If you've got a shelf-full of CDs gathering dust at home, it's time to leave the past behind and start thinking about how to upgrade your music-listening experience.
On the fence about taking the time to rip your entire CD collection? Trust us, it'll all be worth it. Keep in mind that a lossless digital music collection saves shelf space and is easy to take with you on-the-go and back up to an external hard drive. If you have a massive music collection, it also makes it easier and quicker to find that one particular song or album you've been craving. Plus, you'll be able to access your digital music library from your smartphone or tablet.
Here's how to rip your CDs and transfer them to a lossless format.
Choose Your Music File
There are several lossless formats to consider. Here are our top picks:
FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) is compressed to keep file sizes small, but it's also lossless, meaning that it's on par with CD quality. CD audio converted to FLAC will typically be reduced to 50 percent of its original size. For reference, a three-minute song on a CD will take up 30-40 MB of space while a ripped FLAC version of that same song takes up 15-20 MB. If sound quality is your top priority, then FLAC is the format for you.
Apple Lossless Audio Codec (or ALAC) was developed by Apple and works with iTunes, your iPod and your iPhone (it's also supported by several other hardware and software players). Like FLAC, it's compressed and supports metadata, and takes up about 40–60 percent the size of an uncompressed CD. If you're big into Apple products, then this one's for you.
AIFF and WAV
AIFF (Audio Interchange File Format) and WAV (Waveform Audio File Format) are lossless, but uncompressed. That means ripped files take up the same amount of space as they would on a CD (10 MB per minute of stereo sound). Because of their large file sizes, these formats are less desirable than FLAC and Apple Lossless (you'd need about twice the storage space for the same library). On the plus side, AIFF and WAV are compatible with a wide range of devices and software.
Pick a Ripping Software
Once you've determined which digital format you’re going to go with, it's time to start looking at ripping software. Here are a couple options to choose from:
Max (for Mac users)
This is a free app that is available for Apple computers running Mac® OS X 10.4 and higher. Max is able to create audio files in all four lossless formats. If your CDs are slightly scratched, it can correct any errors that might occur during the ripping process. If you want stellar sound quality and tons of encoding options, this is the app for you.
Exact Audio Copy (for PC users)
If you're using Windows and want to convert your CDs to FLAC, Exact Audio Copy is an excellent choice and offers the best error correction money can buy, for free! If there are any errors that can't be corrected, it will tell you which time position the possible distortion occurred, so you can easily control it with the media player. This is the software of choice for serious music lovers and audiophiles.
iTunes (for Mac and PC users)
Since you most likely already have iTunes on your PC or Mac, this option will spare you the trouble of having to download and install a stand-alone ripping app. iTunes can rip CDs to three different lossless formats (Apple Lossless, AIFF and WAV) and provides error correction for damaged discs. iTunes also automatically retrieves album and artist information from the Internet.
Find the Right Sound System
Now that you've successfully ripped your CDs to a lossless format, it's time to start listening to your new digital music library. To get the most out of your new lossless music files, you'll want to make sure you have the right high-res sound equipment to play them. Sony's HAP-Z1ES High-Resolution Audio HDD player is a sound system that would make any audiophile's heart beat a little faster.
It supports High-Resolution Audio formats like DSD, FLAC, WAV and ALAC, as well as compressed formats like MP3, AAC, ATRAC and WMA. In addition, the Direct Stream Digital (DSD) Re-mastering Engine resamples your compressed music files to DSD—a high resolution format with a 1 bit audio stream for efficient digital to analog conversion. This reproduced audio is closer to the quality of the original recording, with restored detail and tone that was previously lost in the compression process.
Another bonus feature is that you can download the HAP music transfer app to your PC to sync and copy all your tracks onto the HAP-Z1ES over Wi-Fi®. The next time you download a new track or album from High-Resolution Music services such as HDtracks or Qobuz, it will automatically be transferred. If you’d like to download high-resolution music to your PC or Mac, you'll want to explore apps like JRiver Media Center, BitPerfect and Audirvana Plus. If you have a large music library (both CDs and High-Resolution Music files), the HAP Music Transfer app is easy to incorporate into your existing system.
Once you get that taken care of, you're set! Now you can set your CDs aside for good, knowing that you've extracted the purest audio files you can out of them. Get ready to listen to your music collection in a whole new way.