An introduction to computer audio
Ripping is transferring the content of a CD to a hard disk.
In general ripping requires 2 stages:
Ripping is a bit different form making a straight copy.
The content is not only read but also transformed at the same time to an audio file format a PC can understand.
Often this is combined with tagging as the ripper looks up the CD in an online database.
When you rip, you have to choose an audio format.
As a hundred buys you a terabyte of storage today, I wouldn't settle for anything less than a lossless format.
I don’t think file format itself is very important as long as it is lossless.
Observe as lossless is lossless; there is plenty of software enabling you to convert from one lossless format to another lossless format without loss.
Choosing a specific lossless format won’t tie your hands.
Proprietary formats are often tied to a specific operating system.
As your PC runs Win, your NAS runs Linux and your smartphone Android, a format that runs on all popular OS is an asset.
Media players are using the tags to display information like album title, artist, cover art, etc.
You need a format with excellent tagging support.
This rules out WAV.
The format should allow for storing custom tags in the file too.
If not, you run the risk of losing a substantial amount of information the moment you migrate.
Media players store the Meta data in a library (a database with Meta info) and write them to the audio file if the format supports this.
If writing tags to the audio file is not supported you won’t notice the difference as what you see on the screen is the content of the library. The moment you move your audio files to another device you will notice that all information is gone.
A typical case of What You See Is Not What You Get.
This often happens with WAV and with custom tags when using proprietary formats.
Rippers often combine the ripping with tagging, retrieving Meta data from an internet database.
How this works can be found here.
Popular sources are FreeDB and Amazon.
If you are into classical you might need a more structured database e.g. AMG.
Rippers like dBpoweramp extract information from AMG, SonataDB, Music Brains and FreeDB.
You can inspect the results and choose the one you prefer before you start to rip.
The typical audiophile worry: “Is my rip bit perfect”?
Most of the time your rip will be fine but you don’t know for sure.
Rippers supporting AccurateRip allow you to compare your results with those of others.
This allows you to verify your results
You have to choose your ripping software.
More details about ripping can be found in the reference section.
Probably the best ripper there is.
I recommend FLAC
Downside, Microsoft and Apple don’t support it natively.
Therefore I don’t recommend media players like iTunes or WMP.
Have a good look at Foobar, MusicBee or my personal favorite JRiver Media Center.
One might argue that the file structure is irrelevant.
Media players rely on tags to identify the audio, not on a file structure.
As long as the file is in place, it is ok.
Why bother about the file structure?
When things go wrong e.g. a track is missing, you are glad you have the entire CD in one folder.
You also appreciate the file names being pre-fixed with the track number.
This allows you to find out if the track is missing because the file is gone or because it is tagged wrongly.
If you are using dedicated tagging programs like MP3Tag having an entire CD in one folder is an asset. It allows you to select the entire CD from the file structure and perform an internet lookup.
Ripping software must store the tracks somewhere.
Most of the time this is done using rules like Root/Artist/Album.
In case of samplers, this might scatter the files as the Artist is different for each track.
Check before you rip.
In case of samplers a rule like Root/Album Artist/Album helps as “Album Artist” is often set to “Various Artists”.
For tracks, use a rule like Track # - Title.
If possible, use leading zeros to have them sorted correctly in the file system.
You might put a bit more info in the tile but be aware of the 256 character limit.