The Shorten (.shn) audio format was an early attempt at compressed lossless audio. It has all of the detriments of using waves and it really doesn’t compress very far (nor very fast). However, out there on the Interweb you will still find Shorten audio files—particularly on live music exchange sites. Since tagging is not available, the compression could use improvement, and Shorten files are not very well supported on any platform I have been converting my .shn files into .flac files (FLAC or Free Lossless Audio Codec).
(If you are not very familiar with FLAC’s you may want to check our my earlier post.)
Once converted everything is better off. I am able to add proper tags to the FLAC files, they are compressed smaller than the original Shorten files, and the FLAC’s are widely supported on all platforms.
Widely supported? On Ubuntu everything that plays audio likely plays FLAC files. On Windows you can use Winamp or I am told there exists a plugin for WMP. On the Mac there is a QuickTime plugin and iTunes can be induced to play them (see my post) or more easily there a few applications available (Cog, Play, Vox). Of course VLC will handle them on any platform.
Making these conversions was a bit on the clunky side, but fortunately it only needs to be done once and then you can discard those naughty antiquated Shorten files. Since both formats are lossless this should represent no change in audio quality as it represents no change in information.
There are four applications which I know will make the conversion from Shorten files to FLAC files: SoundConverter, SoundKonverter, Winamp, and PACPL. SoundConverter is a Gnome based application (available through Synaptic). SoundKonverter is a KDE based application (also available through Synaptic and functional within Gnome). Winamp (I am not clear if these plugins are always included out of the box) will also make these conversions on Windows machines. PACPL is a Perl application for the command line. It looks wickedly powerful but I did not load it as I wanted to use what I could download through Synaptic.
I had a terrible time with SoundConverter. It crashed during any file conversion. Perhaps it didn’t like the file location (a secondary mounted drive). Perhaps there was a quirk with these particular Shorten files. Regardless, I was obligated to use the KDE application.
I did run into some troubles with SoundKonverter, but these were not show stoppers. Once I figured out its controls (its GUI is a bit sloppy) I was able to convert files over without too much hassle. I don’t like having to install all of the extra library support that comes from installing a KDE application into a Gnome environment, but so it goes. It did the job and I was able to convert all this early Zep live material into my preferred audio format.
Like I said, I didn’t test PACPL but it does look like a powerful utility. According to this post over at Ubuntu it can be connected with different GUI’s (the poster uses KDE but there may be ways to connect to Gnome GUI’s as well). That post is really quite definitive if you are interested in using PACPL in Ubuntu (and perhaps useful if you are using another distribution)
Well, I hope some of you find this post useful.