Software for copying CDs to computer
June 9, 2009 8:27 AM   Subscribe

What's the best software for turning CDs into music files for any kind of player including Ipods and cellphones?

Finally embarking on copying my CD collection to the computer. I've got an ipod but want the flexibility to put songs on my cellphone too. Have a Mac and a PC. What's the most versatile reliable approach to get the best quality file? Will Itunes work or should I avoid? Thanks for your help!
posted by tonci to Technology (24 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I believe itunes can rip songs from a CD in mp3 format, which should play on most devices.

Instructions for WinXP

1. Click Edit -> Preferences
2. Under the General Tab, Click the Import Settings button
3. Under Import Using select the MP3 Encoder
4. Press OK, then Press OK again
posted by royalsong at 8:35 AM on June 9, 2009

posted by Freedomboy at 8:36 AM on June 9, 2009

Exact Audio Copy or DBPowerAmp. If it doesn't have AccurateRip and advanced error correction capabilities, it ain't shit. Nero's standalone AAC encoder is very good (on par with or better than the one in iTunes, depending on which test you rely on), as is the LAME mp3 encoder, and both apps can use either.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 8:39 AM on June 9, 2009

Stridently seconding EAC/LAME.
posted by box at 8:50 AM on June 9, 2009

EAC/LAME is my preferred choice. Follow this easy guide.
posted by Uncle Jimmy at 8:53 AM on June 9, 2009

Third for EAC.
posted by Max Power at 9:01 AM on June 9, 2009

Best answer: Actually, Uncle Jimmy, that guide is out of date by a long way. Everyone should be working from (with adaptations to suit their particular needs) the one at the following mirrors:
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 9:01 AM on June 9, 2009 [2 favorites]

Nthing EAC/LAME on Windows (guide) or XLD and LAME on Mac. LAME is widely regarded as the best sounding mp3 encoder at any bitrate - noticeably better than iTunes.

However since you ask for best quality, I'll suggest encoding to FLAC for a truly future-proof lossless rip - just in case technology gets better, or your HiFi budget ever goes up ;) You can easily transcode from FLAC to a lossy mp3 / AAC format for portable use, the only cost being harddisk space which is pretty cheap these days. If you want to research more peruse the Hydrogen Audio forums.
posted by dirm at 9:13 AM on June 9, 2009

There aren't many portable players that support FLAC though, if any. It's good for archiving, but you still need to convert it to another format if you want to take your music away from your PC.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 9:42 AM on June 9, 2009

Duh, nevermind, you made that point and my eyes skipped right over it.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 9:43 AM on June 9, 2009

worth noting: mp3 fidelity often gets a bad rap because so many mp3s are ripped at too low a bitrate. This was the case with all my early rips. I now do all my ripping at 256 kbps and my ears are entirely satisfied.

In Itunes, the way to set this up is:


and then under SETTINGS, choose CUSTOM. A drop down menu then lets you choose your bitrate.

Hope that makes sense.
posted by philip-random at 9:46 AM on June 9, 2009

With mp3 ripping, there is simply NO reason to use anything other than LAME and anything other than variable bitrate (VBR) mode.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 10:15 AM on June 9, 2009

If you're really concerned with getting bit-perfect rips (or nearly so), then definitely go the EAC/dbPowerAmp route. EAC is free, dbPowerAmp isn't, as far as I know.

If you choose EAC and follow the guide Inspector.Gadget linked to, I suggest using the "Burst" extraction method instead of "Secure" (see the green box in this page of the guide). It is a lot faster which is welcome if you're ripping a large number of CDs.

I also advise ripping to tracks because if you happen to encounter any errors during ripping it is far easier to just re-rip the offending track(s) than the whole CD again.

If disk space isn't a problem, rip to lossless files, as dirm recommended. And be sure to have your ripping strategy (audio formats, tagging criteria, adding ReplayGain if you're interested) well planned before starting, it's better to lose a bit more time at the beginning than having to re-do everything midway through.

Hydrogen Audio is indeed a great resource, user Greynol's posts regarding EAC are particularly insightful.

Good luck!
posted by Bangaioh at 10:16 AM on June 9, 2009

If I can piggyback onto this question which has become about quality as much as method, I really like the mention above of using advanced error correction and AccurateRip, but say you want to go to the Apple Lossless Codec, which WILL play on iPods and has close to the quality of FLAC...can these softwares still work or am I only using iTunes?
posted by arniec at 10:27 AM on June 9, 2009

but say you want to go to the Apple Lossless Codec, which WILL play on iPods and has close to the quality of FLAC...can these softwares still work or am I only using iTunes?

Let's get one thing straight first: FLAC = ALAC = CDDA. Lossless is lossless. They all sound exactly the same and will decode to be bit-identical PCM data.

You can encode to ALAC (after ripping to WAV or FLAC with EAC) using Xrecode or encode to ALAC directly with EAC using ffmpeg.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 10:30 AM on June 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

MP3 is the most ubiquitous audio standard in existence. It's not bad. It's not great, but it's pretty good. And it works with everything. And, it's not going anywhere anytime soon. I never found a ripper I like more than CDex. It's crazy easy and makes some pretty nice mp3s.

Honestly, since you have all the original discs, I don't see any reason whatsoever to rip to FLAC/other lossless, then to mp3. Seems like a waste of time and hard drive space. But that's just me.
posted by General Malaise at 11:00 AM on June 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

I used to be an EAC fan, but I finally shelled out a few bucks for dbPoweramp. It's worth it.
posted by mikeand1 at 11:22 AM on June 9, 2009

I'm not sure why everyone hates on iTunes. It rips MP3s fine (set it under the preferences) and will organize everything in a reasonable way automatically. If you are a perfectionist and want everything "just-so", iTunes will probably not be what you what.
posted by chairface at 11:37 AM on June 9, 2009

You're insane if you use anything but EAC. LAMEs V0 mp3 quality is really good and will work on phones and iPods.
posted by turkeyphant at 11:52 AM on June 9, 2009

Encoding options should be selected based on two key factors: desired quality, and how much HD space you want to/can use. If you aren't going to be listening to music in a really quiet or closed-off setting, you'll probably survive with a lower bitrate. If you have a lot of CDs but limited hard drive space, or want to fit everything on a smaller iPod capacity, you'll be looking at lower bitrates. Higher compression (lower bitrates) means smaller files, but also decreasing audio quality. Plenty more details on Wikipedia.

Lossless encoding is handy if you have plenty of space and only want to rip things once, but are willing to compress the files for playback on other systems. Few stand-alone players support lossless compression formats, usually because the files are so big that you'll need a lot more storage space for any decent amount of music.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:47 PM on June 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Here's some info on EAC vs iTunes encoding. EAC and others assure accurate copying of data from CD to HD. iTunes focuses more on speedy encoding, less on quality assurance, both in copying music from CD to hard drive, and in compression of audio.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:50 PM on June 9, 2009

For making ringtones out of normal music files I like
posted by Kellydamnit at 4:53 PM on June 9, 2009

With mp3 ripping, there is simply NO reason to use anything other than LAME and anything other than variable bitrate (VBR) mode.
Not all mp3 players support VBR, as I discovered after ripping about 50 CDs.
posted by Miss Otis' Egrets at 6:20 PM on June 9, 2009

Not all mp3 players support VBR, as I discovered after ripping about 50 CDs.

Yet another example:
Had you ripped to lossless, it would have been trivial to convert to constant bit rate mp3, ogg, mp4, wma, or whatever other format you desire. Your originals stay the best possible quality, and you can reconvert to any suitable format as the need arises.

I'd rather pay for the disc space than the time taken to re-rip CDs that take up space and might get lost / damaged etc.

There's little point in listening to lossless music on a portable bacuse aside from the size issues as have been pointed out, the environment is usually sub-optimal. However, the advantages of having lossless 'originals' far outweighs any negatives IMO, but to each their own.
posted by dirm at 10:19 AM on June 10, 2009

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