Audio - Creating audio CDs

Create an audio CD from mp3s A number of CD burning applications are currently on the market, the most notable being Adaptec's Easy CD Creator. Unless you receive such programs bundled with your CD-R or CD-RW drive, you'll need to purchase them. There are alternatives, though, such as MusicMatch Jukebox, which has a free downloadable version that is able to encode mp3s at up to 160Kbps. Many people know this program for its easy mp3 ripping and encoding capabilities, but the best part of MusicMatch is its quick and easy CD burning prowess. Backing up an existing CD for personal use can be done the same way, as MusicMatch is a CD player also.

To bring up the various functions and different windows in MusicMatch, select Options-View. From here you can bring up the MusicMatch guide, or the radio, playlists and recording windows.

First, load some tracks into your playlist (the window titled Music Library) by clicking the Add button and browsing your hard disk to get to your mp3 files. Now select the CD-R button at the upper right of the program. You'll be greeted with the option of creating a data CD (to burn a CD full of mp3 files) or, by default, you can create an audio CD. This will turn your mp3 playlist into an audio CD that can be played anywhere.

Click the button titled Options, where you will find settings such as testing the CD before burning, electing to have the CD drive open when your burning session is complete, adjusting the burning speed or adding gaps between your tracks. Towards the bottom you'll notice a bar graph that lets you know how much space you have to work with before your data CD will be full. For audio CDs, take note of the Time Remaining indicator located in the same area. You're able to arrange tracks by dragging them around and selecting which ones to use by clicking to put a cross/check next to them. Once you've reached your CD's limit and you're happy with the track order, you're ready to begin burning. Make sure you've got your blank CD in your CD-R or CD-RW drive. If you're backing up an existing CD, it's wise to invest in quality media. Once you're ready, start burning by pressing "Create CD". When recording reaches 100 per cent, the CD has been burned - it's that easy.

Making mp3s from an audio CD To make mp3s from an audio CD (rip) using MusicMatch is easy. Place your music CD in the drive, press -- to go to settings, then click the recorder tab. Here you can select your mp3 encoding quality options. With the audio CD in the drive, the tracks should load up in your playlist and, if you're connected to the Internet, the CDDB will automatically be accessed to save you typing in track names. Once you've selected which tracks you want to burn, press Record and you'll have backed up your audio collection in no time.

Visualising your music Visualisations to your music can be configured by pressing -- - you'll need to download some from the MusicMatch Web site at www.musicmatch.com. We have provided a copy of the unregistered program on this month's cover disc to save you downloading it. Also under View is the option Change Themes. This changes how MusicMatch looks via skins which can be changed whenever you wish. Four different themes come with the program after installation.

Soundcard choices A few people have asked which sound cards are best for tasks such as these. In my experience, there are many great sound cards on the market with a good quality-to-price ratio. Generally speaking, any newer soundcard with a digital CD interface is great for providing better sound quality when ripping. Some even provide built-in hardware acceleration to speed up the mp3 encoding process. One such card is the Creative SoundBlaster Live! which, as it happens, uses a custom version of MusicMatch to perform this acceleration.

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