Ripping a music collection is a major time consuming task and something ideally you only want to do once so itís worth getting it right first time.
Iíve been surprised by the differing methods, applications and formats people have used to rip their music collection to file.
This is a basic guide is for ripping CDís; converting analogue to digital, vinyl or tape, is not covered here.
Following the guidelines below should ensure your music collection is kept safe from computer related disasters and will provide you with rips of the best possible quality with the option to convert to other formats and/or use different media players and OS.
To follow the guide you will need:
2, preferably 3 storage drives,
A ripping application
A computer with a dvd,cd drive
Cables to link all the above
There are a great many makes and sizes available but roughly there are two types available; the standard type drive that you find in most computers which is a spinning hard disc 2.5Ē or 3.5Ē diameter and the newer Solid State Drives (SSD) which donít have any moving parts.
Both types have their advantages and disadvantages, the SSD drives are virtually silent, tend to have a smaller capacity and are expensive. The more affordable spinning disc type drives tend to be mechanically noisier, are available in large capacities and are relatively cheap.
Both types have been known to fail, more often than not problems with associated software not recognizing the drive.
As with anything concerning audio there are debates concerning the speed of data retrieval, spin speeds, connection methods and backup and storage configuration (NAS).
Such issues are outside the scope of this guide.
What I would also suggest is you choose a drive that has a power supply independent from a computer.
USB powered drives will take up two USB ports on your laptop or PC to provide adequate power and can make life more difficult when powering a USB Dac. This will also give you the option of building your own power supply for your drives if you believe that electrical generated noise is causing audible problems during playback.
With regard to reliability from what I have read most of the main brands are equally reliable. I have used
without problems so far.
The Ripping Application
A great many media players can rip. My recommendation is you use an application specifically for the purpose of ripping and keep the players solely for playback.
I do not recommend using itunes for ripping.
If you want ALAC files use one of the application s below and then convert.
I do recommend using either Exact Audio Copy or dbpoweramp.
Both EAC and dbPA are capable of bit perfect ripping. Both are relatively easy to use; dbPA having the edge on ripping speed and convenience.
I use EAC; itís free, while dbPA has to be purchased.
Because EAC is the application I have the most experience with, below is a links to what I have found to be excellent guides for this app. However, if you are prepared to purchase dbPA there are equally good guides available.
The important point here is too read the guides and experiment with EAC BEFORE you start ripping your collection.
EAC has an easy setup option and for most users this will give you the best quality rips. I do however recommend you ensure that Accurate Rip is enabled, that you enable cue sheets (you can embed other information in cue sheets at a later date if required, but not if theyíre not there in the first place) and please, submit your rip results to their data base.
Most PC and laptops come with a suitable drive.
Generally the more powerful your computer the faster the whole ripping process can be.
It can be helpful to know the spec of the drive you are going to use for ripping as differing drives use differing offsets and both EAC and dbPA have options to make use of this information.
In theory as long as the cables you use to link the receiving drive to the ripping computer meet the relevant standard data should pass uncorrupted. I find the Belkin Gold series USB cables excellent quality for the price.
Rip a minimum of two copies, preferably three.
I rip one copy as WAV as backup/reference library. WAV is an uncompressed format and as such can be copied and converted to any other format with the suitable software. If you rip to another format as reference, even lossless, there is always that niggling doubt that something got left out or when playing back the extra processing power required to de compress the format somehow influences the final audio.
I rip another copy to Flac using the external converter supplied with EAC. I have the converter set to convert after each rip. Itís more time consuming than converting as the next rip is in progress but perhaps safer in the long run. If youíre a mac users then this is the copy to convert to ALAC.
This is the copy I use to listen to.
Given the low price of data storage a third copy as a belt and braces approach to keeping all that precious music and time youíve spent ripping safe from computer related disasters, theft, accidents etc is sensible. Once again I used WAV for the reasons above and I keep it in a fireproof storage box and update every month.
Make a directory to hold ripped music.
Rip to a folder that has the artistís name and album title. The benefit of this is it makes it a lot easier to retrieve or delete a complete album and overcome file tagging problems.
Make each folder before you start the rip and direct EAC to save to that folder in that directory.
Always make a cue sheet for each album or track if youíre ripping individual tracks.
(The importance of cue sheets cannot be stressed enough, if you donít do them at the initial rip you are likely to regret it when it comes to album art, changing media player or method such as RAM loading players.)
Whether you choose to initially rip the one WAV file and copy from that, or rip individually to each storage medium is a matter of how paranoid you are. I rip individually to each drive.
I prefer to keep the original CD, mainly because I still havenít found a utility that provides ALL the information found on the sleeve. However, if you are prepared to search for such information on the net should you require it then selling the CDís after youíve ripped them can reduce the overall cost. Personally, I would only consider this if I had ripped three copies.
Thatís the basics; how you back up and add to your collection will depend a lot on how youíve stored the files. There is a number of software option for backing up, particularly if youíve got a NAS system in RAID configuration but for the more humble setups my own included, I back up manually.
It took me about two weeks of fairly constant attention to rip my CD collection (~380 CDís) and I spent a little short of £200 on the hardware (3 drives and cables). So far, Iíve had one drive fail, (through my own fault, I dropped it).
I still havenít found a satisfactory way to convert to file all the music I recorded from vinyl to reel to reel tape but one day perhaps.
I hope this guide is understandable and helpful. If I have missed something please feel free to add to it.