CD Ripping

CD Ripping is the name given to the process of extracting digital audio from an audio CD, audio is extracted by a computer and saved as one of many available audio formats, such as mp3, wma or ogg vorbis (lossy formats), or a lossless format such as FLAC, Wavpack, Apple Lossless or Windows Media Audio Lossless. A special program is needed to rip audio CDs, which is known as a CD Ripper.

Despite the name Ripping, nothing destructive happens to the Audio CD whilst ripping. Ripping on modern CD drives takes place up to x52 (52 times faster than normal playback speed), although commonly x20 to x30 is more realistic. A 60 minute CD ripped at x20 would rip in 3 minutes! Ripping is slower for track 1 than it is for the last track, a point on the inside of the CD (where track 1 is) travels slower than a point on the outside of the CD. There are rare CD drives which have a constant ripping speed for the entire CD, but 99.9% of CD drives start slowly and speed up for later tracks.

A common miss-belief is that an exact reproduction cannot be obtained unless audiophile $$$$ equipment is used. Even a $20 CD drive can rip audio 100% without error, this has been shown to be true millions of times through the use of AccurateRip, an online database of ripping results from people around the world which can inform if a rip was without error.


Illustrates own CD Ripper is the corner stone of dBpoweramp Music Converter's and dBpoweramp Reference suite of audio tools, designed to meet the needs of hobbyist, enthusiast of audio professional, one ripper catering to all needs:

  • Digitally record audio CDs without quality loss,
  • Secure our extensive tests highlight CD ripper as the securest of the secure,
  • Fast do not waste your time waiting for your CDs to rip, CD Ripper is as fast as possible,
  • Encoders built using dBpoweramp's codecs, we support practically every type of audio compression!
  • Meta Data CD Ripper not only retrieves CD track names and extended information (such as label, rating, composer), but also album art work,
  • DSP Effects such as ReplayGain, Volume Normalize, or Graphic EQ  [Power Pack Option],
  • Multi-CPU Aware every last ounce of CPU horsepower is used [Reference Option],
  • Profiles store complete configuration settings with profiles, one for quick ripping, one for archiving securely  [Reference Option],
  • Advanced C2 pointers, audio cache flushing or elimination, CD-Text, UPC and ISRC, a Ripper with all advanced features  [Power Pack / Reference Options],
  • All Windows from Windows 98 to XP and Vista, all supported.

Read why dBpoweramp's CD ripper should be your first choice when choosing a CD ripper.

 Audio CD Characteristics  

Invented by Philips & Sony in 1980 the audio CD was a revolution, compared to the previous format: tapes. Instant access (no rewinding), no loss of quality over time (as long as the CD was looked after).

The audio specification for an audio CD is 44100 Hz (samples per second), Stereo and 16 bits. New to samples, bits and frequency? read Spoons Audio Guide: In the Know

When mastered correctly (mastering is the stage where audio is altered to best suit its final format), audio CDs have a dynamic range greater than humans can perceive and the highest frequency also greater than can be heard. Notice the words when mastered correctly, as time goes on, CDs are getting louder (called the loudness race), the idea being when played on Radio a louder CD will be heard better and bought more. The only downside is by making the CD louder, the dynamic range (from quiet to loud) is reduced, in other words a 16 bit audio CD is no longer 16 bit, rather perhaps only using 14 bits worth...

Audio CDs can contain extra information, in addition to the audio, this extra information is embedded into the sub-codes and contain CD-Text (track names), as well as ISRC and UPC which are recording identification codes. All good, expect only a few CDs contain such information, the vast majority do not and to associate track names with a CD an online database (such as freedb or AMG) must be used.

Embedded with the audio data (again on a sub-code) are error detection codes, these can be used by CD drives to sometimes correct or if correction is not possible to inform (via c2 pointers) that an area of audio might contain errors.


CD drives have built in read & write offsets, why bother correcting for a drives offset? Imagine the same track was Ripped with two different drives, if the offsets were known for each of these drives the resulting rip would be bit-identical, useful when wanting to make sure a rip has no errors (AccurateRip).

Older CD drives had non constant offsets, each read (of the same location) would return a different section of audio. Most CD drives now feature AccurateStream, which removes random offsets, but there still exists a small fixed offset. The offset is constant across same drive models (with very few exceptions). To measure offsets (and correct for them) EAC's offset correction has become the standard, used also by dBpoweramp and Plextools.

Offset correction values are given in samples, or less commonly bytes (samples * 4). At the start of an audio CD is the lead-in and at the very end is the lead-out, areas of silence a CD drive uses find the start of the disc (remember non-computer CD players do not have AccurateStream), It is possible for a drive to correct for its offset by reading one sector early (negative offset) or an extra sector at the end (positive offset), to do this the drive has to be able to read into the read in, or read out. Not many drives can, luckily on the vast majority of audio CDs the very start and end of the disc is just silence, so drives which cannot over-read can still return correct results for most CDs.

AccurateRip has the most complete list of CD drive offsets, offsets for AccurateRip are calculated automatically using recognized CDs with an accuracy greater than 99.99%.

To complicate matters further, audio CDs have built in pressing offsets, that is, audio CDs are manufactured in batches, or pressings. At a later time when a new batch of CDs are created, they are written with a different offset (in relation to earlier CDs), although the CD appears (from its table of contents, or track indexes) as identical to previous pressings.

 Copy Protection  

The flawed idea behind copy protection on audio CDs is that if the CD cannot be read on a computer it will not be pirated as much. The reality is very different, every copy protected CD is available on line for the pirates, in the same numbers as non protected CDs, so if copy protection does not stop the pirates what does it do? It infuriates the legitimate user (who has purchased the CD), copy protection might stop them from Ripping to their iPod, or even lessen the quality of the audio reproduction no matter which audio equipment is used, or worse: render their computer broken.

What methods do copy protection employ?:

  • False Table of Contents: computers use the last session from CDs, normal CD players use the first, by creating a false 2nd session with values which are incorrect, some drives will not read such CDs. There have been reports of these CDs sticking in Apples and with no eject button the computer is rendered useless without a repair, or the false addresses have the potential to damage a CD player. Many drives can be told which session to read from, thus by passing this method.
  • White noise in the audio: believe it or not, record labels add hissing noise every second to an audio CD, the idea being that a normal CD player will read the noise section as being corrupted and interpolate (silence out) the noise, whilst computer CD drives will return the noise. This method effectively lowers the audio quality of an audio CD, and potentially will play speaker damaging white noise when used with top end CD players, talk about alienating your customers. Again many modern computer CD drives will auto interpolate like their audio counterparts, bypassing this method. Drives which do not and return c2 data, can use this to pinpoint the errors and software can remove.
  • Installation of 'bad' software. The pinnacle of this folly ended with Sony's root kit fiasco. The idea is, audio CD is inserted into a computer, software contained on the audio CD installs onto the system and alters the operating system at a low level to prevent ripping. The problem is said nasty software (as in the case of Sony) installs without the users knowledge, hides its self when installed, could not be uninstalled, decreases system reliability, would remain on the system indefinitely and the killer blow: would expose a huge security hole in the system. This farce ended with such bad publicity for Sony and a large fine. dBpoweramp's CD Ripper has the option to disable the installation of such audio CD malware, thus protecting your system.

Hopefully record companies will begin to treat their customers with respect, instead of potential criminals, and the days of copy protected CDs are long since passed.