Tips for Better Mac CD Rips

I’m using a used 15″ Intel-based Macbook from late 2006. I know other models would give me the best sound from a Mac, but I can’t afford them.

You should get excellent sonics from the MacBook. It should not be the weakest link in the digital chain.

Do you use an external drive and software other than iTunes to rip CDs to your Mac computer(s)? Some folks use a Plextor PX-Premium CD-RW drive and AccurateRip XLD software (or something like that). They say the sound is much better.

I use the standard Mac internal drive (which is quite good). I also own a Plextor, but cannot hear a difference when using it (one exception below).Using my library (~1600 disks) for the samples, my own (informal) testing yielded the following results for Mac ripping software:

  • iTunes
    • By far the easiest and fastest, but 2-3% of disks have an audible error (which I find unacceptable)
  • Maxmax.jpg
    • Rip takes 1.5x longer than iTunes, but error rate far less than 1% (acceptable to me)
    • Fairly easy to set up
  • XLD xld.jpg
    • Rip takes ~3x longer than iTunes, but no errors encountered
    • Somewhat difficult to set up, and some manual reconfiguration necessary for every disk
    • I find both the rip times and difficulties unacceptable for normal use – I only use this for “problem disks”

A note about the ‘audible errors’: In my experience, these only occur in the first several seconds of “Track 1.” They are most commonly momentary dropouts. This behavior suggests to me that they are caused predominantly by “disk offset” issues. XLD explicitly allows the (power) user to compensate for the offset. It has other cool error-avoidance features as well. But it’s hard to live with….

Do you use a special USB cable? From whom?

I run Firewire, which I generally recommend for Mac users. I have never heard a USB or Firewire cable make a difference. But some in-the-know folks claim that they do. (If so, this would be another ‘audiophile mystery’ to scientists.)

Is it FLAC files that won’t play with iTunes on a Mac.

Correct. (iTunes can be made to play FLAC, but it’s not worth the effort!)

What converter do you use? I tried hunting for one, but couldn’t get it to work.

Max does a great job (as does XLD). I recommend using MP4/Apple Lossless format. I have never heard a difference between lossless compression and no compression.But a Mac using Firewire is a far more robust machine than PC/USB. To give you an indication, I often receive email, browse the web, download a file, and backup a hard drive simultaneously – while listening to flawless 24/192 (losslessly compressed). The only way that I’ve been able to adversely affect playback is to play (at 1x) the same CD that I am ripping (at 4x)!

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009 Audiophile, Bob, Music Server, Technical

7 Comments to Tips for Better Mac CD Rips

  1. Bob,

    When iTunes had errors ripping CD’s, had you ticked the checkbox “Use error correction when reading Audio CD’s”?

    This appears in iTunes Prefs > General > Import Settings.

  2. Bob Stern on June 17th, 2009
  3. @Bob: Yes, that checkbox was checked.

  4. Bob on June 17th, 2009
  5. To put a finer point on the faulty rips:

    1. The flaws in question were obvious and confined to one track. Ripping the problem track with XLD fixed them without exception.

    2. iTunes did not report any errors during the rip.

    3. I have never heard a “subtle difference” between the same track ripped with iTunes, Max, or XLD.

  6. Bob on June 17th, 2009
  7. [...] Bob wrote an interesting post today – Bay Area Audiophile Society » Tips for Better Mac <b>…</b>Here’s a quick excerpt [...]

  8. – Bay Area Audiophile Society » Tips for Better Mac … on June 17th, 2009
  9. Bob,

    Appreciate the sharing of your experiences. I don’t have a music server-based system yet, but I plan to and do have an iPod. However, I’m starting to rip more often now, so I only want to rip once and, hopefully, be done with it.

    Is Max just a ripper, or is it also an interface, like iTunes?

    You recommend Max, but also using Apple Lossless. Does Max rip using Apple Lossless?

    Are you aware of any problems appearing if a conversion from Apple Lossless to AIFF is done?

    Are the Apple Lossless files playable on a system such as Sooloos or a Windows-based media server?

    If in the future I need to, can a conversion from Apple Lossless to FLAC be done?

    STEEP learning curve!

    Thanks a bunch,

  10. mish on July 26th, 2009
  11. I just re-read your comments and saw that they apply to a Mac user. Any recommendations for similar procedures and software for PC users?

  12. mish on July 26th, 2009
  13. @Mish,

    I think that a whole BAASnotes post was done re Windows ripping and music servers.

    And, as in most things, there’s 10X more info available via GOOG re Windows than re Mac.

  14. Bob on July 27th, 2009