Splitting WMA without inducing loss

WMA Snip is a lightning-fast programme written for the Windows XP operating system which will detect silence and reliably split large WMA files created by the Creative Zen V series recorders, pictured below. The cost of the software is roughly $19 AUD. A fully functional evaluation version which works for a fortnight can be downloaded so a prospective user can see if it is worth spending the dough. Users on Softpedia.com have given the software a rating of ‘fair’, comprising 2.7 stars. According to the developer, Andy Bridle:

For large files containing multiple tracks, WMA Snip can automatically define segments using silence detection; WMA Snip also connects to the online music metadata service at Music Brainz.org, and can use its data to locate tracks within long recordings and define these as segments…

The editing is non-destructive, in that the only changes made to the original file are the addition of file markers defining sub-sections of the file’s audio content, known in WMA Snip as segments; the audio content itself is not affected.

WMA Snip does not re-encode the music in the WMA files it detects and splits when Direct Copy for Saving Segment Audio Data is chosen. ‘The most accurate results are obtained with this method, in effect creating a digital copy of the segment’s audio data. The compressed, unprocessed audio data is copied to the resulting WMA file,’ according to Bridle’s documentation. Splitting of MP3 and Wave files is also supported.

A free alternative is to just split using Audacity. Please ensure you download the FFmpeg Import/Export Library which will enable one to import WMA files into Audacity. Please note that the official download site for this FFmeg Library is slow. Downloading from 4shared instead is recommended.

Audio editors such as Audacity (pictured) transcode or re-encode compressed audio such as WMA files. Audio splitters such as WMA Snip do not. Transcoding may exaggerate noisy digital artifacts. Enthusiasts at the Hydrogen Audio forum have compiled a guide to transcoding. Programmer & hotel disc jockey Andrew Davidson outlines his excellent tips to minimize the drawbacks. Whilst transcoding or re-encoding is undesirable, he writes:

Very often transcoding sounds fine. There is a slight quality loss, but for most non-audiophile purposes (e.g. casual listening) it will work out fine. In my experience, a well-encoded 192 Kbps or higher bitrate MP3 at 44.1KHz frequency can be brought down to 128 Kbps for listening in a car or other noisy environment, or using poor headphones in a portable MP3 player.

In this blogger’s own limited experience, there was no significant impairment of quality when transcoding from 192 Kbps to 320 Kbps constant bitrate MP3. However, there was less audible noise (presumably, a byproduct of transcoding) when transcoding the same MP3 192 Kbps material to the highly-rated Ogg Vorbis aoTuV, using quality setting 10. The side effects will invariably depend on the quality of the original source material, including the type of music.

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