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).
Step 1: FreeDB and suitable programs
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.