For our plan, you will need some method of procuring MP3s, either via the Internet or otherwise; Casady & Greene Inc.'s (http://www.casadyg.com) SoundJam MP; a CD-R or CD-RW drive (always use CD-R discs for making audio CDs -- CD-RWs won't play in most consumer CD players); and Adaptec Inc.'s (http://www.adaptec.com) Toast, which probably came bundled with your CD burner.
Keep in mind, however, that because some data gets thrown out to achieve an MP3's small size, your files won't sound as good as a commercial CD. Also, if you have poorly encoded MP3s -- with skips and pops, for example -- you'll hear those flaws on your audio CD.
Associate Editor JONATHAN SEFF covers music and multimedia and has burned too many audio CDs for his own good.
1. Download Your MP3s: There are a few ways to download music files to your computer. It's best to pick MP3s encoded at a high bit rate, a measure of the amount of data present in a given time period. A bit rate between 128 and 192 Kbps (kilobits per second) is generally good for music, but for speech only, you can get away with a lower bit rate (about 96 Kbps).
Hotline (http://www.bigredh.com) gives you access to thousands of Hotline servers, many of which contain commercial MP3s.
Macster (http://www.macster.com) allows Mac users to search the Napster database for almost any song and then download it quickly and at no cost.
Web sites such as Riffage (http://www.riffage.com) let you search for, download, and listen to tons of new and unsigned bands.
2. Convert Your MP3s to AIFFs: Next you need to turn your MP3 files into AIFF (Audio Interchange File Format, a Mac audio standard) so you can burn them onto CDs. SoundJam MP, a popular commercial MP3 encoder, is one of the easiest programs to use for this task.
Open SoundJam MP's Converter window from the Window menu, or press command-3.
Drop your MP3 files into the Converter window A.
Select SoundJam AIFF Encoder from the Convert Using pop-up menu B.
Click on the Start Converting button C.
TIP: You can also use the following applications to translate MP3 files to AIFF format. Note that QuickTime Pro can convert files only one at a time.
In Adaptec's Toast 4 Deluxe, simply drag and drop your MP3s into the Toast window. Toast will then convert the files as you record the CD. In QuickTime Pro, open an MP3 file and choose Export from the File menu. Select Sound To AIFF from the Export menu. Click on the Save button. The free MPecker Drop Decoder (http://www.anime.net/~go/mpeckers.html) lets you convert MP3s to both AIFF and WAV files by dragging and dropping MP3s onto the program icon.
3. Arrange Your Tracks and Burn Your CD: Restart your computer. This clears up the RAM so you don't get any "hiccups," which can ruin the CD. Using Toast 4 Deluxe or your bundled version of Toast (we used Toast 4.1), order your AIFF files as you want them to appear on the CD. Then it's time to burn this sucker!
Open Toast and drop your AIFFs into the Audio Tracks window A. Arrange the tracks in the desired order by dragging and dropping them into place.
From the pop-up menu in the Pause column B , set the pause between tracks to your liking.
Click on the Done button C.
Insert a blank CD-R (not a CD-RW) in your CD burner and click on Write CD D.
Select the write speed of your CD-R drive from the Speed pop-up menu E.
Click on Write Disc F, and you're done!