B E S T CD Ripper + MP3 Encoder = EAC = Exact Audio Copy

Go to the website http://www.exactaudiocopy.de/
to read about how to use Exact Audio Copy and to download it.

This audio Ripper is FREE, this guy's personal project, and the best ripper, 
because it is the only one that scans the CD for missing data on a bad pressing. 
It reads each sector on your CD AT LEAST twice, and many more times if the two samples don't match. 

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++ 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. 

There are multiple choices on how you write to a CD -- 
1) Audio CD  (you can't write an audio floppy disk of course)

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 it
2b) Disk-at-Once so it's sealed
When writing a data track, you open what's called a "session".  If you don't check the box to "close the session" at the end, the CD can only be read on a CD burner. You can close that session and then open a new one and add more data. 

Track-at-Once mode uses up more disk space, because closing the session while leaving the CD open to add another session (versus closing the CD), creates a "handle" (about 25MB?) for the next session.  This seems to be the method that Windows XP's built-in CD writing software uses. 

Track-at-Once (TAO) creates an internal "table of contents" at the end of the session, so it can be superceded by the next session, unless you close the CD.  It's handy, but less efficient for space. 
If I need to make a CD that will hopefully be compatible with an older CDROM, I pick Disk-at-Once mode instead of Track-at-Once. 

Disk-at-Once mode puts the CD's internal "table of contents" at the beginning of the CD rather than at the end, since it's not going to change once written. 

When writing a data CD, you also have a few other choices in the settings: 

a) ISO9660 (basic factory format, 8-letter file name limit, "old school") 
b) Joliet (extension of ISO9660, Microsoft-style, long file names) 
Joliet is most common, just be aware that ISO9660 exists for maximum compatiblity

i) CDROM mode ("old school", single session only)
ii) CDROM/XA mode (extended architecture, multisession)
Again, chances are you will be using XA mode, but if need be you can fall back to CDROM single session

3)  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. 
Rather than creating an open session, then closing it, it just writes one or two files at a time, and stays open. When the eject command is activated by the button on the front, or by Windows, you typically see a warning asking if you want to close the UDF CD or leave it open.  If you are just going to put it back into the burner later, leave it open. If you need to share it on another PC, close it. 
UDF-formatted "Windows" CDs are created and controlled by DirectCD by EZ-CD Creator (a.k.a. Roxio) or IN-CD by Nero, or other brand name software products. 
I don't expect a UDF "Windows" CD to work very well on an older CDROM.  If it does, and if that version of Windows has a compatible (free download) UDF Reader driver installed, then you're lucky, but don't count on it. 
Floppy disks simply do not have all these choices and features.
NOTES + TIPS:  (no other good place to put these)
On some Audio CDs, one track blends into another, or track notations are just there for reference, or track notations don't line up accurately with the beginning and end of the song
Result: there might be ugly-sounding gaps in the audio, at the wrong places. 
1) You can combine two or more tracks into one to eliminate gaps, either when you burn or when you extract, but they will then show up as one long track and you won't be able to skip to what used to be the second track.
2) You can choose burn a DISK AT ONCE session from the Options when burning an Audio CD, and "eliminate the two second gap between tracks".


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 3.90.2 is (currently) the best MP3 converter for sound quality, purportedly even better than newer versions. 

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. 


*******  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:
For VBR modes (generally highest quality):
"--alt-preset standard" This preset should generally be transparent to most people on most music and is already
     quite high in quality.

"--alt-preset extreme"  If you have extremely good hearing and similar equipment, this preset will generally provide
     slightly higher quality than the "standard" mode.   (This means if you spent or plan to spend many thousands of dollars on audiophile equipment you must buy at a specialty store.)

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. 
CBR or constant bit rate is "old school" technological standard.  A steady 128 or 160 kbps.  That's acceptable, but some musical passages contain sound information that exceeds those numbers.  Encoding them at those lower rates just chops off the extra information.  Subtle shadings of sound quality.  It will still exceed FM radio, by far.  Will you miss what's missing?  Depends.  Do you hear music or "tunes"?  Are you an audiophile?  Do you have a reason to need to use CBR, an older MP3 player?  I'd say stick with high quality and this will be your "final forever archive of music". 

One solution would be to record everything at an extreme 320 kbps, but that doubles your file size and partially defeats the purpose of using MP3s for high-fidelity compression. 
VBR is variable bit rate. It was explained this simply by someone smarter than me:
CBR = constant bit rate, varying quality   VBR = varying bit rate, constant high quality

The only setting I add to this, that is recommended by the developers is -lowpass 19.7.  Yes, it chops off music above 19.7 kHz, so any dog whistles in the music will be missing.  Some argue that using this setting might kill some higher level harmonics that shape audible sound, but Hydrogen developers successfully argue against that:
There is only so much "space" in each "frame" of MP3 data to describe sound.  It takes more space to describe this high-frequency sound that is inaudible to humans.  Eliminating this sound that you can't hear leaves slightly more room for sound you can hear, improving the overall result. 

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". 

simple installation

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:
a. unzip your LAME encoder to a folder, like C:\LAME\  -- there is not setup installation.
b. Under the File Menu for EAC, set your Compression to 
c. External MP3 encoder, pick LAME Encoder
d. type in the path to it like C:\LAME\LAME.exe  (I renamed the file LAME3902 to keep track of it.)
e. set your Bit Rate to 160
f. type in  --alt-preset standard -lowpass 19.7  in the Command Line Options box, 

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. 
I think that after installing the ASPI drivers which didnt work, installing WMP 7.1 replaced the wrong drivers in the System folder. 

This is the content of the EAC homepage at http://www.exactaudiocopy.de/
(written by the programmer Andre Wiethoff, not Gary Goodman who wrote this webpage)

Exact Audio Copy

EAC is a new audio grabber for CD-ROM drives. The main differences towards
most other audio grabbers :

   * Low registration costs (just a postcard and a stamp)
   * It works with a new technology, reading audio CDs almost perfectly. If
     there are any errors that can't be corrected, it will tell you on
     which time position the (possible) distortion occurred, so you could
     easily control it with e.g. the media player

I am writing this software, because I am fed up with these other audio
grabbers. I always had to listen to all grabbed waves, because other audio
grabbers will do only jitter correction but CD-ROM drives reading scratched
CDs often produce distortions. Listen to all waves would be a waste of
time. So in march I decided to write my own audio grabber, mainly for my
and my friends private usage. So if you don't like this software - don't
use it!   I don't want to make any profit with it, I just want to use (and
share) the best grabber (that's in my eyes the most exact grabber) ever
programmed. ................................

Gary Goodman
330 733 3518
updated 05/03/03
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