How To: Back-up all your Music CDs and stream them as high quality digital files

By: Gadjo Sevilla

March 11, 2018

By Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla

It’s a great time to be a music enthusiast. Technology has made it possible to access millions of songs, artists and albums from streaming services for the monthly price of one CD. There are various smart speakers in the market that make it possible to access almost any song with a simple voice command.

Smartphones and even iPods can store thousands of songs which can literally fit in our pockets or purses. The price of storage is cheap while capacities are increasing exponentially. The first iPod could fit 1,000 songs in 2003, we now have microSD cards that can handle 400 GB of space, which is insane for storage that’s no bigger than your thumbnail.

CDs still sound better

Despite all this, there are flaws when it comes to digital music. The biggest flaw is audio quality. Because digital audio takes an analog signal and effectively shrinks it to fit a smaller format, it loses a lot of sound quality. This lossy quality may not be noticeable on a pair of cheap headphones connected to a smartphone. Play the file on larger speakers or a home theatre system and the sound will be thin, lack definition and hurt your ears.

CDs still sound better because they are as close as possible to the fidelity of the recording. Music streaming services also seem to fail at offering certain genres like classical, jazz, the blues or even out of print releases.

There’s also the question of ownership. Buying digital files or streaming services means these vanish into the ether when you die with no way for your loved ones or family to enjoy the music you bought through iTunes or other services. Backing up your physical CDs enables you to archive your music and it can be considered a part of your estate and they can be inherited by whomever you choose.

I recently found myself transitioning from having a CD collection to wanting to move all my music into digital.

I have over 400 CDs which I want to have easily accessible on a NAS (Network Attached Storage), this can feed into my Sonos speaker system wirelessly or be backed-up into a hard drive.


Backing up CDs

For simplicity’s sake, I used Apple’s iTunes to rip and categorize my collection. iTunes gives various options for ripping CDs, I chose the highest quality lossless setting (which is Apple Lossless). Ripping CDs this way takes around three minutes a disc and I have a very good sound file for each song.

iTunes also has the option of seeking and adding album art, artist information and other useful information that’s shown when you play back the music on other devices. If the album art isn’t found, you can always add this yourself manually.

Sticklers for high-fidelity who have a PC can use the Exact Audio Copy utility to get the best possible rip and save their music as FLAC files (Free Lossless Audio Codec).

Securing and streaming your music files by backing up CDs and placing them on devices that allow easier access, makes it possible to enjoy music you already own in a variety of ways.

One challenge with digitizing your CD collection is ensuring that all the metadata, or CD artist and recording information, isn’t always easy to get. Depending on how large your collection is and how much information you want to include, it could be a tedious undertaking.

But once you’ve completed digitizing, adding album artwork and information. You will have the advantage of having a one-of-a-kind music collection that’s been curated by someone special. You.

I would quickly make multiple copies of this collection on other hard drives as well as on a cloud service if possible. Then, I would want to have the music handy, so it will go to my Synology NAS (Network Attached Storage) so it can be accessed by my music apps and by my Sonos speakers via an app.

If I want to take some songs or albums with me on my iPhone, I can add this to iTunes (If it isn’t already there) and synch it over to my phone.

Advantages of Digitizing your music

At the end of my mission to digitize my CD collection, I expect to get rid of hundreds of physical CDs which I no longer have the apparatus to play back. I can sell my 5 Ikea CD cabinets on Craigslist and I can reclaim some space at home.

Next time I need to move houses I can easily bring all my music with me without worrying about storage. Having various backups ensures that if my Synology NAS goes down, all my hard work and valuable music collection is easily within reach.

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