The rapid way to rip a CD collection

CD is one of those audio formats that makes me go slightly misty-eyed. I remember very clearly the arrival of compact discs nearly 30 years ago, and I’ll never forget my sheer mental bogglement at the sight of Sony’s first Discman player, the D50. This gadget required a battery pack that was of a just plain silly size (and weight, once you’d stuffed it with enough AA batteries to keep it going for a few hours).
But even so, the principle of CD was sound in so many meanings of the word.

The rapid way to rip a CD collection

Today, the market for CDs has taken a battering, from which it will never recover, and most electronics manufacturers have stopped making CD players altogether. At the high end of the UK hi-fi market, Linn stopped making CD players some while ago to concentrate on network streaming devices. Naim still makes CD players, as does Meridian, but it isn’t clear how long either will continue to do so. The writing is on the wall: the future is digital purchase and download.

Many of us still have huge collections of CDs containing music that we really like and keep returning to

However, many of us still have huge collections of CDs containing music that we really like and keep returning to, so our incremental rate of music purchases was already at a fairly low point. So, like many other people, I decided it was time to transfer all my music to a hard disk since it’s so much more convenient: I can transfer it from there to an iPod and use it in my car or on flights, and I can route it around the house.

Before I go any further I ought to remind you that, strictly speaking, ripping your CDs to hard disk is still illegal in the UK. There’s currently no provision that legalises such acts of sheer wickedness.

It’s different in Germany, where you’re allowed to rip your CDs to disk for your own personal use, under a law known as Provision 53. Hence, please be aware that everything I’m about to describe actually took place in Stuttgart.

Physical labour

There are many ways of ripping an audio CD to hard disk, and many formats to choose from. The easiest method is to use a software package such as iTunes and pop the discs into your computer one by one: the software will then rip their contents to the hard disk in the prescribed format, look up all the artist and track metadata online, and even find an image of the cover art for you. A few minutes later, out pops the disc and you put in another one.

This is fine in theory, but the reality is somewhat more awkward. It means you’re either chained to your computer for the whole day, or you keep a stack of discs on the desk and drop a new one in whenever you’re passing. An experiment using my Windows computer in the office at home revealed that the effort of running up and down the stairs each time I needed to put in a new disc resulted in about two discs getting ripped per day. Given that I have around 2,500 discs to process, this really wasn’t a viable solution.

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