Wobbly Tech Tip #1: Extracting Audio from a CD’s “Track 0”

This past week, Dirty Three were my pick for Breakfast of Champions Band of the Week. I thought it would be fun to play a rare pair of songs by them — songs that appeared as secret bonus tracks of the album Songs In The Key Of X: Music From And Inspired By The X-Files. Here’s the deal: If you rewind the CD from the start of track 1, you’ll find that there’s an additional 9+ minutes of music hidden away. The first song has Nick Cave reciting some gothy spoken word piece over a reworked version of Dirty Three’s song “Better Go Home Now” that they’ve retitled “Time Jesum Transeuntum Et Non Riverentum” (Dread the Passage of Jesus, For He Will Not Return). The second is Dirty Three’s interpretation of the X-Files main theme.

While I could have simply rewound the CD in the studio as I was about to play it, I wondered if it would be possible to extract the audio from the original CD and burn a new one where the hidden songs showed up as normal tracks. My existing software was of no help, and I’ve got some muscular audio programs: Pro Tools, Sound Forge, etc. After some mad Thursday night googling, I was able to piece together the following method.

  1. Download and install cdrdao. It’s open source software, so if you’re a UNIX geek, you can compile it yourself. I use Windows, so I downloaded a pre-compiled binary. All the following steps assume you’re also using windows.
  2. Pop your X-Files CD into your CD drive.
  3. Open a command window and navigate to the folder that contains the cdrdao program files.
  4. Run the following from the command prompt:

    cdrdao read-cd --driver generic-mmc-raw --read-subchan rw_raw xfiles.toc

    If all goes well, this will create two new files in the cdrdao folder. The first, data.bin, contains extracted audio from the entire CD. The second, xfiles.toc, contains information on when the individual tracks start and stop.

  5. Open the file xfiles.toc in notepad, or your favorite text editor. At the bottom of the section for Track 1, you’ll see a line that reads “START 09:12:25”. Change this to “START 00:00:00” and save the file.
  6. Now put a blank CD in your CD-R drive and run the following from the same command prompt as before:

    cdrdao write --speed 16 xfiles.toc

    If you want to live dangerously, you can leave out the “–speed 16” part. This will allow your CD burner to run at full speed. When I tried this, I got a buffer underrun. Slowing it down to 16x with the extra parameter gave me a successful burn.

  7. Now you have a CD where the two hidden tracks along with the original proper first track are all bunched together on track 1. At this point, you can use almost any audio software to extract and edit track 1 to grab the two hidden tracks. Ta-Da!

Note: Further googling has revealed that this might be more easily done with the program EAC.

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