How Do I Set Up a Digital Music System With Squeezebox Touch

How did I set up a digital music system using Squeezebox Touch as core player, part I

It was five years ago I took the plunge to join the digital music bandwagon, during the period I have learnt numerous techniques, tweaks, tuning, settings, modifications both in software & hardware from the internet trying to improve the performance from the music server. I think it is time for me to give something back in return.

I, as an early adapter and a normal user, based on my own experience will cover each of the below one by one so as to let the newcomers easily build up their own digital music library.

A digital music system should consist of:-

(1) a ripping software to turn our CDs into digital files
(2) a music library management system to arrange the digital files in a orderly fashion for easy editing, sorting, searching
(3) a storage to store the music files
(4) a player
(5) a local area network if the player and the audio system is separated.

Five years ago, it was rare to hear general discussion about this topics over the web except some computer audio heavily skewed forums. At that time when people talked about computer music they mean mp3. Over time people start to appreciate the benefits of the digital music system over the conventional players. With the rapid development of technology previously it required an expert in computer to manage the system now becoming so easy that anyone with some basic computer knowledge can handle the system with ease.

There are many turnkey solutions in the market, mainly by some big name, eg. Linn, Meridian, Sooloo etc. They are expensive and proprietary meaning once you took its route you get stuck with it forever as you cannot move to other system easily without a big hassle, also you will be at the brand’s mercy for any upgrade or improvement. With my tips & hints the end result is nothing to be ashamed of comparing to these megabuck system.

Ok, first we need to rip our beloved CDs to computer file. There are more than hundred of CD ripping software over the internet more or less doing the same thing-converting the music stored in the CD to a digital file which can be storage in the harddisk. Most of them are free including the MS Mediaplayer, iTunes, CDex, EAC (Exact Audio Copy)…. The major difference between them is the workflow and the output format they allowed. Amongst them EAC is the most preferred one for its accuracy of ripping because it will do the ripping twice in order to make sure both result are identical before output, if not it will continue to re-read the data.

The data stored in the CD is in a wav format, it is encoded using 16 bit and 44.1kHz sampling. The goal of ripping is to ensure everything within the songs are being retrieved and stored in a computer recognizable format. There are a lot of computer audio file formats available, some are lossy and some are lossless.

Wav-original format, file size is big and lacks of tagging feature which make the library management difficult

Lossy-mean some of the data is removed during compression, without which the listener won’t detect the difference (similar to jpeg in photography) eg. mp3, isf,

Lossless-by mean of compression the file size is reduced (usually 50% of the original size) but when the lossless file is uncompressed it will be bit by bit perfect comparing to the original wav file. Eg. AIFF, FLAC

Myself would prefer using the iTunes to do the ripping. When we talk about Apple products it always stirs a flame war between the pro & anti Apple, to me I only want to concentrate of its user-friendly design plus its music management ability and I don’t want to comment of its self protectionism. I use iTunes internal Apple Lossless Encoder for ripping, by which I can always convert it back to a CD if I want to and preserve the bit perfect status.