If you’ve got a shelf-full of CDs gathering dust at home, it’s time to leave the past behind and start thinking about how to upgrade your music-listening experience.
On the fence about taking the time to rip your entire CD collection? Trust us, it’ll all be worth it. Keep in mind that a lossless digital music collection saves shelf space and is easy to take with you on-the-go and back up to an external hard drive. If you have a massive music collection, it also makes it easier and quicker to find that one particular song or album you’ve been craving. Plus, you’ll be able to access your digital music library from your smartphone or tablet.
Here’s how to rip your CDs and transfer them to a lossless format.
Choose Your Music File
There are several lossless formats to consider. Here are our top picks:
FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) is compressed to keep file sizes small, but it’s also lossless, meaning that it’s on par with CD quality. CD audio converted to FLAC will typically be reduced to 50 percent of its original size. For reference, a three-minute song on a CD will take up 30-40 MB of space while a ripped FLAC version of that same song takes up 15-20 MB. If sound quality is your top priority, then FLAC is the format for you.
Apple Lossless Audio Codec (or ALAC) was developed by Apple and works with iTunes, your iPod and your iPhone (it’s also supported by several other hardware and software players). Like FLAC, it’s compressed and supports metadata, and takes up about 40 - 60 percent the size of an uncompressed CD. If you’re big into Apple products, then this one’s for you.
AIFF and WAV
AIFF (Audio Interchange File Format) and WAV (Waveform Audio File Format) are lossless, but uncompressed. That means ripped files take up the same amount of space as they would on a CD (10 MB per minute of stereo sound). Because of their large file sizes, these formats are less desirable than FLAC and Apple Lossless (you’d need about twice the storage space for the same library). On the plus side, AIFF and WAV are compatible with a wide range of devices and software.
Pick a Ripping Software
Once you’ve determined which digital format you’re going to go with, it’s time to start looking at ripping software. Here are a couple options to choose from:
Max (for Mac users)
This is a free app that is available for Apple computers running Mac OS X 10.4 and higher. Max is able to create audio files in all four lossless formats. If your CDs are slightly scratched, it can correct any errors that might occur during the ripping process. If you want stellar sound quality and tons of encoding options, this is the app for you.
Exact Audio Copy (for PC users)
If you’re using Windows and want to convert your CDs to FLAC, Exact Audio Copy is an excellent choice and offers the best error correction money can buy, for free! If there are any errors that can’t be corrected, it will tell you which time position the possible distortion occurred, so you can easily control it with the media player. This is the software of choice for serious music lovers and audiophiles. no need for x-appli/MediaGo or WMP anymore
iTunes (for Mac and PC users)
Since you most likely already have iTunes on your PC or Mac, this option will spare you the trouble of having to download and install a stand-alone ripping app. iTunes can rip CDs to three different lossless formats (Apple Lossless, AIFF and WAV) and provides error correction for damaged discs. iTunes also automatically retrieves album and artist information from the Internet.
Find the Right Sound System
Now that you’ve successfully ripped your CDs to a lossless format, it’s time to start listening to your new digital music library. To get the most out of your new lossless music files, you’ll want to make sure you have the right high-res sound equipment to play them. Once you get that taken care of, you’re set! Now you can set your CDs aside for good, knowing that you’ve extracted the purest audio files you can out of them. Get ready to listen to your music collection in a whole new way.
Audio that uses a higher sampling rate than in CDs and MP3s for the encoding and playback of music. Characterized by pin-sharp clarity and nuances, Hi-Res Audio brings your favorite songs to life by retaining more data than the conversion process of original recorded music to MP3 files. Hi-Res Audio file formats include WAV, DSD, ALAC, FLAC and AIFF.
DSD vs. PCM:
There are two main ways of processing/encoding audio into digitally usable formats — PCM and DSD. In a nutshell, PCM is easier to manipulate. However, DSD is the master archive format used in recording studios, and some would say that DSD provides the closest digital file samples to the original analog source. Here are the specifics for each:
Direct-Stream Digital uses pulse-density modulation encoding to store audio signals on digital storage media. The sampling rate for this technology is either 2.8224 MHz or 5.6448MHz, which translates to 64 times or 128 times that for CD Audio sampling.
Pulse Code Modulation is a technology that converts standard audio signals into digital audio. It is the standard form of digital sound in computers and CDs. The amplitude of the signal is sampled at uniform intervals, and then each sample is restricted to the nearest value with a range of digital steps.
Lossy file compression results in lost data and quality from the original version and is associated with MP3s and AAC files. The resulting file takes up much less space than the original version, but much of the quality is sacrificed.
Lossless compression allows the original data to be reconstructed almost perfectly from the compressed data achieved by a class of algorithms. File sizes for lossless data are generally bigger than lossy files, but the sound quality is significantly better. Some example file formats of this kind are FLAC and Apple Lossless.
Uncompressed audio is exactly what it sounds like — original data with no compression. Generally speaking, the greatest audio quality comes from uncompressed audio files such as WAV and AIFF formats. The drawbacks to uncompressed audio include the large amount of space they take up and the bandwidth necessary to open and play these files.
This is the standard denotation of the sampling frequency over the bit depth.
The number of kilohertz (kHz)
measures the sampling frequency, which is the number of times per second audio is sampled. So, the higher the kHz number, the better the sound quality.
The bit depth
measures how many bits (or the amount of data) are in each sample. Bit depth directly corresponds with the resolution of each sample. The higher the bit depth, the better the sound quality.