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Converting Audio CDs into MP3s

Picture of Converting Audio CDs into MP3s
Check out the author’s website, http://www.neatinformation.com/, for lots of interesting articles. If you link to this instructable from another website, please include a link to the Neat Information website.

I searched Instructables and was mildly amused that there's no tutorial on how to rip CDs (convert audio CDs to MP3s). Plenty of articles on how to remove copy protection systems, but none to do the basic process. I've shown this to many friends who are intelligent, but not really into high tech equipment and they've found it useful.

There are two challenges to converting your audio CD collection into MP3s on your computer and media players – the actual conversion (copying the uncompressed file from the CD to your computer and compressing it as an MP3 file) and labeling the song. The technical specifications for standard audio CDs do not provide a way to identify a song’s name or other information about the song and album. Many modern MP3 players have the capability to display a song’s title and additional information (artist, album, year, and even album artwork if it’s available).
 
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Step 1: FreeDB and suitable programs

Picture of FreeDB and suitable programs
audiograbber tracks.jpg
The solution is an online database of millions of CDs with that information. Clever CD to MP3 conversion programs can generate an almost certainly unique “serial number” for each CD by looking at the length of each track. The odds of separate unrelated CDs having lengths which match is incredibly low. Of course your computer has to be connected to the Internet and your conversion program has to be compatible with the freedb database for this to work.

The key limitation of freedb is most of the data is submitted by users. When a new CD is submitted which isn’t in freedb’s database the user has the option to enter the information for that CD. Users can certainly make typos, enter names in the wrong format, or other inconsistencies. As a consequence when your program queries freedb you may be given several basically identical choices (e.g. “Beatles, the White Album”, “The White Album”, “White Album, The”, or even “White Album – Beetles”).

You cannot download or purchase MP3s from freedb, it’s a database of information about songs, not an online collection.

Freedb is a GNU licensed database and it’s been promised that the data will always be free, even though it’s controlled by a commercial company (Magix) which sells audio editing software.

Magix’s Audio Cleaning Lab is an excellent CD ripping program and is also an excellent audio editor and CD burner. But if you only need to convert audio CDs into MP3s in Windows there’s a free program, Audiograbber.
Gruntings and salivations!
I have a small suggestion, folk. Unlike in the far, dim past, today storage space is cheap and plentiful, virtually eliminating the need for radical conservation of file size for which MP3 was created.
If you're going to play things on a player of limited capacity or capability, or your sound system's cheezy, perhaps MP3's still your best choice. MP3 is, by design, a lossy compromise. It ain't pretty, folks.
However, for those of you that play your music directly from a compooter to your audio system, I heartily recommend ripping to FLAC instead. It's no more difficult than ripping to MP3. FLAC is an acronym for 'Free LOSSLESS Audio Codec', and it's MUCH better sound, a perfect copy of your original file. The resulting file size is necessarily a bit larger, though this is somewhat adjustable. If your prime consideration is sweet sound, by all means try FLAC, or maybe one of the other, lesser-known lossless codecs available. Compare the same tune done in MP3 and FLAC, especially in your headphones. The difference is humongous!
Winamp and Foobar easily play FLAC files. You'll have to do a little fiddlin' if you decide to rip FLACs to an audio CD, but for many, like me, I rip them to MP3 for that, and save those elsewhere. Meanwhile, I have a fine-sounding library of tunes, all on a portable drive, in a lossless, perfect copy of the source.
MP3 is fine, within it's limits and for those specific applications where it's most useful, but when your primary aim is the best sound, when you want your audio files to make the best use of a good audio system, take time to check out ripping to lossless FLAC. I think you'll be pleased. Eargasms, anyone? ;)
-Peace.
pcooper21 year ago
I used to use Audiograbber, but have given up: All too often it mangles the first two seconds of a track, and I've had to perform the rip over again. When ripping large collections of tracks from multiple CDs, that can add a considerable amount of work, having to audit every ripped track, re-inserting the disc in the drive, and re-running the program, while keeping one's fingers crossed that Audiograbber won't flub it again. The originator of Audiograbber, Jackie Franck, has stopped maintaining the program and the source code is not available, so no bug fixes are likely to be forthcoming in the foreseeable future.

Instead of Audiograbber on Microsoft Windows, I prefer to rip the tracks to WAV format with Winamp, then use the free LAME MP3 encoder with the free RazorLAME GUI shell to convert the collection of WAV files to MP3 files in batch mode. I get perfect results every time and don't have do the work over again. To prepare the ID3 tags in the MP3 files, I use MP3tag, a free program that can fill the metadata fields for one MP3 file or hundreds of MP3 files at once in batch mode.
philip42 (author)  pcooper21 year ago
I've never had the problems with audiograbber which you've described.

As I mentioned in the instructables I also use Magix Audio Cleaning Lab which has a bunch of other functions. I decided to feature audiograbber over Audio Cleaning Lab because it's a free program but both are excellent tools that I'm glad to use.

Winamp is a program I used to use, but don't like anymore because it's too intrusive with its ads.
Pretty good 'ible. I use both Audiograbber and ACL (the former for CD/mp3 conversion, the latter for vinyl/mp3). Yes, everyone should have Audiograbber on their Windows systems.
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