The mysteries of ripping


— 8:02 AM on December 31, 2001

I'm in the process of ripping my considerable (~500) CD collection to MP3 using Exact Audio Copy. For those of you who aren't familiar, EAC is (as far as I know) unique in that it rips each track twice. The first time, it simply generates a CRC, and the second time, after the track has been ripped and/or encoded, it generates another CRC and checks for a match. If there is a match, it's a fairly safe assumption that no errors were encountered during the process.

If you do encounter an error, you can change from "burst mode" (which basically relies on the error detection and correction within the drive) to "secure mode" (which brings the software in on the error correction). The latter mode is slower, but since EAC will tell you if a rip had errors, you can use burst mode the first time around and then step down to secure mode for the problem tracks.

Some of my CD's are pretty old, and errors can be pretty common on those discs. I actually have three different machines going when I'm ripping full steam; the drives are a 12X Plextor CD-RW, a 24X Sanyo CD-RW and a Hitachi DVD-ROM drive. In the process, I've discovered that each of these drives has very different ripping behavior, and their ability to rip a problem track is sort of a rock paper scissors game.

For example, the Hitachi tends to be quirky, so much so that I don't even run it in burst mode because it tends to throw errors on nearly every track it encounters. Secure mode on this drive, however, is fast enough that it doesn't bother me very much. Still, I find that if I encounter secure mode errors on the Hitachi, the Plextor can almost always read them without problem even in burst mode, with a very occasional step down to secure mode.

The Sanyo, on the other hand, is much more reliable than the Hitachi. I can leave it on burst mode the majority of the time, and secure mode will nail down just about anything burst mode can't handle. If I'm still having problems, it's time to move over to the Plextor.

One would now think that the Plextor is the superior ripper, but it's more complicated than that. Sometimes the Plextor tends to descend into this anal retentive loop where it takes two or three minutes to rip one tenth of one percent of a track (!). At one point, I stuck one such disc into the Hitachi out of sheer frustration. And watched as the thing ripped the track at top speed with no errors.

I've given up trying to figure out a pattern, but I will say that approximately halfway through my collection, I've only found one disc that none of the three can read, and I suspect it has deeper "issues" than mere scratches (the Plextor can't even see it).

So after all this, my question to you is, what drive(s) do a good job of ripping in your experience? I'm concerned less with top speed than I am with successfully ripping problem discs. This seems a lot more elusive than it first appears; for example, my recent 24X CD-RW comparo revealed that while the 12X Plextor did a good job at ripping scratched discs, it's 24X brother didn't do nearly as well, so performance seems to vary significantly between models.

For all I know, performance even varies within a model, but I don't even want to think about that. It'll just give me a headache. Comment away.

 
   
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