Rip audio CDs and batch convert in Linux

Q Can you recommend a format to rip audio CDs to so that they'll play out of the box on patent-free distros? Can you then tell me how to batch convert the 30 or so albums I ripped to MP3 a few years back when I was a Microsoft user?

A Ogg Vorbis provides slightly better compression than MP3 and somewhat better quality, and it is completely free. The other free audio compression format is FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec). Because this is lossless, there is nowhere near as much space to be saved, but you do preserve every bit of the original track. If you have the hard disk space, FLAC is a good format for storing ripped CD tracks you can convert them to Ogg Vorbis or MP3 later if you want to fit them on to a smaller device such as a flash-based MP3 player. Transcoding your existing MP3s to Ogg Vorbis will result in some loss of quality. Starting again for the CDs is a much better option.

There are various GUI tools for this, the easiest of which is Konqueror if you run KDE. Pop a CD in the drive and type 'media:/' into the location bar. Pick the CD from the list and you see the contents of the disc represented as MP3, Ogg Vorbis, FLAC and Wave files. None of these files is real, of course, but copying them to your hard disk causes them to be encoded on the fly. You can set the compression parameters in the Sounds & Multimedia section of the KDE Control Centre. If you don't use KDE, I'd recommend Grip from www.nostatic.org/grip. This is a GTK audio player and ripper.

For console use, there is abcde (from www.hispalinux.es/~data/abcde.php), which is a shell script that rips, encodes and tags. This is ideal for encoding a batch of CDs - just keep feeding it more CDs as it spits each one out after encoding it. All of these methods use the online CDDB database to add tag information to the files they create. If you do have to convert your MP3s, there's a script called mp32ogg to do this - you can get it from http://faceprint.com/code. Using it can be as simple as running

mp32ogg musicdir

to get it to convert all MP3 files in musicdir to Ogg Vorbis. There are various options to control quality levels, file naming and whether the originals are deleted - run mp32off --help to see them. This script not only converts the music in the files, it also transfers the tags from the MP3 files.

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