The Pontiac audio systems supporting MP3 playback are capable of supporting MP3 data discs.  MP3 is a file format used to compress audio tracks. The songs or tracks on an audio CD can be converted to MP3 format and the files can be stored on a computer, a data CD or an MP3 player. 

The process of converting audio tracks to MP3 files is called RIPPING.  An alternative method of obtaining MP3 songs is downloading them from the Internet. 

There are various music subscription services that allow you to search and purchase individual songs or entire albums.  These songs are then downloaded and stored in some type of digital media (hard drive, CD, MP3 Player, flash cards, etc)

These MP3 tracks have additional information stored within the file called meta-data.  This data can contain information such as the title of the song, the artist, name of the album, track on the CD, and much more.  The metadata stored on these MP3 tracks are called ID3 Tags.  The Pontiac Audio system is only capable of reading ID3 V1.0 or V2.0 tags.  If you burn your CD with either no ID3tags or a different version, the Pontiac Audio systems will not be able to read all of the information stored in the ID3 tag. I always use V1.0 and it works fine.

The Pontiac Audio systems can read data CDs containing MP3 files.  The type of CD media recommended is CD-R or CD-RW. From experience, the most widely supported type is CD-R.  A CD can store between 700-800 MB of data.  This translates to about 10 hours of music per CD.

 

 

Pontiac MP3 TRACK AND FOLDER STRUCTURE

The Pontiac Audio systems supports two different modes for MP3 disc playback: MP3 track mode (system default) and MP3 folder mode.   In track mode, the Pontiac Audio system is capable of reading up to 255 tracks in the root folder (tracks are numbered sequentially from T1-T255).  If more than 255 songs are burned onto a CD, the Pontiac Audio systems will only recognize the first 255. 

In folder mode, the Pontiac Audio systems support a folder structure consisting of up to 8 levels of folders. A total of 50 folders can be stored below the root folder with up to 50 tracks in each folder.  Creating CDs with a single level of folders is recommended to simplify navigation.  .

Ripping CDs
As previously mentioned, the procedure of converting tracks or songs on an audio CD to MP3 files is called ripping.  There are many commercially available and public domain software utilities that allow you to RIP audio CDs to various proprietary file formats or to the universally accepted format called MP3.   The Pontiac audio systems support files recorded with the following fixed bit rates: 32 kbps, 40 kbps, 56 kbps, 64 kbps, 80 kbps, 96 kbps, 112 kbps, 128 kbps, 160 kbps, 192 kbps, 224 kbps, 256 kbps, and 320 kbps or a variable bit rate. Song title, artist name, and album can only be displayed when recorded using ID3 tags version v1 or v2 (see below).

Windows Media Player (WMP) is such a program. It is included with all recent Microsoft operating systems or can be downloaded for free from Microsoft’s web site.  Another Free Ripper that is highly recommended is Apples iTunes.    In addition to Ripping the CDs, the iTune has the ability to edit the ID3tags and burn MP3 data disks all in a single application.  This is such a powerful tool that I will cover it in detail later in this article.

Launch Microsoft’s Window Media Player and from the WMP tool bar, select Tools à Options à Rip Music tab.  Under Rip settings, chose mp3 for the file format and select 192 bps as the audio quality by moving the pointer on the slide bar near the bottom of the options pop-up  to the left.  This is an acceptable quality and provides about 80 MB per album (equivalent to approximately 10 albums per CD).   Other recommended options are to select the “Rip CD when inserted” and “Eject CD when ripping is complete”.  This will speed up the process of ripping a large number of CD by allowing the user to insert CDs and continue to work while the PC automatically rips the CD.  When the process is completed, the CD is ejected and another one can be inserted and will start to rip automatically.

Under the same tab, select File Name and in the window that appears, choose convention to be “track number”, “song title” “artist” and “album”. The result is one subfolder per album within a folder having the artist's name and containing all the tracks in order they appears on the audio CD. 

Information on each track of the CD is stored on hidden files in an audio CD.  This information contains things like the song title, artist, album title, track number, time duration, etc.  The Ripper software you use will read this information and attach this information to the converted MP3 song in the form of an ID3tag.  Different Rippers default to different IDtag version but most use ID3V2.  As previously mentioned, the Pontiac Audio systems only supports tags written in V1.0 or V2.0.  To convert the ID3 tags to V1 and make any corrections necessary, you will need to use an ID3 editing software or iTunes.

 

 

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Fixing ID3 Tags

So now, you have a collection of MP3 songs that you have ripped or downloaded.  However, the ID3 tag information may not be what you think it is.  Different CD rippers may use different versions of the ID3 tags (currently there are three versions available V1, V2 and APECV2.  Also, not all of the CDs provide the same level of information.  Some CDs may even contain completely inaccurate information.  If you want the Pontiac Audio systems to properly identify the song title, artist and album, you may need to edit the ID3 tags and convert them to V1 or V2.  Remember that the Pontiac Audio systems only supports V1 or V2 formatted ID3 tags.

 This procedure can be very time consuming if you have thousands or even hundreds of files.  It can be even more complicated if your songs come from different sources such as downloaded music, older CDs, or CDs from smaller labels.  Remember this is optional and not required unless you want the track, album, song title and artist information to be correct.

There are many tools available to edit ID3 tags.  A simple to use shareware version is MP3Tag which may be downloaded from http://www.mp3tag.de/en/download.html.  Apple's iTunes also has an ID3tag editing function. 

Whichever one you choose, make sure that it is capable of writing a V1 or V2 ID3 tag.  Some will burn V2 by default.  The Pontiac Audio systems only supports V1 and V2 and will not support an ID3 tag written in other versions.  After downloading the software, install the application and launch it by double clicking on the icon.

 

To begin, select fileà change Directory.  Browse to your music folder.  In a few minutes (depending on how much music you have, the information for all of you songs will appear in the main panel on the right.  The information contained in the ID3 tag will display on the right panel. 

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Next, select your file reading and writing options.  We want to be able to read everything, but we only want to write ID3V1 or V2 tags.  I prefer to use V1 since most MP3 CD players will recognize this version.  From the Tools menu, select options.  Under tags, select each of the options and choose the options shown below.

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Correct the fields on the left Panel for each song as necessary and then select all of the songs that need to have their tag information updated.  You can select multiple consecutive files by selecting the first song and holding the shift key while you select the last song in the series.   Non-sequential files may be selected by holding down the CTRL key and selecting individual files.

When ready, select FileàSave Tag.  If the options were selected properly as indicated above, all ID tags will be rewritten in V1 format.

Remember that this program is shareware and if you use find it useful, you should make a donation to the author through paypal.

Burning MP3 CDs

Now, you have your MP3 songs, you’ve fixed the tags on the songs you care about and you are ready to burn them on CDs.  The first step should be to organize your music.   The Pontiac Audio systems supports two different file structures.  This is where you will need to decide which songs you are going to put on each CD, and whether you want to use a single directory or a directory structure underneath a root directory.

 

Most media players support creating playlists.  Create a playlist for each CD and drop the songs that you want onto each playlist.  Make sure you constrain yourself to the limits imposed by the physical media and the Pontiac Audio systems’ file structure limits.  Most CDs are limited to 700-800 MB, and the Pontiac Audio systems can only support 255 tracks in a single directory or 50 subdirectories underneath a root directory with no more than 50 tracks in each directory.

 

Pontiac makes the following recommendations for burning MP3 songs on a CD:

• Make sure the MP3 files are recorded on a CD-R or CD-RW disc.

• Avoid mixing standard audio and MP3 files on one disc.

• Create a folder structure that makes it easy to find songs while driving. Organize songs by albums using one folder for each album. Each folder or album should contain 18 songs or less.

• Avoid subfolders. The system can support up to 8 subfolders deep, however, keep the total number of folders to a minimum in order to reduce the complexity and confusion in trying to locate a particular folder during playback.

• Make sure playlists have a .mp3 or .wpl extension (other file extensions may not work).

• Minimize the length of the file, folder, or playlist names. Long file, folder, or playlist names or a combination of a large number of files and folders, or playlists can cause the player to be unable to play up to the maximum number of files, folders, playlists, or sessions. If you wish to play a large number of files, folders, playlists, or sessions, minimize the length of the file, folder, or playlist name. Long names also take up more space on the display, and might not fully display. Track names longer than 32 characters or four pages are shortened. Parts of words on the last page of text and the extension of the filename may not display.

• Finalize the audio disc before you burn it. Trying to add music to an existing disc can cause the disc not to function in the player.

 

Apple's iTunes supports burning both audio and data discs, however, earlier versions of WMP only supported burning audio CDs and could not create a data disc.  WMP version 9 now supports burning data disks.  An alternative is to use third party CD burning software.  Again, there are many to choose from; I chose Roxio Easy Creator Suite.  To burn a CD using Roxio, follow the procedure below:

  • From the tool bar, select  Common Projects and then select Data Disk
  • Drag and drop the playlists into the Data Disc Project window
  • Select the “View and edit your project” button
  • Choose UDF102 and Joliet Bridge file structure  
  • Select “Validate source files before recording “
  • Select “Automatically verify File System after recording”
  • Click on the “Exclude File Types tab “
  • Choose all files except .mp3, also select the “Exclude all hidden files” and “Exclude all system files “options (this will prevent copying of  .ini and .jpg files normally associated with images of the album  cover.  The display on the Pontiac Audio systems cannot display this information.  By eliminating these files you will have more room for songs)
  • Click  the Burn button
  • Select  “Details”, if the button says “Hide Details”, then do nothing
  • Select Read-Only Disc
  • Choose Test & Write
  • Choose the writing speed (Although it may take longer, you will get better results by choosing a slower burn speed.  Choose a burn speed that is no more then 75% of the maximum your media or drive will support for example if your media support 24X but your drive only supports 16x then you will want to choose 12x or less.
  • Start burning your CD

Note: you must select the option to close the CD when finished.  This will make the CD read only.  Failure to do this may result in problems playing the CD.

One last note, although you may be the most creative person on earth and can create the best looking CD labels, refrain from using paper labels on your CDs.  They can heat up inside the Pontiac Audio systems, start to peel off and completely ruin your Pontiac Audio systems.  The best way to label your CD creations is with a good old fashioned felt tip marker.

 

ITunes to the rescue

Apple has released an application that is available for free from their download site.  It runs on Windows as well as Macs and, as mentioned before, it allows you to RIP, convert, edit ID3 tags, and organize your music into playlists and burn MP3 data discs as well as audio discs.  It is by far one of the most powerful media management applications available.

 

Before getting started, there is a little housekeeping that will make things easier later on.  ITunes lets you import songs from various formats as well as ripping songs directly from CDs.  ITunes default format is an Apple proprietary format called AAC.  To make things easier for us, we will want to change this to MP3. 

  1. Choose Edit > Preferences, then click the Advanced tab at the top of the window and click Importing
  2. Choose an encoder (select MP3 from the drop down list)
  3. Choose a bit rate from the Setting pop-up menu 128 is acceptable and will allow you to fit more songs on the CD.  If you want a little better quality, select 192.  Very few people will be able to hear the difference but if you are one that can, you may want to sacrifice a few songs on a CD for better fidelity.  The 192 setting creates files that are about 1 MB in size per minute of music

Ripping songs from an audio CD using ITunes,

  1. Insert an audio CD into your computer. After a moment, the songs on the CD are listed in the iTunes window.
  2. Click to remove the checkmark next to any songs you don't want to import.
  3. To remove the gap of silence that normally occurs between songs, make sure the songs on the CD are sorted by track number in ascending order (click the top of the first column so that it's blue and you see a triangle that points up), then select two or more adjacent songs and choose Advanced > Join CD Tracks.

iTunes imports any joined songs as one track. To change back to importing the songs separately, select the joined songs and choose Advanced > Un-join CD Tracks.

  1. To add the selected songs to your library, click the Import button in the upper-right corner of the iTunes window.

The display area at the top of the iTunes window shows how much time it will take to import each song. To cancel importing, click the small X next to the progress bar.

  1. When the songs are finished importing, click the Eject symbol to the right of the CD in the playlist, or click the Eject Disk button in the lower-right corner of the iTunes window.

By default, iTunes plays songs while they're being imported. You can click the Pause button to stop playback, or continue to use ITunes for other tasks; the import will continue. You can also stop iTunes from playing songs automatically by deselecting the "Play songs while importing" checkbox in the Advanced pane of iTunes Preferences (in the Importing section).

Importing MP3 and other music files into iTunes.

When iTunes is installed, it will optionally search all of your attached hard disks and CDs for every audio format file it knows and will list it in the iTunes library.  It will also attempt to categorize the files by album or genre if the information is available.  The songs will remain in their native format and can be played by iTunes. 

However, to burn these songs or to edit their ID3tag information, the songs must first be imported into iTunes.  Before you do this, make sure you have configured your preferences as described in the getting started section above.

To import the songs

  1. select the songs to be imported from the play list.  You can select multiple songs by holding the CTRL key while selecting individual songs, holding down the shift key while selecting the first and last song in a sequence, or you can select all of the songs by typing Ctrl-A
  2. Import the songs using File-> Import.  This could take a little while and you will see the progress on the screen.

Editing song information within iTunes

All of the information about a song is not always correct.  Some older CDs or CDs from smaller labels may have the song titles or tracks confused.  As a result, the name and information on a song maybe sometimes be incorrect.  To edit the information, right click on a song and select get info.  This will access a database on the internet that will retrieve all of the know information about the track selected.  if the information is incorrect, you can edit it in this screen.  This information will be used to create the ID3 tag information.  If the information is wrong here, the information displayed on your Pontiac Audio systems may not match what you think you are listening to.

Converting ID3Tags using iTunes

To create the ID3 tag or convert it to V1 or V2,

  1. Select a song or songs as described above
  2. Right click on the songs and select  convert ID3 Tags
  3. Select V1 or V2 from the drop down box and then select OK (I would recommend V1.0)
  4. If the Convert ID3 Tags option is grayed out, make sure that you have selected an MP3 file.  If not, convert the song to MP3 by choosing Advanced -> Convert Selection to MP3.  When the conversion is complete, you will have two copies of the files; one in the original format and one in MP3.  You can delete the original file of you prefer.  Now, you should be able to create the ID3tag for this song
  5. If the Convert ID3 Tags option and the Convert Selection to MP3 options are both grayed out, that means that the song has not yet been imported into iTunes.  Select File -> Import and then follow the instructions starting at 1 above.

To burn an MP3 data disc using iTunes

  1. Choose Edit > Preferences, then click the Advanced tab at the top of the window and click Burning.
  2. Choose MP3 CD as the Disc Format and then click OK.
  3. You can only burn a CD from the songs in a playlist, and only the checked songs will be included. Select the playlist containing the songs you want to burn to the CD, and make sure all the songs you want to include on the CD have a checkmark beside them.
  4. To make things easier, I create a new playlist for Each CD I will burn.  To create a playlist select File-> New Playlist or press the CTRL and N key at the same time.  Give the playlist a name by typing it in the playlist name field.  Now drag and drop the songs onto the playlist.
  5. If the playlist contains more songs then will fit on one CD, iTunes will burn as many songs as fit on the CD. You may want to move some of the songs to a new playlist, and then burn each playlist to a separate CD. (You can see the number of songs, the play time and the size of the selected playlist at the bottom of the iTunes window.)
  6. Insert a blank CD-R disc and click the Burn Disc button in the lower-right corner of the iTunes window.
  7. Click Burn Disc again if you have other discs to burn. If your playlist includes songs in formats other than MP3, such as songs purchased from the iTunes Music Store, they will not be burned on the CD.

Playing your CDs

Now all of the hard work has been done and you are ready to start enjoying some tunes.  You have your 6 MP3 CDs in your hands with over 60 hours of your favorite music.  Let's get Rocking! 

On the Pontiac Audio systems, press the LOAD button to begin the CD load sequence and wait for the message to insert disc (Six-Disc CD Player) when the radio prompts.  Insert the CD printed side up. The player pulls it in, and the CD-R should begin playing. If the ignition or radio is turned off with a CD-R in the player, it stays in the player. When the ignition or radio is turned on, the CD-R starts to play where it stopped, if it was the last selected audio source. As each new track starts to play, the track number and song title displays. The CD player can play the smaller 3 inch (8 cm) single CD-Rs with an adapter ring. Full-size CD-Rs and the smaller CD-Rs are loaded in the same manner.

Notice: If you add any label to a CD, insert more than one CD into the slot at a time, or attempt to play scratched or damaged CDs, you could damage the CD player. When using the CD player, use only CDs in good condition without any label, load one CD at a time, and keep the CD player and the loading slot free of foreign materials, liquids, and debris.

 

Do not add any label to a CD, it could get caught in the CD player. If a CD is recorded on a personal computer and a description label is needed, try labeling the top of the recorded CD with a marking pen.

Tracks recorded to the CD-R are played in the following order:

• Play begins from the first track in the first playlist and continues sequentially through all tracks in each playlist. When the last track of the last playlist has played, play continues from the first track of the first playlist.

• Play begins from the first track in the first folder and continues sequentially through all tracks in each folder. When the last track of the last folder has played, play continues from the first track of the first folder. When play enters a new folder, the display does not automatically show the new folder name unless the folder mode was chosen as the default display. The new track name displays.

Use the music navigator feature to play MP3 files on the CD-R in order by artist or album. Press the pushbutton located below the music navigator label. The player scans the disc to sort the files by artist and album ID3 tag information. It can take several minutes to scan the disc depending on the number of MP3 files recorded to the CD-R. The radio can begin playing while it is scanning the disc in the background.  When the scan is finished, the CD-R begins playing again.

Once the disc has been scanned, the player defaults to playing MP3 files in order by artist. The current artist playing is shown on the second line of the display between the arrows. Once all songs by that artist are played, the player moves to the next artist in alphabetical order on the CD-R and begins playing MP3 files by that artist. If you want to listen to MP3 files by another artist, press the pushbutton located below either arrow button. The CD goes to the next or previous artist in alphabetical order. Continue pressing either button until the desired artist displays.

To change from playback by artist to playback by album, press the pushbutton located below the Sort By label. From the sort screen, push one of the buttons below the album button. Press the pushbutton below the back label to return to the main music navigator screen. The album name displays on the second line between the arrows and songs from the current album and begins to play. Once all songs from that album are played, the player moves to the next album in alphabetical order on the CD-R and begins playing MP3 files from that album. To exit music navigator mode, press the pushbutton below the Back label to return to normal MP3 playback. 

If you want to play songs using the Shuffle or Random feature, press the button underneath the RDM label.  With the random setting, MP3 files on the CD-R can be played in random, rather than sequential order, on one CD-R or all discs in a six-disc CD player. To use random, do one of the following:

1. To play MP3 files in random order from the CD-R that is currently playing, press the pushbutton positioned under the RDM label until Random Current Disc displays. Press the same pushbutton again to turn off random play.

2. To play songs from all CDs loaded in a six-disc CD player in random order, press the pushbutton positioned under the RDM label until Randomize All Discs displays. Press the same pushbutton again to turn off random play.

Once a song is playing, the file name will appear in the display.  To view the artist or album name press the info button on the left side of the display and then push the appropriate button underneath the tabs in the display.

Congratulations you now have over 60 hours of music to listen to on your Pontiac Audio systems.  Now crank up the tunes and go for a ride.