· How should I name my MP3 files and ID3 tags?
(Entry last updated on September 20th, 2004)
Tags vs. Filenames
The ID3 tag is a block of text information embedded in the MP3 file, which contains data such as Title, Artist, Album, Year, and Genre. There are two types of ID3 tags: Version 1 tags (usually referred to as just "ID3"), and version 2 tags, referred to as "ID3v2". V1 tags are limited to 30 characters for each field, but V2 tags don't have this limit. Tags are usually used to categorize and organize your MP3s.
The player goes entirely on its internal database of song information, which it pulls from the song's tags. You don't absolutely have to have the tags filled out ahead of time... but it REALLY helps a lot. If your tags are wrong, the track information can be edited after you've already put the songs into the player, but it's much easier to have your ID3 tags in order before you start sending them to the player.
Many people use file names to organize their MP3 collection on their PC, but file names are not used by Emplode or the player. So it's important to get your tags right ahead of time.
The file names are only important when you're dragging and dropping the songs onto Emplode for the first time, and they are only used to define the order of songs in a given album. Personally, I make sure to have the album and track number as one part of the file name, so that I can drag them into Emplode in the correct order. For instance, my file names look like:
Rush - Moving Pictures - 01 - Tom Sawyer.mp3
Rush - Moving Pictures - 02 - Red Barchetta.mp3
Rush - Moving Pictures - 03 - YYZ.mp3
Almost all MP3 creation programs allow you to save your MP3s as those file names by default, ensuring that they will drop into Emplode correctly. Full support for alphanumeric file ordering is found in Emplode version 2.0 and later.
Note: If you feed Emplode a song without a tag, it will populate the "Title" field with the file name and leave all the other fields blank. Although this is true, it is not recommended, since most of the player's search functions and information screens wouldn't work as intended.
Tagging with your ripper
Most ripping packages will, if desired, automatically connect to the internet and download the CDDB (Compact Disc Database) title information for that album. This is a nice feature, and it's plenty for most folks.
However, it's important to remember that the CDDB is filled out by members of the general public. In case you haven't checked lately, the grammar skills of the general public aren't too great. In other words, the CDDB is riddled with errors. So if your ripping package is using the CDDB to grab its track data, you might want to proofread it carefully and make corrections where needed.
While you're at it, you might want to standardize things such as artist names. For instance, I change all of my "Steve Morse Band" tags to simply say "Steve Morse" in order to match his other albums. I know that this is not technically correct, but it makes categorizing and searching for his tunes on the player much easier. You might take this a step further and correct all of his songs to "Morse, Steve" if strict alphabetization is your cup of tea.
Because this sort of thing is very haphazard in the CDDB database, I find that it's almost as easy to enter the album information myself by hand. That way, I can make sure it's correct the first time.
There are many third-party tag editing utilities available. A search on MP3.com will give you a very large list. The one most recommended by Rio Car owners seems to be MP3 Tag Studio, a Windows program. Although its user interface has a slight learning curve, it's very powerful and can do advanced things like rule-based processing on your entire collection. You can, for example, rewrite all your tags based on the file names or vice-versa. You can strip files of their V1 tags, their V2 tags, or both. You can copy V1 tags to V2 tags or vice versa. It's a veritable swiss army knife of tag editing tools.
Also highly recommended is Tag&Rename, a Windows utility.
V1 vs V2 tags
If a file has both a V1 tag and a V2 tag embedded within it, Emplode will pull its data from the V2 tag. So if your file has incorrect V2 tags combined with correct V1 tags, you will have to either strip or update the V2 tags. More details on this can be found in the Troubleshooting section of this FAQ.
Fixing less-than-perfect tag data
Sometimes the CDDB will contain tag data which is technically correct, but not necessarily ideal for the purposes of using the songs on the Rio Car player.
The biggest example of this would be compilation and soundtrack albums. For instance, if you purchased the soundtrack album to The Sopranos, you'll find that all the ripped songs say "Various Artists", "The Sopranos", and "1999". If you're really anal, you might want to look up the data for each song and enter it correctly.
This is time-consuming, but it's nice to be able to punch in the year and have it actually play songs recorded in that year instead of spouting all the tunes that ended up on movie soundtracks from that year. It's also nice to be able to punch in an artist and have all of their songs come up, including ones from compilation albums.
If you want to enter this information, but can't glean it from the album's liner notes, you can look it up at Allmusic.com.
Track name suffixes
Sometimes you'll have more than one track on the player that's got the same title. For instance, you might have a studio recording of a song as well as a live performance of the same song. Or perhaps an acoustic or instrumental version of the same song.
Because those songs have the same title, they will look exactly the same in the Search by Title screen on the player. If you want to be able to distinguish the songs from each other in that screen, add some text in parentheses to the end of the title. For example, on my player, I have:
Big Love (Live)
So when I perform a search, I can tell the difference.
This is also useful for being able to tell a remixed or remastered version of a song from its original recording. For instance, if a compilation or soundtrack album contains a different version of the song than the original album.
Although the file names are not used by the Emplode software, you can (optionally) use the PC's directory structure to your advantage.
If you organize your MP3 files on your PC's hard disk in a directory structure that mirrors the playlists you plan to create on the player, then it becomes easy to drop whole directory trees onto Emplode. If you drag and drop a tree of folders from Explorer onto Emplode, it will create playlist trees that mirror the folder structure.