03. What do I need to playback/decode/burn FLAC files?
04. What are RAR files? How do I use them?
05. What quality / bitrate do you encode MP3s at?
06. How do I download all songs at once?
07. Can I to share these recordings with friends and family?
08. Is it OK for me to sell these recordings?
09. Why is 24bit/96kHz better than 16bit/41.1kHz?
10. Why host files on a blog? Why not TORRENT your tapes?
11. Why do you record concerts?
12. How long have you been involved with taping?
13. What do you use to record concerts?
14. How do you transfer your master tape to your PC?
15. Which programs do you use to edit/EQ your recordings?
16. I’d like to tape. What do you suggest for equipment?
17. I’d like to tape. What do you suggest for technique?
18. Why aren’t there any ads on your site?
19. I love your site. How can I help out?
What are FLAC files?
FLAC stands for Free Lossless Audio Codec. Basically, it means you can take a CD-quality (or higher) audio file — usually in WAV format — and compress it to a significantly smaller file size. Other formats that do this that you may be familiar with are MP3, Real Audio, or streaming audio. However, unlike the aforementioned file formats, converting (or “encoding”) a sound file to FLAC in no way affects the integrity of the original file. At 40-50% smaller than the original size, you are still able to enjoy the purity of the original file without requiring nearly as much disc space.
Although many music fans favour MP3s due to their small file size, I feel strongly that FLAC files are immensely superior to MP3s. Let me illustrate my rationale with an analogy. If you took 20 or 30 photographs and wanted to send them to a friend online, you might compress them in a ZIP file to make them smaller and transfer faster. What if, when you added a photograph to a ZIP file, 30% of the top and bottom of each photograph was cropped off to achieve a smaller file size? And when the user unzipped the files, he or she could only enjoy the middle 40% of the original photograph?
This is essentially what MP3s do to sound files. In their attempts to create the smallest possible file while compressing the original data, it removes large chunks of the higher and lower frequencies. The user is left with only the middle frequencies, and the discarded frequencies are irretrievable. Frequently in photographs, an important subject is centered in the frame and can still be enjoyed if a percentage of the top and bottom is eliminated. However, it is often that upper and lower portions that not only provide context to a photograph, but also makes it visually pleasurable or interesting. This is also true of music.
Although the extremely high and low frequencies of a song do not need to be heard to be listened to, understood or enjoyed, they add to the overall experience and enjoyment of listening to music. It is the online equivalent of preferring vinyl records to compact discs.
As such, FLAC files are not for everyone. This is generally because FLAC can be ten to twenty times the size of the same file encoded to MP3, or you may want a format that can readily be played on your iPod or other portable music player and you are willing to trade quality for convenience. That’s OK too: high-quality MP3s will also be made available for each recording.
However, this blog’s focus is on and will be primarily catering to tape traders and audiophiles who demand top quality copies of great live performances.
What are FFP files?
FFP files are FLAC FingerPrints. Like every human being’s fingerprint is different, so is every FLAC’s hashfile.
When the original taper converts his recording to FLAC, it is important that he also create a FFP. It helps verify that the downloaded or otherwise transferred copy of the recording is an exact duplicate of the original. This helps guard against errors in transmission, re-encodes and other impurities that may exist, especially when transferring large files.
Running a hashcheck through such programs as Trader’s Little Helper compares the data contained in the FFP file (what the data should be) and the FLAC file (what the data is). If it’s a match, you have successfully received an exact duplicate of the original recording. If the comparison is unsuccessful, you may not be able to playback or decode the FLAC — and even if you are, it is a flawed or modified version of the master, is considered inferior and should be promptly replaced.
What do I need to playback/decode/burn FLAC files?
There are a multitude of programs and codec packages that allow you to playback, decode and/or burn FLAC files on your PC. Here are a handful of my personal favourites:
Allows you to encode and decode FLAC files simply by dragging and dropping. Also installs the FLAC codec to aid in playback, and offers a gapless plug-in for WinAmp 2.x and 5.x for a seamless listening experience.
When used with FLAC FrontEnd, Nero allows on-the-fly decoding of FLAC files as it writes to CD to ensure compliant playback in most Compact Disc players. If FLAC FrontEnd is not installed or is unable to detect Nero on your computer, Nero also makes a fantastic option for burning the WAV files (decoded elsewhere from the FLACs) directly onto CD.
Perhaps the most indispensable tool for traders and collectors of lossless audio, TLH is an all-in-one program that allows you to encode and decode FLAC files, create and run FFPs, check for errors, analyze for MPEG impurities, create Torrent files for P2P distribution and more! Highly recommended.
A small, efficient and reliable media player that supports FLAC natively.
An iTunes alternative that has native support for FLAC playback and library functionality. Offers manual or automatic synchronization to FLAC-supporting personal portable audio players and the ability to copy a CD to your computer in the FLAC format.
NOTE: For Mac users, please consult SoundForge.net for the latest and greatest suggested FLAC applications.
What are RAR files? How do I use them?
RAR files are compressed archive folders, like the popular ZIP file format used by WinZip. Tests have proven RAR files have better compression rates than its main competitor and have generally become accepted as the new standard for the transfer of compressed archives online.
The most popular program for working with RAR files is WinRAR, the program that introduced RAR archives almost two decades ago. WinRAR is “nagware“, free to download and use without limitation, but a pop-up reminds a free shareware user to upgrade to the professional package with each use. The current price is approximately $29US.
7Zip is a completely free Windows-only alternative for unpacking RAR files, as well more than two dozen other formats.
RAR Expander has been recommended to me as a free, complaint alternate client for MAC OSX users.
As with most archiving utilities, it’s as simple as dragging and dropping the RAR archive into your program of choice, and then dragging the compressed files back out to the folder you would like them saved in. Depending on the application you use and the set-up options selected, you are also frequently given the option to extract the archives via the right-click context menu on Windows-based OS’s.
What quality / bitrate do you encode MP3s at?
MP3 copies of each recording is encoded via the Trader’s Little Helper client using the high-quality Variable BitRate (VBR) pre-set standard of V0.
It is generally accepted that the V0 standard provides the best quality to file size ratio, although the final listening experience will be heavily reliant on the end user’s speaker/headphone quality, playback device, and auditory sensitivity.
How do I download all songs at once?
Due to the relatively large size of FLAC files, archiving an entire live set would frequently result in a single download file of upwards of 400MB or more. To help avoid trouble and limit the effects created from problematic internet connections (i.e. primarily dropped and stalled connections), each track has been made available for download as a separate FLAC file.
However, downloading lengthy sets song-by-song is admittedly cumbersome. Luckily, there is a breadth of Download Managers which not only allow you to queue up several files for download at once, but frequently also create multiple concurrent connections to increase total speed of transfer.
Having been the better part of a decade since I’ve used one, I can’t currently provide a personal recommendation; however, many download managers are now available through integrated browser add-ons. It’s never been easier to download large files!
Can I share these recordings with friends and family?
Absolutely. Feel free to burn, e-mail, IM or play over loudspeakers in the middle of Times Square any files hosted on this blog. Send them a link to the site while you’re at it.
My only request is that you PLEASE include the pertinent FFP and TXT files with all digital transfers, and if you upload any recording to another website (such as P2P torrent sites), please credit the original taper: usually hater-high.com (in addition to the inclusion of the original FFP and TXT files).
Is it OK for me to sell these recordings?
Absolutely NOT, under any circumstances. Neither the involved artists, their management, nor the blog are directly compensated for any of these files that are made available to you FREE of charge.
Please do not accept any money or other form of reimbursement for these recordings. This includes but is not limited to: the sale of a CD and/or compensation for time, materials, production, distribution, shipping or handling of physical or digital copies.
The songs, melodies and lyrics contained within remain copyright controlled by their original owners, and the transfer of these digital recordings in no way implies transfer of ownership.
Why is 24bit/96kHz better than 16bit/41.1kHz?
Wow. That’s not a question I’m not really qualified to answer. I’ve never had any formal sound engineering training whatsoever. I wasn’t even good at science in school. However, Rich over at Tweakheadz.com seems to know what he’s talking about, and I defer to his expert explanation on the technicalities of it all.
What it all boils down to, however, is quality. I will do whatever I can to create the best quality recording possible. I would always rather use techniques or formats that are considered “above standard” and have the formats change to catch up with me than record according to existing standards and be left behind when they change. 16bit/41.1kHz recordings are considered CD quality, and are essentially industry standard. However, Studio quality is significantly higher, and as technology advances and becomes available in consumer grade forms, it seems likely that the tired CD quality standard is likely to change sooner than later. 24bit/96kHz is currently the highest grade audio recording format available for consumer grade recording products.
Why host files on a blog? Why not TORRENT your tapes?
There are three major reasons why I put them up on a blog rather than simply upload as a TORRENT file. The first reason is the major one: bandwidth limitations. I’m only allotted so much bandwidth per month as per the restrictions placed on me by my Internet Provider. Furthermore, it’s an ADSL (Asymmetrical Digital Subscriber Line) service. What these means to me is that when I’m uploading, my download speeds suffer. Big time. My internet becomes virtually unusable when uploading large files. So only having to upload them once and dictating when and how that happens is not only very convenient, but also considerate toward the people who share my internet connection.
The second reason is speed. I find a dedicated HTML connection, although not necessary as fast as a heavily active TORRENT file, is much more stable, reliable and consistent than TORRENTs. It is irrelevant how many people are downloading or uploading at a given time, you are guaranteed a speed at or near your top download speed.
The third and final reason is archival. An unseeded torrent is lost. Without an active user who has the entire contents of the TORRENT file available for upload, it is impossible for someone to acquire the files. Thus, it would be necessary to ensure that not only is every show I tape available, but also well-seeded. With TORRENT files, the logistics of doing this is an absolute nightmare. With a dedicated host, a one-time upload will ensure each recording is available for download for anyone at anytime.
Why do you record concerts?
Live taping has existed for decades. But it was only with the advent of the internet that it became much easier for tapers to interact with one another.
Previously, they might only meet at a show and stay in contact by phone or snail mail and henceforth contact one another when they have procured a new tape the other may be interested in trading for. More frequently were (mostly underground) conventions and other black market channels in which one could buy, sell or trade bootleg recordings. The internet changed all of that.
Tape-trading communities blossomed online, and a taper’s code of ethics emerged among the larger of these. One that forbid selling recordings, and instead encouraged like-for-like trade. This opened up the world of bootleg recordings to not only tapers and consumers who could afford overpriced and cheaply manufactured copies, but anyone interested in live and unreleased music. For people new to trading communities, they could break in by performing a “b+p” (or blanks and postage) trade, where an established member of the community would make a copy — usually of only one recording — if the new recruit sent them blank media (first tapes, and then blank CD-Rs) and return postage. The recipient of the newly copied tape could then in turn make another copy to trade for yet another recording, and so on and so forth. It’s a lot like trading baseball cards, except you get to keep all your cards.
The tapers hold a position of power over any such trading community. They own via creation unique and frequently sought-after recordings that, at first, have little-to-no penetration in the trading market. Therefore, its perceived value is tremendously high and can be traded for recordings with similarly perceived value. However, supply and demand dictates that a tape’s value is marketed only by its scarcity, and the taper must strike while the iron is hot — simultaneously trading copies of his original recording with as many interested parties at once to accumulate the best quantity of quality return trades. Personally recording shows guarantees that you will always have access to the best trades, as long as you consistently have new recordings to offer.
For many years, I was a trader. That is to say, I collected and traded recordings without ever contributing anything unique to the trading community myself. Traders help sustain the taping community in a really interesting way, though. Here’s an example: let’s say taper #1 tapes Nirvana concerts and likes Aerosmith recordings and taper #2 tapes Aerosmith concerts but DOESN’T like Nirvana. The tape TRADER can act as a middle man, trading a Guns And Roses record to the second taper for his Aerosmith recording, and a copy of said Aerosmith recording for a copy of the first taper’s Nirvana recording. The trader, in the middle, ends up with more overall recordings than either taper, and all three parties are satisfied with their transactions. However, without anything original to contribute to the community, the trader must continuously struggle to find recordings other traders or tapers desire to initiate an interesting trade.
As the internet evolved, so did these online trading communities. Just as cassettes gave way to CD-Rs, CD-Rs gave way to digital files. When internet speeds and hard disk capacities increased over the late 1990s and early 2000s, it became increasingly feasible to trade recordings online. With the advent of Napster, the idea of trading gave way to the idea of sharing. By offering access to your digital music, you were allowed to browse and consume an almost infinite library of recordings. This made collecting live and rare music much more efficient, and erased significant portions of the capitalist-like class system that had begun to structure trading circles. Now, anyone could access and own these recordings with the implied promise that they too would share them in return.
Taping shows myself started as my way of giving back to the community that had given me access to great recordings I otherwise never would have been privy to. Shows that had sold out before I could get tickets. Performances that were out of town, out of province, or even out of country. Or even a selfish way to relive and enjoy a concert I did attend all over again.
But becoming a live taper is an addiction. You sail on the rush of sneaking your recording equipment into the venue, and taping the show under the watchful but oblivious eyes of the “evil red-shirted security guards”. You bask in the knowledge that you have an opportunity to bring something great to people who could not come to it themselves. You smile knowing that, unlike most fleeting moments in your life, those minutes between the Record and Stop buttons can be revisited again and again for years. For me, going to a concert without my gear has become akin to going without pants. I quite literally feel naked and uncomfortable, and it distracts from my enjoyment.
Not unlike a wealthy man who gives a dollar to a down-and-out beggar on the street to feel better about himself, my reasons for taping concerts aren’t perfectly altruistic. But I think in both cases, the ends justify the means.
How long have you been involved with taping?
I started out collection and trading tapes around 1998 or 1999. I didn’t get involved in the actual taping of concerts aspect until the spring of 2003, and even then I only assisted a taper friend of mine (I would help him sneak in gear, hold onto extra media, juggle extra tapes and batteries, etc.) for the next year or two. When we would attend shows that I might be more interested in taping than he would, I started to don the duties myself. Eventually, I started borrowing his equipment to record shows he wasn’t at. Before long, I needed his gear so frequently that I didn’t even give it back. Bit by bit, I upgraded parts to my own gear, until eventually I had an entire rig that I properly owned. I’ve been recording guilt-free ever since.
What do you use to record concerts?
I’ve had a few rigs in the last ten years.
For microphones, I started with Nexxtech 3303003 mono tie clip microphone, or borrowed Sound Processionals SP-BMC-3 binaural microphones.
I upgraded pretty quickly to Core Sound Binaural microphones, which lasted me a couple of years before they failed.
My most recent recordings feature Sound Professionals Deluxe Audio Technica Cardioid Stereo Microphones (SP-CMC-2).
Many early recordings were to a Sharp Mini Disc MD-SR60 recorder. It was finicky, and would often drop out, or have miscellaneous bleeps and bloops throughout the recording.
As the hobby grew more serious, so did my expectations for quality. Thus, I upgraded to the Edirol R-09hr WAV/MP3 recorder. Early recordings were in 44.1KhZ/16-bit WAV files, but before long I experimented and upgraded to 96kHz/24-bit WAV files, and haven’t looked back.
I recently purchased a Zoom H2 recorder that may be replacing the Edirol R-09. More details to follow….
How do you transfer your master tape to your PC?
With my current set-up, I simply plug the Edirol R-09hr device into my PC via a Mini-USB cable and copy-and-paste the master WAV onto my hard drive for processing.
When I was recording to MiniDisc, I captured the audio to my PC via the headphone output on the MD-SR60 to the Line-In input on my SoundBlaster Audigy SE soundcard via a male-to-male analog 1/8″ cable. I used Goldwave to capture the audio through the Soundblaster.
Which programs do you use to edit/EQ your recordings?
I primarily use two programs for processing the audio: Goldwave 5.12 and Cool Edit Pro 2.1.
I don’t have any hard-and-fast rules about how I process my audio, but I frequently use Goldwave to adjust the overall volume of the recording, cut out any extra audio (ie. at the beginning and end of the recording, and frequently, the encore), and create 5-to-10 second fades at the start and end of each set.
Although that sounds like the heavy lifting, the most involved part of processing the audio is the equalization (EQ). For that, I only trust Cool Edit Pro. Each master audio track is put through the 30-band Graphic Equalizer, and the audio is adjusted bit-by-bit and monitored through Sennheiser HD 437 headphones and Logitech Z-2300 computers speakers.
The EQ’d track is saved to a new file, preserving the master, and split into separate tracks using CDwave. Whereas I used to save the split files as a WAV and do the FLAC encoding with Trader’s Little Helper, I have begun to trust CDwave to split the recording directly into FLAC compressed files and most newer recordings reflect this change in practice.
FFP files are still created using Trader’s Little Helper, however, and text files are created using the basic Windows Notepad application.
MP3s are either created from decoded FLAC files or seperately produced WAV files through CDwave. They are encoded using the high-quality V0 pre-set built into Razorlame or Traders Little Helper. The files are then compressed using WinRAR or 7Zip.
I’d like to tape. What do you suggest for equipment?
This is a difficult question to answer because I love my new gear to death and I want to suggest it to everyone even remotely interesting in taping. However, my current gear was a $700+ investment, not including batteries or the PC I use for post-processing. Obviously, not every taper is willing or able to make such a formidable upfront investment, especially when they first begin.
However, one thing I want to impress is that you don’t want to start off too cheap, either. Taping with your iPhone or a microcassette recorder, although functional, isn’t always the best sound quality and it becomes easy to be discouraged and give up. This is especially true in the first few shows where you are still learning the tricks of the trade (i.e. how to sneak your gear in, set it up covertly, where to stand, how to position mics, etc.). Taping should be a joy, and not a chore.
Although the MiniDisc is now a completely discarded format (and was virtually obsolete when I started using it years ago), it makes a great mid-range recorder that is perfect for the budding taper. Because they are steps away from utter extinction, they can be found for cheap. The discs themselves are more difficult to come across, but can be re-used so only a small handful is necessary. Keep an eye on eBay — or better yet, Craigslist, so you can try before you buy.
Some non-iPod MP3 players also do WAV and MP3 recording as well, helping you kill two birds with one stone if you are in the market for both. If you go this route, make sure they allow for external microphones, have on board level control, and decent-sized hard or solid state disk space. Preferably, you will always record in WAV and keep a clean, non-MP3-lineage master somewhere.
Microphones go from cheap to pretty expensive to very expensive, very quickly. There isn’t a great quality to price ratio of mics, especially of the stealth variety. Don’t be afraid to start with a cheap Radio Shack mic like I did, but know that if you plan on sticking with taping, you will want to update and upgrade pretty quickly. Expect the quality of your recordings to suffer with low-end mics but until you’re sure live taping is something you want to pursue and are comfortable doing, they are usually the best starting point.
Oh, and stay away from cheap batteries. Find a brand that works well for you and stick to it. You don’t want to be surprised by a battery that dies 8-minutes into a recording (I’ve been there!). Always carry spares.
I’d like to tape. What do you suggest for technique?
Technique ultimately depends on the equipment and there is no one way to record. Generally, you want to get the mics as high as you can. Some people clip them to their hats, others to their glasses. I usually clip to the collar of my shirt. The higher it is, the less obstructions you’ll have between the source of the sound (i.e. the speakers) and the mics (bodies, tables, walls and barriers, etc), and the less crowd noise you’ll pick up. Being tall helps.
I also like to record off to the side, frequently very close to the left or right speaker stacks. This, again, has to do with trying to get as direct a soundwave as I can get. Some tapers like to stand in the middle, but the risk with that is you have to be far back enough that the side speakers are pointed at you and you’re not just picking up the sound from the amps (which will be uneven and unmixed, and void of vocals). This increases not only the distortion in the soundwave across the further distance it has to travel to you, but also the likelihood of picking up sounds of chatter and beer bottles clunking.
The sound of a concert is mixed to sound best at the soundboard (ie. where the sound technician will be standing, and mixing to the sound as he hears it), but there are too many risks and variables in my opinion to count on quality recordings from that position in a club or bar without a high-quality microphone and a mic stand elevated to 15′ or so.
The only other suggestion I have as a general rule is: always bring at least one or two more batteries and tapes than you expect to need. And whenever possible, tape the opening acts or other bands at the shows you go to — you never know which one’s about to become your new favourite!
Why aren’t there any ads on your site?
If anyone should profit in any way, shape or form from the music hosted on this blog, it should be the artists who create and performed it. I tape and blog as a personal hobby. The moment either becomes work or otherwise an attempt to try and earn a quick buck off of someone else’s efforts will be the moment I sell all of my equipment and shut down this site.
Besides, online ads suck.
I love your site. How can I help out?
The number one way you can help out is to support the artists whose recordings you download by attending their concerts and purchasing their albums or t-shirts.
Another way is to tell your friends about this website instead of simply sending them a copy of the recording or burning them a CD-r. Add the blog to your bookmarks and come back every now and again. You are always welcome here.