The Great Digital Migration

What is The Great Digital Migration?

The Great Digital Migration is a project Iím doing. It consists of ripping my entire CD collection to MP3 format and selling off the then-redundant physical discs and packaging.

Really? All your CDs?

There are some discs that I plan to hold onto, mainly for sentimental reasons. I plan to keep all my Beatles discs, for example, and some of the rarer bootlegs I own. I still plan to rip them, Iím just not willing to part with them quite yet. I searched for years for some of these discs, so thereís a kind of odd bond there.

Why are you doing this?

I have always been an avid music collector, and over the years have amassed an enormous amount of CDs. My collection has always been a source of pride for me, I guess you could say Iím a bit fanatic about it. However, over the past few years Iíve notice a trend in my listening habits. Almost everything I listen to is MP3-based. I rip my CDs and burn DVD album compilations to listen to at work, my car stereo plays MP3, and my living room stereo plays MP3 through my DVD player. I very rarely pull a disc off the shelf and listen to it, and when I do itís usually only because I havenít yet ripped it to MP3. Noting this trend, and looking at how much physical space my CD collection takes up Ė I decided it was silly to keep the physical discs around anymore. Why not just convert the whole lot to a digital format and be done with the hundreds of pounds of paper and plastic that amounts to the same thing musically? The whole thing seemed to be too pros-heavy and cons-light to not do. I would still have my music. Not only that, I could possibly recoup some of the money Iíd poured into my music collecting hobby by selling the discs as used.

But MP3s are lossy, youíre archiving imperfect copies!

Yes, MP3s are lossy and donít yield audiophile-perfect copies of the source CD. But my answer to this is simple: I donít care. Long ago I discovered that my imperfect human ears are just as happy listening to a properly-encoded MP3 ripped at 192kbps or above. I either canít hear the difference, or donít care to try. Basically, itís good enough for me and I suffer no loss of enjoyment from the MP3 format.

What software/hardware are you using to archive your CDs?

Ripper: CDex v1.51
Codec: LAME v3.95.1 @ 192kbps
Ripping Drive: Pioneer DVR-104, firmware v1.41
Error Checking: MP3Utility v1.27b1

How are you checking the resultant files?

Good question. It became apparent right away that this would be a huge task. I needed to make sure I was getting error-free rips of all my music, lest I sell off the source disc and be left with a crappy MP3. At first my strategy was to take a random "sample listen" to each ripped album and use my own ears to verify the rips. However, I soon found out that wouldn't work. I can rip albums a lot faster than I can listen to the resulting rips in their entirety. My first weapon against MP3 encoding errors is my ripping program. CDex's "Status" column reports any read errors after each disc is ripped. Anything other than "OK" in this column is a flag that I've got a potentially dirty or damaged disc, and the drive didn't read it properly - which most likely resulted in a bad MP3. CDex also has a "paranoid" ripping mode, which I use, that reads overlapping data and can correct potential read errors while ripping. Ripping takes a little longer in "paranoid" mode, but all I have is time, so it's cool. My second line of defense against bad files is a program called MP3Utility. MP3Utility is a freeware application that can batch-check MP3 files for errors. It can locate and find the most common encoding error, a sync problem. Sync problems show up as "blips" or "burps" in the resultant MP3 files. I run MP3Utility on each disc after I rip it. Lastly, I use my own ears to listen for errors that may have been missed by the above methods. I think I can ensure a relatively low rate of ripping and encoding errors using all these methods to verify the ripped discs. At least, I hope I can.

Are there any legal issues?

Iím no lawyer, but I would suspect that there may indeed be some legal issues here. My opinion? I paid for these discs once, and I legally owned them. Owning the discs gave me the right to listen to the music contained on them as often as I wanted to, on demand. What difference should it make whether Iím listening to the music from the actual disc I bought or from a hard drive? Iíve already paid for the right to listen to it when and where I decide to. Are there legal issues with keeping archived copies of CDs you no longer own? I honestly donít know. I do know that Iím not ripping these to upload or to share, Iím doing it for convenience.

But think of a hard drive crash! Wouldnít you lose everything, forever?

Yes, you would. That is, if you were using a regular drive. However, Iím archiving my collection onto a RAID5 disk array for failover. If one disk dies, I can rebuild the array from the parity data stored on the other disks Ė and I donít lose my music collection. In addition to this, Iím also burning a DVD after every 4.7GB of ripped audio Ė just in case.

Where are you selling the discs?

All over the place. Some to secondspin.com, some on Ebay, and some to local record shops.

I have been looking for a copy of disc X for years! If youíre just gonna sell it, can I buy it?

I havenít decided on this yet. Maybe if I get the right offer.

OK fine I understand all that, but why make this webpage?

I make webpages for everything, I canít help myself. Also, I thought this would be a good way to track my progress as I rip and sell the discs. It will help me gauge the eventual size of my ripped library, as well as how much money Iíve made by converting to bits and bytes.