CDs, Lots of beloved CDs What to do? What to do?
May 15, 2020 3:17 PM   Subscribe

My 400+ CD collection is outrageously great. Don't want to sell as a collection or individually. I'd like to be able to enjoy them again by transferring to..? I know they're probably mostly available on Spotify, Pandora, etc. Have PC, no Mac or ITunes but would throw some money (and time!) to solve this. What would you do? Thanks in advance.
posted by lois1950 to Technology (21 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
If you get a USB CD drive (or if you still have a computer that has one) you can rip all your CDs and then put them on a Network Attached Storage drive (Wirecutter recommends a Synology DiskStation DS218+ ) that will act as a home media server- you can then stream your CDs from your phone, you computer, etc etc.
posted by rockindata at 3:41 PM on May 15 [6 favorites]

Well, if you were willing to dual boot your PC to Linux, and if you were in a jurisdiction where this is permissible, and if you have a CD drive (or get a USB CD drive as rockindata mentioned) you could use this command:

ripit --bitrate 192 -e --playlist 0 --disable-paranoia 2 -o ~/Music

which will rip the tracks from the currently inserted CD at 192k bit rate, eject the disk when finished, not create an M3U playlist, disable the paranoia subsystem if a track is really unreadable and send the MP3s to you user's Music directory.

This assumes your distro includes lame to create the MP3s, or that you can download it.

Note that ripit will go to the internet to attempt to get the track list and album information for you.

I am not saying that this is the only way to Rip CDs, just that it might be the easiest way to do 400. Others may chime in with other approaches.
posted by forthright at 3:46 PM on May 15 [3 favorites]

I ripped my largish CD collection to flac format on my linux PC using ripit. On Windows I believe you can just use the Windows media player to rip. I had to buy an external hard drive because I ran out of space for the new audio files on the internal drive. I really should get another for backup. (I still have the CDs as a backup of course, but ripping them is time consuming, and I wouldn't want to have to do it again.)

I listen via a Behringer DAC on my stereo system. Sounds great. Most portable music players now support flac, too.
posted by bertran at 3:48 PM on May 15 [1 favorite]

Yeah, you do need a cd rom drive to rip cds; perfectly fine ones are very inexpensive these days.
posted by bertran at 3:52 PM on May 15 [1 favorite]

I forgot to mention this: please explain it to me as if I'm 70.
posted by lois1950 at 3:58 PM on May 15 [11 favorites]

Being well past 70 myself, it just means you should have the time to collect them all into digital form. This requires a computer and and CD drive. The DVD/CD drive these days is an external device that plugs into the computer's USB port. With Windows as your operating system you will have Microsoft's Media Player (wmplayer.exe) It can be set to rip any CD plugged into your DVD/CD drive and eject it when it's complete. It will store the CD's music in it's own folder named from the recording artist and album name.

How to set up Windows Media player for your specific circumstances is a bit beyond this forum but check out this link for some typical instruction using FLAC as your recording process (in order to have the best audio output).
posted by ptm at 4:35 PM on May 15 [3 favorites]

What is your goal?

I'd like to be able to enjoy them again by transferring to..?

This suggests you don't currently have a CD player & home stereo system to listen to them on.

You could buy a reasonable quality bookshelf system - small CD player/receiver/amplifier with a couple of speakers - for about $200-$400 and just listen to your CD's "old-school."

If your computer (is it a desktop? a laptop?) has a CD/DVD drive (or you buy an external USB CD drive) you can get some better speakers or headphones, connect them to your computer, play the CD's from the drive.

Windows Media Player that is included in Windows will rip (copy) CD's. You can use it to play CD's direct from the CD drive.

If you're primarily interested in preservation and/or backup you can rip the CD's to your computer in a variety of file formats - WAV format is "lossless" as in literally the same fidelity as the actual CD. WAV files are the largest size of file - about 11 megabytes per minute of music - so 400+ CDs could eat up a lot of hard drive space; you might want to think about an external hard drive for storage, depending on the size & free space on your current hard drive.

Once the music is ripped to your computer you can use Windows Media to play the music & organize your collection, to some extent. (At the very least, you can play the albums as is via the files on your hard drive.)

If you're looking to listen to the music on a portable device, like your phone, you'll probably want a smaller file than WAV, the usual format is mp3. Creating mp3 files makes the music file much smaller by doing some fiddly stuff that reduces the fidelity of the music. Some people notice this and care, lots of people don't. People who notice and care tend to use the FLAC file format already mentioned.

If your music is already in the computer as WAV files, you can convert it to mp3 using VLC, a totally free and safe media player program. You can also use VLC to organize & playback your music. (Works fine as a playback program, I've never used it to organize.)
posted by soundguy99 at 4:52 PM on May 15 [8 favorites]

I'm in the same boat, lois1950, and if it's not hijacking your question, I'd love to hear some knowledgeable people chime in on MediaPlayer vs. Exact Audio Copy. I'm looking forward to getting my many, many CDs ripped and playing through my Sonos speakers.
posted by kate4914 at 5:01 PM on May 15

IMO best practice would be archive them to FLAC, then make a second "traveling" archive out of mp3's or oggs or whatever your chosen lossy format is. The traveling files are what you put onto your phone or music player. If you delete them or lose them or whatever, it's not the end of the world as they can be recreated from the perfect FLAC files. The FLAC files are your "gold standard", your reference files which you guard forever against data loss by having multiple copies of the FLAC archive in multiple places. This is what I do.

For 400 CDs the ballpark estimate for a FLAC archive would be about 200 GB, and maybe about 70 GB for 320kbps MP3s, but this can vary greatly based on what the actually musical data contains.

This is sort of a tricky topic to ELI70 because there are a lot of options and layers to this sort of thing and because there are so many different options, the kinds of folks who like to dig into this topic all have their own individual preferences. It's the confluence of computer nerds and audiophiles.
posted by glonous keming at 5:18 PM on May 15 [6 favorites]

(My math was off on the estimate of 200 GB, I think the rough average of 700 MB for an audio CD. Rip that to FLAC should be roughly half that size, so 350 MB, then that times 400. 140 GB I think.)
posted by glonous keming at 5:31 PM on May 15 [1 favorite]

There are also CD ripping services. I have never used one, and I cannot in any way attest to the quality of their service, but one such company is: MusicShifter. There are others, and their prices generally converge around $0.69 to $1.30 per CD depending on quality and extra services, search widely before deciding.
posted by aramaic at 8:42 PM on May 15

I bought a lifetime license to MediaMonkey for pretty cheap, it is better than the horrible iTunes for Windows in every way. I use it to rip my CDs unless I have one that is in pretty bad shape, in which case I switch to EAC, which takes longer but can recover data much better. MediaMonkey includes accu-rip, which compares your rip to an online database so you can tell if it has errors or not. Personally I only use FLAC for good sounding CDs, mostly jazz and classical. For rock/pop I usually rip to 320 kbps MP3, which sounds pretty much the same as FLAC to my old ears. If you want to buy a CD player and hook it to your stereo you have to watch out for old ones that might have mechanical issues or laser problems. You can also use a older DVD player for CDs in a pinch. Not all old CD players go bad, our Pioneer that we bought in 1990 still works and sounds great.
posted by rfs at 10:15 PM on May 15 [1 favorite]

Did you buy any of these CDs from Amazon? For purchases of physical audio formats from 1998, Amazon will give you the digital version for free too. I believe it's called the AutoRIp scheme.
posted by teststrip at 11:05 PM on May 15 [2 favorites]

When you say that you would like to be able to enjoy your CDs again, at the end of your labours, you need to think about what that will mean for you. If you rip your music collection then you will have created another copy of it - good for resilience - and you will also have made it quicker to find a particular track or album. All that is positive - but, for me, the real benefit of having an online collection is that it allows you to listen to it in ways that give me new insight into the music itself.

So here is my suggestion: after you have ripped your collection and stored it somewhere, download Google Play Music and let it crawl through your collection and upload it online. You need only use the free version of the service for this - but it will mean you have another copy of your collection in the cloud in case your hard drive or NAS has problems. You can listen to your collection from any PC or from a mobile device. But the best feature is that you can select any track and choose “Start Instant Mix”. Google will now create a playlist from your collection that starts from the track you have chosen and then chooses other music that goes with it. The effect is like having - a musically knowledgeable friend- wade through your CD collection and compile a list. That, to me, is a great new way of enjoying the music I’ve collected.
posted by rongorongo at 1:39 AM on May 16 [3 favorites]

This is what a Brennan box is for. Put the CD in the slot, and it downloads and stores all the tracks in lossless format. Then you can control all the content – e.g., create playlists or pick out individual songs from albums – with a PC/laptop/tablet. It's about £210 GBP for a 32gb box that holds 10,000 tracks: easily 400 CDs.
posted by MinPin at 7:03 AM on May 16 [2 favorites]

I ripped all my CDs to digital files many years ago. If you're willing to spend a few hundred bucks a ripping service is by far the best way; they'll do good quality and be a lot simpler. I used Ready To Play and they were great but it was over 10 years ago, can't vouch for them now.

The other question is then how do you play these local digital files. You're going to need some new computer or device hooked to your stereo. The hard part of this is the user interface, making it easy for you to find the music you want. I love Sonos for this but it's a whole thing you have to buy into.

Various streaming music services have "match" functions where you let them scan your local music collection and then they add it to your collection online if you own it. Both Apple and Google still offer this; I've only used Amazon's service which has been discontinued. More info here.
posted by Nelson at 8:04 AM on May 16 [2 favorites]

(When you do eventually get this done, make a backup of your ripped music files, so when one of the drives in your NAS fails, and you discover you did a dumb thing like set your NAS up as RAID 0 instead of RAID 1 and you lose all of your ripped cd files because RAID 0 does not protect you in case of drive failure, (in short so when the worst happens), you won’t have to spend scores of hours re-ripping your collection.)
posted by notyou at 10:44 AM on May 16

Part of the joy in listening to a CD (or a vinyl record) is putting it into a machine, pressing play and being able to just sit back and listen to the whole album. You don't have to login to a computer or stare at a screen or figure out some bit of software which is going to randomly jump you into listening to a completely different album.

Listening to digital MP3's is a very different experience, it isnt better or worse but it is different. If you want to re-experience listening to CDs then just buy a CD player.
posted by Lanark at 12:43 PM on May 16 [1 favorite]

I am currently in the middle of re-converting my large CD library again and after much trial and error, here is what I came up with as the best overall solution. It does require some time and purchasing software, but it is by far the best way to convert (and backup) your CD's.

First, determine what format you want to convert your music to. There are advantages / disadvantages to just about all the formats. I chose ALAC (Apple Lossless...M4A file type) for multiple reasons. It's a lossless format, like WAV and FLAC. It's compressed, like FLAC, so file sizes aren't as large. However, FLAC cannot be used by iTunes. Granted, I am not an iPhone owner, I do have an iPod that I wanted to load the music onto and take with me. Plus, I just wanted a Lossless format that could be used on the most devices possible to ensure future proofing my work.

One thing to consider with WAV files. In my experience, WAV files have issues hanging onto the song meta data (album art, artist / album info, etc). I did an initial test when I was determining the format I wanted and could not get WAV file to accurately keep the meta data in the sound file. Having accurate and complete song information was important to me, so WAV was out for me.

The best choice for conversion software is dBpoweramp ( It does cost money, but it gives you a decent trial period to ensure the software meets your needs. It is well worth the money you spend and it is a complete solution. A lot of the responses you received mentioned Windows Media Player, which I used for many years and initially used when I decided to re-convert my library, but realized there are much better options. dBpoweramp does an excellent job of of providing options when you convert your CDs. There are multiple options when selecting the album and track listings and album art. It can determine which of your CDs were encoded as HDCD and compensate for the higher sound quality and on and on. It does an exceptional job of writing the meta data into the file and really is an exceptional piece of software. I have had no regrets and recently purchased the upgrade the newest version.

Here are some additional resources I've discovered that I have found to be very helpful. Be sure and use / download these programs / web sites:

-- MP3Tag ( to fix any issues yo find with the meta data. It's free and works with just about every file available. Incredibly helpful for fixing album art, or misspellings, or multiple other fixes.

-- ( The best place to go to get high quality album art for your music files. I use it for finding the artwork for virtually every album I convert.

-- DVD Audio Extractor ( you have music DVDs and want to convert those to music files, this is by far the best software for the job. It costs money, but well worth it.

-- PowerISO ( This is the only solution I have found to create a backup of CDs. It does an excellent job and well worth the money.

Hopefully that helps. I am still working through converting my library, so feel free to reach if you have questions.
posted by LooneyBrunes at 9:16 AM on May 17 [1 favorite]

My story is similar to glonous keming and LooneyBrunes, I'm midway through a large collection (almost 60% complete after a year and a half, on and off):

On a Windows 10 PC, I rip to FLAC using EAC (Exact Audio Copy) to an external multi-terabyte hard drive.

I use a purchased copy of MediaMonkey to convert from lossless FLAC to low-rate MP3s to copy to my phone, tablet and SanDisc portable MP3 player for on-the-go listening.

Occasionally, I swear at EAC's metadata providers when they can't find cover art to download and apply to the rip. Search for possible cover art at, download the image, use MediaMonkey to tag files with appropriate image.

Every couple of months back up what I've ripped to a second external multi-terabyte hard drive.

Thank my lucky stars I have access to a university library with an awesomely large media section. Bit rot is a thing. Some of my discs are old, some were bought used. When one holds a disc up to the light and sees multiple pinpricks of light shining through, no program that I'm aware of will fill in the missing blanks. I am OK borrowing the same exact version from the library as the physical version I own and copy the borrowed version. Your ethics may not allow for this.
posted by a person of few words at 12:05 PM on May 17 [1 favorite]

> no program that I'm aware of will fill in the missing blanks

Such a thing does exist, CUETools can repair rips of damaged CDs if the relevant disc is in the CUETools Database:
How many errors can a rip contain and still be repairable?

That depends. The best case scenario is when there's one continuous damaged area up to 30-40 sectors (about half a second) long for most discs. As of CTDB 2.0, one continuous damaged area up to about 75 sectors (a second) on popular discs.
The worst case scenario is 4 non-continuous damaged sectors in (very) unlucky positions.
posted by Bangaioh at 2:40 PM on May 17

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