Ripping problem CDs
January 10, 2014 12:36 PM   Subscribe

Are there super-capable external drives out there that can read problem CDs? Which brands/models are they?

So we've been digitizing our music collection, and I've got a handful of discs that are causing problems. Most of them have just a couple of tracks that can't be read - and ALWAYS at the end of the disc - but a few have more (one disc can't be read at all, another is unreadable for half). When I say "unreadable" I mean iTunes (latest update in 10.8) seeks, endlessly, trying to do anything with the track, and eventually stops responding. I don't think it's DRM because most of these date from the mid-90s. They DO play fine in a regular audio player. I also think they might be readable with a better CD drive - some of these can't be read at all in my iMac drive, but a little external USB drive I borrowed got through most of it just fine.
posted by curious nu to Technology (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Have you tried other ripping software? CDex (free) has been my favourite for years.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 12:42 PM on January 10, 2014

Exact Audio Copy is the gold standard for perfect CD rips, but it's Windows only. Here's a couple of lists of Mac alternatives: AccurateRip and alternativeto. What you want is a program that will repeatedly try to re-read the track if it gets an error. This will correct for transient errors in the CD reading hardware.

I think what you're asking is if there's CD reading hardware that's particularly good at dealing with scratched or thin CD media. I don't know the answer to that, sorry. But given your CDs play well in regular audio players you may not need to go that route, just use some software that's smarter than iTunes at dealing with minor errors.
posted by Nelson at 1:51 PM on January 10, 2014

CDex (the windows program recommended above) is built on top of the paranoia library, which used to be the gold standard back when I was doing a lot of ripping (think 90s). I gather it was developed for a long while after that, until 2008. It's the tool I would reach for in your situation. I used to run it text-only on Linux, but there are Mac versions.

Here is a list of other software based on same.

If the paranoia library can't extract the music data off the drive, it's just not there. It can also tell you a lot more about any problems it may run into.
posted by tigrrrlily at 2:28 PM on January 10, 2014

You could try buying one of the external drives from this list. They might have a better chance of reading a damaged disk.

Otherwise try the trick with toothpaste or Brasso to de-scratch the disk surface yourself. The end of the disk it the edge, not the middle.
posted by nevan at 2:55 PM on January 10, 2014

X Lossless Decoder is your friend on the Mac.
posted by scruss at 5:33 PM on January 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

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