Why rip your CDs? And why rip them to lossless?

Why rip your CDs? And why rip them to lossless?

Ripping music – transferring it from a physical format into a purely digital form stored on a computer drive – was once regarded with suspicion by those who prize sound quality. Surely changing music, even music already stored in digital form on a compact disc, from one format to another would result in a loss of quality that would outweigh any gain in convenience?

But it’s an opinion that just doesn’t hold water anymore. Formats like MP3 and AAC may sacrifice some quality in order to keep file sizes small, but the emergence of lossless digital audio formats, able to preserve every piece of information from a CD recording, means that the ripped file can be sonically indistinguishable from the original.

You might still ask why you should spend precious time ripping your CD collection. It’s all a question of convenience: a lossless digital music collection saves shelf space and is easy to move and back up; for larger collections, it also makes it far easier and faster to locate individual songs and albums. You can also access a digital music library from multiple sources simultaneously, for example from several network music players located in different rooms in your house.

On the hardware side, storage devices like NAS and external hard drives offer huge amounts of space at low prices. And with high quality DACs widely available, computer hardware now offers excellent playback and can be easily connected to your existing hi-fi setup.

File types: which should I use?

So you’ve decided to rip your CD collection to a lossless format, but which format should you choose? Here are the main contenders.

FLAC

The Free Lossless Audio Codec is fast becoming the most popular choice for audiophiles. Like MP3, OGG and AAC, FLAC is compressed to keep file sizes relatively small, but unlike those formats it’s lossless and therefore indistinguishable from CD quality. CD audio converted to FLAC will typically be reduced to around 50 percent of its original size; a typical three-minute song on a CD will take up 30-40MB of space, while a ripped FLAC version of that song is 15-20MB.

FLAC supports metadata (artist and song information can be embedded into the file and artwork can be referenced by the file) and will play back on a wide variety of software and hardware, some of which we’ll explore later in this article. Crucially for many, it’s not currently supported by Apple products like iTunes or the iPod.

Apple Lossless

As you might guess from the name, the Apple Lossless Audio Codec (or ALAC) was developed by Apple and works with the company’s products like iTunes, the iPod and the iPhone (as well as being supported by a number of other hardware and software players); if you’re an avid user of Apple gear, this will probably be the format for you. Like FLAC it’s compressed and supports metadata, and files ripped from typically take up around 40-60 percent of their original size.

AIFF and WAV

AIFF and WAV are lossless but uncompressed, so ripped files take up the same amount of space as they would on a CD (around 10MB per minute of stereo sound). This large file size makes them less desirable than FLAC and Apple Lossless, as you’ll need about twice the storage space for the same library, but they are compatible with a wide range of devices and software. WAV handles metadata but in a clumsier way than FLAC and ALAC, so if you transfer a WAV library to another device there is a chance some of the information may not appear as it should.

Ripping software

Max (Mac)

Available for Apple computers running Mac OS X 10.4 and higher, Max is a free app able to create audio files in a variety of formats, including all four lossless codecs mentioned above. If your CDs are slightly scratched, Max incorporates “Cdparanoia”, which corrects any errors that might occur during the ripping process. It also features MusicBrainz, which looks for CD information online and then embeds this metadata in the ripped files (this works for FLAC and Apple Lossless, but not WAV and AIFF).

Max’s interface isn’t the slickest or most user-friendly thing we’ve ever seen, and if you’re not au fait with ripping software you might need to consult its built-in help documents. That said, once you’ve got to grips with it, it’s a fast and accurate ripper, and should you wish to rip your CDs to more than one format (perhaps you want one lossless copy for home listening and one lossy but smaller MP3 copy for your portable player), you can do so simultaneously.

Exact Audio Copy (PC)

If you’re using Windows and want to convert your CDs to FLAC, Exact Audio Copy does the job very ably indeed, and its accuracy and error correction make it extremely popular with PC-owning rippers. It uses the freedb CD database for metadata retrieval. Oh, and like Max it’s 100 percent free.

iTunes (PC and Mac)

Chances are, you already have iTunes on your PC or Mac – and that could save you downloading and installing another ripping app. iTunes can rip CDs to three lossless formats (Apple Lossless, AIFF and WAV) and features error correction for damaged discs. iTunes automatically retrieves album and artist information from the Internet.

Playing your files

Of course, iTunes also functions as a software player for several lossless formats, as well as a way to get the files onto your iPod or iOS device for portable listening. As mentioned above, iTunes will not play FLAC files, so if that’s your audio format of choice, you’ll need to find something else.

Windows users have a wide choice of FLAC-compatible players, including the highly popular likes of Winamp and MediaMonkey; you can also add a plugin to Windows Media Player in order to make it play FLAC. There’s also VLC, Songbird and XBMC Media Center, all of which work on both PC and Mac.

In terms of portable hardware, Apple Lossless, WAV and AIFF will all play on iPods and iPhones, as well as a handful of other physical players. FLAC won’t play on Apple devices, but it works on many Samsung Galaxy smartphones, a number of AV receivers and almost every portable audio player made by iAudio.

47 Comments

  • @solutions_inc says:

    Does anyone have any experience using ‘BitPerfect’ for playback? It offers FLAC support and supposedly higher quality audio on higher end equipment.

    And if anyone is interested, here are some of my thoughts on .WAV files. http://www.solutions-inc.co.uk/index.php/staff/steven-miller/item/410-the-song-remains-the-same

  • Giles Guthrie says:

    One thing about using lossless-compressed formats is it’s then easier to broadcast them around the house. A WAV at 10MB/minute consumes 1.3Mb (megabits) of bandwidth, whereas an ALAC takes only half of this. Even when using structured cabling and 1Gb switching, halving the data traffic helps with network congestion, buffering etc.

  • JediFonger says:

    Actually Apple’s app store sells a FLAC player:
    http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/flac-player/id390532592?mt=8

    most of my stuff is already in FLAC, so i may use that to play FLAC

  • Joao Carvalhinho says:

    Pay attention when using Itunes Match…
    This service is based on the quality of the music files that are sold in Itunes witch is AAC 256kbps (not lossless).
    So if you activate this service, you will have your files in “the cloud” but in a worse quality, so don’t go by deleting your locally ripped files to solve storage problems ;).

  • Scott says:

    Another good free program for Mac OS is ‘XLD.’ It is also a bit-perfect ripping program that can search on-line databases for metadata. Better interface than Max.

  • Liam says:

    You can’t forget XLD (http://tmkk.pv.land.to/xld/index_e.html), a much better ripper for Mac. It supports all the formats, has cdparanoia and its own improved ripping engine that always does the trick, has freedb support and doesn’t crash EVER, unlike Max on most Macs past Tiger.

  • Richard Kuipers says:

    I personally think the program XLD works better as MAX for macintosh, but that is my opinion.
    XLD can be found at:

    http://www.macupdate.com/app/mac/23430/x-lossless-decoder

    Regards,

    Richard

    From the Netherlands

  • Nikhil Dsouza says:

    Nonesense, nothing beats XLD for ripping CD’s on Mac!!! Tried Max but went back to XLD in a jiffy. Its open source and gives perfect rips with one of th most easiest GUI’s ever developed.

  • Doug Jensen says:

    I like EAC but I use dbpoweramp more often.

  • Jake says:

    My advice. Listen to less music. Then when you do, do it justice. Listen to a live concert, or set up a high quality hifi and listen to that. Your life is to short wasting it ripping all your cds. Just get a good cd player and listen to them direct. Having a music collection is nice. LPs, cds. What about sacd? you cant rip that. Sacd is still the quickest and best route to high def audio and multi channel too. Get a life away from your pc mac. Stop using ipod, it sounds crap anyway. Music should be respecred. By proper b@w speakers or others!

  • Chris says:

    Jake is dumb.

    Consider Foobar2000 for your playback software on PC. It’s the best.

  • Frank says:

    After ripping to lame v0 mp3 last year with EAC, I’m ripping again the whole CD stuff to FLAC at the moment. :-/
    Its not the difference in Sound quality, but its the good feeling to get the most out of my new CM9! :-)

  • Max says:

    I used Rockbox on my 4th generation iPOD to play FLAC files – it was like getting a new portable player, what’s more Rockbox allows your iPod to dual boot (Rockbox or the original Apple firmware).
    When my iPod came to the end of it’s long life I was so attached to Rockbox that Apple lost a sale on the basis that Rockbox didn’t yet support the latest iPod, at which point I discovered the Colorfly C4 – ok so it too isn’t supported by Rockbox and it’s UI is archaic, rather like a 1st generation CD player, but it does do a damn fine job of playing music (inc FLAC files) and doesn’t have any other distractions.

  • sten says:

    Why is lossless WMA left out? Most people don’t have a Mac but a Windows based PC. Lossless WMA is also half the size of the CD, you can use Windows Media Player (which comes free of charge with any PC) to both rip and play lossless music. It is actually much better than iTunes or Foobar2000 for that. Yes, it will play FLAC as well.

    I know it is so cool to hate Microsoft and pretend they don’t know what they are doing, but if you are going to have a page dedicated to ripping and playing lossless music at least be impartial and more complete? +90% of all ‘PCs’ are Windows based.

  • RonT says:

    Excuse my ignorance but if you already have iTunes installed on your mac or PC why do you need the previously mentioned ripping software options vs just using iTunes? Thanks

  • RonT says:

    If you have iTunes on your Mac or PC what’s the benefit of using the previously mentioned ripping software (Max, EAC etc.) to rip your CDs? Obviously new at this. Thanks.

  • absorption says:

    Way to go Jake totally agree. Stop turning music into another diminished commodity or worse sonic wallpaper.

  • Alain says:

    Hi,
    There is a noticable difference between a CD ripped with iTunes or with XLD or MAX.
    You just can listen the difference. iTunes is not an accurate ripper at all.
    All informations here: http://www.accuraterip.com/
    itunes is not also an optimum reader. I personally use AUDIRVANA+ with itunes database.
    The difference is also audible in a simple P5 Headphone, but is obvious with a pair of 800D.
    Even the best CD reader cannot compete with a correctly ripped CD or a Studio Master file, when read with the right tools.

  • Jeef says:

    Thank-you Jake and Alain. Refreshing to read others who appreciate the difference these formats make.

    I will try those programs for ripping and playback.

    I have resorted to iTunes as my ripper and means of playback, all the while saddened by the loss of realism and dynamic range when compared to my 20 year old CD player routed through the same signal path.

  • Claude says:

    A CD works with 44.1 Khz and 16 bits , in most cases !!! The question is : how do you get more of it, assuming you already read the CD with a very good CD player (implementing a very good DAC such as a Burr Brown or so) . If you rip such a CD with a DDC up to 192 Khz, 24 bits …. what the hell is this producing a higher definition …..the definition stays the original one ………… Question is : when are we going to make high quality recordings and bring them to the user ? This was supposed to be something like SACD , some SACD players are available but where is the software to feed them ????

  • Alain says:

    Hi Claude,
    We are not talking of any upsampling, but just ripping and reading these files with very little or no errors.
    Even the best CD reader makes errors, a lot of errors and these errors are replaced with silences by the error correction of your reader. This is altering the quality of sound. Again have a look to this site: http://www.accuraterip.com/ for a better understanding. Try to rip one or your preferred CD and compare, I am sure it will be a positive experience.
    On an other hand I fully aggree with you when you ask; ” when are we going to make high quality recordings and bring them to the user ?”
    It has started with the aviability of Studio masters recording like those offered by Society of sound or site like QUOBUZ, FIDELIO and many others. But even the higher sampling rate will not replace a good recording, I mean a good sound capture. Some 16/44,1 recordings are beautifull when correctly played back and some highres ones can be very bad.
    Concerning SACD, the format used is DSD, you can buy music in this format on several site, and the offer is slowly growing. Try BLUE COAST RECORDS, FIDELIO, some are also avialable at HIGHREAUDIO. You can read them with several readers like AUDIRVANA+ that I mantionned on a previous post. But then you will need a DAC DSD compatible.
    I wish to everybody the best (recordings) for the incoming years.
    Alain

  • Antonio says:

    I have a question regarding this topic. I use Windows, and have been reading and doing research about all of this CD ripping. Although most of my library came as a digital download in the first place, I have some CDs that have not been ripped into WAV or MP3, so I was trying to decide which format to use.

    I am hearing arguments for and against FLAC, MP3, MP3HD, and now Opus. I am at a loss as to how I should save my discs on my hard drive. Because I have half a terabyte of storage space, I’m not too concerned with storage space.

    One option that I am considering is just ripping the discs into WAV format, since I have a bunch of space. The other option I am looking at is using MP3, or even MP3HD, at either 256bps, or 320bps with Constant Bit Rate, and NO Joint Stereo option. But if I go the MP3 route, then there is the encoder to think about. LAME or Fraunhofer. Decisions, decisions.

    The other ‘problem’ that I have is that some of my WAV CDs have track names that appear in VLC media player when played, but these do not translate into song and artist names when ripped. Any ideas on that would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks and Happy New Year!

    ~Antonio :-)

  • Alain says:

    Antonio,

    For me there is no doubt. You should rip your CD in a non destructive format. That means WAV or FLAC.
    I would choice FLAC, as it needs four time less space onto your storage device, for the same result if you use a reader that uncompress the file in RAM BEFORE reading it. As a MAC user, I am not familiar with the PC tools but I know they exist and a you will find them easily on Internet.

    Alain

  • Celt says:

    Hi Guys,

    I find this thread interesting as I am also convinced of the need to rip my CD collection so I can access all my albums and tracks in an easy manner from an IPAD. And no more searching my CD racks with failing nearsight much to the amusement of my younger or more IT savy friends. The thing is I am a bit of a Techophobe. I have a very old 20 years Nakamichi receiver and CD player. I am considering keeping my CD player should I want to listen to new CDs – but I figure once I have ripped and stored by CDs at the highest audio quality possible and once I splash out on a networked solution then I am quite unlikely to be buying CDs in future. I can lease the music I like via forums such as Spotify which eventually will be of HD quality. Any tracks/albums I like from the network I can always download and archive alongside my ripped CDs. Be great to be able to do all this from the comfort of my couch with the use of an IPAD or equivalent Android bit of kit.

    Now here comes the rub: being a technophobe I like / prefer the idea of entrusting the ripping process to a “solution” that will be as painless as possible whilst giving the highest quality audio replay e.g. capturing the album covers and storing safely and easily onto a hard drive. For that reason I have considered a dedicated solution such as the NAIM Unitiserve product or the Olive products. The downsound is that such a solution is quite expensive and can only be used for audio tracks ( I assume?). Plus, once I’ve ripped my CDs I am probably not going to do much ripping, except maybe very occasionally. The alternative is to go the PC route linked to a NAS. This would be a cheaper solution and presumably the NAS can store all sorts of date such as movies (ripped Blueray’s ?) and photo albums etc. Hence a good quality NAS should be a more flexible solution too I should think?

    But I haven’t got much of a clue of how I could go about doing this or what software and hardware to purchase. I have a 4 year old laptop that I could make into a dedicated PC ripper but how would I go about doing this all? I was advised by my local hifi shop to remove all software on the PC not related to the ripping process.

    Go gentle on me guys. What advice can you give on the two options I mention and what else might I want to consider? Thanks in advance.

    Cheers,

    Celt

  • Howard says:

    I’ve been ripping much of my music to FLAC and transferring it to an old iPod 3G, with RockBox installed and all the old iTunes files deleted to make room. It is wonderful to be able to carry 100 CD from room to room and play them at top quality.

    Am i right, however, that there is no point ripping to lossless old recordings (Louis Armstrong, Bessie Smith, Billy Holiday) that were not originally recorded in high fidelity? Would MP3 or OGG do just as well?

  • Alex says:

    Alright, this (and other posts on the subject) sent me into a bit of a panic mode. I have a large iTunes library containing over 21’000 song, the vast majority are full albums.several years ago I ripped my entire CD collection of at least a few hundred to mp3. Since then I haven’t touched a cd, they’re all boxed away in boxes in my basement. But I have bought a lot of music from iTunes and Amazon.

    So yesterday I dug up a CD and ripped it anew to ALAC, to see if I can tell a difference between that and the version that came from iCloud, which is probably better than what I originally ripped it to. The CD was The Police – every breath you take – a best of. I listed to it on the computer, with Sony v6 headphones.

    And here comes the kicker: I couldn’t tell the difference. Maybe I’m getting old (41), or maybe the equipment is t good enough. I use these headphones to listen to music both at home and on my commute, and at home also steam to a zeppelin air, which I find sounds great for its size.

    So for no I’m not going to re-rip all CDs and punch myself for buying mp3s.

  • Celt says:

    Hi Alex,

    Are you saying it may be better for me to set up an iTunes service and purchase (or lease?) all of my CD Albums rather than to rip them as FLAC files? By “better” I mean in terms of the sound quality being at the same level of FLACs combined with the ease of convenience and avoiding the outlay cost of purchasing a NAS and the ripping software etc??

    I know that tracks from Spotify are not at CD quality yet (but no doubt they will be in the future). Hence why I thought it’d be good to rip my CDs in a professional/quality way; either via a NAS + Ripping software solution or via a dedicated music ripping & storage solution such as NAIM or Olive – as I describe in my initial comment above.

    Any other AudioFile Guru’s like to comment ?

    Celt

  • Ann says:

    dBpoweramp also supports FLAC format.
    For mass music CD collections, with dBpowersmp Batch Ripper software and an disc autoloader, ripping with FLAC format can be an easy thing.

  • Nash says:

    Yes holdouts you can continue to use your audiophile CD/SACD players and ignore the blah blah of audio servers, DSD Dacs, asynchronous USB, NAS, control apps and ripper and tagging software – but the future is audio files, not those shiny discs and jewel boxes. If you’re an old timer you might as well go to your grave not worrying about this computer audio stuff, but if you’re around mid-forties or so you should consider joining the computer audio bandwagon. Take a look at the Lumin Network Player. Super HiFi without the price tag of Ayon, Aurender, Linn, Meridian, etc. – yes still a nice chunk of change this Lumin, but you don’t have to be a tech geek obsessed with SOtM or CAPS or whatever computer nerd stuff some spend their days thinking about. Just my ten cents and of course YMMV.

  • Intelligencer says:

    Does anyone have any thoughts about the xACT ripper for Mac?

    I’m currently ripping my CDs as I’ve had to put much of my hi-fi (along with vinyl and next CDs) into storage due to apartment size issues. I hope to have them out again soon. Nothing even comes close to a proper hi-fi stereo with good speakers. Hails Jake!

  • Patrick Butler says:

    xACT I used to convert one file format to another. Max I use extensively for ripping music from a cd. Max has great tagging options, and can output your music into iTunes in whatever file format you like. Apple Lossless is a great way to go for archival storage.

  • Tommie says:

    The idea of starting to rip my audio cds to NAS was encouraged since I spoke to an employee of World of Yamaha. The subjects discussed were CD’s that lose quality over a period of time and CD’s unplayable over a period of time. Comments on this would be appreciated….

  • Sherbert DibDab says:

    Although I have worked with and used computers since the early ’80s, I purchased my first “Home Computer” in February this year. The reason is simple, digital music is finally becoming available at CD and better quality. I purchased a Mac Mini which has an internal DAC capable of dealing with sample rates up to 192KHz and if necessary 64bit. The downside is no support for FLAC files, which seem to be the format of choice for downloads from the web.
    One of my first tasks was to get something to deal with FLAC files. A number of blogs, forums and reviews later it was clear that “Audirvana” in combination with iTunes deals with anything you might want to do with digital audio off the web.

    Getting high quality digital recordings to your speakers is another issue. If your Mac/PC can only output 48KHz/16bit audio files you are stuffed.

    SO BEFORE WORRYING ABOUT WHAT GOES IN AND HOW YOU STORE IT, FIND OUT WHAT YOU CAN ACTUALLY OUTPUT!

    There are a lot of highly accomplished and user friendly DACs out there but you do need to get your files from your computer to the DAC. The issue of cable format, USB, Coaxial, Optical or HDMI comes into play as well and the availability of high quality cables in each format. Remember USB has a maximum hardware/design limit of 96/24 audio.

    Finally the question of ripping, or as my generation would call it “recording” your CDs and other digital media. Again the issue of what you can output has a bearing. These days memory is not an issue, 2TB drives are readily available for £100, that means about 2000 albums of uncompressed high quality (96/24) audio.

    In the end the quality issue is not about file formats, but getting the most accurate transfer of information from the CD. For everyday music that is likely to end up on an iDevice I just use an Apple Superdrive and iTunes and save them as AIFF files (48/16). My Mac can output a maximum 96/24 signal to USB and Digital outputs so using 48KHz sample rate is just to give the computers output DAC less work to do.

    If I have a real audiophile recording or a personal favourite I use my Cyrus CDXT SE2 CD transport and connect its optical digital output straight into the Mac. You can then use the recording software you use for vinyl I use Audacity, its free and relatively straight forward, to capture the digital information in PCM format. CD transports usually have far better error correction and bit accuracy than optical computer drives. Although up sampling when recording can not improve upon the original quality, I have found 96/24 copies sound just that little bit smoother and more “analogue”. How real this is I’m not sure, it is a source for endless technical and subjective debate. Ignore that and go with what sounds best to you in your system.

    Finally a 192KHz/32bit audio file is still going to sound the same as a 320Kbs MP3 when you listen on anything other than a good quality HiFi system and only noticeably superior on audiophile systems. My system includes KEF Reference speakers, the B&W PV1d subwoofer and Cyrus X class amplification and the difference is noticeable, but not irksome especially for casual listening.

    To sum up;-
    If memory is an issue use Apple Lossless or FLAC, otherwise AIFF or WAV files are best as they are the most transportable. (WMA files are not very transportable and software to convert them costs.)
    For very large collections best quality MP3 should not be dismissed, it still sounds pretty good with a decent DAC and they can be used just about everywhere. Don’t ignore the quality of cables, computer cables are not usually made with HiFi in mind, so you might need to go to the HiFi cable specialists, most do now have USB, Coaxial, Optical and HDMI cables to match their phono and speaker cables.

    I am now going to teach my grandmother how to suck eggs.;-)

  • Jon says:

    @Sherbert DibDab
    I’ve think you missunderstood.
    To start with FLAC and ALAC are lossless, so they have the exact same quality as the original file.
    They do use less space, but they are packed formats, much like zip files, a zip-file when unzipped has the exact same sourcecode at the file that was ripped.
    It doesnt matter which of these formats you rip to, or buy, cause you can simply convert them without any quality loss.

    AIFF and WAV has the dissadvantage of not having proper TAG support, in other words, a FLAC or ALAC can contain information on artist, song name, genre, speed, composer and a lot of more information, with this information you can easily sort files. With WAV and AIFF you are pretty much limited to the filename that does not separate Artist, Album and Song name.

    SO even if you have unlimited space, you should use FLAC or Apple Lossless (ALAC), cause the files are much easier to handle, to filter, to search.

    MP3 files can sound very good, but as they are lossy, if in the future the MP3 format is dropped, you can’t convert them to a new format without loosing quality. And you can’t burn them to an Audio CD, without quality loss.
    So if you are ripping your CDs you should use FLAC or ALAC. If your player lacks the support, there are tons of tools out there to make a copy of the FLAC/ALAC file in a lossy format like MP3 (then you will still have both).

    When ripping, what you do is you put your CD in the CD-drive of your computer (or you can get one that connects via USB).
    You need a software that can rip that CD, there are alternatives that cost, or free ones. But they should support Accurip (itunes does not).
    There are instructions on the web how to set any of those rippers up. With Flac you have to option to set the level of compression, the middle value is usually fine, it doesnt matter when it comes to quality. But the file size vary, you can gett bigger files, loads your CPU less. Or you can set higher level of compression, but that takes a lot out of the CPU avaible, so it’s not compatible with every flac player out there, but should work on most computers.

    If you have the source as a CD, you should only use 16bit/44.1Khz, as that is the quality level of the CD; setting another number can introduce jitter and other errors to your files. You will end upp with larger files that likely have lower quality, due to the wronfull convertion.

    CD-rippers reads CDs carefully, to make sure ever single bit of information is read. There can be a lot of errors in playback of CDs, as they spin quite fast, ant there is a lot to read. A ripped CD, could turn out to sound even better than played back trhough your high end CD, as when ripped the CD is not played once in real time so less errors will occur. Error correction is thus far better in a CD-rom, simply cause the software reads the data several of times over to make sure it har read correct, And with Accurip, the software will connect to an online database, to compare the ripped file with other rips that has been made of the same CD before, to ensure that it was ripped correctly.
    So no matter how fancy your CD-player is, you should never connect it to your computer and record CDs, there is no advantage but there could be a disadvatage, acctually.
    You describe using a digital connetion, the data then transfered, if your player is not doing something it should not do, is 16 bit/44.1 KHZ PCM and can thus be recorded lossless, and should not be recorded with any other bitrate or sampling frequency. But you should never do this in the first place as the error correction in your CD-player is way worse than in ripping software, due to the read once nature of CD-players.

    USB and HDMI has built in error correction, and if there is any distortion to the data, it will end up loosing it’s connection. So a cable bought for 1 dollar sends exactly the same information as a 200 dollar cable or you will get an error message. More expensive cables can however have higher quality meaning lasting longer, or less sensitive to outside interferance, but as long as there is no error message, the cheap USB/HDMI cable transfers eaxtly the same information.
    Anything else is a complete lie!

    Analog cables however do differ, and signla sent thru them end up on the other end, without any error message if error is introduced. SO when it comes to shopping for cables, RCA cables, speaker cables, 3.5mm plug cables… have different quality levels.

    There are many USB-dacs, and i recommend looking for Asynchronous USB-dacs to ensure higher levels of quality. HTR microstreamer and Audioquest Dragonfly are the best at the low end of the scale.
    24bit/96KHz files have more dynamic range than your hifi system could ever handle, and better frequecy respons than almost all speakers and headphones on the market, and way beyond human hearing. So you will be very fine with a DAC that only supports 24/96, even though there are ones out there that does 24/192. And any file format above that is just wasting space, but it will be downsampled to 24bit/96Khz anyhow so you can still play the files.
    However since there are other things inside a “dac” than the Dac-chip itself and even that differs among different makers, you can shop around for a DAC that you feel is better. But Microstreamer and Dragonfly are so good that for most people other parts of the signal chain will affect the quality more.

    Your comment where filled miss missleading and missguided information.

    If you have a windows computer, to ensure that the music you output is not changed in any way, you need a player that support bit-correct/bit-perfect playback. Foobar2000 is the most common. You also need the ASIO or WASAPI plug-in. This is due to the way windows deals with the audio chain.

  • Rich Davis says:

    As a Mac user, I’ve been playing around with BitPerfect, Audirvana, Amarra, PureMusic, Decibel, JRMedia Center 18 (MC 19 is supposed to be out shortly if it isn’t already).

    I actually prefer Audirvana from a perspective of it works with mapping the volume, stop/start/next mapped to the keyboard. It works great, it sounds great, it has a built in converter which you can convert DSD to PCM, and other features. Amarra is another great sounding app, but I think it’s not as feature rich as Audirvana. I tend to gravitate to Audirvana. Pure Music is fine, but it’s interface leaves much to be desired. BitPerfect is about the simple, but I didn’t find it sounded best with my DAC as I would have hoped.

    Decibel I didn’t spend much time with it since it doesn’t use iTunes and JRiver was just WAY too messy and complicated to use for my purposes and I’d wait for JRiver Media Center 19.

    But, they all have demo versions to play around with.

  • jlrbiker says:

    Huh

  • Simon Tracy Forster says:

    I am trying XLD but it stores all the tracks individually rather than as an album. What am I doing wrong?

  • Brian Leslie says:

    What it boils down to is……….. SOUND QUALITY Vs CONVENIENCE. If you enjoy high quality (audiophile) music…then obviously this can only be achieved with the use of HiFi seperates. If convenience is your thing then MP3 would be your choice. Other formats like WAV…FLAC….Etc…Etc. ripped to 24/192/96 are PERCIEVED to improve the sound quality over the original CD. What in fact is happening is you are magnifying the ORIGINAL recording process. These procedures of course are nowhere near the quality of a HiFi seperates system.

  • Tim says:

    Hmmm. Struggling with how to respond to the latest post. At risk of stating the obvious, Brian seems to be confusing/combining the source file resolution with the components that are used to decode and present those source files.

    High resolution files aren’t magnifying the recording process. Presumably, the higher the resolution, the more faithful the files are to the master tape or source file. The better the DAC, amplification and speakers/headphones, the less that gets lost in translation.

  • Geoff says:

    dbpoweramp + networked external drive + Sonos: I’ve never looked back.

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