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HiFi on the high seas without the storage issues

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What is the issue?
If you are not convinced of the MP3 format and believe the optimum in listening are the original CDs, these consume a large amount of storage space. Worse, shelved CD cases are prime candidates to cause an irritating rhythmic slapping noise when they fall together in a vessel that is in motion.

Why address this?
We cruise to enjoy the good things in life and music is one of those good things. But cruising yachts are very limited in space. One has to carefully measure the utility any item serves, against the storage space it requires. This then has to be considered against the convenience of accessing it to determine if it is going to make it aboard and be used in reality. Anything that works on these variables makes for viability on all scores.

How to address this?
Repackage the CDs into a more convenient form to deal with. A CD remains one of the best ways to store high quality digital music. For people who love the quality, taking it and converting it (i.e, ‘rip’ it) to an MP3 type low-quality music file, is horrific. But you can also convert it to a high-quality 'Free Lossless Audio Codec' (FLAC) file instead. FLAC is an open-source audio compression format that can be used to compress an audio file down to around half of its original size with no loss of sound quality.

There are a number of ripping programs that can do this, including several ones that are free such as the 'Fairstars CD Ripper' and 'Exact Audio Copy'. Both are good programs, and 'Exact Audio Copy' is almost overwhelming with all the options it offers. For those who want to automatically add the CD information to the CD you are recording, very much worth it I might add, it is worth upgrading to the paid for 'dbPowerAmp' software which also benefits from a more intuitive interface. All of these software packages, along with countless others, will convert the music on a CD into the FLAC file format at a rate of probably about ten times the normal playing speed making it possible to convert your entire CD library in a fairly short time period.

The size of the FLAC files can vary greatly depending on music dynamics, conversion tool used, what format the file was converted from and level of compression used. For instance, a 5-minute sample at 44.1 kHz, 16 bits recording can be 6.69 MB, or at 192 kHz at 24 bits can be as much as 195 MB. An expectation of 40 - 60MB+ for each song on average would be a reasonable. This sounds horrendous but with 1 terabyte SD cards now becoming available, that's a million MB in this small form factor. 256 GB MicroSD cards have been available for some time now at reasonable prices and they provide most Android smartphones with ¼ million MB each. So the large storage size should not present audiophiles with too much of an issue.

VLC offers a free player across all platforms
Photo: VLC
Then all you have to add to this is a High-Resolution Audio Player. There are many specific devices that can be bought but nearly all popular commonly used PC media players are able to play FLAC files although some may require a plugin or extension to be installed. Windows Media Player, for example, can open FLAC files with Xiph's OpenCodec plugin. The free Fluke tool can be used on a Mac to play FLAC files in iTunes.

The ubiquitous VLC media player (commonly known as VLC) can be used as a FLAC player on all of the above systems and Android/IOS based smartphones. One of the main advantages of VLC is that this software is made available for free and it can just about play almost any media file available. Apple finally added native support for lossless FLAC audio files in iOS 11 in 2017.

Blank disk CD Holder
Photo: Michael Harpur
If you are still not convinced and prefer the tactile experience of the original CD the best option is to remove the CDs from their original cases. If you are happy to sacrifice the CD liner notes a higher packing density may be achieved by using blank computer CD containers as your CD holders. Alphabetically indexing helps but you will have to dig about for the album you require in this arrangement.

These containers do offer the highest packing density and as many people replicate their home collection to the yacht it may be a very convenient solution just to stow the replicas in the blank disks containers. This reduces space dramatically and gets rid of the slapping sound they make when a yacht rolls during passages. Light degrades CDs, particularly so computer burnt CDs, so find a dark dry locker for this solution.

However if you wish to keep the album art, the best all-round solution will be to lose the cases and insert the CDs into a special purpose CD wallet.

CD Wallet
Photo: Michael Harpur

With thanks to:
Michael Harpur, Yacht Obsession.
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