Guide to ripping CDs

Chances are, you have ripped some of your music. More than likely you chose a lossy encoding. Probably it's in MP3 format. Maybe not. Anyway, I have continually refined my ripping strategy. It's optimized for getting the best audio quality on the device I am using. This includes:

  • Windows Media Center
  • Windows Desktop PC
  • Windows Tablet PC
  • Creative Zen Micro or other PlaysForSure compatible device
  • Apple iPod (yep, still have one)

I've ripped my cd collection a total of 3 times in my life. The first time I ripped my audio I did so in MP3 format on my Mac. It only supported 32 character file names, and I ripped 160 KBps. The second time I ripped everything in Windows Media Audio Lossless. A few months later my hard drive died and I lost all 200 GB of data. Ouch. This is when I adopted my new strategy.


  • Sleeves to store CDs in after ripping. Why keep the Jewl boxes? They weigh more and take up space.
  • Redundant storage. I utilize a RAID-1 setup with two 200 GB drives. I have a third 200 GB drive that is a slave to this data. The drive is in my Media Center PC.
  • Ability to RIP in a compressed lossless format (either WMA or AAC). I say compressed because if it were not compressed the ripped CD's would be huge.
  • Ability to transcode (downsample) the lossless audio format to a lossy one suitable for use on a laptop or portable device. Windows Media Player does this automatically when you connect a portable player. You can also use the Plus! Audio Converter to convert WMA lossless to WMA lossy or mp3. This product is also available in the Plus SuperPack.

When it comes to storing and archiving your CDs, I highly recommend the products from DiscSox. I utilize Eurolite4 CD/DVD Case with DiscSox Classic CD storage sleeves. Each CD gets placed in a sleeve and placed alphabetically. Any CD that is ripped gets an Avery Color Coded Label. Because my drives are only 200 GB I only rip albums that I really plan on listening to. When I get my 500 GB drives I'll rip more stuff and it will be easy to find albums that aren't ripped.

So, assuming you are using Windows Media Player 10, set the player with the following options (Tools->Options->Rip Music)

  • Format: Windows Media Audio Lossless
  • [ ] Copy Protect Music (unchecked)
  • [x] Rip CD when inserted
  • [x] Eject CD when ripping is complete

I set the location to D:\Files\Music which is where I have my big drive.

Once you have all your audio ripped I recommend that you run Album Art Fixer to get Album Art for any obscure CDs. This is an awesome app and will also fix other weird problems with the Album Art Meta Data.

Now, you can run the Plus! Audio Converter and convert to another format. If you plan on using an iPod as a portable music player then convert to 160 KBps MP3. If you plan on using a PlaysForSure compatible player then Windows Media Player will automatically convert the WMA lossless to a format that will be suitable for your device. You can optionally select the bitrate manually, or running the Plus! Audio Converter and selecting an appropriate WMA format (I like the VBR variants).

Now for you Mac folks, I don't believe Apple offers this feature in iTunes, and I don't know of any Mac software that can take a lossless AAC file and convert that to anything else. If there is then you would simply follow the steps above except rip to AAC Lossless, and then convert them using whatever software to a lossy compressed AAC format for your iPod.

As a result of this strategy, you will have all your CDs archived away in a nice compact case, full fidelity audio on your pcees, and compressed audio for portable use.

Comments (7)

  1. I understood that iTunes down samples for the iPod Shuffle, but unfortunately not for the iPod/iPod Mini.

  2. Sam Jost says:

    But you still got no backup?

    Harddisk failure ain’t the only thing that can kill your music collection: a virus or user error can wipe them, someone may steal them, your home can burn down and they’d be lost…

    For me so far I had about 8 hdd failures (logical or physical), 1 office burned down and 2 systems had been stolen (in one case the backup system was stolen, too, so better keep it in seperate storage).

    oh, and btw: Can you really hear the difference between lossless and mp3?

  3. Bala says:

    Good thoughts Omar. Another critical element for me personally is the ID3 details. I typically use CDDB and rarely freeDB to get the ID3 information. And once I have that, for structured organization, I use MP3TAG to rename the files from the ID3 tag using my own formating rules. More control to the user than the rippers provide.

    MP3TAG Product Page:

  4. Jeff says:

    WARNING – The Plus! Audio Converter (same one that ships with MCE 2005) does not work when converting wav to lossless. It leaves audiable gaps in converted tracks and the bitrate of the resulting files are often misreported. The issue is not with the WMA LL codec (I have had success with other conversion tools.) I have reported this to MS several months ago but it appears to have fallen on deaf ears – no update has been issued.

  5. Explain it to Her Gently

    "What? Rip my CDs? Are you insane?"

    Well, that’s what you are going to hear from a non-techie like others. Do not laugh, maybe it’s just in her cheerleading jeans. Can’t you see she’s blonde? (Just joking)


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