Joining CD Tracks - A Guide

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Jesse Hollington

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While the iPod itself doesn't have a "gapless" playback feature, for those users who might like to listen to a lot of mix albums, there is a workaround available in iTunes.

When importing a CD, iTunes has a feature that will allow you to merge several tracks on the CD into a single MP3/AAC file. This will allow for gapless playback, although the disadvantage is that you will be unable to select a specific track (since they are now all located in the one single file).

To use this feature, insert a CD and select it in the iTunes Source window. You should be presented with a list of CD tracks, preferably by name if they can be found in the Gracenote CD database.

Confirm that the track listing is sorted in normal track order (ie, the track numbers are sequential, and the column heading above the track numbers is highlighted).

Select one or more adjacent tracks (you can select a range of tracks on a PC by clicking on the first track and then holding down SHIFT and clicking on the last track).

Go to Advanced->Join CD Tracks. You should see a graphical representation of the tracks that will be joined.

Import the CD. iTunes will create a single music file from the joined tracks. The name of the music file will be a combination of the joined track names (you can rename it later once it's been imported).

If the "Join CD Tracks" Menu Option is Not Available...

iTunes is somewhat picky about joining CD tracks. In order for this to work, the tracks that you are trying to join must be adjacent on the CD (ie, you can join tracks 1 & 2, but NOT tracks 1 & 3).

You must actually select the tracks that you wish to join. If you want to join ALL of the tracks on a CD, you still have to select all tracks (hint: Edit->Select All).

Also, the CD listing must be in normal track sort order. This means that the track numbers should be listed sequentially, but also that the column heading above the track numbers should be highlighted. Note that there are times when the CD may appear to be in normal track order, but you're actually sorting by a different column (Album or Artist is a common cause of this, since they're often the same and will result in a normal-looking sort order). For "Join CD Tracks" to work, the CD must actually be sorted by track number.
 

Pistol

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No way to do it once the tracks have been imported into iTunes other than re-importing the CD I suppose?
 

Jesse Hollington

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Not through iTunes, although there are a number of third-party utilities that can be found on the web that will join MP3 tracks together. A quick search for the words "MP3 join" on Google will result in a number of possibilities.
 

Lovestar

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Thanks so much! This is awesome info. I have been frustrated by the gaps on my mixed musiq - it's just not the same with the seams.

K~:cool:
 

StrobesAU

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I've been wondering about this, especially since I have CDs like Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" which have seamless transitions from song to song. Thanks for making it clear for everyone.
 

Mirx

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Fantastic info Jesse!

As a great lover of mixed music this is an invaluble piece of information. Just as I was getting utterly frustrated for not being able to have ' gapless' imports of my favourite mixes I came across this site and your thread.

Thanks a lot.
 

maximum01

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One thing to bare in mind when doing this, is your ipod's battery will drain away like a #### on a sandune! The ipod will constantly be caching from the hardcrive during playback, whereas with a normal 5min track it uses the hardrive for about 1 second only, as the ipod's playback buffer is only a few meg..
 

Jesse Hollington

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Actually, that's not technically true. The issue with battery life and cache memory has to do with bitrate, not just the file size.

If you're still ripping at a 128kbps bit-rate, then there's no effect on the battery life as the same amount of music is cached regardless of whether it's in one large file or several smaller ones. Each minute of music will still take up the same amount of cache memory (approximately 1Mb/min).

The battery drain issue only comes into play when using higher bit rates, and in particular lossless formats. This is because in a lossless format, each minute of music is taking up significantly more memory (in pure WAV format, we're talking about approximately 10Mb/min).

So with a 32Mb cache (which is standard on most of the 4G iPods), you get around 30 minutes of music at 128kbps, or around 3 minutes of music in pure WAV/AIFF format.
 

shpongle

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new member here!...i have a shed full of seamless chill out cds and the gap i get between tracks on my ipod really destroys the mood! However i also like to use the shuffle facility...(element of surprise) i guess that if i join the tracks on all my mixed cds to create "one track" to avoid gaps, then using the shuffle option on my ipod won't really be of any use?
 

Jesse Hollington

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Basically correct... the "Join CD Tracks" option creates one single large track of the selected tracks. In this case, there's no way to select a single track from that list.

About the only way around it would be to rip two copies of each CD... One with the tracks all joined (which would be a single MP3/AAC file), and another import of the individual tracks. Of course, this would obviously take up twice as much space on your iPod....
 

shpongle

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wow....can't believe i got a reply so quick!!! thank you so much my friend! Great idea by the way! I guess my only problem then is if in shuffle mode...it chooses a cd thats joined!!!!! And yes of course...it halves the capacity of my ipod and i'm importing at 192 bps as well. guess it will still allow quite a large cd collection to be imported. This ipod was a christmas prezzie and its the ipod photo...as to when i get to actually importing pics on it!!!! Still getting to grips with the music side of things! Great site by the way and thanx once again.
 

shpongle

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jesse, you mentiond earlier that there are third party utilities that can be used to join mp3 's together. do such things exist for aac format as well? and if so, would i still have the same shuffle dilema if i was to join aac imported tracks together? thanx
 

Jesse Hollington

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I'm not aware of any utilities that join AAC files, since it's a less mainstream format. Technically, it's just as possible to do so with an AAC as an MP3, but it comes down to whether anybody has written software for it.

As for the shuffle problem, you would have that with any joined file, since the iPod doesn't see separate tracks in this case, but just a single music file.

The method of joining is really not relevant in this case -- a single MP3/AAC file is a single MP3/AAC file no matter which way you (or the iPod) look at it.
 

jasperstory

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Somethings to add:
- You can have joined AAC files, I just did it on iTunes using the same method!
- Also, you can change the extention from .mp4a to mp4b and then it bookmarks the file where you left off. So if you listen to a mix, then go back to it later, it allows you to stop off where you were.
 

sjonke

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While this is useful to know, I find it far from satisfying. When you join tracks this way you lose a key advantage of iTunes and the iPod: you can't see track information, you can't skip forward or back a track, you can't jump to a particular track, and you can't use it in a mix (well, in a mix other than full album mixes.) The lack of true gapless playback is an especially significant shortcoming for tracks pulled from an MP3 stream, with the individual tracks tagged (I use iNet Stream Archiver). I especially want to be able to see the artist and title of the current track from such a stream, but in order to have that I have to accept the annoying hiccup between tracks, both in iTunes and on the iPod. Sigh. Seeing how my lowly Palm Zire72 can do gapless playback with aplomb (in the program Aeroplayer), one would think this should be easily doable by the Mac at the very least, and probably the iPod too. Sigh. Will we ever see gapless playback?
 

jasonengel

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For live concert recordings, I rip them to *.wav files, make certain they are labelled in correct order, then use shntool to join all the *.wav files into one large. I then import the large wav file into iTunes and convert it to either Apple Lossless (for archiving) or to AAC for listening on the iPod. While this obviously a bit more work, the end result is IMHO superior. Since most of the concert recordings (read: bootlegs) that I have come to me via wav or shn or flac instead of as an audio CD, this works especially well.
 

mkummer

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All that is really bad since the very beginning - especially for Classic/Opera Listeners where the tracks get very long - i.e. 30 or more min. for one single act of an opera w/o gaps.

My opinion: in iTunes, no reason is for playback with the gaps. So why not allowing the joining of the tracks like with the CD before import. Then in iTunes the tracks are still separated but played back as one. When transferred to the iPod, the tracks may be joined, if that is no possible otherwise (what I doubt).

mk
 

iric

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From what I understand, audiobooks are basically AAC files with a different extension. However they can have bookmarks so you can skip to different parts of the audiobook even though it's a single file. I vaguely recall reading somewhere that you can rip your CD as a single AAC file then rename it so you can upload it as an audiobook. Not sure how you add the track boundaries as bookmarks, but I imagine there's some way to do it.

But the audiobook file and the bookmarked tracks won't show up in your music library so can't be part of a random or regular playlist on your iPod.

It's frustrating, that the iPod basically already has the ability to do what's required for gapless playback by using the audiobook/bookmark approach. All that's needed is an updated firmwhere and iTunes that would allow bookmarking of standard AAC (and MP3) files so they can be incorporated into the music library, then treat each bookmarked passage as if it were a discreet track. Potentially, they might want to update the shuffle feature to allow bookmarked tracks to come up as the full track or individual bookmarks when in song shuffle mode. Maybe an album/song/bookmark option. Or just leave as is and treat the file as the album and the bookmarks as the tracks. More importantly, put the shuffle toggle on the main menu already...

I'm not holding my breath, though...

iRic
 
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