Best Free CD Ripper

 

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Introduction

There are lots of rippers available. All media players including Windows Media Player can rip. There are also some great freebies plus a host of commercial rippers. Most will rip to WAV, MP3 and usually several other formats.

If your CDs are like mine then some are scratched or have lots of finger-marks. These can cause pops and crackles in the ripped file.  Rippers vary greatly in their ability to handle these problems. Some will simply get stuck while others will skip forward over the problem or even create a silent gap. The best programs will try repeatedly to fix the problem with no audible effects.

After a lot of experimentation, I ended up with five free CD rippers that were impressive with their features.

 

Discussion

Fairstars CD Ripper is the best ripper on our list. Give it a try, you won't be disappointed.

Fairstars CD Ripper is an excellent utility to rip audio from a music CD in a variety of formats including WMA, MP3, FLAC, OGG, APE, WAV and the not so common VQF.

In contrast iTunes wouldn't allow support for open source codecs such as OGG.

What pleasantly surprised me was that Fairstars CD Ripper doesn't feature an autorun option. This means that you can pop in an audio CD and expect to rip without launching the program directly. Although this can be a short toe, it wouldn't really bother the average user who would have a handy desktop shortcut.

The program doesn't allow a user to tweak the settings for an output format on the same pane; you have to click on options and then browse down to the required format in the tree and adjust settings there.

It allows you to query for info. The button is nicely placed. This can be a life saver! It also allows you to enable ID3 tags in options.

Let me now go into the details of my extraction. I have a Realtek HD sound card... not very high end and ripped at 320kbps in MP3 format, Constant Bit Rate, 44khz sampling rate. Again the extract button is nicely placed and follows up in a nice order to the buttons from the left.

There's an 'output file name preview' if you're interested.

My desktop has a Core i7 processor and I was done with ripping in around 3 minutes, which is a good speed. I used the encode with high speed option under options. Turned out to be pretty nippy. Thank you!

Another very amusing fact is that it chose to rip into a separate 'My Music' folder in my 'Local' drive rather than the regular 'My Music' folder in 'My Documents'. This can be a good thing. I can always check on the quality of the ripped music before I finally move everything into my 'My Music' folder to sync with my iPod. Most CD rippers do this anyway.

The quality of the extracted music is very good and up to what is expected. The music sounds natural; there are no alterations. The volume level can be adjusted again in options, although I didn't find it necessary for the CD I was ripping.

If you're unhappy with the the extraction you could always do this again and if the files exist it will automatically rename the files.

I reran the program. It is very light and doesn't crash or freeze... far from it.

 


Exact Audio CopyThough the other products reviewed here were capable, Exact Audio Copy (EAC) was outstanding in its ability to handle CD imperfections.

If you head over to any audio forum one of the most common tools discussed among experts would be EAC. There are so many options for editing from the command line, the list is virtually endless. If you are an audiophile, this is the ripper for you. At the same time, beginners would want to stick with some of the other rippers mentioned in this list which includes our top pick, Fairstars CD Ripper.

I recently started the long task of ripping my 1200 CDs to my hard disk. I'm now two thirds of the way through my ripping exercise. Of the 800 or so CDs ripped I've only had 7 tracks that EAC couldn't rip perfectly. Given the condition of some of my CDs, that's a mighty impressive performance.

EAC can rip to WAV, MP3 (using the LAME encoder), OGG, FLAC, APE and more. You could add any custom encoder from the Add encoder dialog in the Compression Options window.

This is one piece of software that may not require as many updates as it encourages the use of third party tools.

 


The interface for Fre:ac is a bit too plain. You can see it all too clearly in our screenshot. But that said, it allows a lot of tweaking for each encoder. You can also find files matching by patterns. That's why it's up here in our list.

I tried the rip at 320 kbps and much to my surprise the output is clear and well rounded.

This is a portable application so you can install to a usb stick and take it with you. Fre:ac comes in 38 languages. Check to see if yours is included.

Comes with support for Lame, OGG Vorbis, FAAC, FLAC, and Bonk Encoders. An encoder for VQF format is available at the Fre:ac website: www.freac.org

Fre:ac can use Winamp 2 input plugins to support more file formats. Copy the in_*.dll files to the Fre:ac directory to enable Fre:ac to read these formats. You can also submit freedb entries that include Unicode characters.

Of course there is jitter correction that can be enabled in the configurations dialog. In addition to which, there is a special paranoia mode. Doesn't have support for APE which is a little sad though Monkeys Audio is a format that has been sadly overlooked.

The same goes for the Fre:ac ripper. This great opensource project has somehow been overlooked.

 


Free Rip Mp3 is another really cool CD ripper. It extracts audio tracks from CD to MP3, WAV, WMA, FLAC and OGG Vorbis.

What's more? If you really need the feature, it can extract more than one track into a single audio file.

I used the same PC I used for Fairstars to perform the extraction again. Before that a quick word about the interface. To start with it is a little difficult to locate the encoding options: not just because of where its positioned but because of the layout. It just seems a bit cramped.

That said the program makes a clear distinction of whether you would like to go with a ripper, a converter or a tagger. Of course I chose the ripper and ended up with this screen.

As always I chose 44khz MP3, encoding at 320kbps. It's all in the same pane, so if you want to opt for OGG or FLAC, you can do it in a jiffy.

This took me a little longer than Fairstars CD Ripper to accomplish the rip. A note on the sound quality: I found it to be a little closed as compared to the earlier rips but the vocals sound even more natural. It is quite as sharp as I would want it to be.

Apart from being a ripper, it is also a converter and a tagger which ought to enhance its usefulness, but haven't we seen all these features already? This still ranks number 4 though.

And no crashes at all in reruns.

 


CDex

CD rippers interact strongly with your CD hardware and so it's possible EAC or the above mentioned others may not work with your particular CD drive. If that's the case, take a look at CDex. While its performance with scratched CDs is not as good as EAC, it's still an outstanding and capable free product.

It can convert to WAV, MP3 (using the LAME Encoder) OGG, APE, and more.

An especially nice feature of CDex is the ability to transcode one compressed file format to another, while EAC does not have this option. It also has the feature of recording straight from analog in.

 


Audiograbber is the last CD Ripper on our list but be sure not to ignore this one bit. It is a nifty good piece of software and the developer has taken it up to put in multi-language help files that are accurate and user friendly. Now how does the ripper itself work? Getting to that in just a bit.

The website says that it can actually read many different cd drives… So I put a  CD ROM drive from way back in 1998 to the test and to my amazement it read it quite well. I wouldn’t comment on the speed of ripping though. Now I did try two other external DVD –RW drives as well (recent ones of course) and it read the CDs quite well. In addition to its other features, it would commonly share with other CD Rippers on our list. It has Line-in sampling as well. This is a wonderful little CD Ripper delightfully made by its creator that offers up almost any option you could ask for.

Why is it here on our list then, well shouldn’t it be higher up? It should be and it would have been right there at the top had it not been for the Funmoods search settings that it installs and a tab to go along with it. I think that changing my search settings can be a real bother and I am sure quite a few of you out there would share the same feeling. So here it is Audiograbber. If you are willing to put up with the fact that it hasn’t been updated in quite a while and the Funmoods tab, then this might be the CD Ripper for you.

 

Related Products and Links

 

Quick Selection Guide

Fairstars CD Ripper
5
 
Gizmo's Freeware award as the best product in its class!

Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
ID3 tags in options. It allows you to query for info . The button is nicely placed. The quality of the extracted music is very good and is sharp. if the files exist it will automatically rename the files. lightweaight and no crashes or freezes fastest in our tests.
doesn't feature an auto-run option The program doesn't allow a user to tweak the settings for an output format on the same pane, you've to click on options and then browse down to the required format in the tree and adjust settings there
http://www.fairstars.com/cdripper
1.7
3.3 MB
32 and 64 bit versions available
Unrestricted freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Windows 2000/XP/2003/Vista/2008/7/8, 32bit or 64bit.
Exact-Audio-Copy
5
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Handles CD imperfections and scratches with ease
Requieres LAME Encoder to encode MP3's
http://www.exactaudiocopy.de/
V1.0 Beta 3
4.2 MB
Free for private use only
There is no portable version of this product available.
Windows 95/98/ME/XP/Vista

Additional software required: LAME Encoder - available here.

Fre:ac
5
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
support for nearly 38 languages advanced jitter correction files searchable by patterns
user interface is a but too plain. No wizard mode.
http://www.freac.org
1.0.21a
7.7 MB
32 and 64 bit versions available
Open source freeware
This product is portable.
Windows 98/Me/XP/Vista/Windows 7
CDex
4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Capable of transcoding one file format to another
Requires LAME Encoder to encode MP3's
http://cdexos.sourceforge.net/
1.70 Beta 4
1.91 MB
Open source freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Windows 95/7

Additional software required: LAME Encoder - available here.
Non-English languages supported: many available here.

Free Rip Mp3
4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
The program makes a clear distinction between whether you would like to go with a ripper, a converter or a tagger. vocals sound even more natural though it sounds a bit closed
To start with it is a little difficult to locate the encoding options. This took me a little longer than Fairstars Cd Ripper to accomplish the same rip. Caution! uses a wrapped installer! - see information panel below
http://www.freerip.com/
4.3
3.33 MB
32 bit only
Unrestricted freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Compatible with all versions of Windows, including Windows 7

Uses the Offercast APN Install Manager to install additional software you may not want. Users may wish to consider blocking this program with their firewall as it will attempt to connect to the internet when the installer is first run.

Audiograbber
4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
nice clean interface easy to use and portable has just about ever feature you could ask for along with line in sampling
installs a third party search tool and alters browser settings badly in need of an update
http://www.audiograbber.org/
1.83
4.3MB
Unrestricted freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Windows XP SP3

 

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Tags

cd ripper, audio ripper, ripping software, free ripper, free cd ripper

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Comments

by JW on 18. April 2008 - 9:06  (110)

I used Audiograbber a couple of nights ago.  It was WAY slower than CDEX.  And given that it hasn't been updated in over 4 years, I'd recommend that you remove this one from the list.

by gmulhall on 19. April 2008 - 22:21  (164)

Windows media player rips way faster than EAC or CDEX because it rips directly to .wma.  EAC and CDEX rip to WAV and then convert to .mp3 using LAME. (EAC can use other converters besides LAME - it can convert to ogg).

The speed difference is considerable - I'd guess 5 times faster at least. It's the way to go if you are ripping an entire CD collection and have a player which supports wma. I have an iRiver which does (and gives excellent sound quality using SRS and the Sennheiser earpieces it came with).

wma seems to give better sound quality for the same file size - but that is a subjective opinion.

by Anonymous on 11. May 2008 - 11:57  (389)

Don't forget Bonkenc!

by Anonymous on 4. June 2008 - 16:26  (1577)

dbPoweramp is not free.

by Anonymous on 5. July 2008 - 17:32  (3594)

Windows Media Player rips faster than EAC or CDEX NOT because it rips directly to .wma. It's because EAC and CDEX use secure methods, constantly verifying to be absolutely sure that the rip is identical to the original. It is essential to make a perfect copy. Windows Media Player may skip problematic parts resulting glitches in the sound. I would prefer the safest method against speed.

by peter on 5. July 2008 - 17:37  (3596)
by joe.bennett on 5. July 2008 - 23:43  (3614)

I've looked at dbPowerAmp and the main reason I don't include it on this list is because the free version does not have the ability to rip to Mp3 format. This to me is a major feature that should be there by default. The pay versions have that.

by Anonymous on 7. July 2008 - 6:31  (3711)

Audiograbber can be portable.

After you install it you can move the installation folder on an usb stick, other partition etc and use it from there.

Using Audiograbber together with lame enc will result great mp3s.

by Anonymous on 7. July 2008 - 12:54  (3739)

What is the problem of WMP 11? It works for me!

by DiO on 8. July 2008 - 9:30  (3800)

It's the same thing with IExplorer. Why the people use Firefox ? Because they want SOMETHING ELSE !

by Anonymous on 8. July 2008 - 14:36  (3811)

Ok, I'll rephrase: what's the advantage of these apps over WMP11 ?

by joe.bennett on 8. July 2008 - 23:34  (3844)

If WMP works for you then that is fine. The advantage these apps have is more flexibility and options. With WMP you have the option of ripping your music to 2 different wma formats, or mp3. With the products listed here, you have other formats you can rip to as well as other options for ripping them. Plus, some people simply just don't want to use WMP, and so are looking for alternatives. Hope that answers your question.

by Anonymous on 20. July 2008 - 4:53  (4551)

I use it and have it running on Vista. Didn't know there was probs with Vista till I read it here. Have no issues with the speed, not withstanding others may be faster.
However speed is not the point, quality of the rip is.
Tried CDEX a couple of years ago and didn't relate to it that well. Still I'm not suggesting it be removed from the list.

by syntax_error on 17. August 2008 - 8:00  (6230)

How do you get EAC to rip to mp3 using lame with a bit rate > 192kBits?

by joe.bennett on 19. August 2008 - 3:14  (6279)

In EAC, press F11 to bring up your compression options. There you can select the bit rate.

by syntax_error on 5. September 2008 - 9:46  (7374)

You sure it works?

by joe.bennett on 5. September 2008 - 12:10  (7378)

If that doesn't work, you can click on your menu: EAC > Compression Options, then click on the "External Compression" tab.

by Anonymous on 17. September 2008 - 11:47  (7918)
by Anonymous on 24. September 2008 - 20:50  (8248)

I prefer CDex because it is the easiest to use but it will rip imperfect MP3's from damaged discs. For tough cases EAC is the only way to go but its interface is horrible.

-J

by RickeeBoy on 3. October 2008 - 13:03  (8645)

Hi Joe,
Quick couple of questions - I'm starting to plan the next 5 years odd - I want to sell the old hi-fi and ripp an entire CD collection to hard disc in lossless ( presumably FLAC ?? )( need best sounding system as mate has valves ) - as the cost of disc is dropping like a stone - I'll get a few Terabytes and raid it - then motherboard with outputs of optical ( digital not noisy ) to decent theatre system and HDMI for TV.( is this right ?? )
Q1. So presumably use EAC - but is there a quick app which works well to FLAC and if I hit any problems then ripp using EAC ??
Q2. Just started using Mediamonkey ( free ) as the organiser - Looks good - Can you advise any better organiser to auto convert to lower MP3 bit rate for portable. ( don't mind paying )
Thanks for all your help - superb site. I use 100% Gizmo's advice for everything.
Cheers
RickeeBoy !

by joe.bennett on 3. October 2008 - 14:17  (8655)

Hi RickeeBoy.

To answer your questions:

CDex will rip to FLAC fine, just be careful with scratched CD's. That will be where EAC will really be helpful for you.

I'm not familiar with any other music organizers besides Mediamonkey that would do what you are asking. I realize you are probably trying to save space on your music player, but music player capacities are now high enough (8 GB and higher on most players) where you don't have to down-sample your music to get it to fit. Realize also that by down-sampling your music, while you may get a smaller file size, the sound quality of the music file will go down... considerably in some cases.

Joe

by Anonymous on 20. December 2008 - 14:35  (12174)

Hate to be a clod, but Windows Media Player does fine by me, set at 340 for best quality.

by joe.bennett on 21. December 2008 - 2:08  (12196)

If WMP does the job for you, and you are happy with that, then that's fine. Realize, though, that there are other programs available that do have a much smaller memory footprint while offering more features.

by Anonymous on 11. January 2009 - 22:26  (13654)

WMP rips to WMA and does it very well. If WMA files are what you want, indeed you do not need to look any further.

But if you want to play your ripped tracks on an iPod, then you will need to convert your WMA files to either MP3 or M4A.

There are several freeware converters that can do just that. Unfortunately, all of those that I have tried fail to copy basic information such as song title and artist to the MP3 files they generate.

There are freeware MP3 editors available that allow you to manually insert the missing data.

But obviously it would be much easier to use a ripper that outputs MP3 or M4A in the first place.

by Anonymous on 23. February 2009 - 10:28  (16644)

Why not set the WMP to rip to mp3?

by joe.bennett on 24. February 2009 - 2:49  (16700)

Because it doesn't give as many options for ripping to it as other programs. But hey, if it works for you, then go for it.

by louis058 on 27. February 2009 - 22:35  (16894)

has anyone tried Monkey's Audio, both the ripper and the audio format, it's got higher compression than FLAC but the exact same sound quality, completely lossless, only it takes about three times longer to rip i think, but i think that's it's worth it, only problem is that few players support it and i've only seen that the player on the site can play it back

by Anonymous on 2. March 2009 - 22:46  (17069)

I used CDex for a while, but started discovering ripped tracks with silent spots in them. CDex does not catch or report all errors. Plus, it has not been updated in a while and I'm starting to wonder.

I have become an apostle of "lossless" error-correcting rippers like Exact Audio Copy.

by Anonymous on 10. March 2009 - 13:37  (17529)

Amen brother! I'm also an EAC evangelist!

by Anonymous on 10. March 2009 - 13:38  (17530)

EAC to Flac or Ogg is the only way to go!

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