Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Cleaning CDs

The saga of my CD rip continues. Once I'd ripped the entire set to hard disk I thought I was all but done. Foolish me! I'd used a combination of CDEX and WMP to do the rips. CDEX at the start because I'd used it before, WMP later because it downloads Album art if available. Very handy.

Listening to the results I was mostly happy though there were a few rips that just didn't sound all that good; stuttering and various artifacts that weren't there 20 years ago when I bought the CD's.

It didn't take long to establish that the years had taken their toll and there were all kinds of scratches and blemishes. It probably didn't help that for the last three and a half years the CD's have been sitting stacked 50 to a spindle instead of nestling safely within jewel cases.

After some investigation I found that Easy CD-DA Extractor (hereinafter to be known as ECDDA) does a pretty good job of correcting the errors. If I get a single read error in a track and I play the rip back over the affected area I'm damned if I can hear it. But don't forget you're reading the guy who rips in WMA format at 96 kbit/s because I can't hear any difference between that format and the higher ones. It sounds good to me!

Of course ECDDA couldn't cope with everything! Life couldn't be that simple could it? Nearly four hours into a rip of Karl Tennstedt's recording of Mahlers Second Symphony, at 10 percent ripped and a read speed of 0.004x, I gave it up and hit the cancel button.

Well bugger! I happen to like that particular performance and it's way out of print. A secondhand copy might be better than mine but who knows? So I did a bit of investigation and found a machine from Digital Innovations that purports to repair scratched and damaged CDs. They have two models; one is hand cranked, 'tother is battery operated. I chose the hand cranked model. When I get to the point that I can't wind a handle it'll be time to take me out behind the woodshed and shoot me.

I'll note that the battery operated model wants 6 AA cells. If the amount of effort the hand cranked model requires is anything to go by I reckon those cells would be exhausted at the end of a single repair cycle!

So I read the instructions, chose a suitably damaged and grubby CD (the aforementioned Mahler 2nd, disk 1), sprayed the solution liberally on and gave it a whirl. Felt quite silly doing it! But at the end of the process (it takes maybe 2 minutes) when I tried to rip the CD again it worked a charm!

Whilst most CDs in the first rip sounded just fine I decided it was well worth the trouble to redo the rip, using ECCDA and paying anal attention the MP3 tags. (Thanks Stuart)[^]. You were absolutely right! I now have album art for almost my entire collection (makes it much easier in WMP11 to find that CD you want to listen to right now!) and when I do a search for Camille Saint-Saens Wedding Cake Waltz I can find it within seconds by typing 'Cam' into the search box. Sure beats the heck out of going through a rack of CDs looking for it!

On the other hand, I could count on the thumbs of one foot the number of times in the last 15 years that I've wanted to find Camille Saint-Saens Wedding Cake Waltz!

Even with ECDDA and the CD scratch repairer there are one or two CDs stubborn enough to fail to rip correctly! Bastards! :-) So I tried the second level. Scrubbed the suckers with toothpaste! That rescued all but two; on one of em I could see the scratch from the label side meaning it's a deep scratch indeed and I suspect that CD is past redemption. I can't see any obvious reason why the second one failed to respond. *shrug*

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