Sunday, December 2, 2012

Switching To FLAC (It's Only Rock n Roll)

A while back I bought a 2TB Western Digital Caviar Black hard drive to replace a 250GB Hitachi that was losing sectors - it had already used up the 5 "spare" sectors, and any more failure was going to result in losing data. The disk was quite old, the SMART data showed that it had been powered up and running for over five years.  I think I'd owned it for longer than that - maybe ten years - the equivalent of over a hundred in "hard drive" years.  I'd used it on my last two PCs (I was actually surprised I'd been smart enough to buy a drive with an SATA and an IDE interface way back then!)

 I'd been watching the old drive fail for a while and was planning on replacing it with a new drive, but I had not been looking at such a monster. We were in the local Fry's one night a while back, buying a wireless router for my daughter and I asked the nice sales guy that was helping us what they had in the way of Western Digital drives. The WD 2TB SATA III drive (WDC WD 2002FAEX to be exact) was on sale for 130 bucks.  Well, I'd already read reviews that stated that this drive represented the state of the art in spinning hard drives, and the price made it too good a deal to resist so I went home with a damn big new drive.  It's been installed and running for 40.4 days (according to the SMART data) and I can heartily recommend this monster if you happen to be in the market.  Solid state drives will eventually be the way to go, but right now, these are too expensive to use as big data drives. (I would like to get one as a system drive.)

I suddenly went from having about twenty gigs of free space (only maintained by diligent scrubbing of  garbage files in cache and downloads out of my home directory) to over 1.3 TB of free space.


I conducted some listening tests this morning comparing CDs to MP3s (with a constant bit rate of 256) to FLACs using the Rolling Stones Let It Bleed (a magnificent album), an older Soundblaster sound card with a nice amp, and my trusty Grado headphones.  Did I notice a difference? Well, yes, I did, which was somewhat surprising to be honest.  So I decided I would have to re-do my music library from MP3 to FLAC.

Now I'm sitting at my PC, feeding it all our CDs to re-rip them in FLAC format. It took a while to figure out how to reconfigure Grip, and this blog post got me over  the last hump - Clemetine would not add the FLAC music to it's database due to missing Vorbis metadata.

Thank you, gnuru!

My wife has been watching this frenzy and thinks I'm nuts (she's probably right), and I'm starting to wonder just how many formats I used over the years with some of this music - vinyl, cassette, reel to reel, CD, SACD, MP3, and now FLAC. {I'm proud to say I never succumbed to 8 track tape.) I don't own the cassette player or the reel to reel anymore, but my record player and CD player are currently attached to a dead stereo amp -  a subject for another blog post - for now, let's just say that keeping a fifty year old tube amp running requires more than your occasional dusting. (Bugger!)

And I'm pretty sure I'll be switching my music collection to another super duper format before I'm all done. I suspect it will this new thing called vinyl or maybe a straight shot to FLAC.

But no matter how it's formatted, it's only rock n roll, and I like it...

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