Can I Convert My Windows Media Audio Library to Another Format?

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Q I used Windows Media Player to rip and archive my collection of roughly 2,000 CDs in WMA Lossless format. I chose that format because I believed it would capture a bit-perfect copy of my CD as well as retain important metadata like album and song titles.

Here's my dilemma: I am learning the hard way that WMA-L does not enjoy widespread support. I recently returned a NAD network player because, while it did play the lossless WAV files in my collection, it down-rezzed WMA-L ones to 192 kbps. Now here’s my question: Is there a way to convert my files to a different format while preserving the lossless audio quality and metadata, or have I made a terrible mistake in wasting countless hours ripping my CDs to a useless format? —Carlos Lobo / Hawthorn Woods, IL

A It’s true that there’s little hardware love out there for WMA Lossless. It’s not even clear that Microsoft’s now-dead Zune player line could handle it. Logitech’s Squeezebox Touch apparently once upon a time supported WMA-L, but that product has also been discontinued. The specs for Sony’s new HAP-Z1ES’s Music Player suggest that it can play WMA-L files transferred to it from a computer, but that model will run you $2,000. Ouch!

So unless you plan to start from scratch and re-rip your entire CD collection to a network media player-friendly lossless format like FLAC, I’d say your best bet will be to convert the files using JRiver Media Center, dbPoweramp, or some other software with file-conversion capability. Certain media players such as Pioneer’s N-50 can also reportedly be used purely as a media renderer, with WMA-L playback/transcoding carried out on your computer via server software like Asset UPnP. With that configuration in play, you won’t be able to browse files and control playback using your media player’s remote, but it should allow you to tap your extensive WMA-L library without having to first convert the files to a different lossless format.

Ladyfingers's picture

Easy as pie to set it up. Load everything into its playlist and right click, "convert" and choose your format. I say FLAC.

All files will retain metadata and be copied into the originals' folder. You can also use it to encode to a lossy format for the car or phone or whatever lacks the space that a lossless format takes up, as well as applying ReplayGain metadata for volume normalisation during mixed playlists.