B E S T CD Ripper + MP3 Encoder = EAC = Exact Audio Copy
++ Quality ++
According to an *Audio Engineers* website, creating MP3s using Lame Encoder at 160kbps (can be plugged into EAC software) is INDISTINGUISHABLE for the human ear from clean CD sound. It usually takes audio analysis equipment to detect any loss or difference.
A CD *PLAYER* is designed to read imperfect Audio CDs and extrapolate existing information to fill in missing sound data seamlessly during the play. Bad pressings of CDs from the factory (or your burner) are a built-in factor of CD technology.
(Think about it -- when the consortium of Phillips, Sony and whatnot decided on a standard for CDs, adding more advanced design features to the electronics allowed them to be much more slack in creating perfect media at the factory, and allowed CDs to have normal wear and tear scratches, giving them the reputation as "indestructable". You know how a scratch in a record would make it skip or click, a slightly-scratched CD should still play, without the slightest interruption.)
The audio data is burned in a "leap-frogged" pattern (my description), so if the CD is scratched at one point, it doesn't obliterate a group of successive bits of data, but instead an unordered group of bits.
If the data were written 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9, a scratch could wipe out 4-5-6 or off-center tracking could fail to read that.
Instead, the data is written more like 1-4-7-9-6-3-8-5-2 (and reassembled in the correct order by the player) so a CD player can get the information "around" the bad spot and fill in (guess) any missing information on the fly, imperceptably.
Since the missing information is a sound that is preceded and followed by other sounds in a stream, the CD player assumes the sound in between is similar (or maybe rising or falling) and "creates" the missing sound, intelligently.
**** ON THE OTHER HAND, when *EXTRACTING* data by ripping a CD, your computer CD-ROM or CD-RW burner reads raw data and converts it. It cannot "fill-in" data" because it's reading *DATA* and not interpreting "audio information". If that makes sense.
So instead you may wind up with sharp, loud glitches or "static" on the MP3.
EAC - Exact Audio Copy - can read a bad sector on a CD from something like 8 up to 88 times to compare and extract the data. It can take a lot longer to rip on a bad pressing, but the result if more likely to be flawless. Andre Wiethoff from Germany explains it all on his website and in the Text File included in the download.
He even has a list of Audio CDs with specific serial numbers that if you have them you can use them to further customize your installation by putting in the CD and testing your player online to determine the exact OFFSET your CDROM is designed with. The OFFSET can affect a lead-in or lead-out silent period and cause you to miss 0.5 to 2 seconds of music on a track, or can add in the same amount. OFFSET calibration involves the most complicated instructions on his site but not incomprehensible.
CDROMs were not initially designed with "Ripping" in mind, and I couldn't find the OFFSETs on mine, I didn't have any CDs that matched his "known versions", but mine work OK anyhow. My Acer and Mitsumi Burners work just fine for extraction without knowing the OFFSETs and just using those default settings. One time, a CD that wouldnt rip on the faster Acer ripped successfully on the slower and older Mitsumi. Oh well.
For brands, knowing what I know now, I would recommend the TDK or Plextor brand, an older model would be OK for slightly slower burning and reading. For burning an Audio CD the Audio Engineer site also recommends burning at no faster than 8x even with that "burnproof" buffer technology, and recommends "bouncing to disk", i.e. using the same device for copying and burning, instead of going directly from CDROM to CD-R burner.
One question people always ask me is "Why is is so difficult to copy data to a CD as compared to a floppy?" The answer is that the floppy drive is simple, ancient technology preceding even hard drives, so it's access is built-in to the system and there are few variables (and few choices) to contend with. CDROMs and especially CD burning is relatively new compared to floppy disks. A few years ago, systems could not boot up from a CD, like a "restore CD", because the CD was initialized not by the system BIOS. You needed software and proper commands to operate the CD, and those had to be read off a floppy disk at boot up.
Floppy disks used to come blank, but are all pre-formatted at the factory these days. There is basically only one way to format a floppy -- there are other obscure methods to format them to hold a little more data, but for the most part a standard 1.44MB floppy disk holds strictly 1.38MB formatted.
are multiple choices on how you write to a CD --
When writing a group of audio tracks, you open what's called a "session" on the CD. You can add a new session after that --- for a mixed-mode audio/data CD -- like music plus a video --- but a second audio session will be unreadable, (or will make the first one unreadable, I forget which).2) Data CD
2a) Track-at-Once, so you can add to it3) UDF formatting creates what acts like a big floppy disk.
UDF formatting was developed for DVD disks. UDF is useful for making a running backup CD, because it becomes a working drive letter, just like another hard drive or floppy. You can copy files to it using Windows Explorer. I use that when I make a batch file to quickly and repeatedly copy a group files to the CD.Floppy disks simply do not have all these choices and features.
Also for MP3s, download and install Lame3.90.2-ICL.zip.
Find it on www.hydrogenaudio.org.
It's a big discussion board. Browse around until you find the "sticky"
discussions kept near the top for FAQs for new visitors.
LAME stands for "Lame Aint an MP3 ENcoder", but it is. I read that the LAME algorithm had a different purpose in "a previous life" but was found to do a fine job of compressing sound, and has since been under continuous development by volunteer geeks working in teams across the world.
These folks not only understand "psycho-acoustic noise shaping" -- how to shape sound for what our brains hear -- but also how to write software in C++ coding that mathematically analyzes a stream of music and converts it into a compressed format 1/10 of the original size by leaving out only the parts of music humans can't hear, and creating an approximation of the sound that is virtually indistinguishable from the original.
Other MP3 encoders produce some "ringing artifacts" and "swishy drums". I could hear the difference.
A setting of 128 kbps (kilobits per second) is a bare standard for music fidelity, less might be OK for speech. A setting of 160kbps or higher is preferable.
Audio CDs are recorded at the 128 kbps bit rate and 44,100 hertz frequency for "oversampling" (this is probably too technical to discuss here except to say that 44,100 is double the frequency of the top threshold of human hearing plus some more to prevent aliasing, a type of distortion), but MP3s DO WORK better with a higher bit rate than 128.
That's why I used 128 and 44100 as an OK standard especially for converting streaming Real Audio files to MP3, but then I went higher to 160 as a standard for ripping. 128-44 is called "Near-CD" quality or "better than FM radio" quality, and that's why I use that as a baseline.
SETTINGS for ENCODING
******* NOTE: One Setting to change for encoding or "Compression" as EAC calls it: the default setting includes a command line of R3-mix. Hydrogen Audio strongly recommends their setting of --alt-preset standard. The best features are plugged into this setting. . Use this setting ONLY with their version Lame3.90.2-ICL or newer off Hydrogen Audio site, --alt-preset standard is meaningless on other encoders.
Here's what they say:
extreme" If you have extremely good hearing and similar equipment,
this preset will generally provide
These settings are VBR mode. My older portable MP3 player can't deal with VBR, it can't read it. But any PC can read VBR, and my newer car MP3 player and most newer portables can.
Non-VBR MP3s on Winmx will show a bit rate of 64 or 96
or 112 or 128 or 160 or 192 or 224 or 256 or 320. VBR-encoded MP3s will
have an odd number like 202 or 143 or something. The number appears to
be an "estimated average bit rate".
EAC just unzips to a folder and then run the EXEcutable and follow directions. After you install EAC, run it's auto-config to auto detect your CD readers and writers.
Connecting EAC to LAME:
READ all the technical details on the exactaudiocopy website, or search for further technical information on your own.
P.S. If you have having trouble getting a ripper to work there
are various suggestions online for obtaining ASPI drivers. You could
try to install Window Media Player 7.1.
Exact Audio CopyIntroduction
EAC is a new
audio grabber for CD-ROM drives. The main differences towards
* Low registration costs (just a postcard and a stamp)
I am writing
this software, because I am fed up with these other audio
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