How to Make MP3s

A number of people ask me about converting their cassette recording ministry to CD. The following is hopefully a simple guide:

Recording devices: There are a number of options here but the main choice is whether to record onto an MP3 recorder or straight onto a lap top or desk top computer. A third alternative is to use a CD recorder such as the Marantz CDR300. This has the advantage that it produces a finished CD ready to copy. The disadvantage is that there is no opportunity to edit in the way you can on a CD. With the availability of a range of good MP3 recorders I am now inclined to recommend this option rather than recording directly onto a computer.

Which MP3 recorder?: A range of these are available from cheap pocket devices to more expensive products. Like all things you get what you pay for. The Marantz range of recorders for  instance offer very good build quality and features such as 'on the fly' track insertion. This means you can start new tracks as you are recording, to mark readings, sermon beginning etc. You can also set the recorder to start a new track every 5 minutes. This is useful if you want to make it easy for people to continue from where they left off when listening to a long CD. Unlike cassette players, some CD players go back to the beginning when you press stop. Not a good thing if you were listening through a sermon and had to stop for petrol! Most recorders don't do this. A further feature of the Marantz is that if the power fails towards the end of the recording you can still recover what you have already recorded. Many devices would loose the whole recording if for instance, you thought you were recording on mains but actually you hadn't plugged the device in and your batteries went flat! The Marantz is available as a handy pocket size device (PDM620) with built in microphones as well as external sockets, a larger desk top version with XLR and phono connectors(PDM660) and a rack mounting version for permanent installations (PDM650). For further details contact www.cunnings.co.uk .

External Sound Cards: Computer on-board sound is not always that great especially on Laptops so if you decide to use a computer for recording one of these is a good idea. You don't need one if you are using an MP3 recorder. Look at the Tascam US122L External sound card again available from Cunnings.

Software: Audacity is a free editior. You will need to down-load Lame, the MP3 coder that goes with it.  If you want to spend a bit of money then buy Adobe Audition. It is a bit less clunky than Audacity and has some pretty good features. If you are a charity be sure and get it from a charitable supplier such as www.pugh.co.uk  it is a lot cheaper.

Settings: Before you record on the computer or MP3 recorder you will need to set recording parameters. Usually the bigger the number the better the quality but the bigger the file. Quality wants to be good enough but there is no point recording at settings appropriate for a harpsichord recital if you are just recoding someone speaking.

Word Size: The choice is 8 bit, 16 bit or 32 bit.  Choose 16 bit.
Bit rate:Chose 22.05Kbit/S if recording on a computer 44.1Kbit/s if you are using an MP3 recorder

Stereo or Mono: Choose Mono if available as it saves disc space.
For MP3 recorders choose 64k Kbit/s 22050Hz  (44100 if 22050Hz not available)

Id3 Codes

An MP3 file carries additional data which is called the Id3 code. This contains information about the album name and track number. You can edit this information in Windows Media player and it may be useful if your end users are using IPODs or other MP3 players.

Tips when using Audition to Record

You cannot record or playback?: Check you have the right device selected. In Audition 1 this is under Settings>Device order Select the device you are using from the panel on the left and move it to the top of the list. Select 'use in EV'

Keep the record level on the low side - peak around -20dB. You can boost the level using the Normalise function. The waveform should always look jagged without plateaus on top. Use the scroll wheel to slow down the wavdorm in record. It is easier to see distortion.

Use the F8 key to drop track markers at significant points during record. It helps you edit later.

Start recording in good tme, keep recording during the service it is easy to forget to start!

After you finish recording Normalise the file to 100%

Save as *.MP3 64kBit/s 22050 Hz. It might be safer to keep edited files and unedited files in a seperate folder especially if editing is done by someone else.

Naming files. Windows has a mind of its own when it comes to organising files in order so it is good to give it a helping hand. If you are numbering files always use a leading zero eg 045

If you are recording a whole series of expositions then the following scheme is useful:
For Genesis Chapter 1 v v 1 - 10  Use 001-Gen-001-001
The first number is the book of the Bible The second the Chapter the third the first verse. Using this system the whole bible will sort in order automatically

Making audio CDs

Software such as Nero can convert mono MP3 files to the stereo 44.1kBit/s files required by audio CDs. Be cautious about using the full 80 minutes of a disc. Not many CD burners can make it consistently. It is probably safer to stick to 74 minutes. Use 'Stretch' in Audition to slightly speed up the speaker. A few percent is un-noticeable and can just get things to fit sometimes. The full version of Nero allows you yo add tracks to CDs. Remember to set the space between tracks to zero if you do this. Set 'Normalise' to off in Nero. It seems to cause distortion.

Blank CDs CD labels and cases
It doesn't seem to make much difference if you but cheap or expensive CD blanks so...
Some people prefer to use white CDs and print directly on them others prefer to use labels. I think myself that unless you have a proper label printer costing 1000 it is better to print labels as printing straight on the disc with a conventional printer is a bit frought.
Confusingly labels come in two varieties: Offset and in-line. Buy one type and stick to it! (No pun intended) You need software to print the label but if you just want to use text then Microsoft Word would do. Use text boxes from the drawing tool-bar to put the various elements in so you can move them around to the right place. To get rid of the black line around the text box, format the text box and select 'no line'.
Cases and sleeves come in many varieties. I prefer the clear poly cases from Cunnings. They can be posted without packing at the lowest postal rate. (Don't stuff too much else into the envelope, it just makes the 5mm thickness limit.

Buy a multi-copier if you make a lot of CDs. Cunnings Recording Associates  www.cunnings.co.uk  are a source of these if you want good service - they do go wrong from time to time. You can buy the same thing cheaper on Ebay from small time assemblers but you might prefer to go for better service. If you do go to Cunnings mention you were referred by me!