If you’re anything like me, you rather enjoy listening to music, and have a fairly extensive CD collection. That being said, the standard Windows fare for ripping CD’s onto your computer, as well as iTunes for that matter, is somewhat lacking in terms of what you can do, which format you can encode in, and the list goes on.
I’ve tried using various other programs, and save for one or two, they always seemed to miss something I wanted, and in the case of some CD rippers, if I wanted to have my music in multiple formats, I’d often have to re-encode each CD in every format.
Then a few years ago I discovered dbPowerAmp. While it isn’t free (available for $48 at dbpoweramp.com), it has everything I could possibly need. For one, it allows the encoding of CD’s in full uncompressed WAV format or the lossless FLAC format. Best of all, it injects the CD metadata into files, including the CD cover art, which by itself, sets it worlds apart from other encoders. And speaking of the CD metadata, every time you insert a CD into the drive, dbPowerAmp will download the metadata from 4 separate metadata services (AMG, GD3, freedb & MusicBrainz), allowing you to pick and choose which track data is best, as well as letting you capitalize & customize the text for the track, title, artist, and even insert the full release date vs. just putting in the year, allowing for a more granular way to sort your music library.
The program also allows you to set up how to organize music from your newly-ripped CD’s. In my case, I have it set up under Artist\CD Title(Track #) – Track Title. The program even lets you put compilation CD’s (you know, like all those Now That’s What I Call Music CD’s everyone seems to have a million of) and soundtracks into their own folder. You can customize it in any number of ways with the tags available on the
It doesn’t end there either. When it comes to scratched CD’s, dbPowerAmp is outstanding. While in “Secure” mode, if the drive comes across a reading error while ripping a track, it attempts to re-rip the track just to make sure it wasn’t a simple skip. If it’s a legitimate scratch, it lets you make the choice of skipping the track entirely, or letting it go into “Ultra Secure” mode, in which dbPowerAmp will read and re-read the frame up to 34 times (it doesn’t actually do it 34 times, it usually goes no more than 5 or 6 tops, even for the worst scratches, but only as many as needed). Necessarily, this slows down the ripping significantly, how much depends on the severity and quantity of the scratches, but it has the advantage of allowing you to finally listen to tracks that may be too scratched up to listen to in a standard CD player. I found that only Exact Audio Copy is superior in terms of dealing with scratches on CD’s, both in terms of the quality and speed of how it deals with the damage, but that is another post/discussion for another time.
But here’s the best part… Once you rip and encode your CD’s (I’d highly recommend doing the first round in a lossless format like WAV or FLAC), you can use the dbPowerAmp Batch Encoder, which is included with the purchase & installation of the core CD ripper program, and you can encode all the music into an entirely different format, like the ever-ubiquitous MP3, M4A (basically the iTunes format), ALAC (Apple Lossless), and any of the other formats available. Best of all, if you have a lot of files, the program has native support for multi-core processors, and will use all of them to encode your music, and if you so choose, even order your computer to shut down, restart, or go to sleep upon completion of the encoding. This means you can just start the process, leave your computer to plug along for however long it needs to encode your music collection, and then shut your computer down for you once it’s done. This way, you’ll not only have full-CD quality ready to go with the FLAC or WAV format ready to go at a moment’s notice, but it will double as an archive as needed.
If you’re the type though, that has a massive CD collection, stretching into the thousands of CD’s, then it may not hurt to get yourself a batch ripper, which is a piece of hardware that attaches to your PC and takes up to 50-100 CD’s at once in a hopper, and, one at a time, will rip the CD onto your computer, then put the CD into another hopper once finished. Like with the Batch Encoder, you can set up up to turn your computer off once it’s finished, and it’ll automatically grab the CD metadata for you. So you can put the CD’s in, start it and walk away. The dbPowerAmp site has a list of compatible batch rippers, most of which are available on Amazon.
One thing of note, if you have a lot of music, I would highly recommend getting a big hard drive, and the bigger is better. In my case, with almost 500 CD’s, it came out to nearly 400GB of space as WAV or FLAC files, with other formats like FLAC and MP3 taking up more space still. That shouldn’t be a big issue, given that there are 20+TB hard drives being sold on Amazon, as well as small home office NAS storage solutions for people who know how to set them up.
Plus, with the growth of music stores, such as 7Digital, HDTracks.com, Qobuz and others offering FLAC formatted music not only in CD-quality, but higher level studio quality, dbPowerAmp’s Batch Encoder shines as well, as it allows you to re-encode the files into whichever format you wish, even into a more recent version of FLAC than what you downloaded, as well as allowing you to update & add metadata to the files, including updating the cover art, add lyrics if you so choose, album & artist sorting tags, the list goes on. How much depends entirely upon you and how much time & effort you want to spend updating your music catalog.