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File Types and descriptions.

Here are some of the file types you will find on this site and some information about each.

  • Show / Hide Free Lossless Audio Codec (.flac)
  • Show / Hide Monkey's Audio Lossless (.ape)
  • Show / Hide Shorten (.shn)

How do I extract audio data from an audio CD?
In order to make a seed, it is important to extract the audio data contained on an audio CD to a data format. This is not as simple as it sounds, and many programs may create errors which alter or ruin the audio quality (most noticable as clicks or skips in the resultant audio file). Programs like MusicMatch, older versions of iTunes, Microsoft Media Player and most other CD ripping software programs are unsuitable for creating perfect digital audio rips. If you are ripping to audio data file from audio CD, you MUST use one of the following programs and indicate which was used in the text file for your seed. This is NOT NEGOTIABLE!

  • Show / Hide EAC, using secure mode or dBpoweramp, using secure mode (Windows)
  • Show / Hide XLD (Macintosh)
  • Show / Hide cdparanoia (Linux)

Why trade lossless media? Mp3 and Ogg sound good to me, what's the big deal?
Proponents of lossless and lossy audio formats seem immutably locked in a struggle for ideologic dominance. Each seems convinced of the superiority of each style and virtually unwilling to listen to the arguments presented by the opposing side. In this swarm of insults, baseless criticism, and pseudo-scientific testing methods, there is indeed an enormous difference, and understanding where each style of audio compression is appropriate is an extremely important facet of trading.

In simple terms, lossless compression schemes are capable of being decoded back to an identical .wav file as the one that created it. Lossy compression picks certain parts of the music and discards it in an attempt to shrink the filesize. The idea is to pick parts that the human ear is unable to discern and remove them, thus leaving no wasted space for storing files.

Quite simply, the latter is inappropriate for audio trading. The files which you trade will pass through hundreds, thousands, or even tens of thousands of hands. If each trader takes the liberty of compressing to their own lossy format of choice, the result will be catastrophic for the quality of the audio after several iterations. To ensure that everyone who desires a recording gets a chance to hear it in as good a quality as it was originally recorded, it is important to maintain a lossless lineage from user to user. Once a file has been compressed to a lossy format, that missing information can NEVER be replaced, and therefore files that have been compressed to lossy, even when converted back to lossless formats, are unsuitable for trading.

The truth about lossy file types is that, under proper scientific double blind studies, a very small percentage of humans are able to hear the difference between uncompressed .wav audio and high quality (192 KBps or higher) encoded lossy formats. These formats have their place. Many people compress their audio recordings to a lossy format for playing on portable players, their computers, or standalone home units. This is an effective method as the audio difference in one generation of lossless to lossy compression is likely to not cause an audible difference. Feel free to compress lossless recordings to whatever format you choose, but never, ever pass on files compressed to lossy formats or lossless files sourced from lossy formats to other traders.

For the good of the trading pool, please respect the difference between lossless (SHN, APE, FLAC, WAV, AIFF, etc) and lossy (MP3, OGG, AAC, etc) compression types. Only trade or pass on lossless files so that the overall quality of the trading pool remains high for everyone to enjoy.

Simply put, there are NO lossy file types (OGG-Vorbis, MP3, AAC, etc, etc) permitted for trade at this site. This is NOT a negotiable issue, there will be NO subforum for mp3 traders. If you ignore this rule and post lossy sourced material, there are ways to test for this and it will be discovered, resulting in your seed being deleted. Please respect the high quality standards we have put in place, and bring your mp3s elsewhere. If you are unsure of whether or not your seed is lossless, please post in the Technobabble forum and ask for assistance...we are glad to help.

Checksum Types - st5s, ffps, and md5s

Each of these three terms represent different employments of the md5 checksum algorithm. It has the ability to reduce any file to a single 128-bit number which is unique to that file. Most audio and video trading websites require the generation of checksums for any files as it has the ability to compare two files and determine if they are identical. If your file matches the checksum of the original file, you can confirm that it has not been altered in any way (intentionally or unintentionally) or corrupted during download. Verifying checksums every time a file is transferred is an essential step in the trading of lossless music.

For the more mathematically adept users, here's an actual description of RFC 1321 - The MD5 Message-Digest Algorithm.

If you were brave enough to muddle through the second link posted above, you will have discovered that the output from running an md5 check is a single 128-bit number. To make it easier to read, many programs that run the md5 algorithm will actually output an equivalent 32-digit hexadecimal number which has the same binary result as the original 128-bit would have. This makes reading it simpler using only 16 alpha-numeric characters (0-9, a-f). The result will look something like this (this is an shntool md5, .st5, which is what is desired at TTD):

cb8a42007fe797435826a76cb527be01 [shntool] sample2007-04-15t01.flac
25eb2520a33ed2b88edf41f5d6f09505 [shntool] sample2007-04-15t02.flac
fbfced772c4d478f57072ffe9aeb2a69 [shntool] sample2007-04-15t03.flac

Each line contains the 32-digit hex-coded checksum, followed by the filename of the file it was run on. This 32-digit checksum is what most computer users are likely to see as the end result of a checksum calculation.

A great guide about the various types of checksums and how to use them and make them may be found here: Checksums Demystified.

  • Show / Hide Shntool md5 Checksums (.st5) - WE WANT THESE!
  • Show / Hide FLAC Fingerprints (.ffp)
  • Show / Hide Wholefile md5 Checksums (.md5) - not desired!
Please see this guide on Checksums Demystified to find out how to use and make the various types of checksums.

So how do I store all this stuff?
If you're experiencing lossless trading for the first time, you're probably perplexed as to how to store your archives. Since converting to mp3 and lossy formats is against the rules and burning to audio CD devalues your recording with most traders, what's the best way to back everything up? There are many opinions on this, but the only rule is to make sure you keep original lossless files that are not compressed to lossy formats or burnt to audio CD for future trading. Many people use data CDRs and increasingly data DVDR discs for backing up shows. Others are using portable hard drives for this purpose, while still others employ combinations of these methods to ensure backups are always kept. Poke around on the boards and ask other how the categorize, backup, and organize their collections. Just remember that it is important to keep them in lossless audio formats only.

How can I listen to the lossless files that I downloaded?
The Trader's Den limits lossless file trading to file formats that are usable across the three major computer platforms, Linux, Windows, and Macintosh. If you've downloaded a lossless audio fileset from SR, it will be in either FLAC, SHN, or APE format as these are the only formats with broad cross-platform support.

Please note that if you choose to burn this music to an audio CD that you should always keep backups of the ORIGINAL lossless files, exactly as you recieved them. There are errors that can occur during CD burning and ripping which alter the audio. To keep the music as pure as possible always keep a data CD, data DVD, or backup hard drive with the original files and md5/ffp checksums for trading. Burn to audio CD, compress to lossy formats, etc only for personal use. Never trade or give to someone else CDs burned from lossless files or files compressed to lossy formats as it pollutes the trading pool.

Here's a lost of some of the more popular ways that traders play back their lossless audio files.

What does it mean to "test" a FLAC file?
A feature that sets FLAC apart from all other major lossless formats is it's ability to self-test itself. Basically, any FLAC file stores an md5 checksum of the audio content contained within the file (also called the FLAC Fingerprint) within the header of the file itself. By using FLAC's "test" function, you are able to run the check on the audio, compare it to the fingerprint stored when the file was encoded, and confirm that they are the same. This is extremely useful when trading files through BitTorrent as it will confirm that the files you were downloaded completely and without being corrupted. You should run a "test" on every batch of files after every time they are transferred, especially over BitTorrent.

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