calculated automatically. 1 bit: sign. 9 bits; value * 10.


As well as the Vorbis type tags, MediaMonkey also writes an MP3 ID3v2 tag called RGAD {Replay gain adjustment} with 8 bytes of data supporting both track and album gain and I think there was some intention to get this standardised but I see no sign of it. The format (inside the tag) is the same as the LAME data described above.

What now

My immediate requirement is for my Sonos system to play at the correct volume. Sonos supports WMP tags for WMA & MP3, iTunes tags for AAC & MP3 and the standard tags in Flac files. It only supports “track gain” (and, as I have discovered by experiment, only supports negative values, so it will lower the volume but not raise it). What I require is “album gain” on Flac and MP3 files not written by the proprietary systems. What I need is a method to write either iTunes or WMP type tags based on the MediaMonkey ones. As a start I am working on a MediaMonkey plugin that first saves the “track gain” in a custom field for safety then copies the “volume gain” to the “track gain” field to fool the player into supporting audiophile mode. To do the rest of the job I will need to discover what the binary means in the WMP or iTunes tags.

[Edited 4 Jan 2012] to add information obtained from ReplayGain legacy metadata formats (with thanks).

TapThe Word of the Lord

1 Feb 2011 23:31 by Rick

Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, Music by Leonard Bernstein

You can hear (and see) it sung here—the song is in English despite the narrative being in German.

You can lock up the bold men.
Go and lock up your bold men and hold them in tow.
You can stifle all adventure for a century or so.

Smother hope before it is risen,
watch it wizen like a gourd,
but you cannot imprison the Word of the Lord.
No, you cannot imprison the Word of the Lord.

For the Word,
for the Word was at the birth of the beginning,
it made the heavens and the earth and set them spinning.
And for several million years,
it withstood all our quorums and fine ideas.
It’s been rough,
it’s been rough but it appears to be winning.

There are people who doubt it.
There are people who doubt it and shout it out loud.
There are local, vocal, yokels who we know collect a crowd.

They can fashion a rebuttal that’s a subtle as a sword,
but they’re never going to scuttle the Word of the Lord.
No, they’re never going to scuttle the Word of the Lord.

All you big men of merit,
all you big men of merit who ferret out flaws,
you rely on our compliance with your science and your laws.

Find a freedom to demolish while you polish some award,
but you cannot abolish the Word of the Lord.
No you cannot abolish the Word of the Lord.

For the Word,
for the Word created mud and got it going.
It filled our empty brains with blood and set it flowing.
And for thousands of regimes,
it endured all our follies and fancy schemes.
It’s been tough,
it’s been tough and yet it seems to be growing.

Oh you people of power,
oh you people of power, your power is now.
You may plan to go forever but you never do somehow.

So you wait in silent treason until reason is restored,
and we wait for the season of the Word of the Lord.
We await the season of the Word of the Lord.

We wait,
we wait for the Word of the Lord.

I hope that is right, I wasn’t sure about a couple of words. I was working from the 1971 recording, I hear that the newer one on the video is slightly different.

TapPicture This – Blondie

15 Aug 2010 17:13 by Rick

…ends with the lines

One and One is what I’m telling you
Get a pocket computer
Try to do what ya used to do, yeah.

That seems a bit advanced for 1978?


23 Jul 2010 12:13 by Rick

This has nothing to do with worms and less to do with ears than you might expect. What they are is the snatches of music that keep buzzing around inside your head, sometimes for hours at a time. It is a well known phenomenon that most people suffer from at some time and it is well known that advertisers exploit it in the little musical logos that they push repeatedly. Short little snatches that you immediately associate with the product like Intel or McDonalds. But to be a true earworm they have to keep coming back to you involuntarily and, fortunately, I don’t get that problem, possibly because I hear very little advertising—TV or radio.

My earworms, and I get a lot, are longer pieces of music, even whole songs and they are most irritating when I can’t remember the words. The current one in my head is a pop song by Mika and I don’t know the title (until I had to look it up—”Love Today”) or even the words; just the tune and the feel of it. They are tunes that we would call “catchy” but that may be a circular definition—catchy because they stick in your brain and vice versa.

According to the Guardian, the No. 1 on the earworm charts is Kylie Minogue, “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” (were they serious?) but not one I have ever had because it is not a song I know well enough. Part of my problem is I have a very wide musical taste that spans 50 or more years of pop music and a not insignificant amount classical and jazz. What will tomorrows earworm be—I can’t predict that. It could be triggered by something I hear, not necessarily the tune itself but something that brings it to mind. It could be a tune I have heard recently or not (knowingly) for 20 years. I know some things that bring one on instantly. Determinedly walking any distance instantly brings on “Onward Christian Soldiers” because that is the pace that I march at. Is there a cure; for me putting on some more music usually clears it temporarily and, when it comes back it will usually be a different song. Not that I want to give the impression that they are a problem. The only time I am irritated by them is when I can’t remember the rest of the tune or the words. I got stuck on Paul Simon’s “Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard” yesterday because I caught a snatch on Radio Bristol.

There is a research project at Goldsmiths College into finding more about them. I discovered this from Quentin Cooper’s Material World program on Radio 4—now he is a person with chronic earworms as you can tell by his feature links. Anyway, they are doing a survey; do fill it in and help them.


30 Jan 2010 12:40 by Rick

…with a nod to Marc Bolan for the name.

When looking at problems I was having with the tagging of MP3 files recently, I had the need for something that would unambiguously tell me exactly what tags were in a file and to verify that they were changed when I thought they should be. Although there are a lot of music library programs out there I needed something that would tell it as it was and never attempt to change anything.

So I wrote this program; and very big it turned out to be. Meta data in music files is much more complex than I expected.

Like all my stuff it is a command line program, so no fancy graphical interface and, at the moment, it is compiled for Intel Macs and (since v1.4) Windows. I know that it does work on Sun Sparc Solaris. It is probably good for other platforms too and the source code is supplied for you to port if you want to try. The output is quite voluminous, particularly if verbose mode is specified so be prepared to wade through a lot of information.

Since I first wrote it, it has extended in scope and now reports…

  • mp3—
    • ID3v1 & v1.1 TAG structure.
    • TAG+ extensions (not tested).
    • ID3v2.2 frames [added v1.3].
    • ID3v2.3 and 2.4 frames.
    • APE keys [from v1.1].
    • LYRICS3 blocks v1 & v2 (not tested).
    • embedded JPEG images.
  • wma—
    • ASF v1 objects.
    • some ASF v2 objects when discovered.
  • FLAC native files (not ogg containers yet) [v1.2]
    • embedded JPEG images.
  • jpg—
    • JFIF markers.
    • Exif markers.
    • SOF0 markers.
  • tar [added in v1.3].

I would like to go to other formats if I can get the information, particularly Apple & OGG sound files and GIF & PNG graphics files. I will be adding basic disk file meta data such as permissions and creation & modification dates pretty soon, though I have a feeling that this will be less portable.

I have created a static support page for the program which includes download links and full instructions on how to run it. In a later posting I will be reporting on some of the things I discovered by using it.

Updated: 23 Feb 2010 to v1.2
Updated: 8 Jan 2012 to v1.4

TapSonos from Scratch

2 Jan 2010 15:46 by Rick

Perhaps you have seen a Sonos system in someone’s house or you have seen it in hi-fi shops or on the internet and fancy one yourself. The advertising says you can get it going with one click (or is it two?) and it really is that easy but like any new acquisition it is worth doing a little planning first.

I will assume that you have an existing hi-fi system, a collection of CDs (music on Vinyl and Tape is beyond the scope of this article), a computer (Windows or Mac, desktop or laptop) and a broadband connection (this is essential) but not necessarily a wireless network. I will NOT assume that you are an iPod/portable MP3 player user—if you are then it can be easier (or can be harder!) This is written for a UK audience but most parts will be applicable elsewhere. Before we start, lets talk about budget. Over a complete system you need to allow about £500 per room. The first ones will be a little dearer and money can be saved by using existing components such as loud-speakers but it won’t alter the bottom line by a lot.

The first thing to decide is where you want to listen to music. There is no problem in starting small and expanding later but it can be cost effective to do two rooms at a time. In the room where the hi-fi sits you will need a ZP90 (ZonePlayer) connected to a spare input on your amplifier or receiver with the cables provided. These sockets could be marked Aux, AV (or even Radio or Video) but Phono inputs are not suitable. For rooms with no existing hi-fi then a ZP120 which has a built in amplifier can be used with a pair of loudspeakers and cable. Expect to spend £100–£200 for a pair of speakers as you will want decent ones, and try listening to some before buying as these affect the perceived quality more than anything else. I have no experience of the Sonos own-brand speakers. For less critical environments such as the kitchen, cheaper speakers can be used or the new Sonos S5 system which is semi-portable and has built in speakers (it only needs a mains power connection.)

One of the Sonos units must be hard wired to your broadband router! If you want music near where this is located you can use a standard ZonePlayer and connect that. If not then a cheaper option is to use a ZoneBridge (ZB100) which just makes the necessary network connection. All the equipment, except loudspeakers, can be hidden away in cupboards so long as they have adequate ventilation. In exceptional houses (very thick walls, large floor area or more than two stories) then you will need to carefully consider the siting of the equipment. A good rule of thumb is to make sure that each device is within 10m horizontally or 3m vertically from another one towards the direction of the hard-wired component. People with pre-wired houses have tried putting all the ZonePlayers in one cupboard but this can make it difficult to get a good signal on the wireless controllers.

You control the system to select the music to play using the hand held wireless controllers. You will probably need at least one. Each controller has a charging station (thankfully now included in the box) where it sits ready to be used. We have a three story house so keep one on each level. In addition there is a free computer desktop controller (PC or Mac) which it is worth installing as it makes system maintenance easier, but you probably won’t want to use it for day to day operation. There is also a well advertised controller application for the iPhone/iPod Touch. This requires you to have a (separate) wi-fi wireless system on your home network (the 3G Internet on the iPhone is not an alternative) and can be a cheaper substitute for the portable controller (free if you already have the device) but does have drawbacks e.g. it takes a while to wake up. Note that the Sonos system does NOT play the music that is on your iPod.

This has all been straight forward so far but now we come to the stuff they don’t talk about in the adverts. Sonos is well designed for non-technical users but here we need to get a little bit geeky so it runs smoothly long-term. Primarily, the Sonos plays music from digital storage i.e. Computer hard drives. The easiest and cheapest option is to use the music library facilities on your home computer—Windows Media Player on a PC or iTunes on a Mac. However this does have significant drawbacks, the most obvious of which is that the computer needs to be switched on to play any music. Home computers are not designed to be on all day, every day. They are not reliable enough, there are security implications and the power consumption can be considerable.

A better alternative is to use a NAS (Network Attached Storage) device. This is not a Music Server or anything fancy, just a box with hard drives attached to your network. It is designed to be on all the time and usually has power saving features to go into a standby mode when not in use. Talk to your supplier to find a suitable device – in technical language you want one that does SMB file sharing. I use the Netgear ReadyNas Duo which has two hard drives that mirror each other—i.e. they have identical copies of the same data so that if one fails you don’t lose anything. This guards against most failures except theft—if that is an issue or you have irreplaceable material then I would suggest a separate secured or offline backup system – discuss this with an expert. The NAS device wires to your router in the same way that your computer and the first Sonos system, with a Network cable.

What file format should you use? The four well known alternatives are WMA (Windows Media Audio), m4a (Apple format), FLAC (Lossless) and MP3. Sonos will play any of them but the first two can limit your future choice of other devices such as portable players. Purists like the lossless format but I can never hear the difference and they are supported by fewer systems so I would suggest using the MP3 format as it is very flexible. All the formats (except FLAC) can be recorded at different bit-rates; the higher the bit-rate the better the quality. As disk space is relatively cheap then go for the highest available. It used to be that people used lower bit-rates for portable devices but even these have massive capacity now so there is no need to compromise. There are two other formats you may have considered; WAV is supported by Sonos but it it is very wasteful of disk space for no benefit over other lossless formats and m4p files are the old Apple copyright protected files – they won’t play on Sonos and need to be converted to the liberated version (for a fee). There are other more obscure formats but if you need these then ask an expert.

How much storage space are you going to need? As a guide, my library has 10,000 tracks and takes up 70GB of storage using the highest quality MP3 files. The Sonos is limited to 65,000 tracks so I will never need more than 0.5TB. I bought 1TB drives because they were good value and I also use the space for PC backups. Using a lossless format I would need about three times the space.

To get the music off your CDs and onto the NAS (called “ripping”) you will need some software . This can be the same software that manages your library i.e. keeps all the information such as titles, artists correct. These programs also do things like a music jukebox but you won’t be using these facilities. If you have a Windows PC then I do NOT recommend using Windows Media Player. I have found that it has a mind of its own arbitrarily changing things that you have previously set. It has a time lag putting some operations into the background so unless you have it on a lot, some things never get done. The final nail in the coffin was that it always leaves a small gap between tracks even if there isn’t one on the CD. I have found the free MediaMonkey is a good alternative which does exactly what you tell it to. If you are a Mac user then people successfully use iTunes. It has some of the same problems as WMP, particularly with cover-art but I don’t know of a good alternative. There are available some separate and specialised CD rippers which are independent of the library managers—examples are Exact Audio Copy (EAC) for PC and Max (for Mac). These go to extraordinary lengths to guarantee that the copy you get is identical to what was on the CD. Whatever you use, take some time to get to know your program and discover how to set the recording format and quality.

When it comes to indexing your music, Sonos only takes account of six of the tags, as the information fields are called: (Album) Artist, Contributing Artist, Album (Title), Track (Name), Genre & Composer (these may have different names in your library software). All others are ignored and the last two are only used for indexing. It makes everything easier to find if you are consistent in using these—a task that is quite a challenge for the classical music lover and one that I haven’t yet completely solved.

Now you are all set but where should you buy it from? There is very little discounting for Sonos equipment so for cost it makes very little difference. You can buy direct from Sonos and it can be cheaper to get one of the bundles which include two ZonePlayers and a Controller. There are specialist online suppliers such as Simply Sonos who do a wider range of packages and deals. If you need to talk about loudspeakers and perhaps listen to some then many quality high-street hi-fi shops stock the range. I do not recommend buying the stuff on eBay unless you know exactly what you are doing. Some of it, even if new, is sourced from other countries and may have warranty implications.

Finally, sit back and listen. It will transform your music experience like it has mine.

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