A hessian guide to the proper care and maintenance of your records and sound equipment, part I – digital

Throughout the years, I have met many hessians that, despite the passion for metal music that is so common among them, haven’t yet learned how to take care of their records and sound equipment of which they depend so much.

Being part of a culture means, among many other things, maintaining the material manifestations of that culture. We get stronger, as individuals and as a culture, by learning good habits and applying our energies towards the preservation of the things that we care the most.

So it is imperative for us at the Hessian Studies Center, in our efforts to improve the well-being of metalheads worldwide, that we provide our readers with a comprehensive guide to the proper care of your music records and reproduction system.

CDs

Compact discs are by far the recording medium of preference for hessians of all ages and inclinations, and it is easy to see why: it is small, so it’s easily transportable and manageable, provides great, clean sound, and doesn’t degrade with use since the reproduction of sound doesn’t involve the constant friction of a needle or a cassette tape head. Of course, this medium has its detractors, and much more in the metal culture than other music-oriented human groups, for reasons we’ll explain later on.

Despite its advantages, CDs are very easy to damage if mistreated, so you must take the following cautions:

– Never touch the readable surface of the CD. Grab the discs by its edges, never by the middle. It could get fingerprints on it, resulting in bad playback.
– Always keep the CD in a protective jewelcase if you ain’t playing it. Other storing devices, such as wallets and cakeboxes, are not recommended since they could easily scratch the discs. Make sure that you have the inner tray of the CD case as clean as possible, removing all particles of dust, before storing the CD.
-If the CD gets some dirt or dust on it, clean with a dry cloth, gently so that you barely touch the surface of the CD.
– Keep your CDs away from humidity or high temperatures. If your CD gets splashed with water, gently dry it with a soft cloth, from center to edge, in a careful fashion so that you don’t scratch it.
Never use solvents or liquids of the sort to clean the CD, save for those cleaning kits available in commerce. Better yet, Just try your best to keep your CDs from getting dirt on them and they’ll be fine.
– If your CD ever gets scratched, and those aren’t too deep into the surface, you can try one of those machines that refinish the readable surface, meaning they remove the scratches by polishing the acrylic plastic that is the transparent layer of the CD. If the scratch is too deep, or in the label side of the disc, it probably damaged the silver layer (where the audio is recorded). In that case you’re screwed. Repair kits aren’t too efective, so I wouldn’t mind with them if I’m you. DVD renting or used CD stores usually keep one of the aforementioned machines handy, and charge a small fee for the repair of a disc or several.

Also, keep in mind that straight scratches from the center to the edge of the CD are much less likely to cause your CD to malfunction when compared to scratches paralel to the circumference of the disc, for obvious reasons – a CD reproduction system can afford to lose one or a few bits without any problems, but not several of them, in which case the information (audio) might be impossible to read by the equipment.

CDRs

To record a sample from your recordings, compilations and rare albums you know you won’t easily get otherwise, CDRs are very practical. They are also cheaper than they were years ago, but the average in price have lowered in great part because of cheap quality CDRs flooding the market. In choosing your recording medium, pick a good brand of CDR: Sony, Zykon, Kodak, Mitsui. Buying the CDRs in packs of 20, 25 or 50 is cheaper in the long term as well (less value per unit).

Make sure you buy a good brand of CD burner. Favorites among the public are Asus, Sony, Samsung, LG and AOpen.

For recording, use a good software such as Nero Burning Room 9. Always record your CDRs at the lowest speed possible. Preferably, you should never burn the disc faster than 4x of speed.

The bad combination of low quality CDs, cheap CD burner equipment and excessive burning speed may cause your CDRs to fail to reproduce on the short or the long term, so be sure to spend a little more and be a bit more patient. That way your burned CDRs will last for a long time (+5 years, at least, if you pick a good brand).

For storing the CDRs, you can use either a jewelcase or a slim case, the latter tending to be more practical if you have way too many CDRs. In the last case, it is also a good idea to have an Excel sheet of all your recorded CDs so you can find them, since you can’t easily label the side of slim cases.

Care tips for CDs are equally appliable to the recorded sort. Another thing that should be considered, though, is the damage that heat can produce to the special chemical properties particular to a CDR. So, you should never place a CDR in direct sunlight. More info here.

To label your CDRs, use a water-based marker with a non-sharp tip.

Digital formats

Not much to say here. Prefered audio formats for PC playback are mp3 and FLAC. The latter allows one to keep a CD quality, lossless reproduction of the recording, with its downside being a lot heavier in individual file size than mp3. Other formats, such as .ogg, are also prefered by certain digital audio aficionados.

One thing that should be mentioned, though: if you keep a large collection of digitalized music, it is convenient to store them on a separate external hard drive in case your computer crashes or fails, like they do so often these days.

Some links on the subject you may find useful:

Foobar 2000 – best damn audio playback software for your computer with lots of different options for amateur and expert audio freaks.

FLAC codec home – to download the program/codec that allows your PC to reproduce and burn FLAC files. It includes a coding/decoding software that is light and easy to use.

Fraunhofer mp3 audio codec – One of the best mp3 encoders, allows to get a better quality or definition of sound.

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