Rabbit Tracking Tech! aka MP3 and ID3 tags

This topic, as the title states is somewhat of a rabbit track from what I was going to post. I WAS going to post the details of my stereo install this weekend in my Miata. I’m still going to do this, but it might take a while. To give you some idea how this all went, I’m debating between “Frankenstein Stereo Install” and “Stereo Install Nightmare on Steve Street”. I’m sure I’ll come up with something better when I write it, but you get the idea…

Well, as an aside, when I got my stereo, I started to browse the manual, and I made some interesting discoveries. My stereo reads v1.x ID3 tags, and my titles weren’t showing up. I soon learned that iTunes defaults to v2.2. Interesting… I didn’t even know what a ID3 tag was, let alone the differences between versions. I was about to find out.

ID3 tags are the embedded information in your MP3 files which give various information, such as the track title, artist, album, genre, etc. I knew this info was there, but not much about it. Basically, v1.x tags are put at the end of the MP3 data, and are delimited by the number of characters per field. The fields are also very limited in length, most to 30 characters (not enough for even all your track titles, let alone other information.) Also, there are a lot less fields available. The advantage to putting them at the end, is they are easy to change. The disadvantage is that you have to read in the entire file to see them.

Well, v2.x came along an fixed much of this. They are prepended to the front of the file, and are stored in 256 byte ‘frames’. Apple smartly pads this area of the MP3, so they can change information without re-writing the whole file. This kind of takes the best advantage of v1.x, but at the beginning of the file, so they are quickly accessed when browsing files.

If you want to see the tags… you can actually open an MP3 in your text editor… look at the start or end, and you should see some familiar info. You can read all the gooey details about this at:


I started to wonder, sweat, and worry…. will my newly purchased stereo even be able to show the track names now? I found information out there about ID3 tag editors, so I guess I could go through thousands of songs and edit them to v1.x… ekk! Then I found that iTunes has this nice feature under Advanced – – Convert ID3 Tags…. YAY! The only problem with this is that in many of my MP3s I have a lot more information stored in them (I record a lot of Internet radio programs, and often store notes about the show content in the notes field… also a lot of my tracks have long titles.) If I converted them to v1.x, my data got chopped off, or erased.

Then I started wondering…. what happens if BOTH tags are present? Since an MP3 file seems to work equally well with the appended info, or prepended info…. why couldn’t their be both? I searched and searched… and really couldn’t find info on this. One article said something about append/prepend when talking about the specs… so I started to DL tag editors, hoping I’d find a way.

I stuck gold!!! I found two pretty nice apps, which actually do a lot more. But both can be set to go through your libraries of MP3s and convert versions of tags, as well as put BOTH! Whoo hoo!

(Note: discontinued, but might still work… this is an old article, so this has not been tested recently.)

MP3 Rage
(Note: discontinued, but might still work… this is an old article, so this has not been tested recently.)

I picked the later one… not because of its ‘totally awesome’ skull logo (not sure what is up with that… maybe I need to read about its history or something), but because it does SO many other things too.

It seems to work quite well… it went through my entire music collection in about 10 minutes or so, and now I have v2.3 AND v1.1 ID3 tags on my MP3s.

Problem solved for now! Now back to lamenting and resting from my VERY involved stereo install process…