17 October 2007

Ripping to FLAC with Exact Audio Copy

In a previous post I talked about the convenience of having your CD collection archived to a hard disk. I weighed up the options for a archiving format and decided FLAC met my needs the best.

Anyone who has done and serious ripping on a Windows PC in the past will likely know that there are two big players; CDex and Exact Audio Copy. While EAC is not open source it seems to me to be the more complete solution and in a like for like comparison ripped far faster than CDex without any loss of quality. Mac or Unix users can check out the download page on the FLAC site for the ripping options availabe to them.

Getting it set up

After downloading and installing EAC you'll be presented with the very handy setup wizard which does a lot of the hard work for you. Unfortunately in my case the drive setup parts of the wizard didn't work first time which was down to EAC defaulting to using a third party ASAPI drive interface which i didn't have installed. This is easily fixed after the setup finished by going to:
EAC > EAC Options... > Interface(tab)
and selecting "Native Win32 interface for Win NT/2000/XP". Re-run the wizard again from the EAC menu to configure your drives.

Once you're finished with the wizard it's best to run through the settings it's chosen anyway as in some cases they aren't optimal. Main things to check, from the EAC menu:

EAC Options:

  • Extraction tab
    • Extraction and compression priority
      Setting this to "High" will ensure that EAC is prioritised above other applications when its ripping.

Drive Options:

  • Extraction Method tab
    • Mode
      Ideally you want "Secure".
    • Examine C2 Feature...
      You can use this tool along with a suitably scratched CD to determine whether your drive supports C2. This is worth doing as it will increase the speed of your rips.
  • Drive tab
    • Drive read command
      Hit the "Autodetect read command now" button as the wizard doesn't seem to set this.
  • Offset/Speed tab
    • Allow speed reduction during extraction
      Ideally you want this checked but some drives don't speed up again once they've slowed down.
    • Use AccurateRip with this drive
      You want this checked as it will look up the checksums of your rips against a database of other people's thus ensuring they're accurate.
  • Gap Detection tab
    • Gap/Index retrieval method
      It's worth putting a CD in and running a Detect Gaps once for each one of these options to see which is quickest.
    • Detection accuracy
      Set this to "Secure".

Compression Options:

The configuration wizard should have configured your FLAC settings for you so long as you picked the right option. You can check this in "Compression Options...". If it hasn't then run the wizard again and chose the FLAC option when prompted rather than trying to set the command line and all its parameters yourself.

freedb/Database Options:

  • freedb tab
    • Your e-mail address
      Enter your e-mail address to use freedb.
    • Get active freedb server list
      Hit this to get the list of freedb servers.

Ripping a CD

  1. Put a CD in and select the right drive from the drop-down list, the list of track should appear.
  2. Hit F4 (Action > Detect Gaps) to run the gap detection.
  3. Hit Alt-G (Database > Get CD Information From > Remote freedb) to get the album and track info.
  4. Check the album info is right and if not update it.
  5. Hit Ctrl-A (Edit > Select All) and the Shift-F5 (Action > Copy Selected Tracks > Compressed...) to begin ripping.

After this finishes you get a status log that gives you a quality percentage, AccurateRip confidence and and errors for each track.

Track quality indicates what percentage of the track was ripped first time with no problems. If everything is set up properly and you have a scratch free CD will normally be 99.9% or 100%.

AccurateRip confidence is the number of people in the AccurateRip database who have submitted the same checksum for a particular track as you. The higher the confidence the better however, a low confidence doesn't necessarily mean it is a bad rip, especially if you're ripping a lesser known CD.


Fire up Winamp, have a listen and then kick yourself for ever thinking MP3s sounded good!


UnsteadyKen said...

Thanks for this idiots guide Derek.
Much appreciated by this idiot.


Anonymous said...

Dito. Thanks for the guide to ripping. Excellent results.

Milter said...

Thanks. Really helpfull getting started guide.

Anonymous said...

I ripped a song in both FLAC and mp3 formats and couldn't tell the difference between the two when I played them. I guess it depends on the quality of your speaker system or the type of music you listen to.

Derek Fowler said...

Also depends on your ears and the quality of the original recording.

All those variables make a difference and the degree of improvement you'll notice from MP3 to FLAC will be less if your MP3 is ripped at a high bitrate e.g. 320kbps.

As for quality of system iPods, for example, are quite capable of reproducing good audio provided you have some decent headphones so you don't need to spend big bucks on hi-fi separates to hear the difference. What you wont get from them however is deep bass as they just don't have the power to drive headphones properly, for that you need a dedicated headphone amp.

JGC said...

You are correct, if you can not hear the difference between FLAC and max MP3 then either your listen system is of poor quality or your hearing is badly damaged.

I have done FLAC vs MP3 tests on my home hi fi system and it was only then that I realised how degraded the MP3 version is.
MP3 sounded like it had the guts sucked out of it. Since discovering this I only rip my CDs to FLAC using EAC.
FLAC sounds very close to the original CD and that difference is only caused by the quality of the DAC used in playback of the FLAC.
If it was possible to play the FLAC back through the DAC that is in the CD player then the CD and FLAC would sound identical.

Tom Royle said...

Hi, Great guide Derek. I've been using EAC for some time now to rip CD's to FLAC. But suddenly it is giving me WAV files instead and I cannot find out why! Any ideas anyone?
Thanks Tom

Anonymous said...

your post totally solved the problem i've been googling for the past two hours thx