What CD-ROM should I buy?That all depends on your system and/or your bank account, but for making MP3s a CD-ROM that does DAE (digital audio extraction) is a must. Of course, that is just about any CD-ROM you might buy these days.
The speed of DAE is not always related to the speed of your CD-ROM (i.e., just because your 24x is faster than my 8x DOESN'T mean that either one does DAE any faster than 1x)
NOTE: That is a reader-supported WWW page so if you can send your info to the author, it will make the page just that much better for the next person who refers to it.
What CD-ripping / MP3 encoding / MP3 decoding software should I use?Go to a.b.s.m.d, http://www.mp3-converter.com/decoders/, Utilities, http://www.dbpoweramp.com/, or www.mp3.com for some information on this. But keep in mind that there is no 100% "right answer". When looking for an encoder, opinions of what's "best" vary person to person. When looking for a CD-Ripper you might have problems with a piece of software that somebody else loves, all depending on your particular hardware setup. Follow the discussion group (alt.binaries.sounds.mp3.d) and you'll see what particular products work best for most people, what the newest software is and what products just plain stink.
For more information on encoders see Sections [3.10] and [3.11] of this FAQ.
What .wav file software should I use?Two popular audio manipulation packages are Cool Edit and Sound Forge. Information on these programs can be found at: http://www.syntrillium.com/ and http://www.sonicfoundry.com/ respectively. These are just two out of MANY different software packages but are the most commonly used.
Do I need a special soundcard to play MP3s?Most decent quality soundcards will play MP3s well. Newer and nicer boards can do more, however. Use your friendly search engine to look for comparisons and reviews.
What is the best soundcard?That is far beyond the realm of this FAQ, but info can be found in the comp.sys.ibm.pc.soundcard.* hierarchy.
Also, http://www.pcavtech.com/soundcards/compare/ has detailed technical comparisons of some sound cards.
How do I do XXXX with this cool piece of software called YYYY?This FAQ covers thealt.binaries.sounds.mp3.* newsgroups. It is not intended to be a primer on every piece of software that you may use to make, listen to, change, post or in any other way affect these files. The Internet is a vast resource, and many other very fine FAQs are available for your perusal. Use the search engines to your benefit.
Some of my MP3s play louder than others. Is there a way to set the volume levels so I don't have to change it for every song?What you are looking for is something to normalize your MP3 playback. There is a WinAMP plugin called AudioStocker Pro that will do this for you. It is available from http://users.one.se/liket/mp3stock/
What other cool software is there that will enhance my MP3 enjoyment?Well, beyond those listed prior to this, some useful utilities are:
Catalogers/Databases: to keep track of your growing MP3 collection;
ID Taggers: to automate or simplify setting your ID Tags;
File Renamers: to simplify your personal renaming tasks;
and even MP3 alarm clocks.
Many of these are available at http://www.download.com/Audio-Video/2001-2025_4-0.html?tag=dir or http://dailymp3.com/otherutil.html and can also be located on shareware download sites such as www.tucows.com and www.shareware.com You can also find these by using standard WWW search engines such as www.yahoo.com or www.lycos.com
How can I convert from one bitrate to another? Or from Real Audio to MP3? Or from/to another format?These are certainly Frequently Asked Questions:
One of the best all-around conversion utilities is dBpowerAMP Music Convertor (dMC) found at http://admin.dbpoweramp.com/ . Hard to beat, and the price is impossible to beat. It's free. It does .wav, .mp3, Windows Media, and Ogg Vorbis.
Some folks have a need to capture and encode Real Audio files to MP3. The best information on this process is found at: http://www.musiclivesonline.com/how_to/04_22_2001.html.