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Essentials For The MP3 Aficionado
September 15, 2002

Best ripper? Best encoder? Best decoder? Best MP3 player? Best ID3 tag editor? Best sites? Best P2P network?

The following are just one man's opinion, backed by a lot of experience in the MP3 world, surely you have your own.

Best ripper: EAC 0.9 beta 4

Exact Audio Copy V0.9 beta 4

Don't let the fact that this software is beta fool you into thinking it's buggy or inferior. EAC is as stable as a brick wall, and provides the highest quality CD rips on earth.

It uses a secure mode to ensure the accuracy of it's rips, and to guarantee 100% digital copies of your CD. Oh, and its' also free.

Read my tutorial to quickly get up and running with EAC, using the best options.

Best MP3 encoder: LAME 3.92

LAME 3.92 with the --alt-preset standard switch

Currently the highest quality encoder available, providing audiophile quality MP3s at 190-210kb/s.

Best MP3 decoder: WinAmp

The decoder in Winamp 2.8 (and 3.X) is as accurate as you'll find.

Read my article on the inaccuracies found in some of the other decoders.

Best MP3 player: WinAmp

This is a tough one, since everyone has their own preference. Knowing that the WinAmp decoding engine is the most accurate one, along with it's plethora of plugins, I will have to continue to recommend it as the audiophile's choice for playback.

If you have an older computer, you will want to stick with WinAmp 2.8.

WinAmp 3, with it's really cool media library feature, and trippy visual plugins, is definitely the player of the future, but you'll need a powerhouse to take full advantage.

Best ID3 tag editor: Tag&Rename

Tag&Rename is the most powerful ID3 editor and MP3 renamer you'll find. It can do everything!

Easily rename files individually or a whole directory of files at a time, convert ID3v1.1 to ID3v2, export to CSV, grab tag info from the CDDB, import album information from allmusic.com, and much more.

Best utility: EncSpot

Use EncSpot to determine which encoder your MP3s were compressed with.

This is an essential tool for any MP3 collector, and it's free.

Honorable Mention: Burn To The Brim

Have you ever wondered if there was a piece of software the let you maximize the space on your CD-Rs, taking all the guesswork out?

Burn To The Brim analyses the files and folders in a folder you specify, and groups them in the best possible way. Most likely BTTB will find a near-perfect solution for you within one second, and a perfect one in just a couple more.

Best home-stereo playback device : Harmon Kardon DAL150 Computer-to-Home-Audio-Link

What is it? The DAL150 plugs into the USB port on your computer. The other end plugs into the digital input on your receiver.

Why is this better than just attaching a cable from your soundcard to the input on your receiver? Because the longer your MP3 remains digital, the better the sound quality.

The analog output on soundcards is subject to interference from your computer (electronic noise). With this device, your MP3s remain in digital form as they are transferred from your computer hard drive, via USB, to the DAL150 device. From there they are digitally transmitted to the digital input on your receiver.

For those who want a similar device, without the Harmon Kardon pricetag, check out the Xitel DG2.

Update: Wildchild e-mailed me about a device called the MAudio Sonica which has 24 bit 96kHZ DTS and Dolby Digital output. And it's a great price too!

Best site: Audio Illumination

Formerly HydrogenAudio.org, Audio Illumination is the front-line for all breakthroughs in audio compression.

Without the Audio Illumination community we would not be enjoying the high quality MP3s that we do today. It is because of their tireless work, which they perform out of love and not money, that we have come this far.

Be sure to check them out, and soak up the information in the message boards.

Best P2P Network: UberNet

Alright, alright, I'm somewhat biased, but I can't think of a better place to find high quality full albums than UberNet.

It can be tough to find high quality music online, especially full albums, but one my favorites is SoulSeek. It seems to have a community that is much more sophisticated than your average P2P network.

Do you agree with these choices? Are there any other types of MP3 tools you use that weren't mentioned here?

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