What’s the Proper (and Best) Way to Rip CDs?

This email arrived from Ankur. Looks like a crowdsourcing job.

I had a few questions about CD ripping, and I figured you might have some answers.  I have always ripped CDs, but over the past year I finally clued in on things like audio quality and audio formats.  I was wondering, how would you recommend I rip my CDs?  I am set on an uncompressed format, so WAV, AIFF, or uncompressed FLAC (I cannot decide between them, so I have settled on all three).  My plan is to only use programs that utilise AccurateRip, so dBpoweramp is my first choice, and if that does not work (for example, if a disc is scratched and dBpoweramp has difficulty with it), then other backup programs are Exact Audio Copy and foobar2000.

I was also wondering if you knew much about the format Broadcast Wave Format (BWF), which from what I understand is a WAV file, but with additional information-storing capabilities, and therefore is highly regarded for archiving and professional radio practices by music archivists (for example, as mentioned in Section 2.8.2 in the IASA-TC 04 by the International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives: 2: Key Digital Principles | International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives).

However, I am corresponding with dBpoweramp’s support, and when I ask them how to rip to BWF instead of WAV, they insist that BWF is lossy (and is an MP2 files wrapped as a WAV), not uncompressed or even lossless.  This confuses me, as every article and forum I’ve read about BWF states that BWF is an extension or upgraded version of WAV (i.e. the exact same audio quality, so therefore uncompressed), just with additional metadata capabilities.

Also, does my internal optical drive in my computer really matter?  I figure if I’my using a program with AccurateRip, then I should be good to rip away using the drive that came with my computer, correct?

Thank you for your time!  I hope you might be able to answer these questions, as I have been obsessing over ripping CDs to perfection over the past year!

Cheers, Ankur Gangopadhyay

As someone who hasn’t paid much attention to CD ripping for a couple of years, I’m hesitant to offer any kind of advice. Can anyone make some recommendations to Ankur?

 

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

10 thoughts on “What’s the Proper (and Best) Way to Rip CDs?

  • August 16, 2016 at 10:44 am
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    FLAC is a compressed format but is still lossless, so it is the ideal format for archiving your music from a storage space perspective (a FLAC file converted back to WAV should be identical to the original WAV). It also open source and allows for metadata tags, which as far as I know, WAV does not (until your post, I had never heard of anyone using BWF for personal use, especially any audiophiles).

    My workflow is to rip my old CDs to FLAC format using xld (on a Mac. It also has AccurateRip). Then transcode the FLAC file to AAC (again, using xld). That way I have a FLAC file for critical listening and archival purposes plus a smaller AAC file that can be added to iTunes and played on my phone. MusicBrainz Picard is a great drag-and-drop app for tagging the metadata in MP3s and AACs.

    Some well-respected audio engineers will tell you that for the highest fidelity, you should play WAV files instead of FLAC because the on-the-fly decompression of the FLAC file could theoretically affect the quality of the digital-to-analogue conversion. But I’ve not actually heard the case of someone being able to reliably tell the difference between a WAV playback and a FLAC version of the same file.

    Apple Lossless is another lossless compression format, but has not been as widely adopted as FLAC (but iTunes can play it).

    Reply
    • August 16, 2016 at 12:59 pm
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      What he said (except I leave stuff in FLAC because I’m not tied to Apple). It’s important to stick with both lossless formats as a base, and open formats whenever possible. Once you have a ripped lossless copy you can transcode into whatever format you desire, and transfer it to whatever platforms you wish. Sadly a lot of my older music is in MP3, as it was ripped back when disk space was at way more of a premium.

      Reply
  • August 16, 2016 at 2:42 pm
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    I still think EAC (with AccurateRip) and going to FLAC is the way to go if you want perfect rips.

    I do go to LAME -V2 MP3 if I’m planning on keeping the CD around forever. I personally can’t perceive a difference between -V2 or FLAC, but understand that FLAC is important for archival purposes.

    Re: optical drive, the fact of the matter is all modern ones are going to be effectively the same. I have an old IDE one I keep around for emergencies, for really shitty-condition CDs, which lacks the “audio cache” feature, and sometimes can get a perfect rip out of something that’s been damaged a bit. It’s a bit of a Hail Mary, but does work in some cases.

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  • August 16, 2016 at 3:41 pm
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    Thank you for the advice, everybody! Thank you for posting my question, Alan!

    Reply
  • August 16, 2016 at 8:24 pm
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    I rip everything to WAV files. Then convert then to FLAC Level 9 (the highest setting)

    But I also save my wave files on another drive. Then I can convert it to whatever I want, even down the line.

    Now, if I am working on my own music projects. They are saved to wave. Then resaved to 320k mp3. Then I can easily put them on my phone and mp3 player.

    But it is, and has been a major pain from the start. When you got a couple thousand cds. It’s not easy. Best thing is to just dive in and swim. But put your wet towels (backed up cds) aside. And just go at it. See ya in about a year or so.

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  • August 18, 2016 at 7:01 am
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    Other than keeping Seagate in business and maybe an increase in convenience if you often find yourself using WAVs I don’t really see the point of ripping to WAV.

    Compression *does not matter* to the quality of the data. What matters is losslessness, i.e. if any data was lost. Compression is not the same thing as losslessness – you can compress a data stream lossless and recover the original data stream.

    The most important reason to rip lossless is that, by never losing data, you never have to go back to the CD again. Stick them away, archive them, they become a last resort backup in case your proper backups fail and the worst happens.

    Library management has not been discussed much but I think it is very important for ongoing usability. You can either put yourself in someone else’s hands (for example Roon is an excellent and very usable “shim” over your music collection) but the trouble with that is future use; if the metadata doesn’t end up in your music files, you can’t transfer this organisation into another music player.

    I would advise starting with the bare minimum metadata schema. I blogged about it here: http://www.blisshq.com/music-library-management-blog/2012/11/13/minimalism/ . Concentrate on “identifying” tags rather than classification tags, which you can add later but add considerable work to library management.

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  • April 9, 2017 at 1:48 am
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    I too have been Re – Re – ripping my CD’s… don’t ask…
    I CAN hear the difference between all other formats (lossless/compressed/AIFF…) and Wave.
    What I have decided to do is use dBpoweramp to rip and tag the Wave file to .wav. Media Monkey works well categorizing and organizing my library. Flac and AAC are my portable formats.

    I really don’t want to do this again… I have my new DACport HD to blame for my decision to ReRip.

    Daniel

    Reply
    • April 10, 2017 at 4:00 am
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      Even if you can hear a difference between WAV and the other lossless formats (e.g. FLAC) that doesn’t mean it’s the best solution to rip to it.

      FLAC will give you more storage efficiency, integrated checksums and better tagging support – it’s a better choice for archival.

      You can always convert to WAV before you play back (although obviously at the audio that’s essentially what happens in your music player anyway!).

      Reply
  • May 16, 2017 at 5:01 am
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    I recommend Avdshare Audio Converter which can convert BWF file to MP3, WAV, AAC, AC3, WMA, FLAC, OGG, AIFF, and other audio formats.

    Reply

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