CD Archival and Re-Encoding – Using FLAC and LAME

PART – I:

Purpose:

The purpose of this guide is to provide general information on the following items.

Suggested software/codec’s for digitally archiving your CD’s for long term storage and without losing an ounce of quality. (I.E. Using the Open Source FLAC lossless encoder)

Encode from the Archived FLAC files for the most currently used/popular portable format currently being used; IMHO it’s still MP3’s.

Tools I Used:

Operating System: Windows 7

Secure Ripper/Encoder:
dBpoweramp 13.3:  http://www.dbpoweramp.com/

Codec’s:
Lossless = FLAC 1.2.1  and  Lossy = Lame 3.98.2 (included in the install)

Disclaimer:

I’m not responsible for anything period…..these are just my opinions

Assumed FAQ’s:


Q. What does Lossless and Lossy mean?
A. Lossless = No loss of quality from the original source.
Lossy = Loss of quality, but with the added benefit of good compression etc. (I.E. small files)

Q. Why use FLAC and not Apple Lossless, Ape etc?
A. I like Open Source software and there are several hardware players that can actually decode FLAC

Q. Why use MP3’s and not AAC, WMA etc?
A. IMHO (and others) MP3 is still the most versatile supported codec for portable players and it’s a darn fine codec. However, in the end, I think AAC is/will be king.

Q. Why use EAC or dBpoweramp VS. iTunes (or Application XYZ) etc?
A. Well there’s a few answers to that, but to keep it short; they support Secure Ripping (AccurateStream, C2 errors, Caching), the AccurateRip database, and you can use almost every codec out there.

Q. Do I really need to be so paranoid about ripping / encoding?
A. Heck no, everyone has a level of happiness with their encoded music. J

Q. Is iTunes (or Application XYZ) any good?
A. If you’re happy, and it does everything you want, stick with it. However, iTunes (and most Application XYZ’s) don’t support dropping in various codecs, secure ripping, etc. (I.E. “it is what it is”).

Q. What if I use Linux?
A. Great! However, you won’t have dBpoweramp or EAC (unless you use Vmware, VirtualBox etc). There are other native options, look for anything that supports/has “CDParanoia” as the backend, but don’t expect the same level of applications.

Q. What if I use OSX?
A. (see Linux Q/A)

Q. Where can I find more info on Audio Ripping and Encoding in general?
A. See my “Links” section. (Also look over any help guides with the software you currently use)

Q. Do you have any relationship with any products mentioned in this guide?
A. Heck no….I’m just a geek trying to help the curious non-geek persons. J

Q. You mentioned EAC, can it be used instead of dBpoweramp?
A. Most definitely! – However, under Win7 (64bit at least) it’s not too happy at the moment and I really like the progress that dBpoweramp has made, and even though it cost a little money, it’s worth supporting. (*See EAC vs dBpoweramp)

Q. Why is the Album Artwork (sometimes) lower quality in dBpoweramp?
A. dBpoweramp grabs from the best Artwork available (with the databases it uses), but you can add your own very easily (pre or post encodes*).

Q. If I own an iPod will my FLAC or MP3’s work?
A. FLAC can’t be used on an iPod, but your MP3’s will work in both iTunes and iPods etc.
Note: FLAC is really for Archival purpose, but it’s nice to hear FLAC on portables that support it, if you have room. It’s also great for streaming to your stereo or audio server etc. (as it’s pure CD quality)

Q. Do you really need a secure ripper these days, with all the advancements in software?
A. If your ultimate goal is knowing your Archived CD’s (in FLAC etc) are 100% without errors, then yes, if you don’t mind re-encoding CD’s once in a while (if you find errors) then no…just use iTunes. J

Links:

Lossless – http://wiki.hydrogenaudio.org/index.php?title=Lossless_comparison
Lossy – http://www.bobulous.org.uk/misc/lossy_audio_2006.html

FLAC – http://flac.sourceforge.net/
FLAC Wiki – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FLAC

LAME – http://lame.sourceforge.net/
LAME Wiki – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LAME

HydrogenAudio LAME – http://wiki.hydrogenaudio.org/index.php?title=LAME
HydrogenAudio FLAC – http://wiki.hydrogenaudio.org/index.php?title=FLAC
HydrogenAudio Wiki – http://wiki.hydrogenaudio.org/
HydrogenAudio Forums – http://www.hydrogenaudio.org/forums/

RareWares – http://www.rarewares.org/

dBpoweramp Home – http://www.dbpoweramp.com/
dBpoweramp Codecs – http://dbpoweramp.com/codec-central.htm
dBpoweramp Forum – http://forum.dbpoweramp.com/

EAC Home – http://www.exactaudiocopy.de/

EAC vs dBpoweramp:

EAC is a very powerful Secure CD ripper created by Andre Wiethoff, he’s basically the father of secure ripping and his last known release was 0.99.pb5 in 2009. EAC can be very complicated for the first time user (but there are many guides available), it’s also one of the only other programs which use the AccurateRip database.

dBpoweramp is another very powerful Secure CD ripper created by “Spoon” and offers pretty much all the features of EAC and more. However, it’s not free, as he actually pays royalty fees for the MP3 licensing. In order to keep a flow of some money from each customer, you must subscribe to the PerfectMeta database if you want the best results for metadata (for tags/artwork etc).

However, once you realize this guy is a one man show and has/is doing a hell of a job, it’s worth the money to keep him employed. J  (IMHO)

Total Cost:
dBpoweramp Reference = $36.00 ( upgrades to the left of the decimal – I.E. 13.1, 13.2, 13.10 are free)
PerfectMeta (free the first year) then $5.00/yr  – This ties all the meta-data databases into one package.

EAC Pros:

  • Has been around forever and is still considered KING for the best Secure Ripping available
  • It’s 100% Free
  • You can use any codec you want, easy to change out etc.

EAC Cons:

  • Releases are very seldom and issues with Windows 7 can be a pain to get around.
  • No Album Art support and only uses freedb for tagging.
  • Hard to configure for non-geeks
  • One man show (same as dBpoweramp)
  • Not Multi-core / CPU enabled
  • No right click enabled features

dBpoweramp Pros:

  • Has been around for a long time and is actively developed (has a steady release schedule)
  • You have access to any codec you want via the “Configuration Tool” or “Codec Central”
  • Very easy to configure and use
  • Supports the best metadata databases around (PerfectMeta) and includes Album Art work etc.
  • Supports Multi-Core / CPU’s (kick but for FLAC to MP3 encodes)
  • Windows Shell integration for right click edits and conversions

dBpoweramp Cons:

  • Not Free and access to PerfectMeta is $5 bucks a year after the first year.
  • You can’t change out all of the codecs with custom compiles etc (but all codecs are based on the best available anyway)
  • Once man show (same as EAC)

Final Comments:

Keep in mind, even though dBpoweramp isn’t free, neither is life (I.E. Spoon deserves to make a living too), and while I don’t like the $5 a year subscription to the PerfectMeta, I realize he needs to put food on the table after we’ve purchased the main program. J

Plus, if you used it for 10 years, the total cost would only be about $85.00. I think this is pretty darn good IMHO.

PART II:

In part II, I will walk you through basic configurations and settings of dbpoweramp, and encoding your first CD to FLAC then re-encoding to MP3 for portability etc. However, if you want to get started without me, all you need to know (and more) is included in the help manual from dbpoweramp and throughout the websites above. So just go for it!

About Will Chatham

Will Chatham is a Cyber Security Analyst, Ethical Hacker, and Penetration Tester at a federal data center in Asheville, NC. Since Netscape 2.0, he has worked in a wide array of environments including non-profit, corporate, small business, and government. His varied background, from developer to search engine optimizer to security professional, has helped him build a wide range of skills that help those with whom he works and teaches.
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One Comment

  1. Thanks for your review and your thoughts.
    I thought I had decided for EAC, but been thinking about dbpoweramp too. Also torn between flac and apple lossless. I’ve ripped about 1/2 of my CDs using EAC and apple lossless, and if I were to go the flac and dbpoweramp way, I think I’d start again.
    Just to be double-sure.

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