While you’ve probably ripped a CD or two in the past, chances are your songs were ripped to the MP3 format. If you’re an audiophile who absolutely must experience your music in the highest fidelity possible, you’re going to want your digital audio library to be in the FLAC file format.
What Is FLAC and How Is It Better?
FLAC stands for “Free Lossless Audio Codec.” As a lossless audio format, FLAC offers perfect copies of CDs. It offers smaller file sizes when compared to other lossless audio formats and is still able to retain all of the audio data.
The most common question concerning FLAC is whether or not it sounds better. The short answer is yes, but there are many factors to consider. If an MP3 is encoded in a bitrate lower than 160 kbps, the general consensus is that the average person will be able to hear the difference in audio quality. Mp3 files that are encoded in a higher bitrate (e.g. 320 kbps) are nearly indistinguishable from FLAC files. That being said, MP3 files, regardless of the bitrate, still delete portions of the audio. This makes MP3 and other lossy formats poor candidates for digital archiving of your music. Furthermore, because FLAC is an open-source file format, it benefits from near universal compatibility.
How to Rip Your CDs to FLAC on Windows
When it comes to CD-ripping software for Windows, there are a ton to choose from. However, if you’re looking for a full-featured CD ripper, that’s also 100 percent free, you’ll want to grab Exact Audio Copy.
Exact Audio Copy takes a little while to set up, so make sure you read everything carefully and don’t just blow through the setup prompts. Once you’ve configured it, Exact Audio Copy is a breeze to use. The software utilizes a technology called AccurateRip, which uses data from other users to ensure that your rips are free from errors. Additionally, Exact Audio Copy uses four different metadata services to ensure your files are tagged properly.
How to Rip Your CDs to FLAC on macOS
If you’re an Apple user, before you start ripping your CDs to FLAC, you’ll want to consider whether Apple’s own lossless file format, ALAC, would be better for you. ALAC stands for “Apple Lossless Audio Codec,” and it’s different from FLAC in name only. ALAC files and FLAC files sound exactly the same. The only difference between the two is that ALAC plays nicely with Apple products. It was developed by Apple after all.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about FLAC. For example, iTunes can rip your CDs into ALAC files and play them back without an issue. FLAC files, on the other hand, aren’t even recognized in iTunes. If you’re an Apple enthusiast, you’ll want to stick with ALAC.
If you prefer to rip your CDs to FLAC, download and install X Lossless Decoder. X Lossless Decoder is a free app for macOS that allows you to rip CDs and convert file types, including FLAC. Additionally, there are many settings and parameters to tweak if you want that level of control. Either way, X Lossless Decoder is a great choice for ripping your CD collection to FLAC.
How to Rip Your CDs to FLAC on Linux
There are many options for ripping your CDs to FLAC on a Linux machine. One of the easiest to use is ABCDE, or A Better CD Encoder. ABCDE is designed to automate the ripping and tagging process. With a single command, ABCDE can rip an entire CD into FLAC (or other formats), find the metadata and normalize the volume across all tracks. ABCDE is a powerful, easy-to-use program that makes ripping your CDs to FLAC painless. That being said, ABCDE runs entirely from the command line. This means there is no graphical user interface.
If you aren’t comfortable with the command line or just want something with a graphical front end, Clementine is one of the oldest and most feature-rich music players available. In addition to being able to rip your CDs into FLAC and other formats, Clementine can fetch missing tags, download album art, copy your music to an iPod or iPhone and much more.
Once you have your CD collection converted to lossless high-fidelity FLAC files, you’re going to want a decent pair of headphones to listen to your music. What software do you use to rip your CDs? What file format do you opt for when ripping CDs? Let us know in the comments!