CD ripping format advice
April 24, 2004 11:02 AM   Subscribe

It's time to take the plunge and rip my hundreds upon hundreds of CDs that are only getting scratchier by the day. So, what format should I digitize them in? (More inside.)

Considerations: 1) I don't have an Ipod but may buy one. 2) Mainly, this is to preserve my music for the ages; what format is here to stay? 3) I may want to burn my own mix CDs now and then. 4) What's easy? 5) Apologies if this has been asked before.
posted by _sirmissalot_ to Computers & Internet (22 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Whatever you do, encode them at a higher quality than you think you'll need. Downgrading your digital files later to create a smaller set is a lot easier than re-encoding all your CDs at a higher quality once you realize they sound crappy.

Personal recommendation: MP3 at 256kbps variable. MP3 is the most widely supported format, it's flexible, it's very likely here to stay. Ogg and ACC have their quality merits, but aren't as portable in the real world.
posted by scarabic at 11:06 AM on April 24, 2004

I did the same thing a while back using CDex and ripping to mp3 format. Was time consuming, but well worth it in the end.
posted by jmd82 at 11:14 AM on April 24, 2004

wouldn't using an uncompressed format make more sense? once they're on disk you can automate the generation of compressed copies, keeping the uncompressed originals as archives. or is disk space an issue (presumably they'll compress as files)?

i think wav is uncompressed (or, at least, can be).
posted by andrew cooke at 11:23 AM on April 24, 2004

FLAC, APE, or other loss-less compression is another possibility if disk-space isn't limited.
posted by TimeFactor at 11:34 AM on April 24, 2004

Response by poster: Andrew, I've got about 25 gigs I can set aside for this. Need to rip between 200-300 CDs; I have no idea if this will be enough for uncompressed files. I'm pretty unknowledgeable about this whole deal.
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 11:37 AM on April 24, 2004

Response by poster: jmd82, that CDex program looks good -- anyone else recommend it? I have the standard stuff already (on my Dell); Roxio, Itunes, Quicktime, WinAmp.
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 11:42 AM on April 24, 2004

If you only have 25GB to work with, you won't have enough space for uncompressed files (WAV or AIFF) so I'd go with MP3.
posted by gwint at 11:53 AM on April 24, 2004

Definately go for flac. That way the music you save is equivalent to what was on the CDs, and you can reencode for whatever happens to be the format your iPod wants in 2025. It'll cost (very rough estimate) 350MB hour though, so 25G won't quite cut it.

On preview: CDex is very popular, though I think the best bet for accurate ripping is Exact Audio Copy. (It's a windows program, but they claim it runs under wine). I'm by no means an expert in this area though, so if someone would like to confirm, please.
posted by fvw at 11:53 AM on April 24, 2004

CDex also highly recommended here.
posted by quonsar at 11:55 AM on April 24, 2004

ah. time to buy a new disk.

just to check - you do understand the difference between lossless and lossy compression? what i was suggesting with wav files is equivalent to flac or ape (but they'd be better because the compression is targetted at audio files).

how does cdparanoia compare to cdex and exact audio copy?
posted by andrew cooke at 12:00 PM on April 24, 2004

I did this using 128 kbps AAC for the most part and I'm not sorry (yet).

I use itunes, for its ability to rip, and the ipod interface.

Disk space was an issue. And double what you think you'll need for whatever you do, because you're going to want to run frequent automated backups on that data (ripping 300 CDs should be a once-in-a-lifetime experience).
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 1:07 PM on April 24, 2004

25 Gigs probably isn't enough for 300 CDs even as MP3s. You should buy a 120GB hard drive and rip them with Exact Audio Copy (widely considered to be the best ripper). Store them as FLAC, which is lossless, and then (or simultaneously) convert them to a popular lossy standard (probably MP3) at an adequate bitrate for how (what equipment, what environment) you'll be listening to them (probably variable 192).
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 1:28 PM on April 24, 2004

CDEx, 160 bitrate is fine for me.
posted by gramcracker at 2:51 PM on April 24, 2004

If you're going to be ripping a few hundred CDs, you want to do it right. Here's a guide on how to set up your computer for ripping MP3s that sound fantastic.
posted by Jairus at 3:51 PM on April 24, 2004

Response by poster: jairus, that link takes you to a t-shirt company (?)
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 4:12 PM on April 24, 2004

Apart from space, the big potential drawback I see to using lossless compression is that it may not be as easy to just play them. MP3 can be played in anything; MP4, well, anything on a Mac, I think, and iTunes on Windows (does WinAmp support it?). Windows media is popular but restricted. But I'm not aware of convenient players for formats like Shorten, making it much harder to actually use your ripped music.

A regular, full-length CD is about 650 MB (in practice, most CDs are smaller). Shorten files are about 50% of this. If you ripped MP3s at 320 Kbps (very high res), you'd still only need about 30%.
posted by adamrice at 4:41 PM on April 24, 2004

Holy crap, so it does. Let's try this again.
posted by Jairus at 5:01 PM on April 24, 2004

Jairus' link basically seems to say "use Exact Audio Copy and lame. If you can, use a freedb mirror for automatic metadata lookup."
posted by kenko at 5:36 PM on April 24, 2004

"lame --alt-preset standard" is good enough for most purposes, I reckon (I never could understand people using formats like FLAC just to listen to the songs through PC speakers or bud-earphones...). It's a variable bit-rate setting which is widely regarded as the best quality/size balance. Tracks generally come out about 200kbps average, but it depends on the style of music really. If you're really keen try --alt-preset extreme.

Exact Audio Copy is great software. Fast, will encode to any format (if you have the encoder installed). Cdparanoia on Linux (and front-ends like Grip) is also great - a bit slower than EAC, I find, but great at ripping scratched / copy-protected CDs.
posted by Jimbob at 6:00 PM on April 24, 2004

Response by poster: the way i figure it, the CDs themselves are the uncompressed data file that i can always go back to if i need to.

sounds like a high bit-rate MP3 will do the best job for what i want. some good advice on how to rip the CDs, thanks. i guess i'll try both Exact Audio Copy and CDex.
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 6:44 PM on April 24, 2004

Be sure to try different quality settings and actually listen to the output on headphones and speakers, etc. Bass-heavy music can really suffer from MP3 compression. Experiment with different music at different settings to find what will be listenable for you. My advice is to err higher on bitrate. 160 is listenable for most stuff, but definitely less than ideal. 192 is better. 256 is near perfect for most purposes. Using a variable bit rate will save some space.
posted by scarabic at 11:22 PM on April 24, 2004

FWIW space-wise, I have 401 CDs ripped on my computer currently (192k, LAME, CDEx and/or EAC). Total space is very near to 30G, so with some statistical recalculation you could probably find the average disk space for (n) CDs at (x) bitrate.
posted by neckro23 at 12:26 PM on April 25, 2004

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