Monday, July 03, 2006

Oh, the audacity

I can't believe that other people blindly accept that MP3 players insert audible gaps between tracks. Mine does and an internet search indicates that apparently most MP3 players do. Given that I can play the same set of tracks on my main computer using WMP11 and it smoothly transitions from one track to the next I suspect it's related to the CPU power available.

Obviously I'm talking the sort of album that breaks a continuous track into a set of shorter tracks whilst expecting the playback hardware to output a continuous stream. I'm not sure why they do that.

Possibly the worst example I have is Havergal Brian's Gothic Symphony. CD 1 of the set contains the first, second and third movements and, whilst I haven't consulted the score to see if rests are inserted every minute or so I'm pretty sure, based on listening to the music, that he didn't intend a 2 second gap be inserted between one chord and the next. I'm also pretty sure that dividing those three movements into 25 separate chunks wasn't his intention. It doesn't even make commercial sense if the entire 2 CD set can be downloaded for $1.98 and each of the 25 chunks costs 99 cents!

It so happens that I don't have a genuine pressed CD of that particular symphony. My copy is legal to be sure; I downloaded it some time ago from MSN music and when I play the DRM copy in WMP11 it plays smoothly despite those first three movments being divided into so many chunks. Does it play smoothly on the MP3 player? No, it does not. Does a pressed CD copy divide it up the way that the MSNMusic download does? I have no idea but it seems unlikely.

Having paid for the download I have the right to burn it to CD, which I did. I'm not sure how many burns I'm allowed because I don't keep the DRM copies around in WMP11. They're on the hard disk of course but I choose to segregate DRM and non DRM once I've created the non DRMed CD copy and ripped that one back to the library. For the nonce I only need the one burn.

The CD copy inserts those damn 2 second gaps between 'tracks'. I suspect a conspiracy to prevent people doing exactly what I want to do which is to pay for a DRM copy, burn it to CD and then rip the CD back so that DRM is removed. Given that I've already paid for the copy this can only lead to a suspicion that they imagine I know someone who actually wants to listen to Brian's Gothic Symphony. If so they've shot me in the foot for no good reason!

I'm not unaware that I'm hardly the target demographic of any music download service and I accept that perhaps they do what they do to discourage sharing.

Well that's the download side of the story. Now let's consider Michael Nymans String Quartet No 1. I have it on CD (two copies as it happens, both genuine pressed CD's). Played in any CD player tracks 9 to 20 flow with nary a gap. Ripped on a track by track basis you guessed it - 2 second gaps on the MP3 player.

Hmmmm, so my conspiracy theory is flying on a wing and a prayer given that evidence. It's just the way that MP3 players work. Not a convincing answer but one accepts the real world when one must.

Yeah right. There's nothing that one mind can create that another cannot subvert given enough will. The Nyman String Quartet was easy enough; just rip it again but this time around create one track instead of 11. Worked well. No gaps.

Not so for the legally created CD burned from the DRM copy of Brian's Gothic Symphony. Rip as individual tracks or as a single track per movement I still have those damned gaps because they're inserted by the burn process. Time for sterner measures. Rip once more from the CD copy but this time as single file per movment wav files. I still have the gap but now it's in an editable format. Enter Audacity[^] which let me find and delete those gaps. A few experiments as I learned to use the program; a few clicks where the gaps were incompetently deleted, undo and redo and I now have a perfect copy!

Of course the real solution is for an MP3 player to play tracks just as our desktop players can play them. Windows PlaysForSure forsooth! Didn't play for sure in my case! God I hate hacks and workarounds!

No comments: