Why The Slow CD Rip?

As I was ripping more CDs last night, an old question popped up:  why do older CDs–i.e. those released before about 2000–seem to rip faster than newer ones?

My computer had no trouble ingesting a pile of older discs from the 90s, ripping them at speeds of 20x and even faster.  But when I ripped discs from the last decade, the best I could do was somewhere around 9x. Why is that?

I posed the question on Twitter and got back some theories.

“Maybe newer CDs have been mastered so loudly that they have larger file sizes i.e. more data.” – Tim

“I don’t have an answer, but I suspect that they’re compressing the data tighter now; new ones skip right out of the package sometimes. Seems one of every five I buy will skip; there aren’t any scratches on them, so what’s up with that? But I rarely rip. I listen to vinyl at home, and CDs in the car. The only time I listen to compressed files is on my Oregon Scientific waterproof MP3 player when I’m swimming.” – Wade

“DRM maybe?” – Darryl

“Two theories:  (1)- post 2000 Sony et al got serious about their DRM/copy protection and that has some effect on reading the bits/forcing retry; ()2- there’s less aluminium in post 2000 CD’s making them slightly less reflective. This would be easy to test for, just weigh a sampling of pre-2000 and post-2000 discs (preferably with a minimum of artworkon them) and see if there’s an average weight difference.” -Chris

Anyone else?  This has been bugging me for years.

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.

15 thoughts on “Why The Slow CD Rip?

  • December 6, 2011 at 2:19 pm
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    For the longest time, I though something was wrong with my computer when I used to get 20X speed, then all of a sudden, 6, 7 and 8X speed.

    Since it seems to have happen around year 2000 CD's…maybe it is a Y2K issue?!?!?!?!

    Reply
  • December 6, 2011 at 2:41 pm
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    Alan,

    Firstly, I hope your ripping these into lossless format. Given that disk space is cheap, you should be putting this in in FLAC format. Exaction Audio Copy for PC and XLD for Mac are the preferred programs for ripping. Interestingly the best specs for doing the best quality rips come from the music torrent sites 🙂

    Secondly, the type of data on the CD has not changed (16 bit PCM, 44.1 KHz sampling rate). The data on the CD is not compressed in anyway (e.g. as an MP3 is) not to be confused with audio compression used in the studio (which is very common for pop & rock).

    It sounds like your ripping to a compressed format (see above) since you are seeing different encoding times. In any case, I suspect this is completely due to the difference in length for old CDs. CDs from ye olde days would have had songs to fill an LP which was usually 20 minutes per side = 40 minutes. Over the years, the record companies have pushed bands to put in filler songs to get you up to 50, 60 or more minutes. More music, more data, more time – more crap too.

    Note if you use a good ripping app like I mentioned, you will get a log of the errors found – this will confirm or deny your theory about forced errors/retries in the CD (which I don't think is an issue).

    Reply
  • December 6, 2011 at 2:47 pm
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    I avoid the fast rips… I opt for a slower rip at higher bit rates but…
    I suspect CDs were not made with ripping in mind in the 90s whereas now they often include extra data (song/artist names, CD art etc) perhaps it is this additional information that requires the slower rip.

    Reply
  • December 6, 2011 at 4:42 pm
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    People seem to be confusing two separate issues. There's the speed of ripping, and then encoding. Alan did not mention encoding anywhere. Encoding is purely CPU + codec dependent.

    Ripping, you're just copying raw audio data from a CD to your computer. An audio CD contains about 800 MB of raw audio as opposed to 700 MB of data. The difference is that audio CDs lack a layer of error-correction that ensures quick 100% perfect transfers of data from data CDs. (Or an error if this can't be accomplished.) This is why ripping audio is slower than data copying; the ripping software needs to make several passes to ensure it's getting an accurate transfer.

    I've also observed a similar effect to modern CDs being more difficult to extract. I always thought it was some kind of DRM added to the disc to make getting 100% perfect rips more difficult, or crappy-sounding/impossible with poor ripping software.

    (Also the best PC programme is, Exact Audio Copy)

    Reply
  • December 6, 2011 at 4:54 pm
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    I don't think the term "ripping" means copy the raw data to your computer. Ripping includes the encoding part too, IMO. Unless you're copying raw .WAV files which is rare. Even when using FLAC you are extracting the data and encoding, FLAC is compression, it's lossless but still compression. Like I said, if you are using Exact Audio Copy then check the log, are there retries or errors? Take a look at the Wikipedia entry for ripping (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ripping) – clearly states that encoding is part of the deal.

    I do agree that the physical quality of CDs today are less than pre-2000. If you hold an old CD in your hand their is a definite weight to it. I think its a time length difference rather than error issue.

    Reply
  • December 6, 2011 at 8:25 pm
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    I just had an eleven track 2009 disc encode (ALAC, from an external drive using FireWire) in about 45 seconds… and I've had pre-2K discs encode at a snails pace (same as above). Maybe I'll make a spreadsheet and see what the numbers actually say.

    Reply
  • December 6, 2011 at 8:36 pm
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    Hey, @dheadspaceb – I think Alan was saying the opposite. The newer CD's take longer, the older CD's are quicker. You're seeing the opposite?

    I still contend its a content issue – more songs, more data. Older CD's were still in the LP era, shorter albums less data.

    Interestingly, there's little on the web on this.

    Reply
  • December 6, 2011 at 9:06 pm
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    BillG, I'm seeing both. Again, I haven't seen a pattern to specifically say x or y seems to be to be leading cause. Since I am re-encoding my entire CD collection, I'll make a spreadsheet and share the data. Fast/Slow/Album Name/Year/Label/Country (okay, so the majority will be Canadian). I'm about 120 CDs in, so that data won't be reflected immediately (sooner or later I'll add it) but I have "too many CDs" left to go and that should provide enough data for a start. At the very least it'll be a start. If there other data that should be recorded, I'm up for suggestions.

    Reply
  • December 6, 2011 at 9:59 pm
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    I think the other important data would be the time of the recording MM:SS for the total would be good.

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  • December 6, 2011 at 10:43 pm
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    I distrust iTunes adding and I'm not going to do the sums. If you know of an easy to calculate that information, feel free to share.

    Reply
  • December 7, 2011 at 2:39 am
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    Just to clarify, it's different discs (old vs. new) on the same machine using the same settings. The older ones always rip faster.

    Reply
  • December 7, 2011 at 4:21 am
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    I'm no scientist, but could it be a case of CDs being made with lesser materials? When you consider USB thumb drives, some transfer their data faster than others, depending on the quality of the drive's materials. Maybe around 2k, manufacturing plants decided to cut costs, thus creating a new generation of discs that transfer their data at a slower rate.

    Reply
  • December 7, 2011 at 6:09 am
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    After six CDs it's an even split, three fast (normal) and three slower than normal. Feel free to verify the results, here's a list of what I've encoded:
    Blitz – KMFDM (2009) FAST
    Gorillaz – Gorillaz (2001, enhanced CD) SLOW
    G Sides – Gorillaz (2002) SLOW
    Spacemonkeyz versus Gorillaz – Laika Come Home (2002) SLOW
    Demon Days – Gorillaz (2005, Limited Edition) FAST
    D-Sides – Gorillaz (2007) FAST (both discs)

    Reply
  • January 18, 2012 at 11:36 pm
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    I have seen the opposite from the original post. I have ripped hundreds of CDs and have found that the older ones from the 80's and 90's are painstakingly slow and rip at a snail's pace, whereas the newer ones from the late 90's through current rip in under a minute.

    Reply
  • March 15, 2013 at 9:38 pm
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    Old post, but thought I'd add to the sample here. Picked up 5 'new' discs today from Beat Goes On.

    Nick Cave – Murder Ballads (UK Import) (1996)
    Interpol – self titled (2010)
    Pearl Jam – Vs. (1993)
    QOTSA – Rated R (2000)
    and U2 – Rattle and Hum (1988). First 4 took 3 to 4 minutes each to rip and encode to FLAC – Rattle and Hum going on 9 minutes (2x as long for older disc)

    Reply

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