Best Method for Ripping CDs

By Daniel McAdam.

Ripping a CD - that is, extracting tracks from a compact disc and saving them to your computer or other device as digital files - certainly seems simple enough, and you already have software on your computer that will allow you to do that. Why, then, did I pay money for a software program to rip CDs? It's a good question, and I have a good answer.

Let's assume that you have a desktop PC with a CD drive or CD/DVD drive, and that you just got home with a new CD, in this case Duo by Hélène Grimaud and Sol Gabetta. You're excited to hear it, but you also want to make sure you create a digital copy while the CD is still new and pristine.

Step 1. Do not use a laser lens cleaner on your CD drive prior to inserting the CD. Wait - did I just recommend not using one of those lens cleaners with the little brushes? Yes, I did, and many high-end CD player manufacturers make the same recommendation. Those things can knock your lens out of alignment, which is not what you want. If you're really worried about dust - usually, you don't have to be - then just keep a CD in your drive at all times and let the dust accumulate on the CD, then take it out and clean it when you need to use the drive. (And you thought you wouldn't learn something new today . . . )

Step 2. Insert the CD in the CD drive. If this was an older CD, I'd clean it first, but it isn't.

Step 3. If Windows Media Player or iTunes pops up and wants to rip your CD, then immediately stop what you're doing and go buy yourself some decent CD-ripping software.

Am I serious? I'm very serious. Both those programs are flawed. Windows Media Player fails to recognize many classical albums and tracks, which means a lot of unnecessary work for you. iTunes cannot rip CDs into a FLAC format, which is really what you want. (We discuss FLAC on our FLAC, ALAC, and Other Digital Recorded Music Formats page.)

For over a year now, the only software I have used for ripping CDs is dBpoweramp CD Ripper, Reference Version. (Reference Version is the one you pay for. There's also a free version you can try, with limited features.) I bought dBpoweramp CD Ripper for two very worthwhile reasons:

  1. The program recognizes my albums and tracks. that's because it uses something called PerfectMeta, which uses results from four sources to determine appropriate track names and artwork. You can review this metadata before ripping, and I always do.
  2. The program uses something called AccurateRip to verify there were no errors when the CD was ripped. This feature alone made the purchase well worth it. What's the sense of thinking you have an accurate copy of a CD, but not being sure?

The program also seems faster than the other programs, but I haven't run tests to determine whether this is true. By the way, I'm not getting any money to recommend dBpoweramp CD Ripper; I just really love the program, especially after years of frustration working with the other programs mentioned.

If you're curious, and I hope you are, you can find more information at the dBpoweramp website.

Happy ripping, and enjoy your new CD!





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