We get collectors who have fifty CDs all the way up to five and six thousand… These jobs are gigabytes, maybe terabytes of data.”
- Jeff Tedesco, President and CEO, ReadyToPlay
Ripping Means Data
ReadyToPlay, based in Palo Alto, California, specializes in high-quality CD ripping services. Ripping is technical jargon for converting audio media to a digital format for playback in iPods and other digital music players like Apple TV, Seagate FreeAgent Theater+, Logitech Squeezebox and Sonos. Since audio files are large, ReadyToPlay must be able to store, handle and ship a significant amount of data in a reliable, inexpensive way for its customers. “We get collectors who have fifty CDs all the way up to five and six thousand. The largest one we’ve done is eight thousand. These jobs are gigabytes, maybe terabytes of data,” said Jeff Tedesco, President and CEO of ReadyToPlay.
To put this amount of data in perspective, a gigabyte is one billion bytes, which is equivalent to the entire Encyclopedia Britannica. In terms of digital media, it takes six gigabytes of storage on average to hold:
- 100 hours of digital music or
- 1,600 digital photos or
- 6 hours of digital video or
- 1 two-hour DVD-quality movie or
- 3 video games
As you can see, CD ripping means data!
ReadyToPlay formed six years ago after Apple introduced the first iPod. “It came out and I decided, ‘This thing is really cool, so I’m going to rip my own CDs,’” said Tedesco. “And I found the process to be cumbersome and inaccurate. So I ended up forming a company that rips CDs for people, but I utilize technologies and databases that allow me to do a better job than they could possibly do. So our value isn’t around the time savings – it’s around doing a better job and a higher quality job than they could do themselves. We have robotics equipment, sophisticated software, very rigid processes.”
The company’s clientele speaks to its level of quality. “We get orders from all over the world: Switzerland, Australia, Hong Kong, the Middle East, Finland, all over the United States. I’ve done Elton John’s personal CD collection, Dave Matthews, Michael Tilson-Thomas. We’ve done the Juilliard School and all their classical CDs. So we’ve become accustomed to working with a lot of different types of individuals and a lot of different types of music,” he said.
Quality Is in the Metadata
An important way ReadyToPlay provides quality is through metadata, which is the descriptive information about the music files, such as artist name, composer, genre, album name and cover art. Metadata is very useful for audiophiles who want to organize their music collections, create custom playlists and view album artwork as songs are played. ReadyToPlay’s ripping software cross-checks metadata against four professional music databases, including one used by Amazon: AMG or “All Music Guide.” This multiple database approach generates thorough and consistent metadata. “So what’s great is Sheryl Crow comes up spelled right as Sheryl Crow. In classical music, the artist is always the conductor and it’s never Wolfgang Mozart – that’s under a composer field. So we have very high levels of accurate data,” he said.
ReadyToPlay also rips CDs to multiple file formats according to customer requirements. For instance, MP3 is commonly used for iPods, while full-fidelity, lossless formats like AIFF, Apple Lossless or FLAC are used for home stereo systems. Lossless formats are larger. A CD in MP3 format takes up about 150 megabytes of storage, while a CD in lossless format takes up to 600 megabytes. With multiple formats and CD collections numbering in the hundreds and thousands, the data adds up.
Customers are thrilled. Their whole CD collection which was a wall of CDs is now boiled down to a small, portable disk drive.”
- Jeff Tedesco
ReadyToPlay Relies on Seagate Storage
The ripping process starts with a customer emptying his or her CD changer or case holder into a box and shipping them to ReadyToPlay. Once at the company’s facility, the CDs are loaded into robots that hold 600 CDs each. Then ripping commences. After the audio files are created and metadata is cross-checked and honed, the jobs are typically stored on Seagate FreeAgent Go portable external hard drives and shipped back to the customer with their CDs. “Love those portable drives,” said Tedesco. “We will put a person’s entire collection on one of those drives and be able to send it back. It’s literally amazing. We will get six boxes of CDs and what comes back is a three inch by five inch mini hard drive with all their files in lossless format. And customers are thrilled. Their whole CD collection which was a wall of CDs is now boiled down to a small, portable disk drive.”
“Having a reliable drive to put the customer jobs on is really important. I’ve never had a failure on a Seagate portable drive. It’s a name brand people trust and love. Some other companies might use drives that they build to try to save some money. I don’t want to do that. It’s just not worth it. I’m all about quality, so I just take the best name brand drive I can get and do the best quality work that we can.”
At its facility, ReadyToPlay backs up jobs on a Seagate BlackArmor NAS (networked-attached storage) 440 server for 30 days. “If they’re lost in transit, we still have a copy here and can recover them. We’ve never had anything happen, but it’s a matter of policy that we back up every job,” he said. The BlackArmor NAS 440 is RAID 5 protected and scales from one to eight terabytes of room to accommodate growing storage requirements.
Next Step – Audio Recognition Technology?
As a potential future service, ReadyToPlay is exploring automated audio recognition technology for CDs with custom music mixes. Identifying songs on these homemade CDs is currently not possible. But this new technology would analyze each song’s audio profile and beats per minute to figure out what it is. “We’re kind of looking into some partnerships to help us do that,” said Tedesco. “It’s really advanced.”
ReadyToPlay sells its services through Magnolia Audio Video stores, through a national network of custom AV equipment installers and direct via its website. In addition to audio CDs, the company also rips video DVDs to the Kaleidescape System, which is the only legal platform currently available for importing DVDs.
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