mp3 bits and bobs

Ages ago Adam showed me this thing you can do in the UK with your mobile phone. If you are listening to a song that you don’t know or can’t remember the name of, you can dial 2580 and Shazam will ‘listen’ to the song and text you back the name, artist and other handy stuff. Very cool. I remember looking for a similar thing on the net a while back but never found it… today I found……which is a database of song signatures that can be compared against your mp3s using the MusicBrainz Tagger Software. On the Mac you can use iEatBrainz , either way just select the songs that have dodgy ID3 tags and it will download the missing information.

Another thing I’ve been looking into is recording RealPlayer streams. Now that I have the iPod it would be nice to be able to listen to BBC Radio4 Comedy and other stuff on the go. My first attempt was one of the many tools that can record whatever sounds are currently playing on the PC. Audacity is a good freeware tool for doing this but it requires LAME for the encoding to mp3 (or you could use iTunes to do the conversion from wav). This is not a very good solution though since can only record one thing at once and you have to setup the recording… get the volume right (ala the old days with cassettes)… wait until the program finishes… clip off any blank sound and then encode to mp3. What a faff!

Further searching revealed a beauty of a program: HiDownload. This is the beastie. Not only can it download the streams directly, it can thread the downloads to speed them up, and it can do multiple files at once. A 30 minute program just took 5 minutes to download with 6 threads. It also has built in support for live BBC streams and iTunes Radio. This could increase the mp3 collection to bursting point. So you’ve downloaded ISIHAC to a .ra file. Now what? You can load it in RealPlayer of course but this is not getting you out the door. So you need a .ra to mp3 converter. A bit of searching and testing later and dbPowerAMP seems to be the kiddie. Nice modular support for a bunch of codecs and freeware. Shame the iPod doesn’t support RealMedia… but that is never going to happen unless Linux on iPod gets beyond the silly stage.
Ok so scrap that last bit dbPowerAMP is too slow. It took 30 minutes to encode a 30 minute file. Seemingly a million hours later I have now worked it out. Make sure you have RealPlayer installed, Download Winamp 5 , open the preferences, go to Input, double click on the NullSoft Direct Show Decoder and add ;RM;RA to the list. Now load the .ra file and go to preferences again… click Output and select NullSoft DiskWriter… change the settings to output wav to an appropriate directory and then play the file. This will decode the .ra and encode directly to disk as .wav at a very fast rate (about 5 mins to do a 2hour essential mix). Now you will have a very large .wav file which you need to encode to mp3. Use iTunes and encode using VBR mp3 with min 64kbps bitrate. The realaudio files are pretty crappy sound quality so don’t expect much. Once iTunes is finished check the mp3 for quality and then delete the .wav. Still a faff but now that I know how to do it we will see if I ever bother! Let me know if you have a better method.

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