What is Semplice Version 2?

1.0 Introduction

Semplice Version 2 is an all-in-one digital music file management application for classical music (and it's pronounced Sém-pl-chay, with emphasis on the first syllable and the middle syllable more or less thrown away, or swallowed!): it lets you rip CDs and SACDs; tag digital music files; merge them; split them; give them a volume boost; or convert them to and from different audio formats.

What makes Semplice a specifically "classical music" management application? Well, in truth it will rip, tag, merge, split, volume boost or convert a file containing Polo G "music" equally as well as one containing some Beethoven or Mozart: it doesn't make moral judgments about the music files it's asked to work on (though this author might!). But Semplice talks of composers, compositions and performers, rather than 'albums', 'tracks' or 'songs' and 'artists'. Rather more fundamentally, it adheres to this site's view on how classical music files should best be tagged and what metadata belongs in which specific tags. Likewise, it only tags and manages FLAC files, not OGGs or MP3s because it believes classical music deserves to be heard in the best quality -and that mandates a lossless audio codec. Its author also believes in patent-free, open source, non-proprietary and platform-independent software wherever possible, so FLACs are in and ALACs are not. So no, it's not functionally restricted to managing classical music files -but it's definitely aimed at people who 'do' classical music above any other form of music.

(Side Note: yes, ALAC is open source these days, but its heritage as Apple's lossless audio codec means it's really only ever seen on Apple hardware setups. That's not platform independence in fact, even if it could be in theory).

2.0 What Semplice Replaces

Semplice Version 2 itself is new, but it incorporates (and improves upon) many features that were previously available in separate, standalone pieces of software I've produced over the years. Specifically, its CD ripping capabilities were previously made available in a program called CCDT ("Classical CD Ripping"), though its SACD-ripping features are entirely new. The FLAC-tagging features of Semplice are an improved version of what the CCDT ("Classical CD Tagging") program provided. The file merging and splitting capabilities of Semplice were similarly provided in the past by the standalone CAO program ("Composition-at-Once"). Non-distorting volume boosting was also previously available using the MAXV script. Finally, conversion between different audio codecs was previously available using the AUAC ("Absolutely Baching Universal Audio Converter") script. Semplice Version 2 therefore simplifies the situation (and hence its name!): what was previously available using six different products is now available by using just one.

Obviously, too, Semplice Version 2 replaces the original, version 1 of Semplice. It's a fairly comprehensive re-write of Semplice Version 1 in fact, and incorporates the use of new technologies wherever possible. User data input, for example, is now handled by proper forms and OK/Cancel buttons, rather than just an area where you type text and hope it doesn't wrap! A proper menuing system additionally makes the program's capabilities readily findable as well as easily usable.

3.0 Core Concepts

3.1 Ripping

Semplice Version 2 can be used to rip digital audio from standard CDs and from SACDs. When ripping standard CDs, the program will determine your CD drive's physical characteristics and use that information to control the way in which data is grabbed from the disk. The data rip is done using the cdparanoia tool, favouring accuracy over speed and thus ensuring as far as possible that the rip is a 'bit-perfect' representation of what was supplied on the source CD. Semplice will also consult the AccurateRip database to give you some idea of how many other people ripping the same CD have achieved the same output results: if you are on your own, confidence in the accuracy of your rip is obviously rather lower than if your rip is bit-identical to the rips of the same CD obtained by dozens of other people.

Semplice Version 2 always rips entire CDs, never just a particular set of tracks. However, it will allow you to indicate where, within a whole CD, different works begin and end. A CD containing two symphonies, for example, will have the first symphony start at Track 1, the second at Track 5. Tell that to Semplice when ripping and it will create two separate folders, one for each Symphony, and rip the appropriate parts of the CD into each in turn. Even though you end up with apparently separate physical rips, Semplice is still able to check the entire rip for accuracy and concordance with the AccurateRip database.

SACD ripping is brand new to Semplice Version 2 and follows the principles outlined in my article on SACD ripping, which remains this site's most popular bit of writing, much to my surprise! The point is that SACD ripping requires an SACD player to be configured and operated in a particular way: Semplice can obviously do nothing at all about helping you achieve that! Assuming you know how to configure your SACD player, however, then Semplice Version 2 will interact with it over the local network to achieve rips to a single ISO file, containing all the SACD stereo channel data. In this way, Semplice provides a simple to use interface or 'wrapper' around the underlying tools that make SACD ripping possible. Other parts of Semplice functionality can subsequently be used to turn the ISO produced by an SACD rip into high resolution FLACs, which can then be tagged and post-processed as usual.

For more details about how to use Semplice to rip classical music CDs or SACDs, please see this section of the User Manual for ordinary CDs, or this one for SACDs.

3.2 Tagging

One of Semplice's main goals is to enable you to add 'metadata' to your FLACs -data which describes what each FLAC is, what music it contains, who's performing it, and so on. FLAC files technically use Vorbis Comments to store such metadata, but most people generally call them 'tags'.  Semplice follows this site's general approach to tagging classical music -which is to keep the tags to a minimum, and to store particular bits of metadata in particular tags. You should read that article to understand why Semplice prompts you for some information and is silent on others. Semplice Version 2 also supports the definition and use of up to nine 'custom tags' of your own devising, though I don't recommend you actually use this capability!

Semplice believes that a FLAC should be a 'self-describing entity': that is, all the metadata associated with a FLAC should be embedded within that FLAC, not stored on a file system as a separate file. Separate files go missing, corrupted or accidentally deleted; metadata embedded within the FLAC persists as long as the FLAC does. Thus Semplice alows you to pick a piece of album art from your hard disk and have that automatically squared-up and embedded within the FLAC it relates to.

New to Semplice Version 2 is a two-path tagging strategy: you can go the 'all-in-one, automatic' route, which prompts you for tags and album art in a step-by-step, wizard-like process. Or you can go the 'do it myself, one step at a time, manually' approach. Either will end up achieving similar results.

For more details about how to use Semplice to tag FLAC files, please see this section of the User Manual.

3.3 SuperFLACs and Cuesheets

Most CD rippers will extract each 'track' from a CD and write it into its own digital music file on CD. Thus, if your CD contains four tracks of a symphony, you'll end up with four separate FLACs on your hard disk. Most people tend to refer to this ripping model as 'per-track' ripping.

Semplice offers you the chance to combine or join a number of per-track rips into a single per-composition FLAC instead. Rather than 4 files representing each movement of a Symphony, Semplice will create a single "SuperFLAC" which represents the entire symphony. As well as doing this, Semplice will create a 'description' of where the individual movements stop and start within the SuperFLAC, called a cuesheet. As with album art, Semplice will embed the cuesheet it creates within the SuperFLAC it describes.

Semplice can also be used to take a SuperFLAC and split it back out into separate, per-track files, should you ever need or prefer to go back to a per-track model.

More details about creating, working with and de-constructing SuperFLACs are available in this section of the User Manual.

3.4 Volume Boosting

You may sometimes find that the peak volume level of a particular recording is substantially lower (i.e., quieter) than it could be. For obscure technical reasons, this is very likely to be the case for anything ripped from an SACD, for example -but it can happen with ordinary CDs, too.

One response to a quieter-than-ideal recording is simply to crank up your amplifier's volume control! This can become somewhat awkward when you are listening to multiple works, each with their own higher or lower average volume level, however!

Semplice's more permanent response is to allow you to physically increase the volume level of the audio signal contained within a set of FLAC files: a one-off, permanent volume boost. It does this non-destructively (so if you don't like the volume-boosted results, you can revert back to the original recordings). All volume boosts are non-distorting: that is, they won't make the audio signal 'clip' or otherwise sound 'wrong'. If Semplice detects that an audio signal is already as loud as it can be, without introducing distortion, it won't bother applying any further volume boosting. When it does apply a volume boost, it applies the same boost to all FLACs found in a folder, so that their relative volume level, one to another, is not altered: you won't suddenly find that the slow, quiet, romantic movement of a symphony is louder than the opening movement with cannons and massed timpani, for example!

Full details on Semplice's volume boosting capabilities and how to use them can be found in this section of the User Manual.

3.5 Format Conversions

Semplice takes its cue from this website's general philosophy, that the "correct" audio format in which to store digital classical music is FLAC, the 'free lossless audio codec'. But what if the website you purchased a recording from only happens to supply the music as WAVs or APEs (two other lossless formats)? What if you are going for a long drive and wish to pack a lot of music onto a SD card you can plug into your car's audio system... and that audio system only plays MP3s? For such reasons, Semplice offers the ability to convert between multiple audio formats at will.

As input formats, Semplice can handle the generally-standard FLAC, APE, MP3, OGG, WMA, and WAV formats, plus the special ISO and DSF formats that only apply to files that have been ripped from SACDs.
As output formats, Semplice can handle standard, high-resolution and extreme-high-resolution FLACs, along with MP3, OGG, WMA and WAV.

Full details on how to convert between audio formats (and the instructions on how to add ISO capabilities to Semplice by installing odio-sacd) are available in this section of the User Manual

4.0 Semplice Philosophy!

If any of the above capabilities are of interest to you, I would strongly recommend that you read a couple of my older articles on the subject of how digital classical music files should best be organised, because the reasoning elaborated upon in those articles underpins the way Semplice works (especially in the way it goes about tagging files).

Specifically, I would recommend you read the following two articles:

These establish the idea that the way to identify this recording from that one is to use a combination of composer+composition name+principal performer name/identifier+recording year. The combination of these pieces of information give rise to something those articles (and this website more generally) refers to as the extended composition name.

Having grasped the concept of the extended composition name, the Axioms article then elaborates 17 'principles' of how best to tag your classical music files, most of them derived from that underlying concept.

You may not agree with my thoughts on classical music organisation -in which case, Semplice is probably not the program you are looking for! That's fine: there are lots of other music tagging and audio conversion utilities out there that aren't quite as prescriptive on such matters 🙂

If you can accept the basic premise of Semplice's thinking about classical music, however, then I commend it to you as an easy-to-use tool for managing a digital FLAC collection of classical music.

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