How to Combine Big Finish Tracks on iTunes (And Why CDs Are Best!)

There are many reasons why it is essential to own a Big Finish audio release on CD. If you’re worried about space in your home, or even spending too much, that’s no surprise. We all feel tempted to purchase the CD releases, just like the good old days of collecting your favourite music albums, audiobooks, and, of course, radio drama.

For this case, I will focus more on the technical aspects of a CD, and how they provide a beyond-the-universe listening experience for you to enjoy. Last year, I contacted Big Finish to ask about which audio format (CD or digital download) has a higher quality sound – here is their response:

“Technically CD is slightly better, as it’s decoded from raw 16 bit data, whereas audiobook/MP3 formats use data compression on the raw data.”

That was what got me to consider purchasing CDs for a change, but I still wanted to be careful with savings and storage. Imagine listening to only downloads, without even trying out the traditional CD quality; your ears would be listening to the irritating muffling and crackling. As for that, downloading each individual release (including box sets) can definitely take up your computer storage, however, if you have purchased hundreds, you can always use the acclaimed Big Finish App (iOS and Android) to download what you want without waiting; I find this much more useful than my own desktop. But what if you want to listen to your favourites, over and over again?

The very first Big Finish CD that I purchased was The Tenth Doctor Adventures: Volume 1, as it was one that I, along with many fans, strongly anticipated since its initial announcement; I actually pre-ordered it before contacting them. So it wasn’t until a few months after its release that I had discovered this amazing feature on iTunes (both Mac and Windows): combining tracks before importing a disc. You know how various Doctor Who Big Finish episodes (e.g. Main Range) are split into multiple tracks – this actually makes it harder to identify where you have last paused/stopped whilst listening. Once you combine the number of tracks to form a single file (pardon the pun), you now have a full-length/unabridged episode to hear without, accidentally, skipping to the next track.

A CD can store up to a maximum of 80 minutes; these would generally consist of two half-hour episodes (approx) with extras, such as trailers, behind-the-scenes, and music suites. The same would apply to a story that lasts roughly an hour.

Here’s a simple demonstration (I will use the Main Range release Jubilee as an example):

1. Once you insert a disc, hold the SHIFT key and select the number of tracks that apply to a certain episode – from the opening theme to the closing theme (roughly between 15 seconds and 1 minute).

2. Click on “Join CD Tracks” (do the same with the remaining episodes per disc).

3. Rename each imported track as “Jubilee Part #”.

(If you need more information, check out this article!)

If it’s a box set or an anthology, simply give them their full title (e.g. The Sixth Doctor – The Last Adventure disc 4 “The Brink of Death”).

All First Doctor releases follow the tradition of giving each episode an individual title, such as the 50th anniversary Companion Chronicles:The Beginning Part 1 (The First Flight)”. This could also apply to the 200th Main Range release, and the last of the “Locum Doctors” trilogy – “The Secret History Part 1 (The Gothic War)”.

Think of it as backing up your most valuable files on your USB key or portable hard drive, without getting all the tracks muddled up. This could also apply to certain releases that are only available to purchase in physical format (e.g. Shada, The Blue Tooth), which are sadly unavailable to download on the App.

If you are unable to play and/or import a CD onto your computer, there is always the option to listen on your sound system – that would sort of be like the experience hearing a TV episode in another room.

And, if you’re still not completely sold on audiobooks just yet, did you know that listening to dialogue-based audios can actually help people with dyslexia? That was the case for Elliot (from The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood) who read and listened to The Gruffalo at the same time. Any spoken-word audios, whether it is an audiobook or drama, can help with your comprehension; even listening to them multiple times allows you to visualise the settings and character’s tone of voice more fluently.

The world may be temporarily turning to downloads, but don’t be put off physical media – especially as you consider how easy it is to combine tracks when adding an adventure to your smartphone or tablet.

  • ColeBox

    I love stuff like this, Andrew. Just thought I’d give my two penneth…

    Some of us *cough* older BF collectors, like me, have been buying Big Finish for nearly twenty years. In the early days, there were only CDs and tape-cassettes; no downloads. As a result, I’ve got lots and lots of BF on CD along with many other BBC audiobooks. I have, indeed, moved all of my collection onto iTunes and I have also done the same with my extensive CD music collection. BUT, at some point I had to move to downloads because there simply wasn’t the room in my house to store them as a display (or that the GF would allow). As it is, most of the CDs have ended up in the loft! Of course, ripping them all to iTunes and saving downloads has taken up room on my PC, but then large hard-drives are getting quite cheap and my 72 gigabytes worth of audiobooks hardly scratch the surface of my 2 terabyte drive. Back up drives are pretty cheap now, too.

    As with everything, there is always the exception: I will always get physical copies of anything connected to the Eighth Doctor and the recent Captain Scarlet releases. They’re special.

    However, there is also one other point to mention… The ability to hear the difference in sound quality between a CD and a download, for us *older* folk at any rate, is greatly reduced; our hearing is not as acute as you younger peeps. I ripped all my CDs to AAC at a bit rate of 128kpbs; the downloads are AAC at 256kpbs. I can’t tell the difference between listening to either version through my, iPhone earphones, PC speakers or a Sonos system.

    For me, the immersive joy is using a pair of Sennheiser headphones but, again, I don’t think I could call out what the files were if I didn’t know which was which. In fact, I don’t recall noticing any difference when I used to walk to work listening via a personal CD player than when I started listening to AAC versions via my first iPhone; other than it the iPhone was less bulky and I didn’t have to change to the second CD during my walk home!.

    Having said all of that, if I were lucky enough to have a barely furnished room and my old stacked hi-fi (which is also *criminally* languishing in the loft) I would probably be insisting on CDs too, but that is part of the territory of being a hi-fi buff.

    I belong to a BF group on Facebook and this discussion about downloads vs CDs comes up quite often. Funnily enough, the subject of sound quality rarely comes up; it’s mainly between convenience (downloads) or having a physical copy to handle, view artwork or have displayed on a shelf (CDs). Sadly, there are a number of people who warn they will stop buying BF audios when BF finally move away from physical media all together. Surely it’s about the product and not the delivery?

    • Shields

      Whilst I’ve caved and gotten the physical copy for some of the Box-sets (and Bernice Summerfield where the single-releases were ONLY available as CD), for the most case its sheer practicality getting the DL’s over the CDs in most cases from an international shipping perspective. – Conversion rates, shipping costs, handling fees all make things pricier, and for the price of one physical release I can usually get 3 or 4 digital box-set releases at pre-order prices instead, so I opt most of the time for what gives me more stories for my buck. So whilst it would be great to own them all on CD, there is an opportunity cost associated where you are sacrificing the listening of additional stories. Also the usual point of physical space after a while because they build up.

      • ColeBox

        Living in the UK, postage costs doesn’t add much to the cost of the delivery, but I can very much understand your situation.

        I have one teeny-tiny issue with the delivery of CDs, however. Being self employed, there isn’t usually anyone home when the postman arrives. For a single release, it’s okay as they fit through the letterbox, but for a box-set three things can occur…

        One: the parcel gets left with a neighbour. If they are home, great. If they’re not then goto two or three …
        Two: I get a postcard through the door requesting that I collect the parcel from the nearest sorting office. It’s a bit of a nuisance.
        or Three: We have an understanding with our postie that if we get a parcel and we don’t answer he’ll kindly lob the parcel over our side fence. This is all very well, but I just have to hope that it does’t rain before we come home otherwise my copy of Doom Coalition 3 might get very soggy OR if he’s a bit over-zealous and throws it a bit hard, I’ll find my copy of Time War 1 smashed to smithereens on the patio!

        It’s a worry…

  • bar

    My CDs are, it’s true, not as convenient as downloads, but the physical item has one major advantage – you can take them, or the lovely artwork cover, to conventions where lovely guests can sign them and discuss them with you. They can’t sign a download.

    • ColeBox

      Now I have this image of you carting box loads of CDs to conventions and cornering Peter Davison or Colin Baker until he has signed every last copy you’ve brought! ;o)

      • bar

        Only the first time; since then I’ve learned to take only the thin paper sleeve – it’s a lot lighter and fits in a smaller pocket!

        • ColeBox

          I haven’t been to a convention since 1993. I’d like to put that right again one of these days, if they’re a bit closer to home.

  • FrancoPabloDiablo

    100% CDs for me. Then I put them onto my mp3 player if I want to listen to them on that. Best of both worlds.

  • Keith Andrews

    Agree with the point that 20 years worth of CDs take up a massive amount of space.
    Id suggest a far easier way of doing what you have suggested. Every Big Finish CD purchase comes with a free download from the Web site. You can down load in Audiobook format, which gives you exactly what you have done

  • Bob James

    I’ve been immersed in the world of Big Finish since the first release “The Sirens Of Time” came out on cassette format in 1999. I appreciate the downloads, but having the physical CD releases will always be a necessity for me. Especially now, as BF will be my sole source of Doctor Who (other than past series DVD episodes and box sets) after this Christmas. They have done superb, consistently brilliant work, and hey, they got Paul McGann back! And latterly, the late, great Sir John Hurt! And I’ll never give up, one day, hopefully, Christopher Eccleston. Big Finish is every bit Doctor Who to me as the television series up to this point has been.