Converting your CDs to a digital audio library

A friend recently asked for my thoughts on ripping CDs for use with various media players. He was concerned with audio quality so he was thinking of ripping his collection to some uncompressed format such as WAV of AIFF and then transcoding to a lossless compressed format such as FLAC. He was also considering re-encoding all or part of his CD collection to a lossy/compressed format such as MP3 or AAC for use with an iPod or iPhone.
This were my recommendations:
Since you can get an uncompressed original from a lossless compressed file, save yourself some space and keep a single copy encoded with lossless compression. There is no real compelling reason to keep uncompressed audio files around.
I use an AppleTV as a media server and an iPod. I had used FLAC in the past but found that Apple players do not support FLAC natively. I converted my FLAC files to ALAC using MAX (a free transcoding tool for the MAC from: http://sbooth.org/). I did have issues with the metadata coming through (album covers, track info and such). For that reason, I have settled on iTunes for both ripping and encoding. On the Mac I use CoverScout (http://www.equinux.com/us/products/coverscout/index.html) for grabbing album covers.
I generally prefer open standards (like FLAC) to proprietary ones so I considered several factors before choosing ALAC for my audio files. In the end, there is a large community of iTunes/iPod users and ALAC is a “de-facto” standard. There are countless non-Apple media servers and players supporting the format. There are also multiple 3rd party utilities available for transcoding to other standard formats such that I will not be “trapped” in a proprietary format for life.
If you are an absolute maniac about the accuracy of your ripper, you may want to look at EAC (Exact Audio Copy) on a Windows platform. You can get EAC at: http://www.exactaudiocopy.de/ and it is free. It will rip a CD to uncompressed WAV files.  There are many good tutorials on how to set it up with various encoders at HydrogenAudio (http://wiki.hydrogenaudio.org/index.php?title=Exact_Audio_Copy). You can set up EAC to use an ALAC encoder such as iTunesEncode.exe. For details see this article at Steve Hoffman Music Forums: “iTunesEncode.exe: Use EAC or Foobar to make Apple Lossless Files” (http://www.stevehoffman.tv/forums/showthread.php?t=75394). Here is another guide on how to pair up EAC with iTunesEncode.exe: http://www.teqnilogik.com/tutorials/eac.shtml.
Transcoding from ALAC to AAC can also be accomplished with iTunes. Set the iTunes encoder to AAC at your chosen bit-rate. Select the files you want to convert, right click and select “Convert selection to AAC”.
My friend was concerned about losing iTunes playlists if he ever wanted to switch to another platform. There are both manual methods and utilities out there to solve that problem. Do a Google search on: “exporting iTunes playlists”.
If you have a large number of CDs and no time to rip them, there are some commercial outfits that will do this for a small fee 😉
I have soma additional thoughts on digital audio tools at my web-site: http://hdiaz.org.
Have fun with your music libraries, it is all about the music.

A friend recently asked for my thoughts on ripping CDs for use with various media players. He was concerned with audio quality so he was thinking of ripping his collection to some uncompressed format such as WAV of AIFF and then transcoding to a lossless compressed format such as FLAC. He was also considering re-encoding all or part of his CD collection to a lossy/compressed format such as MP3 or AAC for use with an iPod or iPhone.

This were my recommendations:

Since you can recover an uncompressed original from a lossless compressed file, save yourself some space and keep a single copy encoded with lossless compression. There is no real compelling reason to keep uncompressed audio files around.

I use an AppleTV as a media server and an iPod. I had used FLAC in the past but found that Apple players do not support FLAC natively. I converted my FLAC files to ALAC using MAX (a free transcoding tool for the MAC). I did have issues with the metadata coming through (album covers, track info and such). For that reason, I have settled on iTunes for both ripping and encoding. On the Mac I use CoverScout for grabbing album covers.

I generally prefer open standards (like FLAC) to proprietary ones so I considered several factors before choosing ALAC for my audio files. In the end, there is a large community of iTunes/iPod users and ALAC is a “de-facto” standard. There are countless non-Apple media servers and players supporting the format. There are also multiple 3rd party utilities available for transcoding to other standard formats such that I will not be “trapped” in a proprietary format for life.

If you are an absolute maniac about the accuracy of your ripper, you may want to look at EAC (Exact Audio Copy) – a free program for the Windows platform.  It will rip a CD to uncompressed WAV files.  There are many good tutorials on how to set it up with various encoders at HydrogenAudio). You can set up EAC to use an ALAC encoder such as iTunesEncode.exe. For details see this article at Steve Hoffman Music Forums: “iTunesEncode.exe: Use EAC or Foobar to make Apple Lossless Files“. Here is another guide on how to pair up EAC with iTunesEncode.exe.

Transcoding from ALAC to AAC can also be accomplished with iTunes. Set the iTunes encoder to AAC at your chosen bit-rate. Select the files you want to convert, right click and select “Convert selection to AAC”.

My friend was concerned about losing iTunes playlists if he ever wanted to switch to another platform. There are both manual methods and utilities out there to solve that problem. Do a Google search on: “exporting iTunes playlists”.

If you have a large number of CDs and no time to rip them, there are some commercial outfits that will do this for a small fee 😉

I have some additional thoughts on digital audio tools at my web-site.

Have fun with your music libraries, it is all about the music.

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