Converting CDs to FLAC/MP3

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by RhodyDave125, Sep 11, 2018.

  1. RhodyDave125

    RhodyDave125 Streetwalkin' Cheetah Thread Starter


    I'm thinking about ditching the physical media of my CD collection and converting all of them to some file format that can be stored digitally.

    I'd love recommendations from those of you who've done this. Any hardware advice, format advice, whatever, would be immensely appreciated.

    FYI, I no longer have any computer with a physical disc, so I would need to buy some new audio equipment specifically for this purpose. My CD player is a player only.

    CrazyCatz likes this.
  2. DJAd

    DJAd Well-Known Member

    I would rip them to FLAC. Im currently doing this myself at the moment. Use EAC (Exact audio copy) to do this. There are some guides about on how to configure it. Cue ripper is another good tool. This way you can create an exact copy of the CDs without any loss in quality. You will need a CD drive to do this though.
  3. L.P.

    L.P. Forum Resident

    I also recommend EAC with Accurate Rip, rip to .flac if space is not a problem (thousands and thousands of CDs). I ripped everything to 320kbit/s MP3 because I started when the biggest HDD I could afford was 500 mbyte. I have no regrets and don't plan to re-rip for a barely (if at all) noticeable improvement. But for archival reasons alone I would defintely recommend a universal lossless format like .flac.

    Try to find a good disc-drive, the new slim external ones are slow and unreliable.

    When 'accurate rip' is available, rip in 'burst mode', don't bother with the 'secure mode', it takes way to long and wears out your drive faster.

    You should store a number of hard drives in different places (buildings) for safety reasons.

    Depending on how many CDs you have to rip, this project will take weeks or months of your precious time. You could save a lot of time by not doing it and just stream the music from a streaming service.

    I'm happy that I ripped and safely stored everything I have, but if I had to start now, I probably would not do it again. Or rip just the rare ones that are not on Spotify. But definitely in .flac this time!
    CrazyCatz likes this.
  4. Mike-48

    Mike-48 Forum Resident

    Portland, Oregon
    EAC with AccurateRip is a good recommendation. Another one is dBpoweramp, the ripping program that originated the AccurateRip concept. The inexpensive paid version includes access to 5 or 6 metadata sources (especially helpful if your collection has classical music).

    I suggest ripping to FLAC, unless you are running an Apple setup, in which case ALAC is equivalent. Do not rip to a lossy format like mp3! As your system gets better, you will hear the difference!

    If you mean your computer doesn't have an optical drive (CD/DVD/BR drive), consider purchasing an external USB one.

    I use a NAS with 4 disks and RAID to store my music files. Remember, even with RAID, BACKUPS of the ripped files are a MUST. Every disk fails eventually.

    Too much work? For some it is. Don't do it unless it's right for you.

    Kyhl, nosliw, JimmyCool and 1 other person like this.
  5. jeffmackwood

    jeffmackwood Forum Resident

    I'm happy with 320MP3. I readily admit I can't tell the difference, with my non-Golden ears, between it and the original CD from whence it was ripped.

    Great compatibility / storage space / sound quality balance.

    Way (way) back when, I first ripped my (then very much smaller) CD collection to 192MP3. I switched to 320MP3 a number of years ago, have gone back and re-ripped many "key" CDs, and now probably 75% of the >200k tracks in the collection are at that higher bit rate.

    Coltrane811, L.P., nosliw and 2 others like this.
  6. Apesbrain

    Apesbrain Forum Resident

    East Coast, USA
    Consider purchasing a Bluesound Vault 2. It's a music server (computer) with built-in ripping drive. Just feed it CDs as you can and it will convert to fully tagged FLAC files. Plays to your stereo or to other Bluesound devices. Control via PC, tablet, or cell phone.
  7. klockwerk

    klockwerk Forum Resident

    Ohio USA
    Honest and accurate advise. I can't tell the difference either, but hard drive space is so cheap that I'm ripping anything 'new' to FLAC.

    Your biggest problem might be finding a good external drive that rips error free. You didn't say if your using an Apple or PC.
    Mike-48 and jeffmackwood like this.
  8. Grant

    Grant A Brady-Boomer Musical Free-Spirit

    Honest but not accurate. Some can hear the difference, some cannot. I think most of those who say they cannot hear the difference simply do not know what to listen for.

    The best advice indeed to rip to lossless. That way you have an exact copy of your CD in a compact file.
  9. Sevoflurane

    Sevoflurane Forum Resident

    West Yorkshire
    Another vote for FLAC. I use dBPoweramp, others use EAC, if you have a Mac XLD and dBPoweramp seem to be favoured. iTunes is favoured by many and is probably the most plug and play option. The default ripping settings on dBPoweramp are pretty good, but if you have a large CD collection to rip think about a few things first as you will want to get it right first time (which I didn't):

    1. What CD drive to use. Most of my 1200+ CD collection was ripped on a full size LG DVD drive with an external power supply. Ripping lots of discs puts a lot of wear and tear onto the drive. Avoid subjecting e.g. an internal drive on a laptop that might prove difficult to repair / replace to that stress. I have one small LG slimline drive that generates huge numbers of errors if I rip CDs on it so avoid that too. There is a lot of information out there advising the use of e.g. Plextor drives due to their low error rate. I never went as far as tracking one down and was never convinced that it was necessary. All the ripping programs above except iTunes use a method called AccurateRip to verify the accuracy of your rip vs. other people's rips which I have found very useful. AccurateRip will also rapidly identify a drive that generates multiple errors while ripping.
    2. What format to rip in. Hard drive space is cheap. FLAC or ALAC.
    3. How to file everything in a sensible fashion. This is infinitely configurable on any of the major ripping programs. Personally, each disc I rip ends up in its own folder labelled, artist - album\track number. title. As soon as you encounter compilations you may find this needs tweaking.
    4. Tagging. dBPoweramp uses multiple sources for metadata (track names, artist names etc) and is arguably the best at getting this right quickly. It also does a pretty good job at finding album artwork to embed with your files and makes it easy to add your own artwork if need be.
    5. Backing up. I generally only ripped CDs when I was using my computer for other things, but a large collection will take many months to rip and you do not want to lose all that due to a hard drive failure. All hard drives fail eventually. All of them. Make multiple backups and keep one off site (e.g. at work).

    There will be things I have missed, I am sure. The developer of dBPoweramp has this link which might be worth following:

    Spoon's Audio Guide: CD Ripping

    I have no financial interest in dBPoweramp by the way; I have just been ripping CDs with it for years and find it effective and easy to use. I am sure the alternatives are equally effective.
    jasn, RhodyDave125, tin ears and 3 others like this.
  10. Randoms

    Randoms Aerie Faerie Nonsense

    I second all of this, again I have no financial interest in dBpoweramp, but have recommended it to friends and family. As @Sevoflurane has mentioned, there is a learning curve, but it can be set up to automate so much for you.

    I too put each disc in it's own folder, with a Folder.jpg and all CDs singles, multiple CDs and compilations are handled with one naming string. Paste the same album name for each CD and populate Disc 1/3, 2/3, 3/3 job done, easy!

    You can easily set art size, both pixel and file size to work for you, and you can capitalise first letter, or smart capitalise to give a consistent look without any effort.

    As it is fast becoming the standard, recommend flac unless you using Apple, in which case ALAC may be the better option. Apple is slowly beginning to accept FLAC, and it is more efficient (smaller file size) than ALAC

    As others have mentioned, 320kbps can sound excellent, especially with the LAME encoder, however, once you have used lossy compression, you can never get that information back.

    With a good program, you can convert a FLAC to ALAC, mp3 at any bitrate you choose, keeping the lossless library and creating a lossy one for portable use. These days with the ever increasing memory card sizes, even this is becoming less necessary.

    It really is worth reading and having a play before diving in, as it can save a lot of work. I wasted a lot of time by not understanding sort tags, with a bit of planning and understanding, I stupidly didn't read the help guides, you can get it right first time.

    I use full-size internal DVD drives used externally via an USB powered sata / ide (pata) adaptor. You can pick up these drives for next to nothing, and it is good to have two or three. I was given two free, had some I'd removed from PC towers. The most I've spent on a drive is £12. Thus set up has successfully ripped over 3,500 CDs.

    With a lossless rip with AccurateRip and good tags, with a couple of backups you are set once and for all.

    Edit. I have to say that most of my knowledge came from the fantastic help from the dBpoweramp forum. If you decide on EAC, XLD, dBpoweramp or any other good ripping software, it is far better to ask what you may consider a "dumb" question, or do a Google search for the answer, rather than dive in, make a mistake, and need to start again...
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2018
    RhodyDave125 and Sevoflurane like this.
  11. vinylontubes

    vinylontubes Forum Resident

    Katy, TX
    MP3 made sense when Hard Drives were expensive. They aren't now. Ripping to FLAC take the same amount of time as MP3. No point in ripping to MP3. If you need MP3, convert the FLAC files as copies. Obviously you need a CD drive. Buy a good one. Error correction from transport jitter will make ripping very annoying and extend the time it takes to rip your library.

    Tagging will become an issue. If you intend to use individual files becomes more of a chore. You would do this if you use playlists or randomize files your portable device. Use something like tagMP3 if you need this. Tagging allows your software to access song titles, artist, track number, album titles and album cover art as metadata. You have to add this to each file.

    Be aware of whether or not your player is gapless. This will determine how you should rip your files. You can either rip to individual tracks if you player is gapless. If it isn't, a single file with cue sheets may be a better solution.
    RhodyDave125 likes this.
  12. Randoms

    Randoms Aerie Faerie Nonsense

    Hopefully these days there are very few players left that can't cope with gapless playback. For over a decade this has been resolved by many, and current player really isn't fit for purpose.

    Mp3tag is an excellent, but most of what you are suggesting can be done pre-rip with a good program and a little planning. A minute or so spent before hitting rip can mean that no later work is required. Each to their own to achieve the desired results, but I rarely have to do any tagging or editing post rip.

    Apart from the obvious Artist and Album, I quickly check cover art, Genre, Year, hit capitalise all (first letter of each word) and add sort tags, if required.

    I could use a DSP to perform Capitalise all, but would lose the WYSIWYG, so only use the Replay Gain tag DSP.

    There are several ways to do this, several right and many more wrong. If it is at all possible, do it once, do it right makes the most sense. I think the biggest thing to contemplate, is how you want your personal music library to work, coupled with the quirks of an individual player.

    These days not handling gapless isn't a quirk, it is to my mind broken.
    TarnishedEars likes this.
  13. dkmonroe

    dkmonroe A completely self-taught idiot

    Sevoflurane and Randoms like this.
  14. jeffmackwood

    jeffmackwood Forum Resident

    And I think that most people who think most of those who say they cannot hear the difference simply do not know what to listen for have deficient thought processors.

  15. Randoms

    Randoms Aerie Faerie Nonsense

    EAC is excellent and the help pages have improved massively since I last looked.

    I personally believe the no brainer is ripping to a lossless format which gives an AccurateRip, if you are taking the time to rip your CDs. Even if 320kbps Lame may be good enough for some, with storage being so cheap, it makes sense to have a lossless copy. Once that music information has gone, it's gone.....

    For some, there may be features in XLD and dBpoweramp, which really is the Swiss army knife of programs, that is worth the fairly small cost. I certainly don't think that as a free program there is anything wrong with EAC, and it gives you the all important AccurateRip, but there are many things that dBpoweramp offers, and with it's more user friendly interface, that may make it worth the outlay for some.
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2018
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  16. chili555

    chili555 Forum Resident

    I am a Linux user. I recommend and use the rather straightforward program abcde; A Better CD Encoder.

    How to rip an audio CD into flac
  17. Randoms

    Randoms Aerie Faerie Nonsense

    Have you any ideas on how you are going to play the files back?

    One of the biggest disappointments I have regarding digital playback and players, is the lack of standardisation regarding tags. You don't want to spend the time added all types of sort tags, only for the player not to use them.
  18. Grant

    Grant A Brady-Boomer Musical Free-Spirit

    Well then, I will say that people who say they can't hear the difference have bad hearing or unresolving gear. Then, they will get angry.
    TarnishedEars likes this.
  19. dlokazip

    dlokazip Forum Transient

    Austin, TX, USA
    What will your car play?
  20. Sevoflurane

    Sevoflurane Forum Resident

    West Yorkshire
    Good point. Not many cars play FLAC or ALAC. When I rip CDs I have dBPoweramp set to rip an mp3 version for my car into a separate folder, as well as a lossless version. I can then just drag and drop mp3 folders into a USB stick for car playback. Works fine. Many ripping programs also have format converters so you can batch convert into mp3 for car playback.
    dlokazip likes this.
  21. Grant

    Grant A Brady-Boomer Musical Free-Spirit

    I can play lossless WMA files in my car. The difference between lossless and mp3 is like night and day to me.
    TarnishedEars likes this.
  22. Joey_Corleone

    Joey_Corleone Forum Resident

    Rockford, MI
    My advice is to put a good amount of thought into exactly what you want and how you will organize so that you can rip once.

    - Use a reputable program that can do perfect rips. I recommend EAC or dbPoweramp. Put time into learning how to use them

    - Compress to a lossless format. With storage costs what they are, no excuse not to, and you have files you can uncompress back to perfect originals forever

    - Have a metadata tagging plan ahead of time and stuck to it. Do it right the first time

    - Have a plan for backups

    Good luck
    jasn, Spitfire, Grant and 1 other person like this.
  23. jonwoody

    jonwoody Well-Known Member

    Washington DC
    Another vote here for dBpoweramp great easy to use ripping software also comes with File Converter so you can always convert a Flac to mp3 or vice versa or any other format. To those who can't here a difference between 320kbps mp3 and Flac I am personally mystified. I find mp3's generally greyer sounding and not as cohesive musically. But everyone's ears are different I guess. Good luck ripping and enjoy streaming your music!
  24. L.P.

    L.P. Forum Resident

    Hearing a difference between 320kbit/s MP3 and Flac is probably nearly impossible, if you do a real double blindtest. Some people claim to hear a difference. Be that as it may, I doubt that even if you could detect which is which, that little difference would not give you a better sound. You would just know what to listen for, detect some artifacts that others did not.

    But definitely rip to Flac. It's not lossy and you can later convert it to any other future format you may need. I guess.
    snowman872, Coltrane811 and klockwerk like this.
  25. Grant

    Grant A Brady-Boomer Musical Free-Spirit

    Fixed that for you.
    jonwoody likes this.

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