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CD Ripping / Encoding Guide

- by Corey A Misch (Mischcabob) -

If you've ever downloaded MP3s from one of the other file-sharing services or legal music
services like ITunes, and found that those songs sounded like crap, it's because the people who
encoded those MP3s didn't know the ripping & encoding mojo you'll learn here. [No, 128-kbps is
not CD-quality.]
This guide will walk you through the steps of configuring CDex (CD Ripper/Encoder). Yes, there
are dozens of them and some believe Exact Audio Copy [EAC] is the world's best CD audio
ripper. However, I chose CDex because it's a free open source program that's easy to use and
you can rip and encode audio within the same program. No sense reinventing the wheel. We'll rip
your favorite songs from your favorite CDs, and encode those digital songs as high-quality MP3s,
using LAME, the world's best MP3 encoder in this example.
However, you can compress them using other lossy/lossless audio encoders/compressors i.e.
Monkey's Audio, Musepack's sub-band codec, proprietary Advanced Audio Coding [AAC], etc. As
always the choice of encoder you use will depend on these factors:
- amount of disk space you have available...
- number of CDs you own
- how good your hearing is..
- quality of your audio hardware..
- type of music you listen to...
- format compatibility requirements..
- file restrictions, etc.
LOSSY ENCODERS VERSUS LOSSLESS COMPRESSERS:
Perhaps you're familiar with digital photography. Files compressed with a lossless codec can be
compared to the RAW file format, which also employs lossless compression. MP3s on the other
hand can be compared to JPEGs, which offer various degrees of lossy compression. It's a known
fact that the human ear has difficulty detecting a soft note played immediately after a loud one
[e.g. a quiet whisper following a loud shout]. The lossy encoder will see this and discard the bits
representing soft notes immediately following loud ones. Decisions regarding encoding and
compression involves a trade-off balancing 3 factors:
1. Audio fidelity/quality
2. File size [affects hard drive space and Internet transfer time]
3. Time [to encode/compress]
* For the most part I will focus on using the popular lossy format (MP3) using LAME since it offers
good compatibility requirements, speedy encoding and small size.
CDEX - CD RIPPER/ENCODER:
CDex is very light weight and easy to run on any Windows system. The following should be
considered before downloading CDex, though, as it has been tested to meet at least these
requirements:
- Windows 9x/Me/NT/2000/XP
- Adaptec's ASPI manager
- CD-ROM which is capable of extracting digital audio (IDE-ATAPI or SCSI drive)
- 16 MB RAM (minimum tested)
- Enough disk space to meet the needs of your project
LAME

Let's download LAME v3.96.1. This is not the latest version, but rather the recommended one,
because it is specifically coded to take advantage of the --alt-presets we want to use... which
yield the best audio fidelity per unit bit used. Since 1998, many programmers have spent
countless hours coding this software for you. This is why the home page is able to say: LAME has
the "speed and quality to rival all commercial competitors. You can use the LAME executable
(lame.exe) with RazorLAME (or LameXP) interface or you can use the DLL with another software
(AudioGrabber, CDex, etc). Just matter of extracting the DLL file (lame_enc.dll) within into the
same directory as CDex (safe to overwrite the older version).
THINGS TO GET:
- Download CDEx 1.51 - Stable from website and install the program.
- Download LAME MP3 Encoder 3.96.1 - Stable [lame-3.96.1.zip] and extract the DLL
(lame_enc.dll) into CDex directory.
USING CDEX:
Fire up CDex. You should be presented with this window:
Now either press F4 or the button circled in red. This will bring up CDexs configuration dialog.
Click on the Generic tab.
GENERIC SETTINGS:
1. Temp directory: This has to be on a drive or partition that has the most amount of free space.
Click on the circled button and select a folder [such as C:\My Music]
2. ID3 Tag version: I recommend ID3-V2, for CDs with very long track and/or artist names.
Otherwise, stick with ID3-V1.
3. Track number format: select N here.
Optional: If want to consistant music especially if the the tracks are from different sources, I
suggest using normalization.
* If you don't want the computer to shutdown after, deselect that option. Most new DVD/CD ROMs
use digital playback so normally I activate this feature.
FILENAMES:
1. Filename format: type in %A - %2\%7 - %4 [or %A\%2\%7 - %4.] Default no need to change.
2. WAV -> MP3 and Recorded tracks: select the folder in which you wish you save your MP3s [for
instance, C:\My Music].
3. Split trackname to Artist, Track using split character: Tick the checkbox. Use / as the
separator, if it isn't already filled in for you.
4. File Name format: Type in %A - %2\%2 [or %A\%2\%2.] Default no need to change.
5. Add files to M3U playlist: Tick the checkbox.
CD DRIVE:
1. Ripping method: select Paranoia, Full for more troublesome audio CDS (similar to secure
mode with EAC). Otherwise use Standard for non-protected CDS.
2. Use Native NT SCSI library if you are using Windows 2000/XP.
ENCODER:
1. Encoder: select Lame MP3 Encoder (version 1.32, engine 3.96 MMX). You can also
experiment with other encoders.

2. Quality: select --alt-preset standard. You can try other presets, but they will increase the
encoding time. Dont recommend On-the-fly_encoding unless hard drive space at a premium.
3. Output sample rate: Select Auto. Do NOT change anything else.
Note: The current focus is on encoding to MP3. You can use the dropdown box and slect other
superior formats such as Ogg Vorbis, AAC, MP4 and MP3pro.
VBR (variable) versus CBR (constant)
Not all MP3 players and DVD players can play VBR encoded MP3 with higher bitrates. I
recommend going with VBR encoded MP3 for better quality, but it does increase encoding time.
REMOTE CDDB:
1. Your e-mail address: Enter an e-mail address. It need not be your real one as long as it follows
the username@domain.com format.
2. Timeout (seconds): Type in 30 or higher if you have a slower connection.
3. Tick the box to Auto connect to remote CDDB.
RIPPING CD:
1. Insert your CD. If you're connected to the internet, The Remote FreeDB Query will fill in all the
album and track info automatically for you. You may have to select the genre of music manually
with dropdown box.
2. Select all tracks by pressing Ctrl+A. If you don't want to rip all the tracks, just select the one
you want by using the Control key. Hit F9 to Rip To Compressed File or click the button on the
right.
Now you're rippin'!
Note: Depending upon speed of your computer, CD/DVD ROM and ripping method, it should take
between 5-20 minutes.
The screenshots were taken using CDex 1.51, the latest version. Being an open source program,
the program continues to evolve, but basically the steps will remain the same.
Most of all, have fun and don't be afraid to experiment.
- by Corey A Misch (Mischcabob) -