If you are a long term user of computer audio, or even if you just dabble now and again, you’ll know that the key to a good user experience is accurate tags and decent artwork. Otherwise the main strengths of file-based music libraries; searching and browsing, become a chore. Somewhere along the line you’re going to miss that gem of an album you ripped five years ago because you didn’t tag it properly!
Bliss is software that is designed to automate most, if not all the down and dirty tag management tasks that you never got around to doing properly when you first ripped your CDs. If you crave consistency and order in your files, tags and artwork, then read on.
Most of us know there are some great free and paid software tools out there for getting your data into shape. For instance, I use dBPoweramp to do my ripping and tagging, and mp3tag for cleaning up tags as and when I notice errors.
But what happens when you have a massive collection of music that has grown organically over the years? Stuff is missing – perhaps you never could find that obscure artwork, or perhaps the grand plans you had for sorting by genre never did come to fruition. I admit, Doom Folk and Norwegian Trip-Hop genres seemed like a good idea at the time, maybe now not so much.
Bliss looks to deal with the problems of tagging and finding missing artwork for you in one convenient software package, and with a killer feature – it can work in the background and do it all automatically.
Bliss’ pricing structure is simple to follow. It is based on ‘fixes’ which is defined as anything Bliss changes in your artwork or tags. There’s a free trial with 100 fixes, a 1000 fixes can be purchased for £10 or the best option, £30 for unlimited fixes.
Software installation is straightforward. Depending on how you want to use Bliss, you could install this directly on to your music/file server, or have this running on a client PC on the network for a more interactive experience. Windows, MacOS and Linux are all supported. I chose the latter as I wanted to get stuck in and see Bliss in action.
The user interface is accessed through a web browser and the layout takes a little bit of getting used to. Exercising patience is worthwhile though, and eventually the layout and control system do start to make sense. A lot of people will just set up Bliss to run permanently in the background to automatically and will never have to return to the interface after their initial setup.
I’ve been pretty good about keeping tags and artwork correct in my own large music collection, but I let myself down badly managing genres. Early on in my foray into ripped music, I always accepted the genre that dBPoweramp suggested and I now have 76 genres listed in my library. Lots of them with slightly different spellings or hyphenation, some of them are just plain daft. It has got to the point where genres are pretty much useless to me with one exception; I can reliably sort my classical recordings from everything else.
Ideally I’d like to have maybe a dozen genres as a maximum. Doing this sort of job by hand using mp3tag on 5000+ albums would be a task I just don’t have the time or inclination for. But this is where Bliss can help by automatically consolidating genres into a manageable group for me in the background.
Another big feature I love in Bliss is the ability automatically find missing artwork and to standardise artwork sizes. Not only does this satisfy more of my OCD urges, it helps with the look and performance of LMS (Logitech Media Server). Artwork that looked OK on a screen a few years ago now looks crappy on those lovely high resolution tablet displays. Artwork that’s too big can cause the server scanner to crash when it’s parsing files. So having nice, consistent 500×500 or better (you make the rules) artwork across the board really helps.
In fact, I ran a scan for “non-compliant” artwork on just one of my folders that contains around 1200 albums and found that just over half didn’t meet the new, stricter criteria I had set! I set Bliss to fix artwork with a single click, but you can ask Bliss to do update the artwork automatically in the background. Doing this amount of work by hand in mp3tag would soon lead to madness.
A third feature of bliss allows you tidy up track file names and put music into neat Artist\Album folders on your server. This is useful if you ever want to export music to a portable drive, for use in a car, for example. My files and folders are in good shape so I didn’t explore that functionality.
There aren’t many things Bliss can’t do in terms of tidying up your music collection, but anyone looking for a silver bullet to resolve the nagging problems that remain with classical tagging is going to be disappointed. This isn’t a problem with Bliss, but in the way different software players treat tags plus the many different views on the way classical should be tagged will always butt up against one another. What I will say though is that Dan Gravell the software author understands this and has written some excellent blog posts on his website about the problems of tagging classical music.
The software developer appears to be very active in supporting his creation, and there’s a page in the website where you can make feature suggestions. To help those who are completely new to managing their digital audio and don’t know their FLAC from their mp3, he has also published a free e-book, also available via the website.
To summarise, Bliss is a brilliant automated, all-in-one solution which can be used in a number of scenarios. Some people require a sledgehammer approach; they have music files dumped all over the place and need some organisation. Others want to fine tune a reasonably well organised music collection to be the best it can be. In either case, Bliss is a tremendous utility to have on-board.
My not-so-protips for using Bliss:
- You absolutely must make a backup before you start. This goes for using any software that has the ability to make fundamental changes to your files. But you’re doing that already, right?
- I would urge you to read the excellent on-line help and tutorials before you dive in. I know it’s against the laws of nature for men to RTFM, but on this occasion it might save you tears before bedtime.
- Rather than throw the kitchen sink at your project, approach it methodically. Get used to the software and understand what can and can’t be done.
Bliss is powerful software and it can make changes to your tags, artwork and file names very easily, so be warned and take your time.
For more info and to download go to: http://www.blisshq.com/index.html