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CD ripping, digital music, music streaming, iPod / iTunes / Sonos - various thoughts, suggestions, ideas, odd ramblings ….

iPod to PC / Mac Music Recovery

Even this late in the iPod lifecycle we're getting a couple of calls a week in the same vein. "Can you get music off my iPod and onto my computer?"

There are still people who, for whatever reason, have music on an iPod that isn't on their current computer. Often it's due to that hard drive failing, sometimes people move to a new PC and forget to take their iTunes library with them. They're left with an iPod Classic stuffed with tracks and a new PC / Mac with no music. Can we get their music back?

Let's be clear what isn't a problem - purchased music. If you log into your iTunes account on the new computer you can re-download tracks you purchased from iTunes Music Store. The issue lies with the music you've ripped from your purchased CDs. Can those tracks be recovered?

As we often say to clients - all things are possible. If you do a Google search you'll find several pages with guaranteed, surefire, undoubted methods to backup from an iPod to a computer. Indeed, in the early days of our CD ripping service, we did this pretty often. We even purchased software for our Macs and PCs that allowed us to do this. At the heart of any of these approaches is an intervention to stop the automatic sync of device and computer. Once that has even begun, in that fraction of a second, if you can't grab the music player an turn it into a vanilla flavoured external storage device, you're screwed. You don't get two chances. Zap, it's all gone.

Today it's much more difficult than it was fifteen years ago. The whole process is so much faster. Of course we have our own iPods to practice with and we speak from experience. We know that it goes wrong too often. Of course we're speaking from a commercial perspective, we're no longer confident that we can take on the risk of it not working. So we're happy if you want to say it can be done, it's just we're not doing it any more.

iPod to PC / Mac Music Recovery

Even this late in the iPod lifecycle we're getting a couple of calls a week in the same vein. "Can you get music off my iPod and onto my computer?"

There are still people who, for whatever reason, have music on an iPod that isn't on their current computer. Often it's due to that hard drive failing, sometimes people move to a new PC and forget to take their iTunes library with them. They're left with an iPod Classic stuffed with tracks and a new PC / Mac with no music. Can we get their music back?

Let's be clear what isn't a problem - purchased music. If you log into your iTunes account on the new computer you can re-download tracks you purchased from iTunes Music Store. The issue lies with the music you've ripped from your purchased CDs. Can those tracks be recovered?

As we often say to clients - all things are possible. If you do a Google search you'll find several pages with guaranteed, surefire, undoubted methods to backup from an iPod to a computer. Indeed, in the early days of our CD ripping service, we did this pretty often. We even purchased software for our Macs and PCs that allowed us to do this. At the heart of any of these approaches is an intervention to stop the automatic sync of device and computer. Once that has even begun, in that fraction of a second, if you can't grab the music player an turn it into a vanilla flavoured external storage device, you're screwed. You don't get two chances. Zap, it's all gone.

Today it's much more difficult than it was fifteen years ago. The whole process is so much faster. Of course we have our own iPods to practice with and we speak from experience. We know that it goes wrong too often. Of course we're speaking from a commercial perspective, we're no longer confident that we can take on the risk of it not working. So we're happy if you want to say it can be done, it's just we're not doing it any more.

When Dreams Become Nightmares

We make mistakes. OK, I admit it. Of course we do everything we can to avoid them but I have to put my hand up and say yes, from time to time, we get something wrong. It burns inside when we get a complaint and I try to swallow hurt pride and say sorry, then put it right.

When a complaint came from a repeat customer that hurts all the more. We ripped the CDs in the normal way and returned his 300 CDs plus his digital files on a hard drive. He rang a few days later to ask a point on file structures and I asked if he was enjoying his expanded digital music library. He was kind enough to say yes, but …

So I asked what’s the but?

Well, the Mozart compilation has two discs missing. Hmm … how did that happen. Thankfully he wasn't too upset but I appreciate how annoying that kind of glitch might be. Naturally it set my mind racing on how that might be. Before we get to the cause of that here’s another issue we faced from another client’s CD collection we ripped this week.

It’s Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius. Something I can take or leave but undoubtedly one of the major works of an English classical composer. Pretty bit of cover art too but sadly the otherwise comprehensive album notes don’t say who created the image. You’ll also see it’s a two CD set. The discs cover other composers works too but the headline piece is split over the two CDs.

Except it’s not. Looking through the output files in iTunes it was easy to see the second discs didn’t show up. To correct this I put CD 2 into the drive. I should explain how ripping software works. When the CD is recognised iTunes measures some vital statistics - overall length (in time), number of tracks, length of each track. This creates a digital fingerprint and it’s that which is matched against CDDB in the case of iTunes or GD3 when we’re using our robot rippers. On the basis of that match Apple or whoever then supplies the metadata - album name, track details, artists, composer and so on. Not whatever Decca has printed on the front of the disc.

In this case Disc 1 is disc one, and so is Disc 2. A screw up by Decca. So much for German attention to detail, Otto on the night shift was asleep when these went into the printer. Unfortunately this Dream turns into a nightmare as we don’t have a true copy here from which can can substitute the errant tracks.

Going back to the first clients issue he kindly agreed to put the two “missing” discs into his computer and yes, you guessed. Our digital fingerprints had spotted these discs as being from another two albums. Other than slotting them into the set they client had purchased the discs had been ripped, the metadata was correct in all respects except album names. He was able to enjoy the sound albeit wrongly labeled.

I’ll take that one - could do better, We’ll be paying more attention in future. And you lot on the night shift, wake up at the back.

When Dreams Become Nightmares

We make mistakes. OK, I admit it. Of course we do everything we can to avoid them but I have to put my hand up and say yes, from time to time, we get something wrong. It burns inside when we get a complaint and I try to swallow hurt pride and say sorry, then put it right.

When a complaint came from a repeat customer that hurts all the more. We ripped the CDs in the normal way and returned his 300 CDs plus his digital files on a hard drive. He rang a few days later to ask a point on file structures and I asked if he was enjoying his expanded digital music library. He was kind enough to say yes, but …

So I asked what’s the but?

Well, the Mozart compilation has two discs missing. Hmm … how did that happen. Thankfully he wasn't too upset but I appreciate how annoying that kind of glitch might be. Naturally it set my mind racing on how that might be. Before we get to the cause of that here’s another issue we faced from another client’s CD collection we ripped this week.

It’s Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius. Something I can take or leave but undoubtedly one of the major works of an English classical composer. Pretty bit of cover art too but sadly the otherwise comprehensive album notes don’t say who created the image. You’ll also see it’s a two CD set. The discs cover other composers works too but the headline piece is split over the two CDs.

Except it’s not. Looking through the output files in iTunes it was easy to see the second discs didn’t show up. To correct this I put CD 2 into the drive. I should explain how ripping software works. When the CD is recognised iTunes measures some vital statistics - overall length (in time), number of tracks, length of each track. This creates a digital fingerprint and it’s that which is matched against CDDB in the case of iTunes or GD3 when we’re using our robot rippers. On the basis of that match Apple or whoever then supplies the metadata - album name, track details, artists, composer and so on. Not whatever Decca has printed on the front of the disc.

In this case Disc 1 is disc one, and so is Disc 2. A screw up by Decca. So much for German attention to detail, Otto on the night shift was asleep when these went into the printer. Unfortunately this Dream turns into a nightmare as we don’t have a true copy here from which can can substitute the errant tracks.

Going back to the first clients issue he kindly agreed to put the two “missing” discs into his computer and yes, you guessed. Our digital fingerprints had spotted these discs as being from another two albums. Other than slotting them into the set they client had purchased the discs had been ripped, the metadata was correct in all respects except album names. He was able to enjoy the sound albeit wrongly labeled.

I’ll take that one - could do better, We’ll be paying more attention in future. And you lot on the night shift, wake up at the back.

Box Sets, CD Ripping and Feedback

Let’s not call it a complaint, it’s really feedback. When dealing with boxed sets, how do we convert those CDs into a digital music library?

The comment was that the client has a box set, yet when he looked at the music library we’d created he couldn’t see those discs where he expected them to be. After a little digging he was happy to see they were all in his library, just not annotated the way he’d thought we’d do it.

Why were we “wrong”?

When we lookup each CD in our online databases the system looks for a digital fingerprint - essentially the total length of the CD, number of tracks, length of each track. These numbers are sufficient in the vast majority of cases to uniquely identify each CD correctly.

Our databases register the first pressing of each CD.

In real life this is what happens. An artist records some music and it’s released under a name - let’s call it Beethoven 1. A little later the same performers release another, perhaps that’s Beethoven 3. Two discs, each uniquely tagged and entered into the databases we use.

Then a bright spark at the label realises if the same people record Beethoven 2 they can realise a small box set called Beethoven 1, 2 & 3. each piece of plastic is repainted to provide a consistent image and off they go to market in a neat little box.

How were we “wrong”?

Without any intervention when we rip those three CDs the client will see in the music library:-

Beethoven 1

Beethoven 3

Beethoven 1, 2 & 3 - (Disc 2)

All the music is there, correctly listed and tagged, with appropriate cover art to the original pressing. What the client expected to see was:-

Beethoven 1, 2 & 3 - (Disc 1)

Beethoven 1, 2 & 3 - (Disc 2)

Beethoven 1, 2 & 3 - (Disc 3)

Why did we do it “wrong”?

When I started ripping CDs I was concerned that people would be able to see what we’d done for them and we could justify our charges. It seemed unfair to me that if people had two copies of the same CD we’d charge them twice for it - after all, you only want one version in your library. I know from experience routing out the duplicate albums can save clients £25 or more on a reasonable sized CD collection.

What is a boxed set anyway?

For me, it’s a construct that makes some sense. The first type of sense is one that relates to the performer or the composer. Going back to Beethoven a collection of his symphonies makes sense, as does a collection of piano or violin compositions, or indeed all the music he composed.

The second sense is essentially for packaging or economic purposes. As an example I present the boxed set of The Smiths CDs. Each is available singly, each released singly, they stand on their own but the label helpfully offers fans the chance to save the bother of buying each on its own.

The Customer is Always Right …..

So this is how we plan to tackle boxed sets going forward. If we pick up the disc on its own, it will be ripped as a single CD. If we find we have the box set (that is, a set which in my terms “makes sense”) then that collection of CDs will be ripped as Disc 1, Disc 2 and so on - even in the case of the Mozart Complete set, all the way up to Disc 170.

Where the set is put together primarily for marketing reasons then each disc will be ripped as a CD on its own.

Any downside to this?

Well, there could be, and it’s simply financial. Some clients may end up being charged once when the first disc is ripped then again when it appears in the boxed set. As clients have said, for them it’s not the end of the world, and for some it is what they would prefer. We do have a way round this so if it’s a huge financial issue for any client we can address that.

Be it a complaint or feedback we want to get your CD ripping right.

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