Digital Music

An introduction to digital music

You're not still using those antiquated shiny discs to play music are you? CDs and DVDs are great rewritable media to take data on the go but they're not the best way to store your music collection in the living-room. Shelves full of CDs and DVDs have become the bane of many a family room. Sometimes you're even forced to listen to music you don't care to hear. Buying CDs of whole albums when there are only a few songs you like on it is a hopelessly outdated paradox of a bygone age.

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MP3s or other digital music formats are the answer. You won't get audiophile quality using MP3 or WMA formats. But for the music recording you can get very good mileage from compressed audio. Best of all, when buying an MP3 from your choice of many music services, you can buy just one song at a time. Read more about your Online Music Services

The MP3 player is all the rage today and with it comes its own terminology. Read here to see a list of common digital media conventions. Libraries and play-lists are the language of this new medium. It's easy to convert your CD library to a digital format and never have to worry about those discs again. Store them away in your basement for backup. All you need is a PC. If you want to distribute your media (and internet access) to multiple computers or net-aware devices you'll also need a router. There are many digital audio playback methods available. MP3 players, dedicated Home Theater PCs and Media Extenders bring a Windows Media Center PC to the home entertainment system. Special Digital Media Set Top Boxes like TVix Jukebox or Cambridge Audio's Media Player are just a couple of ways you can bring a digital music library to your TV and audio system.

Here are some conventions you'll want to get accustomed to when entering the world of digital entertainment librariesIn this article you'll find how the language is used and how to understand many of the basic concepts in enjoying and managing digital music.

Digital media doesn't have to stop at music. Right now music is the most popular form, but there are also movies. More and more movie files will be seen as the future of digital media unfolds. A collection of DVDs can be ripped using file formats like .ISO, .WMV and Mpeg4 (all are compressed movie formats). A .VOB file is not compressed and can be found on store bought DVDs, and if you discover a player that will work with a .VOB file it should offer the best sound and video quality. These files can be played back by media hardware such as an HTPC or even some handhelds. So the convenience of digital music can also be applied to your movies. Imagine being able to select a movie off a menu on your TV by remote control; the menu is your entire DVD library.

The drawback to this entire digital utopia is that compression means loss of bandwidth which might result in lower quality audio and video. Obviously, the results of compression may vary. For instance, MP3 music files compress by a bit rating. The higher the bit the larger and less compressed the file, so the better the audio quality. A small MP3 file that offers the worst sound reproduction will be from a 128bit MP3 (or lower) but some of the best audio quality you can get from an MP3 is from a 320bit MP3. Just about anyone can tell the difference between a 128bit MP3 and a CD recording. But it would take a high end audio system and a keen ear to hear the difference between a 320bit MP3 and the original CD.

The same goes for movies. There is a program out there called DVD Shrink. This program allows you to backup your DVD movies into an .ISO file which can be burned onto a DVDR. DVD Shrink works by compressing the movie from its double density source so it'll fit most common single density DVDRs. This means you lose a lot of fidelity, especially if you keep all those extra features. The beauty of DVD Shrink is it lets you recompile the DVD contents, letting you skip some content such as menus, languages and special features and make a disc that only plays the movie and nothing more. Better yet, storing the .ISO or a proprietary equivalent on a PC and playing it back from raw data form allows you to skip the disc.

For absolutely the best quality audio and video you'll need a high end DVD player or CD player and the original disc. There is no substitute for the original source material when quality counts.