Tag: CDs. CD ripping

You can rip CDs to FLAC using Windows 10’s Media Player

Naim NDS network audio player

You can use Windows 10 to re-rip your CDs to allow network media players like this Naim NDS to sound their best

Previously, I had covered the fact that Windows 10 has native support for the FLAC lossless digital-audio codec which is seen as the way to go for best-sounding file-based audio. But I thought this was limited to Windows 10 natively playing any FLAC file you throw at it. This is important if you connect your computer to an audiophile-grade USB DAC or use network media players that are up-to-snuff for your top-notch hi-fi system.

But I discovered for myself when I ripped the “Too Slow To Disco 2” CD to my computer’s hard disk that Windows Media Player does rip to FLAC and have set it up that way. This will lead to sound that is properly CD quality from any of your CDs that you “dump” to your computer’s hard disk to transfer to your DLNA-capable NAS or FLAC-capable open-frame smartphone or media player. For that matter UPnP AV / DLNA does support FLAC audio files in a de-facto manner and most, if not all, hi-fi network media players that work to UPnP AV / DLNA standards will stream FLAC files.

Windows 10 Media Player Options menu - Rip Music settings

Rip Music settings in Windows 10 Media Player Options menu

How do you set Windows Media Player to rip to FLAC

  1. Start Windows Media Player in Windows 10
  2. Select Tools then Options
  3. Click on the Rip Music tab
  4. Change the format option to FLAC (Lossless)
  5. Adjust the Audio Quality slider to “Best Quality

If you are about to rip a CD like I was, click on “Rip Settings” when you see your CD’s track list in the window. Then click on “Format” and click “FLAC (Lossless)” to have it ripped in FLAC.

Rip Settings menu when you are about to rip a CD

Rip Settings menu when you are about to rip a CD

In this mode, if you were playing a CD and you wish to commence ripping it, the music will stop playing until the rip is complete. This is to achieve best results. As well, I would prefer to rip to the computer’s local storage to provide for increased stability and better sound quality. These files then can be copied out to your NAS so you can have them playing on your network-capable CD receiver.

FLAC re-rip of CD

FLAC re-rip of Mick Jagger’s “She’s The Boss” CD

If you re-rip your CD collection to FLAC, each re-ripped album will be marked as “FLAC” on the album cover. But Windows Media Player doesn’t make it easy to update playlists and have them point to the new FLAC files. Instead, you have to go through each playlist and identify tracks from the albums you just re-ripped, add the tracks from these re-rips, move them next to the original track and remove the original track from the playlist.

There are ways Windows Media Player could go about this better. One way would be to create copies of each playlist with references to all the member tracks. Then as you re-rip your CDs, it then discovers the FLAC files  The copy could be tagged as a “FLAC” playlist while your existing playlist could be kept as a MP3 or WMA playlist which you could then use for portable equipment. On the other hand, Windows Media Player could work through each playlist and have them point to your FLAC re-rips.

Those of you who value open-frame computing can get on board with Windows Media Player in Windows 10 as a way to get your CDs on to the higher-quality FLAC format to see if it is right for you before committing to more expensive CD-ripping software.

Why do I still buy and rip CDs for my online music library?

Sony MAP-S1 network-capable CD receiver - an example of good CD-playing hi-fi equipment

Sony MAP-S1 network-capable CD receiver – an example of good CD-playing hi-fi equipment

When the idea of MP3s came along and there weren’t much in the way of online “download-to-own” music stores as a legitimate online music source, the way to build your online music source was to buy CDs and “rip” them to your hard disk.

What was this, you may ask? Here, you use a music management program like iTunes or Windows Media Player to copy the digital audio from your CDs to your computer’s hard disk and make each track its own audio file based on a certain standard. Such programs work with one or more music-metadata sources like Gracenote, AllMusic or FreeDB to obtain the details about the album and who performed on it to identify each of the recordings.Then we play the music from the computer’s hard disk using the music management program. For portable enjoyment, you would “sync” albums, playlists or tracks out to your portable MP3 player or smartphone, or to removable storage like an SD card or USB memory stick.

Windows Media Player ripping a CD

Software media managers like Windows Media Player can rip CDs to files

I would personally “rip” my CD collection to 192kbps WMA files which have been considered efficient yet able to come across at a quality equivalent to the 320kbps MP3 file. The WMA and AAC files use proprietary algorithms developed by Microsoft and Dolby respecitively to produce a better-sounding audio file compared to a similarly-sized MP3 file.

Now with iTunes and Amazon on the scene and an increasing number of record companies offering access to MP3s of their albums when you purchase them on vinyl, we are seeing less importance in buying music on CD. I do still continue to buy most of my music on CD and rip it to the hard disk. I would use iTunes for purchasing music “as a single” or if it isn’t available on CD.

.. yet they can still be played on good sound systems like this one

.. yet they can still be played on good sound systems like this one

I retain my CD collection for a few reasons. For example, I could play CDs on hi-fi equipment which, in a lot of cases with the good stuff, sounds better than what I would be using for MP3 playback. Another reason that has come to mind with FLAC and similar high-grade audio files and high-grade network-capable audio equipment coming to the fore is the ability to “re-rip” the CDs to better-sounding FLAC using a media management program that works to this standard like dbPoweramp or Exact Audio Copy. Microsoft Windows 10 even offers the ability to rip CDs to FLAC as an “out-of-the-box” feature and I have taken advantage of this feature with newly-purchased CDs and some of the older discs.

Naim UnitiQute 2 on dressing table

“Re-ripping” to FLAC allows systems like the Naim UnitiQute 2 that handle high-quality file-based audio to perform at their best

I could then subsequently use the media manager to downconvert selected material to MP3, WMA or AAC for transfer to most portable equipment when taking it on the road or copy the music to a NAS with a DLNA media server that streams to the good equipment or downconverts and streams to equipment not capable of FLAC sound files.

Being able to keep using CDs as a music medium will still be important to me because of the ability to play them through good-quality equipment along with being able to reuse them as sources for high-quality file-based audio.