How to Easily Rip a CD with Abcde

Collection of CDs

Abcde is an application for Linux and Unix systems. It makes it easy to rip a CD.

Maybe you want to create a digital backup of your old music collection. Or maybe you just want some songs accessible on your smartphone. For any such task, Abcde can grab the raw data from your disk and encode, tag, and make comments on each track, all according to your preferences. Abcde turns that multi-step process into a single step.

Let’s get started with installation. Then you can decide how the ripper will process your tracks.


Abcde is also known as A Better CD Encoder. You can install Abcde by grabbing its source code with Git:

git clone

or install with your Linux distribution’s package manager.


sudo apt-get install abcde

Arch Linux:

sudo pacman -S abcde

Using Abcde

When you run Abcde, it must decide which actions to take. It defers first to its default operations and then to its config file(s).

What this means is that you can run abcde from the command line, without any options, and expect it to rip and encode all the tracks on a CD. By default, Abcde will complete the following tasks: cddb, read, encode, tag, move, and clean.

In short, you can expect it to look for the title of your CD’s tracks in an online database, read and transform those tracks into a format such as .mp3, and mark the tracks with information found in the database. Abcde will also clean up after itself by removing any temporary files made during those steps.

You can insist that only certain actions be taken by specifying them with the -a option. Use the following command:

abcde -a read,encode,tag

to refrain from searching for the online tracklist and to keep temporary files. Look at the manual page, man abcde, for a full list of -a choices.

Config File Abcde

Operations like that are effective, but they force you to retype the command every time you want to rip a disk. It’s much easier to use Abcde’s config files.

Copy the original config file to your home directory. This will allow you to make edits to your “$HOME/.abcde.conf” copy while keeping a fresh config in reserve.

cp /etc/abcde.conf ~/.abcde.conf

Open the new file with your favorite text editor to find that every line is commented out. It’s not a mistake.

abcde default config

Abcde uses a number of default preferences including removing .wav files after encoding

abcde config remove .wav

and using Musicbranz as its media information database.

abcde config musicbrainz

This can cause you problems if you don’t have certain auxiliary programs installed such as “abcde-musicbrainz-tool,” a Perl script that assists Abcde in retrieving database information. You will receive the following error if the script is missing.

abcde musicbrainz error

Similar errors could arise, for example, if you don’t have the proper codecs installed. The best way to resolve any errors is to follow the information found in the error itself and then make changes to your config file, which is commented well and makes an excellent supplement to the manual page.

To fix the Musicbrainz error shown here, I just changed the config file’s line to “CDDBMETHOD=cddb.”

First, I recognized that the error message wanted me to install Musicbrainz – “you may need to install the MusicBrainz::DiscID module.” Then I searched my config file for “musicbrainz,” found the relevant line, and made the choice to use “cddb” instead.

You can find some sane examples of effective config files at Andrew’s Corner, the site where Abcde co-developer Andrew Strong discusses settings that work well for him.

Make changes as you see fit, save the config file, and run abcde again from the command line. The ripper will first look at its default settings, find any changes made in your “/etc/abcde.conf,” find any changes in your “$HOME/.abcde.conf,” and then try to rip your disk.

Also, remember that any options you specify on the command line will override your config file preferences. Therefore, if you told the config file to cleanup its temporary files but you ran the abcde -a read,encode,tag command, Abcde would keep those files anyway.


For most people, running abcde will be enough to rip any CD.

Popular Linux distributions will grab necessary dependencies so Abcde will run without errors. You can usually find codecs like LAME (for the .mp3 conversion) and FLAC (for the .flac conversion) in precompiled binaries as well.

Read through Andrew’s Corner if you don’t know where else to start, and then feel free to make changes to your personal config file. In no time, you’ll find the options that work best for your situation.

Casey Houser

I have worked as a professional writer since 2011. I like to compose my articles in Vim, which I also use for hobbyist C and Ruby projects. When I'm not in front of a text editor, I run, bike, and play tennis until I'm too tired to move.

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