Using Easy CD Creator to Make Audio CDs
Using Easy CD Creator to Make Audio CDs
In This Chapter
How to create and edit an audio CD layout
Creating an audio CD with Easy CD Creator
Creating an image file so you can record CDs later
There is more than one way to skin a catso I'm told. I'd never do that because I have nosy neighbors and no desire to explain myself to the Humane Society. There is, however, also more than one way to create an audio or a data CD using Roxio's software. The Spin Doctor method, which we will talk about in Chapter 5, enables you to create audio CDs from a variety of sourcessuch as cassettes or phonograph records. In other chapters, I'll also show you how to create a variety of CDs, including CDs that have both data and audio recorded on them.
However, because it's always best to keep things simple to start, in this chapter you will learn how to use the Easy CD Creator program to make an audio CD.
For your music listening pleasure, you can use Easy CD Creator to create audio CDs, selecting your favorite songs from various CDs. You can also select all the songs from the same CD and change the order in which they are stored. This great program will even allow you to include MP3 or WAV files located on your hard drive on the same CD.
If all you want to do is make a copy of an entire CD, use Roxio's Easy CD Copier, see Chapter 8, "The Easiest Way to PillageCopying CDs Using Easy CD Copier."
MP3 Versus WAV
While several audio file formats can be used on a PC, Easy CD Creator supports the two most important ones: WAV and MP3. MP3 files are all the rage on the Internet (and in the court system), but if you really care about the quality of the sound on the finished CD, WAV files are a better format.
Because they need to be so portable, MP3 files get so compressed that they lose a little quality in the process. Not a lot, but a little. Even if you convert the MP3 file to a WAV file (which Easy CD Creator does when it burns the MP3 file to a CD), you don't get back what you've lost! The WAV format, however, is almost identical to the CD-DA format used on the CD itself.
Easy CD Creator also can be used to copy important data and program files from your hard drive to a CD for long-term storage. Yet another good reason to start with Easy CD Creator is the fact that version 3.x of the program is usually distributed with new CD recorders, so most of you will have this program. If this program does all you need to do, you won't have to purchase the more advanced Easy CD Creator 4 Deluxe, unless you need to use its advance features. You see, I'm trying to save you money!
Making Your First Audio CD
Remember from Chapter 1, "The Digital Revolution!" that you can crank up most of the Easy CD Creator features by either clicking the Desktop icon or finding the program in the Start menu. If you are running an earlier version of the program, such as Easy CD Creator 3.x, you should do the following:
Click Roxio Easy CD Creator.
Click Easy CD Creator.
If you are using the more advanced version, Easy CD Creator 4 Deluxe, the Start menu path is nearly identical. However, after you're inside the Easy CD Creator folder, you must click Create CD. In this case, the menu shown in Figure 3.1 pops up.
Unless you specifically disabled it, Roxio puts an icon on your computer's taskbar (near the clock on the bottom of the screen) that you can use to access most of CD Creator's programs. Just right-click it and select the program you want from the list.
Figure 3.1 Use the Audio option on the menu to start the CD Audio Program.
You next get to choose from another menu. You have to decide whether you want to use the Audio CD program or the Spin Doctor program. Because we're not digging into Spin Doctor until Chapter 5, select Audio CD from this menu. After you make this selection, you will finally find yourself in the Easy CD Creator program (see Figure 3.2).
Figure 3.2 It's an easy task to get the Easy CD Creator up and running.
Selecting Audio Mode
Depending on how you opened Easy CD Creator, the program can come up in either audio or data mode, depending on how it was last used. You can tell which mode it's in by looking at the information bar at the very bottom of the program window. Here, you can see information about various aspects of creating a CD. The field we're concerned with here is in the middle and should say Audio CD. The kinds of CDs that you can create include the following:
Mixed Mode CD/JOLIET
For now, you don't need to understand these different modes. You just need to ensure that Audio CD appears at the bottom of the window. If it doesn't, you will need to change to that mode. To do this, look for the New button on the toolbar at the top of the program window. You will see a very small arrow on this button pointing down. Click it and a menu appears. From this menu, select Audio CD. You should then see the words "Audio CD" at the bottom of the window.
Creating the Audio CD Layout
The most important part of creating an audio CD is building a layout. To do this, you must tell the program exactly which files or tracks you want to record, and in what order. The program then uses this information to burn the CD, rather like creating a building from a set of blueprints. You can also save the layout so that you can recall it for use at a later time.
There are two good reasons for saving the layout after it's created. First, you might want to change the order, or maybe add or delete some tracks, in the future. For example, if you are an aspiring musician with a band, you might be using your CD burner to create demo CDs. The songs appropriate for one industry contact might not be suitable for another.
Second, even though copying digital media does not produce significant errors from one generation to the next, errors do occur. With an audio CD, you might not notice any problems right away, but if you make a copy, then a copy of a copy, and so on, eventually you will most likely notice some degradation in the quality of the sound. If you want to make a large number of copies of a particular CD, using a single source CD is a good idea. Using a disk image on your hard drive, explained later, is an even better idea!
If you glance ahead to Figure 3.3 you can see the actual program. The two panes at the top comprise the Explorer pane. Use the left side to navigate the disks and folders on your PC in search of music files and tracks. You can click the driveeither the CD drive or disk drivefrom which you want to select audio tracks to include in the CD layout.
Keep Your Music Files Organized!
If you are going to be doing a lot of audio CD recording, and are using WAV or MP3 files, you can locate these files more easily if you keep them all in one folder, or set of folders. Windows has a My Documents folder built in for this purpose. If you own Windows Me, you will find My Documents also contains a My Music folder!
You'll know you're in the right place for audio when the pane on the right side shows audio trackseither CD audio, MP3, or WAV files. In the example shown in Figure 3.2, the program practically shouts out to you that no audio files are in the selected folder. This is because, in this example, I've selected just the C: drive, and I don't have any audio files stored there at this time. However, I have inserted an audio CD in my CD-ROM drive, so selecting that drive in the Explorer pane changes the display to show each track on that CD (Figure 3.3).
Figure 3.3 Here the CD drive is selected in the Explorer Pane, so audio tracks appear on the right.
Adding Audio Tracks to the Layout
Now you are ready to start adding audio tracks to the layout. The easiest method is to use your mouse to drag a track from the Explorer pane to the Layout pane. Just place your cursor over the track you want to add, click and hold down the left mouse button, and then move the mouse until it is over the CD Layout pane at the bottom of the window. Release the mouse button and the track will show up as part of the layout, as you can see in Figure 3.4.
Figure 3.4 After you drag a track to the bottom pane, it becomes part of the new CD layout.
As you can see I have added track 13 to this layout. Notice that on the right side of the Explorer pane, a scrollbar appears. If the selection you want to add to the layout doesn't appear onscreen, click either the up or down arrow on the scrollbar to move through all the tracks on the CD.
You can use another method to add tracks to the layout. Notice that the toolbar near the top of the window has an Add button, with a plus sign (+) on it. You can probably guess that all you need to do is click a track once and then click the Add button to add it to the layout. Use whichever method is easiest for you.
Get More Real Estate
To ensure you can see as many tracks as possible, be sure to maximize the program window so that it fills the entire computer screen. To do so, click the middle button on the very top-right corner of the window.
So far we've just selected one audio track for the new CD we are going to create. Notice, again in Figure 3.4, that at the bottom of the screen a timeline shows how much of the CD's available time you've used up. Underneath this timeline, the program tells you how many audio tracks you've added and gives you an estimate of how much time you have left on the CD. Anyone who has ever tried to make audio cassettes from several sources will appreciate knowing exactly how much time they have to deal with. Here there's no running out of tape with just 30 seconds left on the last song. With Easy CD Creator (or virtually any other CD burning software), if you use up more space than exists on the CD, the program tells you how much overtime you've run before the first track is ever recorded. This way, you can determine how many and which tracks you will have to remove from the layout to create the CD layout.
Grab Them All at Once!
You can select multiple tracks or audio files to add to the layout all at once rather than clicking them one at a time. To do so, click the first one, hold down the Shift key, and click the last file. All the files in between, including the ones you clicked, will be selected. Then, click the Add button.
You can select multiple tracks or files that aren't all in a row by using Ctrl-click. That is, click the first file you want to select; then, hold down the control button (Ctrl) and click each of the other files you want selected just once. They do not have to be contiguous in the listing. Click Add and they all appear in the audio layout.
Adding MP3 and WAV Files to the Layout
Aside from the source, no real difference exists between selecting tracks from an audio CD and selecting MP3 or WAV files. You can mix all three kinds together in the same layout, and Easy CD Creator takes care of the rest.
To add an MP3 or WAV file, use the Explorer pane to locate the directory that contains the files. After you've selected the directory, any files found there will show up in the upper-right pane, just like tracks from an audio CD. Add them the same way, by dragging or using the Add button.
Which Track Is Which?
Although an MP3 or WAV file is generally named after the song it plays, songs copied from another CD aren't quite so descriptive. It can be a real pain to have to look on the CD cover to find out which track is which when you are deciding what tracks to add to the layout because CD Creator can only name songs by their track number. After all, "Track 13" is not very descriptive.
But you don't have to worry if you have an active Internet connection. A Web site is available that Easy CD Creator can access to download information about the CD. This includes the CD title, the name of the artist, and the names of the audio tracks.
To enable this service so that it works automatically, click Tools at the top of the Easy CD Creator and then Options. As you can see in Figure 3.5, you can use several options to configure the program. However, for now we are interested only in the Internet service called CDDB Internet.
Figure 3.5 Use the Options properties page from the Tools menu to enable automatic downloading of CD information from the Internet.
Three check boxes are available here. The first is all you need to enable the CD information downloading capability. However, if you are connecting to the Internet through a modem it's a good idea to check the second check box too so that the program asks before performing the download, giving you a chance to make your Internet connection if you haven't already.
A proxy server is a component of a firewall, which is used to protect the network from evildoers on the Internet. For home users, don't worry about it!
If you are using Easy CD Creator in a work environment, or perhaps in a small office at home, where a proxy server is used to access the Internet, you'll have to select the third check box, too. If you do, be sure to fill in its name or address and the port to use after you select that check box. You must get this information from your network administrator at your place of business.
If you don't want Easy CD Creator looking to the Internet every time you put in a music CD, you can disable the automatic download of CD information. Instead, use the Internet button located on the far right of the toolbar to tell the program when you want the information downloaded. This way you can download only when you really have a need to.
If you tell Easy CD Creator to notify you before downloading CD information, it tosses the dialog box in Figure 3.6 onto the screen when you insert a music CD.
Each time you download the information for a particular CD, Easy CD Creator stores the information in a database file on your hard disk so that it will not have to look up the information again.
Figure 3.6 Easy CD Creator prompts you before downloading CD information if you select that option.
Click OK to begin the download. A few seconds later, the information you see about the current CD dramatically changes. In Figure 3.7, you can see that we are selecting songs from a Beatles album. Each audio track is identified by the name of the song, which makes creating the layout for the new CD much easier.
Figure 3.7 After the download finishes, the display makes a lot more sense!
Rare is the CD that Easy CD Creator can't find information about on the Internet (unless it's a custom compilation). If this happens, you can enter track information manually, which we'll discuss in "Adding Artist, CD Title, and Song Title Information," later in this chapter.
Using Multiple CDs
Because you have a full 74 minutes of recording time, you can keep adding tracks until you've designed the CD you want or until you run out of space (time) on the CD. Sure, you can select all the tracks from the same CD, but that's only useful if you want to duplicate a single disc.
What does make sense, though, is to create a CD of songs using tracks from several CDsa best hits CD, so to speak. To do this, just insert one CD at a time, selecting and adding the songs you want to the layout for each disc until you run out of space.
This is where it becomes important to download CD information from the Internet. Without that download, Easy CD Creator uses its own generic naming systemDisk 1, Disk 2, and so oninstead of the actual CD and artist name. This can get really hard to keep track of if you're using a lot of CDs. Again, if the CD information is not available online, never fear, you can put the information in yourself.
Adding Artist, CD Title, and Song Title Information
In the right side of Explorer section of Easy CD Creator, the first thing you see is CD Title and Artist Name. As explained in the last section, if you haven't taken advantage of the Internet download service to get this information (or can't), you can enter this information manually. Just click these fields and type away.
Changing the name of the track is a little trickier, but certainly no challenge. Just highlight the track by clicking it once and then click the Properties button on the toolbar. You can use this method to manually rename each track in the layout, either as you select the tracks or after you've finished the layoutwhichever is easier.
Changing the Order of Audio Tracks
When you use the Add button to add an audio track to the layout, it is automatically added to the end of the layout. When you drag a track, you can place it directly over a track already in the layout and the new track will be inserted directly before that one. But what if, right before recording, you realize in a spark of divine inspiration that Van Halen's "Top of the World" should come right after Eric Clapton's "Wonderful Tonight," instead of before it?
No worries! Use the drag method described previously to move tracks around as they exist in the layout pane. At any time, whether you're halfway through creating the layout or if you're finished adding songs, you can click a track in the layout pane and drag it to a new position. When you move a track around like this, the program takes care of renumbering all the other tracks.
Removing an Audio Track from the Layout
Just as adding a track to the layout is easy, removing one is also easy. So, when you decide that "Purple Rain" doesn't work on the same CD as "Imagine," you can use two methods to cut one of them:
Right-click the track in the layout pane and, on the menu that appears, click Remove.
Click the song once in the layout pane and click the Remove button on the toolbar at the top of the program window. The Remove button is easy to find because it has a big "X" right above it.
Changing the order of songs in a layout and removing songs from a layout are not only convenient when you are first creating the layout, but also when you decide to use a layout that was saved from a previous session.
Saving the Layout for Later Use
After creating the layout, you can then go right ahead and create the CD. However, if you think you might want to use this layout again or if you don't have time to create the CD right away, you can save it to your hard disk for later use. To save the layout simply perform these steps:
Click File at the top of the Easy CD Creator program.
Select Save As. A dialog box appears that you can use to select the location on your hard disk to which to save the layout. Just give it a name, using the File Name field and click Save.
Click the Save button.
Note that saving the layout doesn't save any of the songsit just saves the information that Easy CD Creator uses to create a new CD. If you use a saved layout at a later time, you still must have the CDs or other files that were used to select songs to create the layout.
In addition to saving a song layout, you can actually copy CD songs to your hard drive. See "Creating WAV Files from CDs" later in this chapter to learn how.