There is a plethora of programs that will enable you to move your CDs onto your computer and, if you really want to, it is very possible to use your computer to control your hi-fi system.
I just want to get you started, and for nothing at first, so that you can make your own decisions on whether you want to go ahead and invest the huge amounts of time that this can cost.
Initially, there are four nice programs you can download off the Internet, and these programs are classed as freeware. This means that you do not have to pay anything, although some freeware authors like to receive a postcard and some invite donations of you like what you see,
The first thing you may want to do is to translate the types of files on your CDs into the types of files that your computer can easily read. There are many types of files but I won’t cloud the issue as, after all, this is about getting started. We will concentrate on MP3s.
MP3s are the most popular, they are also a lot smaller. Whereas CDs can contain, on an average, between 12 and 24 songs, the same CD filled with MP3s might well contain up to two hundred music files.
First of all, some terminology. Pulling off a song file on your music CD, into an MP3 file on your computer, is called “ripping”. So you will need a CD Ripper. A good ‘freeware’ ripper is “CDex”. This is an ideal starter program and can be found at http://cdexos.sourceforge.net/
Apart from Ripping your songs into MP3 files, it will look out, onto the Internet, to a site containing most CDs and collect the name of the singer and the title of each song. I won’t dwell on how this works as that is scope of another article. Suffice to say that people usually, when there is no details available, type them in manually, and forward the details to this site for others to benefit. It seems to work as there are few CDs that haven’t been covered. I like a lot of Afrikaans CDs and am always amazed that most of those are listed.
Once you have your MP3 files on your hard disk, all labelled neatly, you may want to get a Tag Editor. The one that I like is “TagScanner”, it is Russian and can be found at http://xdev.narod.ru/ When you first go to this site you may notice it is all in Russian. Don’t despair, look at the top right hand area of the site and you will see a button inviting you to go to the English section.
You may want to copy come music files to a temporary directory whilst you experiment with this program so as not to ruin any of your file titles. This program will enable you to make your collection very neat and accessible, but you can ignore it altogether if neatness and orderliness is not your scene, and you like to do a lot of manual typing.
Now you will want a program to run your music from. The “freeware” version of “WinAmp” is ideal for this. It is now on version 5.x which, in my opinion, is the first version that really makes this program fun and easy to use. You can get it at http://www.winamp.com/
WinAmp is very popular and there are lots of plug-ins to get it to do different things. Forget the plugins initially as it will be easier then to get to know the basics. Finally you will want to “burn” your music onto CDs. Either as MP3s for playing on your computer, or as audio music files for playing on your audio hi-fi system. This is termed as ‘burning’ but all it really means is saving to a CD. An ideal free program to do this is called “Burn 4 Free” and this can be downloaded from http://www.burn4free.com/.
If you are one of the very few who are willing to invest in this art, you will find this article just the thing as your first stepping stone. On the other hand, this will prove the quickest way to convince you not to go ahead if your time is always at a premium. I tend to steer a path in between the two schools of thought. Although I don’t have time to go into it all fully, I have found the following of use to both myself, and my wife.
When you buy a CD there are often only one or two songs you really like, sometimes only one. We have gone through our collections of hundreds of CDs saving just the song that we like, and then we made CDs all containing songs that we love very much. This makes life much easier and we tend to listen to our music much more than in the past.
I now have my collection to play when I am alone – all of which are favourites, and so does my wife Pam. We also have a collection of joint favourites we play when we are together.
Although it is illegal, technically, to do this, providing you don’t sell the originals you could possibly win your case in a court of law as you have purchased the CD and would surely have a right to make backup copies but a solicitor could probably offer far better advice than this article could.
There are far better commercial programs out there and the reason I have chosen freeware or shareware is so that you can get started and see whether such a hobby is worth continuing.