Extracting audio files for use in a jukebox cabinet is called ripping. Most commonly, this is done from CD's, since they store the music as digital data, but can be done from cassettes, albums, or whatever other format you may have your audio stored on, although further hardware may be necessary depending on the format. Using the proper software will then allow you to extract and compress your audio files to whatever format you wish to store your audio files as.
This writeup is done to address only the most common form of media and audio format currently in vogue (CD to mp3), as there are other better-suited places on the internet to go for some of the more exotic formats you may have. HydrogenAudio is one of the better places, and has updated information about this process as well.
Note that the process of ripping audio tracks is not illegal. However music is copyrighted material and laws on copyright are in effect. In most countries it is legal to make a copy (or ripped files) of a CD you own for personal use.
Accurately Ripping Your CD's To mp3
To best accomplish this, you'll want:
- A ripper that won't let bad extractions through
- An encoder producing excellent audio at reasonable file sizes
- A process that requires very little input
Using the setup laid out here, inserting a CD will automatically find your CD info on freedb.org (if your PC is connected to the internet), and with one click, will rip, encode, and tag your music, create the folder structure you prefer, and insert the mp3 files into the proper folders.
Using Exact Audio Copy (EAC) will do all this with a little help from a few helper programs, and you won't have to worry about reviewing every track for flaws. EAC double-checks every bit for accuracy against the original; if it finds discrepancies, it reads the data again, and yet again if necessary. As a result, it's slower than other rippers, but you're going to automate this process and let the software do the work.
Along with EAC, you will need another program called LAME, and your PC may also require an ASPI layer. The following are what is recommended:
The currently recommended version of EAC is Exact Audio Copy 0.9 beta 4 (pre-beta versions 0.95pb4 and so on are unstable, have important features removed (for "legal reasons") and have known bugs involving the tags, therefore should be avoided) EAC does not have THAT version on their website, so Google the phrase in in bold and download it.
LAME encodes mp3's. EAC will use this to turn the files you rip from your CD's into mp3 format. Currently, the best version to use is LAME v3.97 beta 2 Again, Google the phrase in bold.
If you are using Windows 2000 or XP, you'll need to download the Nero ASPI Layer DLL Driver. This dll file can be found here. If you are using Windows 95/98/ME it already has an ASPI layer built in.
Installation & Basic Setup
Unzip & install EAC, LAME & (if needed) ASPI layer dll into the same directory (Usually C:\Program Files\Exact Audio Copy).
After the software is installed, EAC needs to be configured. Put an audio CD in your CD-ROM drive BEFORE you run EAC. Run EAC, and it will perform an initial drive test. When asked, select Optimization for "accurate results". If you have more than one CD drive, EAC defaults to what it considers the best drive. If you wish, this can be changed later.
EAC will then offer to configure LAME for you. When it starts its search, CANCEL the search and point EAC to the directory yourself. When asked, choose the "standard" LAME setting option for now (we will change this later), and choose the Expert interface option.
Click the EAC dropdown menu at the top. Select the EAC Options menu:
- Select the General tab, check "On unknown CD", and select the "Automatically access online freedb database" button.
- Select the Filename tab. Type %A - %C\%N - %T (including the space before and after the "-") in the box under "Naming Scheme". This will result in your directory structure being set up as follows:
- Folder (Artist Name) - (Album Name)
- Track Number - Name.mp3 (song file)
- Folder (Artist Name) - (Album Name)
- Select the Directories tab, and choose "Use this directory" Pick where you want EAC to put all your music folders/CD's.
Now select the Drive Options menu.
- If the box marked "Drive is capable of retrieving C2 error information" is already be checked, UNCHECK it. Inevitably it will be the one thing that causes you headaches
- DO NOT UNCHECK SECURE MODE!
- The whole point of using EAC is its secure mode! Using Burst Mode is POINTLESS if you wish to create error-free rips!
Then select the Compression Options menu.
- Select the External Compression tab and make sure the LAME MP3 Encoder is displayed in the "Parameter passing scheme" pulldown box. If it isn't, choose it. You will be unable to change anything else if it ISN'T, so this step is vital.
- You now have a choice to make. You can save your music in either constant (CBR) or variable (VBR) bit rate form. VBR is the preferred bit rate form because LAME will vary the bit rate for each section of the track, i.e. silence wll be encoded at 64kbps and very complex parts may even reach 320kbps. A track encoded using a CBR (constant bit rate) of, for example, 192kbps will sound far worse than a VBR file with an identical bit rate.
- By not wasting space encoding simple parts of a track at a high rate the LAME VBR setting lets more complex parts of a track be recorded in more detail, resulting in a lower loss of quality. There is some disccusion over the various VBR setting that LAME has, but when it comes to VBR vs CBR there is no contest, unless you want to encode all your files with a CBR of 320. This would give you files with the same quality as VBR files but will be three times the size.
- Whatever your choice, either select 320 as the Bit Rate from the the "Bit Rate" pulldown menu if you wish to use CBR, or select 192 if you wish to use VBR (selecting 320 using VBR causes a known bug)
- If you are using VBR, in the box next to "Additional command line options" CUT AND PASTE to enter the following: -V 2 --vbr-new
- Please make sure that only the above text ("-V 2 --vbr-new") is in the command line options box.
- This command line option is much better than normal VBR modes, specially optimized in the program code and produces a higher quality file.
Lastly, select the freedb Options menu.
- Make sure your e-mail address is correct and click the "Get active freedb server list" button. This will probably take a while.
- From the drop down menu, select a server close to you *hint* check the server name for an idea of where it's located.
Now, remove the CD from your drive and double check all your settings are correct
Test your setup
You'll want to rip a CD to test your configuration of EAC before moving on to the rest of your collection. Insert a CD into your drive. EAC should automatically check the freedb server for track data. If it seems like it is NOT, press Alt-G to do so.
Highlight some tracks and hit the MP3 button. EAC will rip the audio from the CD to your hard drive. When the first track is ripped, a DOS window should open (that's your MP3 being created). Don't close it, it will close when it's done encoding your song to mp3. When you're all done, open the folder you ripped your music to and check to make sure LAME is finished. If so, you should have a folder full of mp3 files ONLY. If you have .wav files or .tmp files, wait a bit until LAME is done.
That's all there is to it!
Normalizing Your Files
You may find the volume varies across your music collection. Making the volume level the same across all your files is called normalizing. If you wish to normalize the volume levels from track to track (NOT recommended, unless making a "mix CD" from your mp3 files) DO NOT use regular normalizing software, and DO NOT normalize the original file.
Often, normalizing software causes further loss of information on your files, and can make those changes irreversible. Create a copy of the file(s) you wish to normalize and make any changes to the copy. To normalize files that will be burnt to CD, use MP3Gain. Do NOT use MP3Gain for any other use.
While ripping may go quickly, please keep in mind that EAC is NOT designed to be a FAST worker, it's meant to be a CAREFUL one instead. Depending on the condition of the CD and the speed or accuracy of your drive, ripping could take a while.
When the test run is finished, review your tracks. If they are blank or there are any errors, check the settings above once again. If the settings look good, double check to make sure (if you have Windows 2000 / XP) you have the ASPI layer installed in the EAC folder. Your PC can't rip music without an ASPI layer, and 99% of errors are solved by using the correct ASPI layer - again, if you are using Windows 98SE or lower, the ASPI layer will already be present, Windows 2000/XP REQUIRE that ASPI layer.
If your CD's are scratched TOO badly, EAC can't always correct them. After a number of tries, EAC will give up its attempts to correct the error and report a Read Error or Sync Error on the log after it has finished ripping.
If the label side of your CD is what is scratched, then most likely, the disc is damaged beyond repair. Scratches to the non-label side can often be fixed with commercial scratch removers, such as the Skip Doctor line of products work well, or you may be able to remedy the problem with something you may have lying around the house, such as Brasso or toothpaste (stick with the "old skool" versions or the "whitening" versions).
Look for concentric scratches. These do more harm than radial scratches. On the CD each track circles around the previous one. So, if EAC reports an error on the last track, your scratch must be near the outer edge of the CD. Rub the scratch with Brasso. Put some brasso on the clear side, where the scratch is. Rub with a cloth at medium pressure, preferably in radial direction. If you need to remove a deep scratch, rub in a direction crossing the scratch even if it isn't radial (because that works fastest), but take care to finish radially (preferably with fresh brasso).
As you rub, the fine grit present in the brasso pressed between your fingers and the CD, will wear away some of the plastic layer together with its scratches. You may rub firmly to make the work advance, but hold on long enough to make sure the scratch gets removed. As the brasso gets thicker due to the worn away plastic, you might need to use fresh Brasso.
Complete removal of a scratch is often not needed to make the scratch harmless, and once you think you've done enough, clean the CD with water. Be careful when you wipe off the water (this causes new scratces). A radial direction is again a good idea.