The audiophile’s guide to streaming music

Don't sacrifice sound quality in the name of convenience. With a lossless codec, a well-optimized streaming setup, and a few easy tricks, you can push phenomenal audio to every room in your house.

Tweak the Codec Options

You won't need to make any changes to EAC's compression settings unless you're reconfiguring a previous installation. If that's the case, click the EAC menu and choose Compression Options. Click the External Compression tab and check Use external program for compression. Choose User Defined Encoder from the 'Parameter passing scheme' drop-down menu and type .flac in the 'Use file extension' box.

Type the following text string in the 'Additional command line options' box: -6 -V -T "Artist=%a" -T "Title=%t" -T "Album=%g" -T "Date=%y" -T "Tracknumber=%n" -T "Genre=%m" -T "Comment=%e" %s -o %d

That will set the amount of compression that FLAC will use. (Higher values yield greater compression but entail longer encoding times. The range is zero to eight; we're using six in this example.) The '-V' value will force FLAC to run a decoder parallel to the encoder to compare the encoder's output with the original input. Each of the text strings preceded by '-T' is a tag that embeds information into each track (artist name, song title, album title, and so on). Clear any check marks next to Use CRC check, Add ID3 tag, and Check for external programs return code, but place a check mark next to Delete WAV after compression. Lastly, choose the High quality option. Click OK.

Everything you've now accomplished in EAC needs to be done just once. If you want to experiment with other settings, or if someone else will be using your PC to rip their CDs using different values, I suggest you save this configuration as a profile so that you can restore all the program's settings in one step. Click the EAC menu, choose Profiles, Save Profiles, and give it a name.

You'll perform the remaining steps with every CD you rip.

Mind the Gaps (Between Tracks)

Commercially recorded CDs usually have gaps in between their tracks. The gaps often contain digital silence, but they sometimes contain a fade from a previous track, an introduction to the next track, or even an entire song (a so-called hidden track). A CD player will play a gap's content only when the tracks are automatically played in sequential order; in other words, if you skip to Track 3, you won't hear anything that might have been encoded in the gap preceding Track 3.

When you rip the CD, EAC will default to appending each gap to the previous track. If you want the program to append the gap to the next track, or if you want to leave the gap out entirely (which I don't recommend because you might lose important audio material), press the F4 key to have EAC detect gaps on the CD. Click the Action menu and choose the option you prefer.

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