It is depressing to see that with a collection that spans most of my apartment, my music selection for extended holidays is usually rather limited. I’m not the type to carry my entire library around with me at all times; I concentrate on subsets that I select from a large folder that holds most of the warhorses, interesting new acquisitions and various odds and ends.
For this post, I’ll just outline how I prepared a small collection for the upcoming extended summer vacation. I’m not done yet and will probably add a bunch of albums and collections, but the method outlined below is what has become an easy routine around here.
I know that audiophiles will get a heart attack, but my whole collection of subsets is built around three basic premises:
(1) First of all, I do not need to carry around high-resolution flac files and decided years ago that mp3s at 320 kbps were all I needed. That’s quite a bit of space saved because, at average, the size of albums is about 1/8th to sometimes 1/10th of what I keep on my drives. Without wanting to start a longer debate in regard to this issue, I also noticed that with 40+ years of loud rock concerts, playing drums myself and sitting next to several guitarists’ Marshall stacks, my hearing isn’t what it used to be, so an essentially lossless codec like a 320 mp3 is sufficient.
(2) Secondly, after years of carrying all kinds of players around with me, the Samsung S7 mobile phone has become my main player with its excellent sound capabilities and tons of space available if you expand it with a 128GB memory card. Usually, the current collection on one device is replicated across my other devices, mostly my Samsung Tab A (2016) and my old Samsung S5 smartphone, all of which have identical memory cards installed. The subset I’m going to to write about here currently uses a mere 35 GB … and that’s for 3550 songs.
(3) Thirdly, what I’m going to carry around this summer is tailored to the Android music player I’ve started using recently, although it works with all the others as well.
Android Music Players
Android music players should have their own post dedicated to them because most of them have quite a few problems (and many of them are just plain bad), but the way I set this up, most players will play as nice as they can.
I’m not a fan of Android and I’m certainly not a fan of Android music players that are tailored to the crowd that is far removed from systematically going through its music collection (if there actually is one). Many players already fail when it comes to sorting albums by artists or when it comes around to listing just about anything in a somewhat sensible fashion. Usually the players are designed around the casual listener who throws together a couple of playlists and, more often than not, rips through them randomly.
I come from a Windows music system designed and sorted around Foobar and the way I approach music is usually medium based, as if I had my CDs around me. That is certainly old-fashioned and most people who see me doing what I do shake their heads in disbelief, but I have always been of the opinion that software should adapt to the user … and not the other way around.
I used to exclusively use PowerAmp, a fabulous player that really does everything I need and sounds excellent, but it has one basic flaw. Although the makers of PowerAmp deny it, the player regularly starts checking for a valid license and if you don’t have an Internet connection, you’re screwed. It just stops working from one second to the next if the license can’t be validated. It is beyond me how the powers that be can effectively ruin a brilliant player, but despite their insistence that the player only checks for a valid license twice within the first 24 hours after installation, that simply isn’t true. Google’s PlayStore is full of comments to the contrary and so is every other forum that features discussions regarding this player. So, I needed an alternative because PowerAmp went straight onto the large digital trash heap that holds every other crappy program I have ever used.
The alternative I found was PlayerPro. It does many things differently and I would love to use a perfect skin (many are available, but most – if not all – suck) that doesn’t have that superhero green in it, but aesthetic considerations had to take a backseat to the myriad of nifty functions the player offers. Most of the interface is tweakable and after a short while I had the player set up the way I wanted it to look and function.
Just in case the PlayerPro team should go the route of PowerAmp and ruin their product and to avoid any other future problems, as a music lover I have several other players installed. I simply do not want to end up in some remote corner of this planet with my music player going belly up.
Surprisingly enough, Samsung’s music player is better than anything else they have ever put out there (most of the other stuff being absolutely annoying crap) and it has become my fallback player.
Phonograph (simple, an aesthetically pleasing player but with limited functionality), Stellio (haven’t had the time to dive into this one yet), Foobar (ugly but extremely functional) and VLC (which is actually one of my main video players) complete my music app collection.
For those reading along here, JetAudio, Neutron and AIMP are audiophile players that you should take into consideration, but I opted for the above because they fit my profile best. Your mileage may vary, as they say.
Converting & Retagging
The best thing about Foobar on Windows is that it is a breeze to convert my flac files into any format within the blink of an eye. All I need to do is select the files, right click and tell Foobar where to put them. Using mp3tag, a few seconds are all it takes to get the resulting files into shape, removing unnecessary tags and making sure everything complies to the template I use for Android music players.
Because I’m a visually oriented guy, I have a Photoshop file which allows me to quickly generate a generic new cover for the converted mp3 collection and, because PlayerPro supports it, genre images that go along with those. Usually, I only need a few seconds to generate a halfway decent cover.
At the end, converting a bunch of albums, renumbering tracks and sorting them the way I want to have them plus adding a cover takes so little time that I can let all of that run on the side.
Basically, I create my own “Best-Of” collections and sometimes simply throw a whole bunch of albums of one artist into one place and create a long playlist-type folder. To make sure that I don’t run into any player related problems, all the tracks that end up in one folder are treated as one single album and are given a single album title. If I have various artists, I use “Various Artists” as a tag and simply add the individual artists’ names to the track name. The way Android players stupidly approach the automatic sorting etc. of tracks and albums, which usually ends up in a total mess, I found that a single artist and album title tag alleviated lots of problems. Besides that, I know my music and don’t need to have everything in different album folders.
Most importantly, when things are done, I use ReplayGain to make sure the volume for all the tracks taken from various albums and thrown into one folder are volume-adjusted. Without wanting to open a can of worms, I use “Scan selection as a single album” in Foobar instead of “Scan per-file track gain“, simply because I don’t want to push quiet tracks to a maximized volume. Your mileage may vary on this.
That’s it. A quick check via Foobar that nothing got messed up … and off to the various memory cards the music goes.
Because I have the space, currently I have about 100GB of converted files on backup drives that I can select from whenever I hit the road. They are all done the same way, have a streamlined look and sound great.
Below, you’ll find a gallery of genre and artist images reflecting what I have put on my various devices for the upcoming summer vacation. Of course, initially, the selection process took some time, but once I got the hang of it, more than 3000 tracks took half an afternoon to get into shape, especially because I know what I like, where it resides on my external drives, and what the best-sounding versions are. On top of that, what I have prepared in the past years and last week can be reused time and again, so the time spent on putting it together is time saved.
I’m not done yet, but I hope you get the picture …
Off to convert a few more albums … 🙂