Convert BR5 to MP3

I have a BMW with music files on the hard drive.   They are in BR5 format.   How do I convert them to audio files in order to transfer them to another car?
DoctorK12008Asked:
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BillDLCommented:
Hi DoctorK12008.  I'm sorry to say that I am no further forward in trying to convert the BR5 file back to a WMA file.  I have tried quite a few different so-called converters without success.

I wonder whether any of the mechanics at a new or 2nd-hand BMW franchise might know how to do this.
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Joe Winograd, Fellow&MVEDeveloperCommented:
I haven't tried this, so you're on your own to evaluate it:
http://www.e90post.com/forums/showthread.php?t=279294&page=2

Regards, Joe
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BillDLCommented:
Hi DoctorK12008.

I realise that this might sound extremely obvious, but have you tried making a COPY of one BR5 file from the BMW's drive to your computer and simply renaming it by changing the file extension to MP3?

It seems that Joe isn't familiar with the BR5 file extension, and I have never encountered it before either (probably because I cannot afford even a 2nd-hand BMW).  I cannot find any mention of a BR5 file type on Wikipedia, which is very unusual given the vast detail given there about practically every other file type.  To confuse the issue while looking for other peoples' backed-up BR5 files to inspect, there is/was a country band named BR5-49 and I keep getting search results for them rather than for *.BR5 files.

It's been a very long time since I was at college and had to write C programming code, but from my hazy memory the code that I see in Comment #29 by skanman on the site linked to by Joe doesn't really do anything other than read the existing file extension and change it.  I could be very wrong, but that's how it looks to me.  Perhaps the program code reads through the contents of the source file, buffers it, and outputs it to a new file with an MP3 extension, but even if that's the case it isn't re-encoding the content in any way.  The ZIP file download at the end of that comment contains "bmwconv.exe" for Windows computers and the "bmwconv.exe" file that would be needed for compiling on a Linux computer.

I have tried to look at the resources inside the EXE file and I don't see any calls to an external or internal MP3 encoder, so from my limited knowledge I don't think any actual conversion takes place.  Despite this, a number of people in that thread say that it worked for them.

I cannot find any other really good sites with a BR5 converter program.  You have to be careful with many sites that supposedly have exactly the kind of file converter youare looking for.  Many of them just supply one of those crappy "PC Optimizer" programs from a link that looks like you are getting a conversion program.
Example:  http://www.fileregistry.org/en/file-extension,br5.html
The page injects 14 instances of "BR5" into blank spaces and has a rectangle where it shows results of a lookup on the file type.  If you change the URL to:
http://www.fileregistry.org/en/file-extension,illegible.html
It will inject "illegible" into those 14 blank spaces instead, and won't find anything about this extension to populate the rectangle on the page.
Somehow these sites capture the file extension you searched for on Google and get themselves ranked quite high up the list

Perhaps a BR5 file is just some form of ZIP file, in which case you could experiment by renaming one to .ZIP and seeing whether WinZip, WinRAR, 7-Zip, or the built-in unzipping functionality of Windows can unpack any file(s) that may just be the original audio files.

I would be very curious to have a look at a BR5 file to see what I can make of it, but there is nothing to lose by simply changing the extension of one to MP3 to see what happens when you double-click on it.  You would have to change the BR5 file extension to .TXT before you could attach it here.
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DoctorK12008Author Commented:
I tried to rename one of the files to a text file, but it still has the BR5 extension, so it will not upload.   I suspect there is some form of copyright protection on these files, preventing them from uploading to other than a BMW.
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BillDLCommented:
I think it might be an idea to go back a few steps so that we can visualise exactly wat you are doing.

How did you transfer the files onto the in-car system's hard drive to begin with?

Does it rip from an inserted CD, or did you insert a USB Flash drive containing standard (eg. MP3) audio files and use the car's screen options to copy the files to the car, or does it copy them to the car's hard drive when you play them on a mobile device and have the audio streamed to the car's player via bluetooth, or some other method?

Do you have the ability, using on-screen options in the car, to copy audio files back to the original source or to some other medium like a USB Flash Drive?

Have you removed the car's hard drive and connected it to a desktop computer or laptop, and if so is it connected directly or have you placed it inside an external USB enclosure?

If connected to a computer, is this running a version of Windows or some other operating system like Linux?

Can you determine the filing system that the car's hard drive is formatted to, eg. FAT32, NTFS, or some other filing system?

When you try to rename one of the files, are you doing this in Windows Explorer (or other OS equivalent) directly with the files that exist on the car's hard drive, or are you working with copies of the files that you have copied from the car's hard drive to the hard drive of the computer it is connected to?

>>> I tried to rename one of the files to a text file, but it still has the BR5 extension, so it will not upload. <<<

Did you receive any error message when you tried to rename one of the files, or have you now ended up with a file named something like "song name.txt.br5" ?

Sorry about all the questions, but we haven't yet fully established what stage you have reached.
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DoctorK12008Author Commented:
rip from an inserted CD,
Can only copy files as if doing a backup to the USB drive, with the intention of restoring them to the BMW hard drive.
Computer is running Windows 7
No idea how the cars' hard drive is formatted.   I have already turned in the car as the lease ended.
now ended up with a file named something like "song name.txt.br5"
Hope all this helps.
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BillDLCommented:
Hi DoctorK12008

I apologise if this is so simple that it insults you, but it is always worth checking first to make sure that you are seeing all file extensions:
http://www.bleepingcomputer.com/tutorials/how-to-show-file-extensions-in-windows/

If you still cannot rename the file to a TXT file, then try to open it in Notepad.
Right-Click > Open With > "Choose default program ..." > UNTICK the box at the bottom of the window entitled "Always use the selected program to open files of this type" > look for "Notepad"  and choose it.

It may all look like gobbledegook in Notepad, but look near the start for some kind of 3, 4, or 5 letter acronym in uppercase.  If there isn't one, then scroll through the file and look for any text that is readable.  An MP3 file will have legible tags with values you would be able to read, such as TP1, TT2, TAL, IHDR, etc.

Perhaps you could do a "Save As" and save the visible contents to a TXT file to attach here.  We may be able to recognise the type of content.
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DoctorK12008Author Commented:
I was able to rename it as a text file.   I am not sure if it is too big to upload, however I will try.
A-Whiter-Shade-Of-Pale.txt
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BillDLCommented:
Thanks for persevering with this and supplying a file.  The maximum file size of attachments on experts exchange is surprisingly generous at 50MB.

I don't see anything in the file content (binary, unicode, or ascii text) that is instantly recogniseable as a familiar audio file format, however I will look at it in more depth and try to compare it with some other file formats.

Renaming the file to several different audio file types and loading into an audio editor that extracts the raw data finds a tiny scrap of audio data at the start that is just rendered as a loud sharp hiss.  Stretching it out just gives me some kind or garbled electronic audio like something you would hear on the Starship Enterprise radio communications with an alien craft.  Strangely enough, one of my audio editors tells me it has found some video content, but a video editor fails to load anything.

I spoke too soon about the BR5 converter linked to earlier (with an appropriate disclaimer) by Joe Winograd.  The author states in the *.c file that comes with it, that it:
"Converts BMW audio files (BR3/BR4/BR5) to/from regular audio files (MP4/MP3/WMA)"
and that:
"It should build/run on most Windows releases with or without Cygwin".

When I tried it, however, the exectutable "bmwconv.exe" requires the presence of Cygwin library files.

Cygwin is a free suite of tools that provides native integration of Windows-based applications, data, and other system resources with applications, software tools, and data of the Unix/Linux-like environment.  Amongst other differences with Windows, Linux has loads of built-in libraries that can be called from the command line to open, manipulate, and convert a lot of different file types.

I installed Cygwin and copied "bmwconv.exe" into its "bin" folder so that it ran without error and found whatever library (DLL) it needs for the conversion.

Surprisingly my attempt to convert BR5 to MP3 created an audio file that opens and plays in most standard media players, and restores the audio tags, but it is really garbled and sounds almost as though it is being played backwards with loud farting and static noises throughout.  I reversed it and it sounds worse.  Little bits of the Procul Harum tune come through, albeit at an odd and fluctuating tempo, but it obviously hasn't restored properly.

I can see the Audio Tags which tell me that the artist is the Brighouse & Rastrick Band, that it is Track No 12 from the Album entitled The Best Of Brass, and that it has been slotted into the "Classical" genre.  It was originally encoded with a bit rate of 128kb/s and ..... here we go ...... and the WMA2 codec.

That means it is a "Windows Media Audio" file.  At first it seemed odd that an in-car player would rip tracks from an inserted CD to its drive in the proprietary Microsoft WMA format, but bearing in mind that the BR3, BR4, and BR5 file extensions are BACKUPS FROM the car's player, I discovered that the different extensions are generated as the following "encodings":
BR3 = MP4
BR4 = MP3
BR5 = WMA

I wonder whether the "BR" in "BR5" just means "Backup/Restore" file, or if it's an acronym for the German expression to make things as complicated as possible.

I ran the command to convert from BR5 to WMA instead of to MP3.  No luck, unfortunately, it sounds the same as the MP3, as does trying to convert to MP4.

I am sure that no encoding or decoding is taking place.  The operating system of the car will probably be some minimal Linux type of OS, and I would guess that all it does is read the WMA audio file on the hard drive and write it out in some kind of jumbled up Linux-based "encryption" as a BR5 file that is the same file size as the original audio file imported onto the in-car system.

I did install the latest version from http://cygwin.com/install.html, but I do not know enough about tweaking Linux or Cygwin settings to use different file format converters for better results, so I am meantime at a standstill.

We are halfway there, but I have a feeling that you would have to test lots of converters compiled by geeky individuals on Linux machines to try and find one that works fully and properly.  In that time you may well have been able to find the same audio files elsewhere.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JJxUiuGtTwg

I will try to look at this some more when I have time.
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DoctorK12008Author Commented:
Thanks for all your effort.   I suspect it will turn out the files can only be restored to a BMW system, as a means to prevent copying.   Please let me know if you find anything else.   Thanks again.
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BillDLCommented:
Just to let you know that I haven't forgotten about this.  I will carry on trying to find a solution for you.
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DoctorK12008Author Commented:
Thank you!
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DoctorK12008Author Commented:
Thanks for all your efforts.   I will let you know if I find a solution.
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BillDLCommented:
Thanks DoctorK12008.  I always keep my eyes open for potential solutions to problems that have stumped me.  I will post back if anything catches my eye, or if I learn anything new from a couple of the mechanics at my workplace.  One drives a sporty Mercedes and the other a refined old Jaguar, but they have both owned BMWs in the past 4 years, so they might know.
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