Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

Fixing pops in MP3 files

If you’re into serious music downloading, it’s probably likely that you’ve come across some MP3s that have random popping noises or that skip, or simply stop playing mid-track. These are often caused by ‘sync errors’, which means that some of the data in the file is out of synchronisation. It may have been caused by a bad encoder or a corrupted download, but either way, they’re annoying. Fortunately, they’re also sometimes fixable.

The best way to fix MP3s is to re-encode them from the original source, but this is only any good if you have the original CD. Still, if you ripped a load of CDs as MP3s as little as a couple of years ago, you may like to try again with a tool like dBpowerAMP Music Converter as the encoders available today are considerably more efficient than they used to be. When ripping, click on ‘Rip’ with the right mouse button, make sure ‘MP3 (Lame)’ is selected, click on ‘Advanced Options’ and next to ‘Quality’ select ‘Alt Preset Standard’ – this will give you high quality output with a reasonable file size, although you may have issues with playing them back on some cheaper portable media players. If in doubt, choose ‘Alt Preset CBR’, click OK and then specify 160 or 192Kbps on the main screen – the quality won’t be so good but the files should play back on anything.

Of course, you may well not have the original CD, so it’s perhaps time to fix those files. Firstly, we need to find out of the files are fixable, for which GuerillaSoft’s EncSpot tool is very useful (you only need to download the free version in this case). Browse to the folder where your music is stored, then go to ‘Tools’ and ‘Settings’. Select the ‘Columns’ tab, and then expand ‘General’. Make sure ‘Sync Errors’ is ticked. Now choose the ‘General’ tab and type ‘0’ (without quotes) in the ‘Frames to read’ box so that the entire file is scanned. Now, run EncSpot over your music.

Files with no errors (or none that are fixable) will show a 0, but any that have errors and can be fixed will show a number greater than 0. Make a note of these files as these are the files you are going to fix.

Now get a copy of the music player foobar2000 and open these files in it. Stop playback if it has started, and in turn, select each file, right click on it and choose ‘Fix MP3 Header’. Make sure that ‘Rebuild entire stream’ is ticked, and then click OK. This will repair the file, and should allow smooth playback. You may get a few console errors during this time – that’s normal, since it’s notifying you about the sync errors.

Occasionally you will find files with pops that can’t be fixed, and this is because the source recording that the file was encoded from had errors and these have been brought through.

One Comment

  1. Whoops! One day too late in reading this article…
    I had 2 MP3-files I could not repair with Windows, Linux or FreeBDS and tools for these specific OS-es.
    The files did not show up in EncSpot, but just now I read about the “sync errors”-option…
    I think I’m going to give it another try, even though I found the corrupted tracks elsewhere.
    Thanks for the tip(s), Neil!