Mar 16, 2009

Another Sheep-DAW must is Audiograbber. Audiograbber is a traditional CD ripper. It used to be shareware but it's gone freeware in 2004, wich means no please register windows, no experimental periods, no limited functions till you pay for it, you download it and it's yours. So why is it useful for music production? Two reasons: the line-in sampling mode and the mp3 compression (yep, you'll need to get the lame enconder somewhere else).
The line-in sampling is the most user-friendly way I've seen of doing a very obvious thing: getting your computer to record incoming audio in stereo wav format from the input socket of your soundcard. This seems like a very simple task, but most software has recording time or storage limitations (other than your hard drive capacity, obviously) till you pay and/or register - not with Audiograbber. Windows has a little app that does this (in mono) that has remained unchanged since v3.1 through to XP, that only records a minute of audio. Audiograbber was very obviously designed for ripping your entire music collection (be it CDs, LPs, cassettes, whatever) into mp3 format and the ergonomics show just that: it can start (and stop) recording on user order or on incoming sound over a used-defined decibel threshold, it automatically creates a different wave file if a user-defined period of silence goes by, it has different volume settings for incoming audio, recording and output, it has real-time recording monitoring (lag depends on your RAM resources, obviously), it has compression and peak-correction settings and it all can be set on automatic no-brainer mode if you're not into working out the details.
When I started doing field recordings, Audiograbber was right about the only free way of getting sound from your Minidisc into your computer and, as far as I know, this is still the cheapest and most clever way of doing it. For recording stereo sound to a digital medium, nothing is cheaper than a second-hand Minidisc that people on e-bay are dying to get rid of for peanuts since the portable mp3 player explosion. A DAT recorder is the quality option but it's more expensive (around ten-fold!) and you won't find DAT tapes on your supermarket like you find blank Minidiscs. New digital recorders are not only far more expensive than your regular second hand Minidisc, but they also come with built-in microphones, wich compromises versatility. And Minidisc microphones are pretty good for their price. If you're going down this road, Audiograbber is your only free, unlimited software option, as far as I know.
The other Audiograbber highlight for me is the mp3 compression. Most MySpace-like profile pages have storage limitations and you can't put up a regularly compressed mp3 file over 5 minutes long. Audiograbber allows you to compress the mp3 in diferent sampling rates, so that you can fit longer mp3s into less space, with a compromise on quality, obviously. All of this can also be set on automatic no-brainer mode, if your not into working out the details. It also converts mp3 into wav and the other way around too. A Sheep-DAW must, I tell you.

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