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Doubling your music on Symbian OS devices
(the Nokia 9500/9300, Nokia 6630/6680, Sendo X and Sony Ericsson P800/P900/P910i)

Before I go any further, you need to understand that there's nothing magical about 'MP3'. In fact, when people talk about an 'MP3 player', they're often referring to something that plays other digital music formats. It's just that MP3 is a lowest-common-denominator standard and the term has rather stuck in the collective consciousness. Anyway, keep an open mind and read on...

OK, so the Nokia 9500/9300 and P800/P900/P910 and Nokia 6630/6680/6681 (etc.) can play standard 'MP3' stereo music files, probably downloaded from the Internet. These are usually encoded at 128kbps (their 'data rate'), which is reckoned to produce 'CD quality' to the average ear, especially when you consider that you're often listening in the open air or in a noisy environment. 128kbps works out at around a megabyte per minute, which means about eight hours worth on a 512MB MMC or two hours worth on a virgin 128MB Memory Stick Duo.

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Rolling your own

Now, it's quite possible to encode your own MP3 files, using a freeware application like CDex, shown below. This will 'rip' any of your CDs and encode them to any format you like, including MP3. One of its settings is the data rate that you'd like to use, e.g. 64kbps. At this rate, half that of the usual 128kbps, you'll fit twice as much music on your card, at the expense of the music sounding flat and lacking in higher frequencies. Read on...

CDex

A better way

Now, thinking laterally for a moment, what if there was a better and more efficient coding scheme for digital music than the familiar MP3? What about 'MP3pro', championed a few years ago but largely ignored by the world at large. This is better than MP3 at each data rate but MP3pro is heavily licensed and you have to stump up real money to buy a utility to encode your files. What about Windows Media Audio (WMA)? This is also far more efficient than MP3, but is proprietary to Microsoft and you probably won't find Symbian devices playing it anytime soon... What about AAC, used in encrypted form for Apple's iTunes? Although AAC itself is an open standard, iTunes files from the Internet require Apple's decoder, and anyway AAC isn't that much better than MP3.

And so we come to the current 'best' format, the open source (i.e. totally free forever) Ogg Vorbis. It's a strange name (to say the least), but look past that and you'll find CD quality music even at 64kbps. Which equates to around six hours music on a single P800/P900 128MB Memory Stick Duo, which is pretty impressive. On a Nokia 9500 with a 1GB MMC, you can store over 30 hours, or around 45 CDs worth of music, which is definitely getting into iPod killer territory. And you can get there today, for free.

Getting your music into Ogg Vorbis format

You'll need two piece of software to get going. CDex, I've already mentioned. This runs under Windows and includes a good Ogg Vorbis encoder on its Settings panel. Once set up, you just pop in each of your audio CDs, fill in any track information (if you don't already have this from the CDDB Internet database), set the 'Quality' to 64kbps and click on the 'Extract CD tracks to compressed audio files' button. (If you don't use Windows, there are plenty of free encoders for Mac and Linux)

CDex

You'll end up with a few folders of .ogg files, each folder named after the album its tracks were culled from.

Ogg Vorbis on the Nokia 9500 and 9300

Just drag and drop these folders onto your Nokia 9500's memory card in Windows Explorer (using a card reader is best - it's much, much quicker). For the Nokia 9500, you might as well keep the original folders intact, as the built-in Music Player application is very much folder-based, should you want to use this to play the files using the Ogg Vorbis plug-in, mentioned below.

What you need is the free OggPlay for Series 80 (i.e. the 9500 and 9300). Once installed, use the 'Find new files' menu option and you'll be able to browse all tracks in all folders, choosing by artist, title, etc.

OggPlay

Alternatively, as mentioned above, you can upgrade the built-in Music Player application to also work with Ogg Vorbis-encoded files. The Nokia 9500 (like all recent Series 60 smartphones) uses Symbian OS 7, with its MultiMedia Framework. What this means is that different video and audio decoders can be 'plugged in', after which they're accessible by any application. Simply install this plugin [link needed!].

Playing Ogg Vorbis on the Nokia 6630/6680

Just drag and drop these folders onto your Nokia 6630/6680's memory card in Windows Explorer (using a card reader is best - it's much, much quicker). Download and install the free OggPlay MMFfor Series 60. Once installed, use the 'Find new files' menu option and you'll be able to browse all tracks in all folders, choosing by artist, title, etc.

Playing Ogg Vorbis on the Sony Ericsson P800/P900

Download OggPlay for UIQ. After installing, tell it to 'Find new files' and it will read the header info in each .ogg file and set up playlists according to artist, album, title, and so on. Best of all, you can operate OggPlay in Flip closed mode, just like the Audio player in later P800 firmware and in the P900.

I recommend setting OggPlay up on the default Flip closed (centre) position. You can do this in 'Control panel | Flip closed shortcuts', if you haven't already.

OggPlay

Now, with OggPlay running and your P800 flip closed, Jog up and Jog Down control volume (although make sure your system multimedia volume is turned up; it's the volume control icon in your system tray), and jog forward and backwards skip between tracks in a playlist.


And if you think all this is as cool as I do, consider making a PayPal donation to the chap who wrote OggPlay. I just did! 8-)

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