Streaming FLAC Audio to MP3 Enabled Devices

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I purchased myself a Sony CMT-MX750Ni Mini Hi-Fi System. It is a fantastic home audio device that plays from the following media: CD, USB, Audio In, iPod/iPhone, FM Tuner, DAB Tuner, Home Network (Windows Media Streaming), Internet Music Services via wireless and wired connection. The Sony CMT-MX750Ni is easy to use and allows access to all of your audio content, wherever it is located (with the exception of vinyl and tape). It is easy to set up and produces very good quality sound.

Sony CMT-MX750Ni Sony CMT-MX750Ni Mini Hi-Fi System
Manufacturer’s Description:

100W RMS, S-Master Digital Amplifier, Wi-Fi®, USB, iPod, CD, FM/DAB tuner, audio in, remote control.

  • DLNA and Wi-Fi® – Stream music with DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) and built-in Wi-Fi®, straight to your network audio system for instant playback
  • Internet radio – Enjoy listening to thousands of stations without connecting to a PC
  • Easy key layout – Enjoy simple menu functions with an easy to use key layout, plus remote control for operating freedom
  • Stereo sound quality – Superior Hi-Fi sound quality with 100W RMS output and a 2-way speaker system
  • Connect all music sources – Release your entire music collection direct from all sources: PC, iPod, internet radio, CD and MP3 player, plus FM tuner
  • iPod dock – Made for iPod dock built-in to release all your music from your iPod (also works with iPhone, using the supplied adaptor)
  • USB – USB playback for MP3 tracks, from a USB memory stick or other digital media device
  • CD player – Tray loading CD player supports CD, CD-R, CD-RW and 8cm discs, with shuffle, repeat and program functions for listening control
  • S-Master digital amplifier – Experience crystal clear CD quality sound with full digital amplifier
  • Audio in – Connect your digital music player and play MP3s in great sound quality (cable not supplied)
  • FM / DAB tuner – Get more listening choice with the built-in FM / DAB / DAB+ tuner, with 40 station pre-sets
Sony_CMT-MX750Ni
Sony CMT-MX750Ni Mini Hi-Fi System with iPhone

I’m very happy with my purchase. The only downside that I’ve came across with the Sony CMT-MX750Ni, is the lack of a ‘Headphone Socket’, which will/does annoy the wife as it was the question she asked me about the package. With the Native Encoding on the Sony CMT-MX750Ni, it will only read files encoded with MP3, MS Windows WMA, and M4A used by Apple Devices. As all my Music Collection uses FLAC, (Free Lossless Audio Codec) Lossless Audio Encoding, I needed a way to play my music without having to re-encode the whole collection to MP3, WMA or M4A format. To take advantage of the Sony CMT-MX750Ni‘s Audio Streaming capabilities, I needed to set-up my Windows7 PC to stream FLAC files. As FLAC is not supported by Windows Media Player 12 and Windows Media Centre straight out of the box, I need to rectify this as shown below.

Steaming FLAC Audio to MP3 Enabled Devices – Part 1

Ripping Your Audio Discs to FLAC Format:
If you want the best quality audio for your CD rips for playback on your Media Centre set-up? Ripping audio to FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) is the preferred method for storing audio CDs without losing any of the original detail. FLAC is known as a lossless codec, meaning there is no loss in quality between the original CD and the FLAC file, unlike MP3 which can degrade the quality quite a bit.

To get the data off your disk and onto our drives though, use a program called ‘Exact Audio Copy’. This apply named program will take the pure audio from your disk and encode it to FLAC without much hassle at all. It even includes the ability to retrieve disk information from freeDB and some fairly advanced error correction (for those less than new CDs). Getting started is easy, just download and install Exact Audio Copy then run the program. An initial startup wizard will appear asking you to set some of the basic options. During this you should let EAC know that you’ll be encoding to FLAC not MP3. Also, entering your e-mail address is required to retrieve information about CDs from freeDB.

Using FLAC

Once the initial setup has been completed insert a disk into the drive you setup as the default during configuration. After a few moments EAC should display a listing of al the tracks on the disk in the main window. You’ll notice that none of these tracks have any tag information and EAC will most likely want to process offset information on a first run. Go ahead and let that happen and any gap processing EAC would like to run.

Now to retrieve information for this CD automatically you can press the CD icon in the toolbar to access freeDB. As long as freeDB recognises the disk you’ve loaded it should automatically retrieve artist, title and track information. Otherwise, you can edit basic information in the main EAC interface before ripping.

To begin ripping the CD to separate FLAC files you just need to press the MP3 button on the left. This slight confusion in the interface can cause some trouble for new users but the button will use your default compression mode, MP3 or not. There are also options available to rip the disk to a single or multiple uncompressed WAV file(s) with or without a cue file. Unfortunately, at this time WMP and Media Center do not support cue files.

During encoding you can monitor the process through a small dialogue displaying the progress of the current track, the entire disk and any problems that arise in the Status box. You will also be able to monitor any error correction taking place through the small red grid box on this window. Any error processing will appear as a progress type display in the box.

Steaming FLAC Audio to MP3 Enabled Devices – Part 2

Setting up Windows Media Player and Media Centre to serve FLAC Encoded files:

Currently Windows Media Player and Media Centre don’t include native file support for a number of lossless audio codecs including FLAC, OGG, and basically anything other than Microsoft’s own WMA files. There is a cure for this minor omission though so no worries. We suggest that 32-bit users download and install the ‘madFlac decoder’ from madshi. For 64-bit users, codecs for both ‘x64’ and ‘x86’ versions of windows can be found at Xiph’s open source site. The files linked above are the latest versions available at the time of this post but you should check ‘Xiph’s’ page to check for updated versions. Once you have the proper codecs installed it’s time to get them to show up in the Music Library. The most convenient way to manage your Music Library in Media Centre is through Windows Media Player 12. Changes made to your Music Library in WMP will be reflected in Media Centre and it provides a relatively simple GUI for manipulating your files. If you have already established your WMP Music Library it may be necessary to clear your Music Library before this fix will take effect. The most effective way to clear your WMP libraries is to remove your albums from inside WMP by selecting them and pressing delete. Be sure when prompted you select the option to “Remove from Library only” so you don’t lose all your songs! There is also and option under “Tools > Options > Library Tab” that should be unchecked before clearing your library inside of WMP.

Close WMP and navigate Windows Explorer to “C:\Users\USERNAME\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Media Player” then delete the file “CurrentDatabase_371.wmdb” contained inside. You may need to stop the WMP Network Sharing service by going through Control Panel > Administrative Tools > Services and selecting the service and stopping it in order to delete the main WMP database. Now, one more step before we reopen WMP to check our new Library for FLAC files, download and install the WMP Tag Support Extender Plugin for Windows Media Player & Media Centre v 1.1. This will enable files with FLAC (and other) extensions to be picked up by the Library. Next we can finally reopen WMP.

Once you’re back inside WMP go to “Tools > Plugins” and ensure that the Tag Support Plugin is enabled. Once it has been enabled select your Music Library. Your music should begin to repopulate the Music Library, this may take some time to complete. After you’re sure the process has finished, find your artists that you have FLAC files under and verify they are indeed there. Once you can see your newly supported files inside WMP they should also be included in your Media Centre Library as well, have fun!

Note: Certain aspects of these files will still not be displayed properly, such as the length of the files.

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