The Cue file explained
a.k.a. "THE CUESHEET TUTORIAL"

1. What is a cuesheet and what does it do?

As an example for this part of the tutorial I will use a mixed compilation - as it is easier to explain how cuesheets work.

Let's say you have a mixed album. The album contains 10 tracks:

No. Performer - Title
==========================================================
01. Grand National - Talk Amongst Yourselves
02. Shpongle - Devon Perception
03. Petter - These Days
04. UNKLE - What You Mean To Me
05. The Youngsters - Smile
06. DJ Spooky - Belong
07. UNKLE - In A State
08. Lostep - Burma
09. Felix Da Housecat - Watching The Cars Go By
10. Ulrich Schnauss - On My Own

When listening to a CD you don't hear any gaps between tracks and yet you can easily switch between them (skip the one you don't like, or listen to the one you really like all the time). Well each track on a CD has a certain length and you can see it's time on the display of your CD player. Now here are the times for the tracks on our example album:

No. Performer - Title                            Length
==========================================================
01. Grand National - Talk Amongst Yourselves     10:22
02. Shpongle - Devon Perception                  09:31
03. Petter - These Days                          02:54
04. UNKLE - What You Mean To Me                  04:07
05. The Youngsters - Smile                       09:33
06. DJ Spooky - Belong                           07:37
07. UNKLE - In A State                           05:39
08. Lostep - Burma                               12:01
09. Felix Da Housecat - Watching The Cars Go By  08:11
10. Ulrich Schnauss - On My Own                  07:42

The times you see above are limited to minutes and seconds. What you don't see on your CD player display is the number of frames. Frames are small parts of a second - in fact each frame is 1/75th of a second. So the actual length of these tracks on a CD (with included frame values) is shown below:

No. Performer - Title                            Length
==========================================================
01. Grand National - Talk Amongst Yourselves     10:22:52 
02. Shpongle - Devon Perception                  09:31:54 
03. Petter - These Days                          02:54:21 
04. UNKLE - What You Mean To Me                  04:07:37 
05. The Youngsters - Smile                       09:33:62 
06. DJ Spooky - Belong                           07:37:60 
07. UNKLE - In A State                           05:39:51 
08. Lostep - Burma                               12:01:49 
09. Felix Da Housecat - Watching The Cars Go By  08:11:44 
10. Ulrich Schnauss - On My Own                  07:42:20 

Now let's transfer this album into a computer and create a single mp3 file from it (I'm not going to get into details on how to do that as this isn't the point here). The created example file will have 77 minutes and 43 seconds.

Now our example file has those ten tracks. You know the length of each of these tracks. So when you start this file in Winamp (or whatever it is that you use for mp3 playback) the first track will play. It is 10 minutes 22 seconds and 52 frames long, so after that time the second track will start. Track 2 is 9:31:54, so (when you add the length of track 1 and 2) the third track will start at 19:54:31. When you add the length of track 3 you will see when the fourth track starts (22:48:52). And so on. The time value that tells you where a track starts (in your mp3 or on a CD) is called the INDEX of a track. Here's how the indexes for the example mp3 look like:

No. Performer - Title                            Index
==========================================================
01. Grand National - Talk Amongst Yourselves     00:00:00 
02. Shpongle - Devon Perception                  10:22:52
03. Petter - These Days                          19:54:31
04. UNKLE - What You Mean To Me                  22:48:52
05. The Youngsters - Smile                       26:56:14
06. DJ Spooky - Belong                           36:30:01
07. UNKLE - In A State                           44:07:61
08. Lostep - Burma                               49:47:37
09. Felix Da Housecat - Watching The Cars Go By  61:49:11
10. Ulrich Schnauss - On My Own                  70:00:55

Here I am chattering and you're probably still wondering what the heck is a cue file and what's all this got to do with it, right?:) Well now that you know what's an index of a track I can easily tell you what's a cuesheet. It is a normal text file which contains indexes for tracks. That's basically it! Other than the indexes it can also contain both performer and title for each track, and info on performer and title for the whole mp3 file.

OK let's make this more general: so you have a single, long mp3 file with a number of tracks inside - this can be anything: a mixed album, a liveset, a concert, whatever you can record/rip/download. With a cuesheet for it you can:

- burn it to a CD as a continuous mix, but with separate tracks and no gaps between them,

- split it into a series of mp3 files - each track as a file,

- see the tracks in a separate playlist window of the mp3cue plugin and switch between them.

 

2. How does it look like?

Here's an example cue file:

PERFORMER "Armin van Buuren"
TITLE "A State of Trance 179 (16-12-2004) Part2"
FILE "Armin van Buuren - A State of Trance 179 (16-12-2004) Part2.mp3" MP3
  TRACK 01 AUDIO
    PERFORMER "Dimas pres. D-Formation"
    TITLE "Signs & Portents"
    INDEX 01 00:00:00
  TRACK 02 AUDIO
    PERFORMER "Peter Martin"
    TITLE "Simply Blue vs. Dave Gahan - I Need You (Acapella)"
    INDEX 01 05:24:50
  TRACK 03 AUDIO
    PERFORMER "NU Frequency"
    TITLE "808"
    INDEX 01 13:18:00
  TRACK 04 AUDIO
    PERFORMER ""
    TITLE "ID"
    INDEX 01 18:10:00
  TRACK 05 AUDIO
    PERFORMER "Unknown Artist"
    TITLE "Bad Deal"
    INDEX 01 22:42:45
  TRACK 06 AUDIO
    PERFORMER "Signum"
    TITLE "Second Wave (Signum Signal 2004 Remake)"
    INDEX 01 26:46:20
  TRACK 07 AUDIO
    PERFORMER "Blank & Jones feat. Bobo"
    TITLE "Perfect Silence (E-Craig Remix)"
    INDEX 01 32:57:30
  TRACK 08 AUDIO
    PERFORMER "M.I.K.E."
    TITLE "Massive Motion"
    INDEX 01 39:46:20
  TRACK 09 AUDIO
    PERFORMER "Recluse"
    TITLE "Emotional Void"
    INDEX 01 44:42:00
  TRACK 10 AUDIO
    PERFORMER "EnMass pres. 24"
    TITLE "The Longest Day Of My Life (Armin Van Buuren Remix)"
    INDEX 01 49:06:00

 

Let's start with the header of a cue file. It consists of these three lines:

PERFORMER "Armin van Buuren"
TITLE "A State of Trance 179 (16-12-2004) Part2"
FILE "Armin van Buuren - A State of Trance 179 (16-12-2004) Part2.mp3" MP3

First two lines are PERFORMER and TITLE for the whole set. They are optional, but might be useful when you want to burn a set and your CD recorder writes CD-Text.

Line number 3 is very important in every cuesheet. It tells your recording software where is the file you want to record and what's the type of it. When you have the .cue file in the same directory as the set you would like to burn there is no need to write a full path in here. The filename will be enough:

FILE "Armin van Buuren - A State of Trance 179 (16-12-2004) Part2.mp3" MP3

If the filename doesn't have any spaces then the quotation marks are not required:

FILE 01_armin_van_buuren_-_in_the_mix_(asot179)-cable-12-16-2004-hsalive.mp3 MP3

When you have the cuesheet in a different dir then you need to give a full path:

FILE "C:\Downloads\Armin van Buuren - A State of Trance 179 (16-12-2004) Part2.mp3" MP3

If the full path doesn't have any spaces then you don't need the quotation marks here either:

FILE C:\Downloads\01_armin_van_buuren_-_in_the_mix_(asot179)-cable-12-16-2004-hsalive.mp3 MP3

 

So to sum up the naming - what you can see above are proper lines, but the ones below will generate errors when trying to open in any recording software:

FILE Armin van Buuren - A State of Trance 179 (16-12-2004) Part2.mp3 MP3
FILE C:\My Documents\01_armin_van_buuren_-_in_the_mix_(asot179)-cable-12-16-2004-hsalive.mp3 MP3

 

The same naming rule applies to both PERFORMER and TITLE - if there are spaces in any of them you need to add quotation marks.

 

Your cuesheet DOES NOT need to have the same name as the file you are about to burn. That is what the FILE line is for. It tells your burning software what is the file you want to burn. There is one piece of software that actually wants you to have the same name of the cuesheet and the audio file - that is the mp3cue plugin for Winamp (which only checks the filename and doesn't use the FILE line at all). Having said that I encourage all of you to have your .cue files named exactly like your sets, but as stated before it is not necessary (and if you have the FILE line wrong you won't be able to record a set like that anyway).

A cuesheet can be used to burn different types of audio and data on a CD. A file type can be BINARY, MOTOROLA, AIFF, WAVE and MP3.

QeD info: In QeD I only included the MP3 file type as it's a "Liveset" editor (BINARY and MOTOROLA are data files, AIFF and WAVE are just huge and I don't really think that a lot of people keep their sets as .wav files). If you convert your set to a wav file (e.g. for burning purposes) then you simply need to edit the FILE line to something like this:

FILE "Armin van Buuren - A State of Trance 179 (16-12-2004) Part2.wav" WAVE
FILE 01_armin_van_buuren_-_in_the_mix_(asot179)-cable-12-16-2004-hsalive.wav WAVE

 

OK so now that you know everything about the header let's move on to the essence of a liveset cue - the tracks. A typical track looks like this:

  TRACK 06 AUDIO
    PERFORMER "Signum"
    TITLE "Second Wave (Signum Signal 2004 Remake)"
    INDEX 01 26:46:20

The first line indicates what is the number of a track (duh:)). It can be anything from 01 to 99 if you want to use the cuesheet for burning (an audio CD can only hold up to 99 tracks).

QeD info: If you're just using the cuesheet for a liveset then you can have up to 150 tracks in your cue (well at least this is how much QeD will read). I honestly haven't seen a liveset that would contain as many tracks (most release groups tend to split long sets into a couple of files). The longest one-file set that I have seen had 7 hours (Ferry's Right of Way concert), but it only had 73 tracks. Initially QeD allowed only 100 tracks, but after seeing Armin spin 80 tracks in two hours I decided to add 50 tracks, just to have a reserve:)

QeD info: As the mp3cue plugin doesn't really care about being too consistent with the cuesheet specification, QeD also doesn't make you stick to it tightly. So you don't really have to start with track 01 (00 is acceptable) and you can repeat the same track numbers. In fact the track numbers don't even have to grow. All these cues will be read to the same proper cue once they are open:

  TRACK 00 AUDIO
    INDEX 01 00:00:00
  TRACK 01 AUDIO
    INDEX 01 00:00:00
  TRACK 02 AUDIO
    INDEX 01 05:24:50
  TRACK 03 AUDIO
    INDEX 01 13:18:00
  TRACK 04 AUDIO
    INDEX 01 18:10:00
  TRACK 05 AUDIO
    INDEX 01 22:42:45
  TRACK 06 AUDIO
    INDEX 01 26:46:20
  TRACK 01 AUDIO
    INDEX 01 00:00:00
  TRACK 01 AUDIO
    INDEX 01 05:24:50
  TRACK 01 AUDIO
    INDEX 01 13:18:00
  TRACK 01 AUDIO
    INDEX 01 18:10:00
  TRACK 01 AUDIO
    INDEX 01 22:42:45
  TRACK 01 AUDIO
    INDEX 01 26:46:20
  TRACK 01 AUDIO
    INDEX 01 00:00:00
  TRACK 02 AUDIO
    INDEX 01 05:24:50
  TRACK 03 AUDIO
    INDEX 01 13:18:00
  TRACK 02 AUDIO
    INDEX 01 18:10:00
  TRACK 01 AUDIO
    INDEX 01 22:42:45
  TRACK 00 AUDIO
    INDEX 01 26:46:20

 

As it was in the header you don't need the PERFORMER and TITLE lines (but not having them, when listening to a set, takes out all the fun of having the cuesheet:)). These are the lines that you see in the mp3cue plugin for Winamp in the shape of PERFORMER - TITLE. As these lines are not mandatory a track can look like any of the below:

  TRACK 06 AUDIO
    INDEX 01 26:46:20
  TRACK 06 AUDIO
    PERFORMER ""
    TITLE ""
    INDEX 01 26:46:20
  TRACK 06 AUDIO
    PERFORMER "Signum"
    TITLE "Second Wave (Signum Signal 2004 Remake)"
    INDEX 01 26:46:20
  TRACK 06 AUDIO
    TITLE "Signum - Second Wave (Signum Signal 2004 Remake)"
    INDEX 01 26:46:20
  TRACK 06 AUDIO
    PERFORMER ""
    TITLE "Signum - Second Wave (Signum Signal 2004 Remake)"
    INDEX 01 26:46:20

QeD info: When working with QeD PERFORMER, TITLE and FILE always have the quotation marks around them, no matter if they have spaces or not.

 

The last (and probably the most important) line of a track is the index line. Each index line needs to have INDEX 01 specified - it has the starting point of a track (when being read in a CD player or by mp3cue). You can have more indexes (e.g. INDEX 00), but for livesets they are totally unnecessary - you can both listen and burn properly with just one index in a track.

Each index should consist of the values of minutes, seconds and frames (m:s:f). Everybody knows that a minute has 60 seconds - so you can type a value between 0-59 for seconds. Each second has 75 frames (yeah it's not 80 or 100, it's 75!).- so that gives you the range between 0 and 74.

QeD info: The maximum value of minutes that you can use with QeD is 999, whereas for burning on a CD you won't be able to exceed the CD capacity (I think 99 minutes is the maximum right now on special CD-Rs).

QeD info: Again I have to say that the mp3cue plugin doesn't really care about being too consistent with the cuesheet specification, so you can use cuesheets that don't contain the frames values and everything will work properly. When opening such a file in QeD it will tell that the frames values are wrong and simply set them to 0. Because such a way of indexing isn't fully proper you won't be able to burn anything using a cue that has no frames values.

 

3. How to burn a liveset with a cue in Nero and CDRwin?

Cuesheets are supported by many burning applications. To see whether the one you're using is capable of reading them just visit the programs website or look through its help. I'm going to explain how to burn with cues using Nero and CDRwin.

a) Nero Burning ROM

I will explain how to burn a CD using a cuesheet with Nero 6.3.1.25 - as this is the version that I am using when writing these words. The process probably looks pretty much the same in newer versions, and didn't differ significantly in Nero 5 (I don't know about Nero 4 and older, as I don't think I have ever used them:)).

There are actually three ways of burning an image onto a CD using Nero 6 (if I remember correctly Nero 5 can only do it the first way):

  via Nero Burning ROM

Once you start the app a 'New Compilation' window will appear. You don't need it here so just press Cancel.

Now from the Recorder menu choose 'Burn Image'...

...select your cuesheet...

...and press Open. If you have selected to burn an mp3 (FILE "xxx.mp3" MP3) Nero will first have to convert it to a wave file. This will take some time (the longer your set is the longer you'll have to wait) and Nero might not respond. This is it's proper behavior! It's converting your file and has NOT crashed so just let it work and just do something else for a couple of minutes.

Note: I'd like to mention here that for the conversion Nero will use free space from you temp directory (which by default is set on C:\, but you can change it in File | Preferences | Cache) so you better have some free space on that drive (otherwise Nero will actually crash).

Note: If you decide to convert your set to .wav outside Nero (in Winamp for example) you won't have to wait at all. You just select you cue file (with a proper FILE line of course) and Nero will be ready to burn instantly.

When you see the window below just press Burn - and that's it!

Note: This is some really basic CD recording knowledge that everyone should have - if you want to burn a CD that has no gaps between tracks then you need to set your 'Write method' to Disc-At-Once (DAO). In this method your burner makes an image of a CD and writes it from beginning to the end (the whole disc at once). This allows you to set the gaps between each track (when you have a cuesheet with INDEX 01 only, this gap is set to 0 seconds). The same rule applies to single tracks - once you make a project with a couple of tunes that you want to burn without gaps you need to specify that you don't want them (this is done in a different way in most applications) and set your write mode to DAO. This method is different from Track-At-Once, in which the burner writes each track one-by-one. TAO produces 2 second gaps between tracks.

 

  via Nero Express

After opening Nero Express select 'Disc Image or Saved Project':

Now select your cuesheet (first remember to change the file type to 'Image Files' as shown below):

After a while (a longer while if you selected an mp3 file) you should see the window below.

Note: As I wrote before you need to have free space when you want to burn an mp3 file. If you don't have free space on your default temp drive, you can change it by pressing the big 'More >>' button and then pressing 'Configure' and then selecting the 'Cache' tab.

Pressing the 'Next' button will start the burn process.

 

  via Nero StartSmart

Nero StartSmart is just an application that gives you quick access to programs (and their particular functions) that are parts of the Nero Burning ROM pack. Once you open StartSmart simply select the 'Copy and Backup' category and press 'Burn Image to Disc'. This will open Nero Express at a point where you need to select your cuesheet (rest of the steps are exactly the same, so read the above if you haven't done that already).

 

b) CDRWin

This application is actually the reason you are reading this document:) Let me explain: you see the guys at Golden Hawk Technology (that created CDRWin) came up with a unique scripting language for recording CDs - the cuesheet. It soon became a standard in recording CD images and was used in many other burning applications. So as you can probably imagine this piece of software has the best cuesheet capabilities (you can create your own cues in it as well). OK so much for the history lesson - now back to the recording part.

When you start CDRWin you'll see a set of 10 different buttons (of course I assume that you have a registered version;)).

The one that you need right now is the top left that says 'Record Disc'. When you press it you will see this window:

Now select the file you wish to burn by pressing 'Load Cuesheet' (as show above), and once you have your cue selected you will get an 'Operation In Progress' window for a few seconds (about 10-20 which is way faster than in Nero).

When everything is ready (and you have the window as below) just press 'Record Disc' and that's it.

Note: the examples for CDRWin were presented using version 3.9F, but it should be the same in both newer and older versions as well.

 

4. How to split a liveset using a cue?

OK so you have a set/album as a single mp3 file and a corresponding cue file, but you don't know how to split it into separate tracks. Well there are at least a few programs that will do the trick here, but I'm just going to mention two as each of them represents quite a different approach.

The first way of splitting your audio file is by using a program called Exact Audio Copy. It's an excellent CD ripper, which creates and reads cuesheets perfectly. For this method to work you need to convert your mp3 into wav before you can actually split it (you can do it in Winamp for instance). Once you have a .wav file just run EAC and select 'Split WAV By CUE Sheet' from the 'Tools' menu. The sub-menu contains four options to choose from - which one you need depends on how your CD was ripped (and how your cuesheet looks like). For livesets you can  choose 'With Gaps' and it should work in most cases. Then just select your .wav and .cue files and EAC will do the rest.

This method (although it might be useful to someone) has a couple of huge drawbacks. First of all you need to operate on huge .wav files (so you need free space for the single .wav file and then again that same amount of space for the split files) and not everybody has a really big HDD (or at least a lot of free space on it, like in my case:)). Second of all if you plan to have mp3 files of the tracks you split then you need to convert them from wav back into mp3, so you're wasting a lot of time (1 mp3 -> 1 wave, some waves - > some mp3s) and this is surely not what you want to do here.

The second method (faster and easier) uses an application called mp3DirectCut. As the name might indicate this program allows you to "do stuff" directly to the mp3, without the need of converting it to a wav file. In order to load up your mp3 just select File | Open... and select the cuesheet.

Once the file is opened just select File | Save split..., select where to save the split files, type how their filenames should to look like and whether you want to use ID3 tags.

 

What you can see on the screenshots above is version 1.32 of mp3DirectCut. I recommend using this version instead of the latest one (1.39 when I am writing these words), because since version 1.33 mp3DirectCut doesn't read the last track (I don't know why, but when opening with a cue, it "doesn't see" the last index). I don't know if the author made any huge changes since version 1.32, but for splitting purposes this version (and older ones as well) should work without any problems. To tell you the truth I have been using version 1.21 up till the point where I had to write this tutorial:). I downloaded version 1.39, played around with it and found that bug, so I had to download a couple of other versions to find out which is the latest one that actually reads all of the indexes properly.

 

I just described two methods out of which one seems really better than the other. But the mp3DirectCut method has one MAJOR drawback which makes using the EAC method a very good idea in some cases. Those cases happen when you have an mp3 coded in VBR. Though it produces better quality of sound, it also produces a problem for any application trying to decode it. You may have noticed it in Winamp for instance (the index times are really not accurate when listening to a set like that). mp3DirectCut has trouble with such files as well. So if you have a VBR coded mp3 you will get better results converting it to .wav and then splitting the file in EAC.

Note: Really old versions (like 1.21 for instance) will crash when trying to open a cuesheet for longer sets (over 99 minutes).

 

Download info:
EAC is available for download here,
mp3DirectCut 1.32 can be downloaded from here,
you can download the latest version of mDC from this site.

 

5. What is the mp3cue plugin and what do I do with it?

mp3cue is a simple, yet ingenious plugin for Winamp. It has been available for a very long time as version 0.94, that supported Winamp 2 only.  In July 2004 the author released version 5.0 of the plugin, which is the same as 0.94, but supports Winamp 5.

This plugin is basically another playlist window for Winamp. It uses a cue file that has to be stored in the same directory as the file that is currently playing in Winamp. mp3cue doesn't read the FILE line of a cuesheet so you need the cue file to have the same name as the audio file that you are playing.

The plugin reads the cuesheet and shows PERFORMER - TITLE for each track in the mp3cue playlist. If the PERFORMER line is empty or it's not there at all, only the TITLE line is displayed (with no hyphen in front of it - e.g. "ID"). On the other hand, when the TITLE line is empty or not present mp3cue shows the PERFORMER line, but with a hyphen and track number at the end (e.g. "ID - Track 3"). So a good way of saving your cuesheets is by specifying both PERFORMER and TITLE lines, or just the TITLE line for a track.

QeD info: The built-in import formats "know" of the above and if you have a title-only track (e.g. just ID) it will be put into the TITLE line. Read more about import formats in here.

The mp3cue window let's you choose which track you want to hear by simply clicking on it (just like the original Winamp playlist). You can also select the next and the previous track by pressing dot (.) and comma (,) respectively (those keys can be changed) or by simply clicking the buttons on the bottom of the plugin window.

The plugin doesn't have too many options and they're all really easy (right click anywhere on the playlist window for a context menu), so I'm not really going to explain them here. However, I will try and give you some tips on using mp3cue. First of all it's a good idea to always leave the plugin on. Enabling the option 'Hide when no cue info found' may cause the plugin to "vanish" (well it's gonna be there, but you won't be able to turn it on). This may or may not happen, but as I have said - it's always a good idea to leave it on. Trust me getting it back is a real pain in the ass. The same thing might happen when you turn the plugin off. You should be able to turn it on by pressing Alt+N. But if that doesn't happen reinstall the plugin (uninstall it first). If afterwards you still can't bring it up reinstall winamp (remember to get rid of the plugins directory, if the uninstaller doesn't do it for you). If that doesn't help then, well .... I can't really help. Keep trying;)

If your cue file has a different filename or is in another dir than the audio file you are playing mp3cue will not read it. Even though you can open it - just press 'Import', find your file and open it - this will load it into the mp3cue playlist window.

Another thing that you might like to know is that 'Find seek times' isn't really working. After you select it you just get a window saying that it's there "for possible future use". Pressing OK on that window is not a good idea as it will crash Winamp for sure. So be careful here.

'Save Sheet to Mp3' let's you save a cuesheet into an mp3 file (ID3v2). It takes some time, but works in most cases. With the cuesheet embedded into the mp3 you don't need the cue file, and yet you will see the titles and indexes every time you load up such a track. If something goes wrong in this process then just try deleting the ID3v2 tag from your mp3 file.

 

Winamp (with mp3cue) is not the only player that supports cue files. There are at least a few of them for Windows (even different plugins for Winamp) and quite a few for Linux as well. Each of them might have a slightly different approach to using the cue file, but the idea is the same - see the titles as the set plays. So of course you don't have to use Winamp, but I described it here as it's been my player of choice since version 1.60:)))

 

Download info:
mp3cue plugin for Winamp is available for download here.

 


That's it!

So this is where the tutorial ends. I tried to show you everything that might be useful to know about cuesheets and hopefully I did just that. If you still don't know how to do something visit the FAQ and if that doesn't help leave a post in the forum and wait for an answer:)

 

If you want to copy any part of this tutorial (and use it anywhere else) feel free to do so, but add the following line to anything that you copy:
This text/image is taken from the QeD Documentation. Visit the QeD website at qed.qproject.org and download QeD 2.0 for free.


Copyright © 2006 Twilight