My (New) Definitive Music Library

Many moons ago (back in the Windows XP days), I decided to rip my entire music CD collection to a digital file format.  I made the decision to go for the Windows Media Audio format, as I was both a keen Microsoft fanboy and also because I was a wannabe audiophile.  At the time, the WMA format was much further advanced than the standard MP3 format, allowing higher aural fidelity at the same or smaller bit-rate (better quality at smaller file size).

Hard disk storage space (and device compatibility) were constraints back then, so I ripped music at WMA v9 192kbps – quite a high quality at the time.  Over 500+ CDs from my collection were painstakingly and laboriously ripped.

However, time marches on and I now own a [shiny new MP3 player] which supports newer and better audio formats.  After much pondering, I’ve decided to go through the whole process of re-ripping my entire music collection once more.  Look at the stacks that I need to wade through…!

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Lesson learned, though.  Storage is now incredibly cheap, so I’m going to use the Windows Media Audio Lossless format, basically creating a new music collection at CD quality, with no loss of fidelity at all.

This master library is going to be stored on my Windows Home Server, which allows me to access my music on my home network through my various Tablet PCs, the Xbox 360 and the dedicated Windows Media Center connected to my TV and hi-fi system.

In addition, the entire library is automatically re-encoded to WMA Pro (at 128kpbs) on the Windows Media Center, which is then automatically synched to my Live Mesh setup – this is then funnelled down to my day-to-day Tablet PC (the HP EliteBook 2730p) which then pumps the music wirelessly to my Zune HD.

So – I’m hopefully future-proofed.  As audio formats march on and get better, I can simply change the automatic re-encode process to a newer music format (or eventually just use the lossless format once technology reaches the stage of being able to hold 500GB of music on tiny MP3 player devices) and I’ll will be reassured that everything gets automatically and seamlessly updated across all my PCs and music devices.

Huzzah!

New Toy Alert: Zune HD

Given the recent excitement about Microsoft’s new phone OS (a topic for a future blog, but more details at Engadget), I simply had to get my hands on Microsoft’s latest MP3 Player, the Zune HD.  If you’re wondering what the link is, then I should point out that the user interface for the next version of Windows Phone is very similar to the interface in the Zune HD, hence my curiosity.  Indeed – it appears that the Zune team have been subsumed into the Windows Phone team (or is it the other way around), and there is a very strong scent of Zune pervading through the new phone release.

Anyway – back to my toy…

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If you’re wondering, here’s how it compares in size to a Zune 80:

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There are videos all over the place on how the user interface works, but the thing that impresses me most is the “connectedness” and pervasive content in these devices.

On my Zune HD, I merely uploaded my music collection onto the device.  It then worked out who the artists were, downloaded photos and biographies, and also linked to other albums by the same artists, as well as recommending similar artists.  It’s nice to have that info all on the device, without actually being connected to the Internet at that time.

OK – so the Zune HD has been out for a while now (launched nearly 6 months ago, back in Sep 09)…  But as it’s only available in the US and Canada, it’s hardly a surprise that it’s taken a while for me to get my hands on one (a big thanks to one of the peeps at Micropack (one of our clients) who brought three of these units back to the UK for me).