Guide to Ripping & Encoding CD Audio






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This guide presents a method considered by the gurus of the encoding scene as the *best* way to rip & encode CD audio.

By 'gurus,' I mean those people who've taken the time to participate in blind listening tests, and compare a variety of music, encoded with a variety of encoders, at a variety of settings (sometimes called switches or arguments).

In other words, we're talking about folks who are serious about their music .. because only by listening for yourself can you distinguish which encoders work best.

The word *best* used here refers to audio fidelity, not ripping or encoding speed. In other words, this guide is more concerned with the quality of your encoded files, than the time it takes to produce them.

You'll be glad to know all requisite software referenced here is FREE. That's because the best programs in the world of ripping & encoding are free. So put away your credit card and break out your CD collection.


If you've ever downloaded MP3s from the original Napster [shut down by the courts in July, 2001], or one of the contemporary file-sharing services, and found that those songs sounded like krap, it's because the people who encoded those MP3s didn't know the ripping & encoding mojo presented here. [No, 128-kbps is not CD-quality.]

This guide will walk you through the steps of configuring Exact Audio Copy [EAC], the world's best CD audio ripper (digital audio extractor). Actually, I'll provide background info before referring you to my buddy from Belgium, SatCP, or my buddy from Calgary, Chris Myden. (No sense in reinventing the wheel.)

With EAC's vaunted secure mode, we'll rip (digitally extract) your favorite songs from your favorite CDs, and encode those digital songs as high-quality MP3s, using LAME, the world's best MP3 encoder .. or we'll compress them as exact digital clones using Monkey's Audio, or one of the other popular Windows-based lossless audio compressors (such as FLAC).

The LAME MP3 encoder is so highly developed that even big companies like Sony are ripping off parts of its source code (shame on them). And you can't get audio quality any better than lossless. So you can see how this guide focuses on quality.

Along the way, you'll also be introduced to some alternative [non-MP3] encoders that might suit your needs even better, such as Ogg Vorbis, the open source encoder which looks promising, ..

.. and also [the proprietary] Advanced Audio Coding [AAC] codec, which is the default encoder for Apple's iTunes, the jukebox which powers the millions of iPods out there. (iPods also support the MP3 format, which is still the most popular audio encoding platform on the planet.)

The AAC codec, as we'll see, is being developed as part of the MPEG-4 spec as a joint venture between companies such as Dolby, AT&T, Sony, Nokia, and Fraunhofer, the German corporation which developed the original MP3 codec.

MP3 is part of the older, MPEG-1 spec. MP3 = MPEG Audio Layer 3. MPEG is an acronym for Motion Pictures Experts Group.

This guide addresses the pro's & con's of each codec, so you can decide for yourself whether one of these newer encoders can meet yours needs better than the MP3 format, which offers maximum compatibility.

This guide identifies the strengths & weaknesses of each format, so you'll have the insights necessary to make intelligent encoding decisions .. based on your own specific needs & preferences, such as ..

  • .. amount of disk space you have available (more space offers more options, such as the ability to use lossless compression, or (the ultimate option of) storing *both* a lossless & lossy copy of every song you own) ..
  • .. number of CDs you own (more CDs require more storage space and/or smaller files, which require more aggressive encoding settings, which tend to hinder audio quality) ..

  • .. how good your hearing is (younger ears tend to hear better, older ears have trouble hearing higher frequencies. younger listeners, therefore, tend to require higher quality audio files, because they can hear imperfections more easily than us old farts) ..
  • .. quality of your audio hardware (better equipment reveals encoding flaws more clearly, which encourages the listener to use higher quality encoding methods & settings) ..

  • .. type of music you listen to (simple music tends to encode easier than complex music. especially difficult is music which contains many transients) ..
  • .. format compatibility requirements (hardware such as the iPod or Rockbox have limited file support) ..

  • .. file restrictions (if you share files with your friends, you'll obviously need to use a format you both can play) ..
  • .. hardware restrictions (as mentioned earlier, hardware such as the iPod and Rockbox have limited file support).

So you can see there are factors you need to consider. Everybody's situation is different. And only *you* know what is right for you. Encoding is not a one-size-fits-all proposition .. not any more.

You'll also see a side-by-side comparison of various audio codecs in action, employing a variety of popular settings [sometimes called switches or arguments]. I even share my own personal encoding preferences, along with the reasoning behind my approach.

With your freshly-encoded files, you'll be able to create custom playlists, and listen to your pristine-sounding songs directly from your hard drive [in any order you choose], or hear them on your iPod, Rockbox, or other digital audio player, ...

... or burn them as custom CD-Rs, containing a compilation of your favorite songs, to play on your home stereo system, in your car, or perhaps even give to a friend as a personalized birthday present.

With the right software, you can even cross-fade the songs on your compilation CDs, so the next song starts playing as the current one fades out. When done right, this adds a touch of class to your CDs you won't find in any store-bought discs [which contain a standard 2-second gap of silence between each song].






Copyright Laws: File Sharing in the Digital Age

Here is where I used to discuss Copyright Laws: File Sharing in the Digital Age and deliver my disclaimer. But this section has become so popular (and controversial) that I moved it to its own, separate page.

See here:> Copyright Laws: File Sharing & Fair Use in the Digital Age. At the bottom of that (short) page is a link that will bring you back here (or you can click the BACK-ARROW on your browser).

Back already? Okay, let's continue. Note that this guide does not address how to rip or encode DVD audio or video. If that's what you're looking for, check out Doom9, Nicky Pages, DivX, or VideoHelp. I'm sure you'll find what you need at one of those fine sites.

For your <hypertext> convenience, this guide can be found at both these fine Radified URLs:

It has become surprisingly popular since being discovered by search engines. Try searching for the terms Ripping CD audio or MP3 encoding with any popular search engine, such as Google or Yahoo and you'll see what I mean.

Of all the Radified guides, this one has been most difficult to keep current. Links tend to rot faster here than in any other guide, because the field of audio encoding is still evolving.

This guide receives more kudos than any other I've written. Perhaps this is cuz people understand how difficult it is to maintain a guide on this (evolving) topic. Our goal is to raise the quality of encoded files everywhere.

For an idea of what folks are saying about this guide (not necessary), check out a sampling of sites such as Google Directory for MP3, Techzonez, HotMP3gear, CADTutor, [listed near the bottom, under Where can I find more?],..

also .. Torrentbox, NoStuff, MemeMachineGo, SlimDevices, Raduga, UK-Dance, Ask Jack at Guardian Technology, MP3 FAQ (listed under Lossless audio), DMOZ Open Directory (hand-picked links). Lots more out there.

As with all Radified guides, I'm interested in hearing your ideas about ways you feel this guide might be improved. It's this continuous input from members of the encoding community over the years that have helped make this guide so popular. [Contact]

Let's get busy ripping & encoding. This guide contains 10 pages and 9 steps to audio-encoding nirvana, organized like so:

  • [Page 1] - Introduction [you be here].
  • [Page 2] - Steps 1 [download the Exact Audio Copy CD ripper].

  • [Page 3] - Quick look at some alternative digital audio extractors ("rippers") and CD "back-up" (copying) software programs.
  • [Page 4] - Step 2 [download the LAME MP3 encoder (codec)].

  • [Page 5] - Step 3 [download Monkey's Audio & glean insights into lossless audio compression, including how it contrasts with the more-popular lossy codecs].
  • [Page 6] - Side-by-side comparison of different audio codecs. Helps you see the big picture in a small snapshot.

  • [Page 7] - Step 4 [Razorlame front-end, ABR vs CBR vs VBR, configuring LAME with switches and arguments, ID3 tags].
  • [Page 8] - Steps 5-9 [r3mix, SatCP tutorials, configuring EAC ripper & LAME MP3 encoder].

  • [Page 9] - Alternative [non-MP3] lossy codecs, such as Liquid Audio, AAC, MPEGplus, Ogg Vorbis, Windows Media, Real audio, and others that are likely to play a role in the future of audio encoding.

  • [Page 10] - Related info, such as MP3 players and managers, Winamp plug-ins, the best CD-ROM readers and burners, burning and labeling CDs, sound cards, headphones, and other such items you might find interesting or helpful.

As you'll see, the subject of audio encoding comprises much information. I tried to provide enough background so the complete noobie would be able to dialogue intelligently with the gurus of the encoding scene, and be equipped to ask intelligent questions as they move into the finer points of audio encoding lore.

No need to worry about your data. We offer free backup facility online with our dedicated hosting packages and free of charge data recovery facilities.

The next page contains the first step: Download the Exact Audio Copy CD Ripper. Ready? Let's do it.