Burning your MP3s to an Audio CD

Whether you've downloaded your MP3s from the Net or you've ripped them from CDs, chances are you're going to want to listen to them when you're not sitting at your computer. Unless you've got a portable MP3 player, the best option is probably going to be to burn standard audio CDs that can be played in a car or home stereo CD player. Of course, to do this you'll need a CD recorder and some blank CDs!

The first step to creating an audio CD is to start a new audio CD project in your recording software. Fig 1 shows how this is done in Nero Burning ROM 5. Standard audio CDs contain uncompressed audio, so your MP3 files will need to be decoded before they can be recorded to audio CDs. Fortunately, many CD recording applications will perform this task for you -- often in real-time. Fig 2 shows how an audio track can be added to a CD by simply dragging and dropping an MP3 file.

If you are using CD recording software that requires you to use uncompressed WAV files, you'll need to convert your MP3s first. If you have Winamp, you can configure it to output your MP3s to disk instead of the sound card. To do this, go to Winamp's preferences (-P) and select Nullsoft Disk Writer from the output plugins section (Fig 3). Click the Configure button and select a location to save the WAV files in (Fig 4). Also, while you're here, ensure that you are creating 44.100kHz, 16-bit, stereo files, as this is the format used by audio CDs. Now you can open up your MP3 files, hit play and watch Winamp plough through them -- you won't hear anything, though, because you're no longer outputting to the sound card, but to the hard disk. Once this is done, you're ready to add the new WAV files to your audio CD project. Nero users can tweak the audio settings by double-clicking the tracks in the CD project. For example, you can split a single MP3 into multiple tracks without gaps, which is great for live recordings (Fig 5). You can also normalise and remove clicks, which can help clean up noisy vinyl and low-level recordings (Fig 6).

Once you've filled your CD to the brim, it's time to burn (Fig 7). There are a couple of things to bear in mind when burning audio, as opposed to regular data. First, its best to burn at a slower speed than you usually would, preferably no higher than 4x. This will ensure that your CDs are compatible with most CD players. Second, burn using "disk-at-once" if you have the option and be sure to close the disk (Fig 8). Closing a disk simply means that you cannot write any further data to it. If you leave a disk open, or if you use multiple recording sessions, then you run the risk of your CDs being incompatible with many CD players.

If you've been following our Digital Music guides, then you should be familiar with using EAC to extract audio from CDs. Not only is EAC a fantastic CD ripper, it also has a built-in CD recording function. So, if you don't already have a CD recording program that allows you to create audio CDs, you might want to give EAC a try. It can be freely downloaded from http://www.exactaudiocopy.de/. Using -W or selecting "Write CD-R" from the tools menu will present you with the CD Layout Editor (Fig 9). You can add audio files -- either MP3s or WAVs -- using the "Append Files" options from the Layout menu. EAC will check the file before loading it and then display each track and how much time you have left in your CD project. If you are creating a live or mix CD then you might want to disable the "Add 2 Second Gap" option in the Layout menu first. Once you're done, simply select "Write CD" from the CD-R menu (Fig 10). There aren't as many options as with an application like Nero, and the interface is fairly basic, but at the end result will be the same -- a standard audio CD that you have created from MP3 files.

Got a digital audio question? Ask HelpScreen

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PC World
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