Grateful Dead Music Forum

A place to talk about the music of the Grateful Dead 

 #6167  by wisedyes
 Fri Jun 09, 2006 8:26 am
I'm not the most computer literate guy you will ever meet, but I would like to make a venture into the world of digital Dead. Would someone please be kind and explain to me how the etree and thing works? I've tried a few times without success.

Specifically, I would like to download some Phil & Friends shows, some Dead shows I was at and never got copies of, and maybe even upload some things form my own collection. Any help would be oh so gratefully appreciated.

 #6182  by FretfulDave
 Fri Jun 09, 2006 3:56 pm
Where to start? You haven't mentioned what problems you have had. Downloading the files?, Problems with file formats?, Decoding?

So first thing is generally speaking, the files that contain the songs are large. The entire concerts are very large. It takes a relatively long time to download these even using a cable modem or dsl for Internet access.

Next, the most common way of tranferring the files is using the web protocol, http. This protocol was not designed for file transfers but rather for displaying web pages such as RUKIND and this forum. I have experienced problems with file download timeouts using web transfer method. There is FTP (file transfer protocol) available on I haven't been to etree stuff in a long time, so I don't know. FTP is usually done via a separate client program, but most web browsers have a limited function FTP client built in. If the folks who wrote the web page are crafty (and I have not tried it yet), they will instruct your web browser what to do when you click on the link and maybe use FTP. Anyone who knows more specifics, I'd love to hear. I am not an html coder.

Next is file formats. Again working mainly from, there are four file types available for the shows. FLAC, MP3 at 64 kbps, MP3 VBR and Ogg Vorbis. You will note the size differences in the various formats and that has to do with the compression algorithm that is used to reduce the size of the original music file capture. When recording to a PC or dubbing from a DAT deck, etc. the normal file format that the music is saved to on the PC is wav. This is the Windows native audio format. This is the format that is ultimately burned onto a CD when making an audio CD that would play in your stereo or car. The MP3 files that folks play on their iPod are produced by running a compression algorithm against the wav file. A common MP3 compression rate is 128kbps. This provides approximatey a 10 fold size reduction of the original music file. This is good for storage on iPods and computer disks.

However, this comes at a cost. This type of compression, along with Ogg Vorbis, is known as lossey compression meaning that some of the original information captured in the wav file is lost when the compression algorithm is run aginst it. At compression levels of 128, 192, 224 kbps or higher it becomes more and more difficult for the human ear to tell the difference between the original uncompressed file and the compressed one. You might note that offers MP3 at 64kbps. That makes the files even smaller than the 10 fold decrease in size, but at greater loss of the original information. I can distinctly tell a difference. For those that have been around a long time, I would liken the MP3 to tape generations and 64 kbps, to my ears, is like listening to around a 4th or 5th generation tape that came from a good source like a sound board. All the above is true for the Ogg Vorbis compresson method also.

MP3 VBR is interesting in that while compressing, the algorithm changes the compression level based on sampled dead air, etc. So the playback of a VBR can be pretty decent fidelity, but at the expense of a larger file, but not as large as using a higher compression level, e.g. 192 or 320kbps. For listening on an MP3 player or on a PC, this is not a bad way to go. But what about creating an audio CD that is the actual recorded material?

Enter FLAC, a lossless compression algorithm that reduces the original wav file size to approximately half. When a FLAC is played or decompressed, the resulting music is the original recording, all information intact. When you burn a CD, if you tell your program to burn from an MP3 song file, it converts the MP3 to a wav file,usually on the fly, and burns the resulting stream to the CD along with the accompanying loss of fidelity. I do not have a burner capable of converting FLAC and so I obtained freeware to decode the FLAC files and produce wav files that I tell the program to burn. I don't lose anything of the music quality, but the files are the largest.

A long time buddy of mine just got into this downloading and burning. and Gov't Mule concerts. He asked about all this as downloading the FLAC files was taking a long time, so I told him to load a 64kbps'er down and have a listen. That was that, all FLACs now. Fine by me! We shoot pool every Wednesday night, party and listen to primarily live: Dead, JGB, David Nelson, Phil and Friends, Mule, etc. We are enjoying and Mule tracks immensely.

A program to encode/decode FLAC files is MKWACT.

There is a plug-in to WINAMP for playing FLAC files, but I wasn't too happy with it as it did not seem to decode evenly. Perhaps there is a new version.

I probably have not answered your questions but there is some background info to work with. Hope it is of some value.


 #6185  by jck_strw
 Fri Jun 09, 2006 4:28 pm
Here's a web page (courtesy of Ogg Vorbis), that gives you samples of each format so you can listen and decide for yourself which you like.

 #6224  by wisedyes
 Sun Jun 11, 2006 7:24 am
Thanks for the info, fellas. I gues what I'm actually after though is how do you do it? What do I need to actually instruct my computer to do? What do I need to click on, and in what order? That sort of thing.

I have successfully downloaded some things previously, but was not able to get them to open. I have a DSL connection, and plenty of disk space, so I'm not really concerned about time or storage. I just don't know enough to know what to do to actually download files and get them into thh eformat I want. Once I have them on my computer in a useable form I can just transfer them to my Cakewalk program to make them into cd's. Thanks again for any help.

 #6231  by FretfulDave
 Sun Jun 11, 2006 12:15 pm
My bad. I pointed to mkwact as a program to encode/decode FLAC files. MKWACT is to decode and encode shorten files, SHN. This format is another lossless compression algorithm competing with FLAC. It was used, and may still be, on Furthurnet

The FLAC encoder/decoder is found at the FLAC website:

Coupled with the FLAC frontend program, it seems to work fine.

FLAC front end site:



 #6232  by FretfulDave
 Sun Jun 11, 2006 12:53 pm
wisedyes, it sounds like you know how to download the files onto your computer, put them in a folder, etc. You have Cake Walk, which is a music studio kind of editing/recording program. That program will likely not be able to do all the processing you need if you are obtaining FLACs and SHNs. MP3 it might be able to import.

You need to obtain the programs to decode the formats. If you decode to WAV files, virtually every music editing program will be able to read and work with that format. Most folks would not edit an MP3 file and then save it out again as an MP3 file as it would compress the already reduced data from the first compression and the sound quality goes down expontentially.when this is done. Just using an MP3 file to burn an audio disk is fine but as in my earlier post, it comes at a cost.

To create CDs, I personally would probably use the program that came along with the CD burner, it might be SONIC or B's Recorder or something like that which is used to burn different types of CDs, data or audio. This deals with the files as you have decoded them and stored them in a folder. Using an editing program will bring the files in for the purpose of editing and will essentially have to do more work to translate back and forth between it's internal format, the input format and output data stream format to the cd burner.

Cake Walk has a cd burner function, but it is certainly not the primary function of the program. Cake Walk also probably uses a proprietary format to store its working data in and thus the files. So what ever other formats it can read may be in an import function or some such.

In Cake Walk if you go to File and click open, there should be in the dialog box a drop down list which will have the types of files that Cake Walk can load natively. As mentioned before, there may be an import function as well and/or plugins available for different formats.