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-   -   Guide to Ripping & Encoding High Quality MP3s (http://www.gamingforce.org/forums/showthread.php?t=15562)

Moguta Dec 3, 2006 01:20 PM

Guide to Ripping & Encoding High Quality MP3s
Guide for Encoding Efficient, High Quality Digital Audio

Last updated: November 7th, 2009

- First, decide which audio codec you wish to use!
  • MP3 is the most popular format, the most supported, and therefore the first choice for most people. In recent years, the quality of MP3 has been continually pushed to the envelope by the LAME encoder team (yes, it really is called LAME) despite the limits of this aging format. Sometimes, however, the limits cannot be easily overcome. For example, LAME attempts to fix the gap problem, where MP3s typically play an extra bit of silence at the end, something quite noticable when playing tracks that are supposed to flow into the next. Since LAME's fix is not a part of the MP3 standard, however, only a few players will skip that trailing silence.
    PC & HARDWARE PLAYERS: nearly any

  • Ogg Vorbis is an unpatented, open-source, free-as-in-freedom audio codec. It especially excels at low bitrates (less than 128Kbps) compared to the other formats, and it is gapless between tracks. Although official development has crawled along, unofficial Aoyumi's Tuned Vorbis (aoTuV) versions have kept quality marching forward. Also of note, some claim that Vorbis encoding flaws sound less harsh than those of MP3. A fair number of hardware players support Vorbis, but unfortunately not nearly as many as MP3.
    HARDWARE PLAYERS: iPods (with Rockbox), several iRiver models, serveral Cowon models, Pocket PCs (with TCPMP), and many others
    PC PLAYERS: WinAmp, Windows Media Player (w/filter), Foobar2000, and many others

  • FLAC is not a lossy codec like all of the above. Instead, it performs lossless compression, which means FLACs will always output the exact same audio that was put into them. But because FLAC does not selectively discard data like lossy formats, the files are quite larger. However, decoding takes very little CPU power, which makes for fast conversions from FLAC to whatever lossy format your portables may use, or whatever format would be easiest to "share". FLAC is useful for archiving in perfect quality, or for those with huge hard drives.
    HARDWARE PLAYERS: iPods and iRivers (with Rockbox), Pocket PCs (with TCPMP), and others
    PC PLAYERS: WinAmp, Windows Media Player (w/filters), Foobar2000, and others

Encoding from Audio CDs

I. First-time setup:

1) Because reading the CD right matters just as much as how you encode it, download & install the best, Exact Audio Copy, from
Introduction Exact Audio Copy

2) Download the currently recommended encoder for your preferred format, unzip, and place it in a folder you will remember.

MP3: LAME 3.98.2
Ogg Vorbis: Oggenc2.85 using aoTuVb5.7
FLAC: FLAC for Windows with installer (v1.2.1)

3) Run Exact Audio Copy. The Configuration Wizard should pop up (if not, start it from the "EAC" menu).
  • When it asks you, select all your CD drives. (Note: CD-RW drives are typically best for ripping purposes.)
  • Select "I prefer to have accurate results" for each drive.
  • Auto-detect your CD drive features. This requires an audio CD to be in your drive.
  • MP3 only: Check "Install & configure the external LAME.EXE compressor." Stop the search, manually find the path where you downloaded LAME, and select either quality option given (this will be changed later).
  • Enter the e-mail address.
  • Select "I am an expert."
4) Open the "EAC Options" from the "EAC" menu.
  • Under the Extraction tab, put "Error recovery quality" at "Medium".
  • If you have a constantly-on Internet connection, under the General tab select "On unknown CDs, automatically access online freedb database."
  • Under the Filename tab, change the naming scheme to

    %N - %T
    which is basically the format "01 - TrackOneName". You may want to put additional parameters in there too, that's fine, but make sure the track number gets in there somewhere... unless you feel like having the tracks listed in alphabetical order rather than the natural CD order. :worried:
    You can also put your albums in directories, for example

    %A\%C\%N - %T
    which is "\Artist\Album\01 - TrackOneName"
5) Open the "Drive Options" from the "EAC" menu.
  • Under the Extraction Method tab, it should already be set to "Secure mode with following drive features." If not, change it.
  • Under the Drive tab, hit the "Auto-detect read command now" button.
6) Open the "Compressor Options" from the "EAC" menu.
  • Under the External Compression tab, change the "Parameter passing scheme" to "User defined encoder", and enter the appropriate file extension below.

    MP3: .mp3
    Ogg Vorbis: .ogg
    FLAC: .flac

    (Note: Selecting "User defined encoder" disables the effects of the "high quality/low quality" buttons & the bit rate drop-down menu. So just ignore them.)

  • Browse to the location where you unzipped the encoder. The specific file you're looking for is:

    MP3: lame.exe
    Ogg Vorbis: oggenc2.exe
    FLAC: flac.exe (in the "bin" sub-folder)

  • Enter under "Additional command line options":
    (These commands determine what methods will be used to encode the audio)


    -V 2 --vbr-new %s %d
    Ogg Vorbis

    -q 5.0 -a "%a" -t "%t" -l "%g" -d "%y" -N "%n" -G "%m" %s %d

    -6 -V -T "artist=%a" -T "title=%t" -T "album=%g" -T "date=%y" -T "tracknumber=%n" -T "genre=%m" %s %d
    NOTE: Make sure no extra spaces or discrepancies are included when you enter or copy these commands! This can cause the encoder to fail when it tries to encode the music, and you will just end up with WAV files!
  • You will probably want to check "Delete WAV after compression". UNcheck "Add ID3 tag" if you are NOT using MP3.
  • MP3 only: Check "Add ID3 tag." Under the Offset tab, look at "Construction of the ID3 tag comment field", select "Write following text into ID3 tag comment", and then type LAME v3.98 -V 2 --vbr-new or your version of LAME & encoding method used, if different. (This is simply used for identification, so anyone viewing the ID3 comment can tell what quality mode was used to encode the MP3.)
    NOTE: Do NOT also add ID3 tags via the "Additional command line options", or you will end up with possibly-erroneous double-tagged MP3s!
Congrats, you finished the long part! Once everything has been set up, you shouldn't need to go back & mess with any of these settings. =)

II. Ripping each CD:
  • Run Exact Audio Copy & put the audio CD in the appropriate drive.
  • Either enter the CD/track/artist info yourself, or get it auto-filled from the CDDB (ALT-G) if you're connected to the Internet.
  • To rip & encode the entire CD, click the "MP3" button on the left. To get individual tracks, select all the ones you want and press SHIFT-F6.
  • If you don't mind taking double the time to be even more confident that your rips are coming out perfectly, then instead of hitting the MP3 button, right-click on the selected tracks and select "Test & Copy Compressed". After all the ripping, if the "CRC" field at the very right says "OK" for each track, all is good! If not, the test & actual copies read differently, which means one or both read something wrong.
That's it. The End! Hopefully you now have a folder full of high quality audio files ready for listening!

Important Lossy Concept
A lossy file (such as MP3, AAC, or Vorbis) can never turn itself back into the original audio it is trying to approximate. Any converting, any burning, and any playing can only use the imperfect audio in that lossy file to do its job, so turning an MP3 to a WAV or burning it to a CD will only result in audio that sounds exactly as imperfect as the MP3. Also, if you were to take that imperfect-sounding WAV and turn it into MP3 again, it will only result in more loss. For this reason, it is inadvisable to convert lossy files to other lossy files. It is always best to use lossy compression on only original full quality audio.

Since lossy compression works by trying to remove the information humans percieve least, such quality degredation may not always be detectable. Indeed, the hope is that the encoded audio will sound exactly the same as the source. But quality reduction does always occur even if it is often inaudible.

Encoding from Files

I. First-time setup:
  • Foobar2000 has a reputation as a spartan, utilitarian little audio player. However, it features one of most customizable file converters that I have yet to try. So go ahead and get downloadin' and installin'. Oh, and make sure not to de-select that important little "Converter" component.
  • Download the currently recommended encoder for your preferred format, unzip, and place it in a folder you will remember.

    MP3: LAME 3.98.2
    Ogg Vorbis: Oggenc2.83 using aoTuVb5.7
    FLAC: FLAC for Windows with installer (v1.2.1)

    (Wait! Haven't you done this part already? If not, return to the top of the thread, do not pass Go, do not collect $100, and install EAC already!)
  • Run Foobar2000 and add to the playlist the file(s) you want to convert. Select them all and right click, choosing "Convert > ..." from the menu.
  • Choose your preferred audio format from the drop-down box under "Output format". The default encoding settings are right in line with the suggestions of this guide, so there should be no need to tweak them. If you do wish to tweak them, however, you can hit the "..." button to the right.
  • Under the "Output files" section, you can edit the output file names. I would recommend changing the Name Format setting to %filename% so that your converted file will only differ in file extension.
  • Under "Output path", tell it where you want to put the files. Then click "OK" at the bottom. Now remember when I told you that you had to memorize where you put the encoder? This is where you have to go find it, Fido.
  • After selecting the directory to drop the new file into and watching the progress bars fill to full, you should now be the proud owner of a newly converted file, complete with any tag information that was in the original file.

II. Each subsequent conversion:
  • Run Foobar and add the files to the playlist.
  • Select, right-click, "Convert > ..."
  • Select your desired codec, if it isn't selected already, and hit "OK".
  • Wait for moist, delicious cake^Z^Z^Z^Z MP3s.

Foobar2000, especially with all of its components, can convert just about anything you throw at it, to just about any format you want.
Except for emulated game music. For that, just download some a WinAmp plugin and diskwrite it to WAV before throwing it to Foobar.

ReplayGain: Preventing Loudness Jumps & Clipping


MP3gain is a very useful program that performs volume normalizing, maximizing, and adjustment. Since MP3s are just an approximation of the original file, and since modern CDs are pushed so very close to the maximum volume/amplitude value, at some points the waveform of a decoded/played-back MP3 may calculate as a value above that maximum. This is called clipping, because those higher values must be truncated down to the maximum limit, flattening those segments of the waveform and often introducing annoying pops or static. MP3gain can prevent clipping by reducing the MP3's internal volume level just enough that its peaks will not breach the maximum amplitude.

The program can also "normalize" song loudness, meaning that it will make MP3s sound about equally loud from track to track (in default Track Mode), preventing the constant need to adjust your player's volume when listening to your collection. MP3Gain will even preserve the intended volume differences between songs on the same CD when you use Album Gain mode, instead attempting to equalize the overall loudness of different albums.

Note that for this to work as intended, you must Album Gain or Track Gain all the MP3s in your collection. Also, it will often make your songs quieter. This is because it uses a loudness standard that attempts to minimize the amount of clipping caused by raising dynamic tracks, with high peaks and otherwise low levels, to the same overall volume as more modern tracks, which tend to be so dynamically-compressed that the entire song hugs the maximum amplitude.

NOTE: Winamp has recently gained the ability to read MP3Gain's ReplayGain tags, so the compatability worries previously espoused here are now irrelevant.

Scientific Lossy Audio Codec Comparisons

- Sebastian's Public Listening Tests
- Roberto's Public Listening Tests

Please let me know if there are any other links I should include.

Questions and Explanations

Why is it ripping so slowly? I can get 5-10x faster with MusicMatch/CDex/WinAmp/etc!
  • Secure Mode double-reads the CD to make sure there was no read error (i.e. each data sector should be the same when read twice) caused by something on the CD or just a bad CD drive. This is the only mode that can let you know when there is an error, and the only one that will rescan the CD to get a prominent reading when it does find a discrepancy. Speed is what you sacrifice for this quality.
  • If you absolutely hate the slower ripping speed, or find that a CD is encountering error after error & taking hours, use Burst Mode with Test & Copy to verify. Occasionally Burst Mode results in a better rip in those cases.
I hate VBR mp3s! They always give me problems, and are certainly not high quality!
  • LAME's implementation of VBR (variable bitrate) is markedly improved over any other VBR mp3s you've heard. Audiophile enthusiasts have even done scientific double-blind listening tests to prove that LAME's VBR is audibly "transparent" (sounds no different than the original audio) to most listeners.
What's wrong with 128Kbps? Why use something so LAME? (harharhar) Why not encode with a constant 192Kbps?
  • Firstly, if you can't tell the difference between 128Kbps mp3s and the originals, do yourself a long overdue favor: buy yourself a better set of speakers, headphones, or sound card. (Remember that the weakest links in the chain from that audio file to your ears dictate the sound quality.) However, older folks and those with hearing loss may not be able to tell the difference. And honestly, the difference can sometimes be subtle.
  • We use the LAME encoder, as it is considered the best encoder out there for bitrates above 112Kbps. LAME produces better quality mp3s than even the official Fraunhoffer encoders. Isn't it great that LAME is free? :D
  • The -V switch invokes a VBR (variable bitrate) encoding mode in LAME. VBR is, in theory, inherently superior to CBR (constant bitrate). CBR mp3s may at times have too few bits available to encode all the audible information in a frame. Or one frame may only need a fractional amount of the available bits to be audibly the same, with the rest of the frame filled with inaudible data to keep the mp3 at a constant bitrate. A variable bitrate cures such problems of lost audio quality & wasted file space by determining how many bits should be used in each different frame to keep the audio audibly unchanged. (Admittedly, the "bit reservoir" in CBR mp3s attempts to resolve this as well, but it is much less effective than pure VBR.) Typically, a VBR file may possess audio quality equivalent to a 10-20% larger CBR file.
What are the typical average bitrates of MP3s using these VBR switches?Why is the encoder set to "User defined encoder" in EAC, when there is already an option for the LAME encoder?
  • Choosing "User defined encoder" and entering -V [0/1/2/3/etc] --vbr-new %s %d effectively disables all other mp3 encoding options in the External Compression tab. This is done because certain quality parameters in LAME can interfere with -V's functionality, even some typically associated with producing hi-quality LAME mp3s. We are merely making sure that these specific VBR quality settings, and the source & destination files, are the only parameters passed to LAME.
Why set Error Recovery to Medium? Why use Secure Mode?
  • If any kind of error occurs while reading the CD, an Error Recovery of Medium tells EAC to rescan this section of the disc the 2nd-most number of times allowed. EAC will then use the most prominent result found from these reads. ('High' was previously recommended. But if a 'Medium' amount of reads isn't able to give a prominent result, more attempts will very likely be little help & will only slow the ripping process.)
  • The Burst & Fast modes may often make copying errors without realizing this or attempting to make any sort of correction. Secure Mode does rip more slowly, but it attempts to make a more perfect copy of the track than either other mode.
Where can I get more information about digital audio?
  • The Hydrogen Audio forums are an excellent resource for digital audio discussion, explanation, testing, and development.
Why is this post so long?
  • Because it's awesome?? :sweat: :worried:

If you have any questions about all of this, feel absolutely free to reply or contact me.

Vemp Dec 5, 2006 12:04 PM

Oh wow, this is a huge upgrade of my current ripping standards. Thanks a lot for this moguta.

(I think I still follow your old ripping guide.. the one made a few years ago.. like 3 or 4 years ago.)

cubed Dec 5, 2006 02:27 PM

I recently use -V 0 though...... Does it make me a bad person? ;_;

ArrowHead Dec 5, 2006 04:26 PM


Originally Posted by cubed
I recently use -V 0 though...... Does it make me a bad person? ;_;

Nope. It's totally up to you whether the increase in sound quality is worth the increase in bitrate or not.

Moguta Dec 5, 2006 08:11 PM

Thanks to Darko for keeping a copy of my thread alive even after the GFF crash! This one has a few changes, such as a totally new section on encoding files already on the hard disk, additional explanation of what MP3Gain does, updated broken links, a short mention of some CPU-optimized Vorbis encoders (much quicker!), and the newest version of the Musepack encoder. Oh yeah, and taking out AAC to reduce clutter, and because I have the feeling absolutely no one who followed my guide used that format.

cubed, I would argue that -V 0 --vbr-new is a bit overdoing it & wasteful of space, since -V 2 --vbr-new doesn't reveal even subtly audible difference in the great majority of cases. But at least you're not using 320Kbps. :p
*Coughs to clear his throat and dons his mock-superior voice* Yes, cubed, you are a very bad man for using higher quality settings than necessary for your own personal use! Shame, to the highest degree! ;)

Drex Dec 18, 2006 12:18 AM

Welcome back to keeping our ripping in line! I'm going to update my settings now.

Also, hi. ^_^

And I'm stickying the thread. FIRST OFFICIAL MOD ACTION IN 4ish YEARS. WOO.

Moguta Dec 21, 2006 11:39 PM

Omigosh it's Drexie! And I get the honor of having my thread stickied by him!

Oh, yes, and hello. ;D

Ah, who cares if it's your first action in four years? Wouldn't want you to break out into a sweat with all that heavy mod work. Nope, nope! :D
Good to see ya around again.

Elixir Dec 24, 2006 09:30 AM

Thanks for this, this guide is highly useful.

Phatcorns Dec 30, 2006 12:38 AM

Quick question, I would like to use EAC to compress WAV's and decompress MP3's.

The problem is that under EAC -> Compression Options -> Offset, the "use lame command line encoder/decoder for decoding mp3 files" is grayed out.

Anyone have any ideas on what the problem is? Thanks!

Moguta Jan 1, 2007 07:37 PM

Phatcorns, I'm not certain why that is. The option is ghosted on mine as well...

But, if you are using lame.exe in the "External Compression" tab, following the directions in my ripping guide, then it will use those settings when doing the "Compress WAVs" command. And I believe EAC may be able to decode MP3s without LAME.

Additional Post:
And just linking a post I just made in another thread which explains, in a bit of detail, some of the aspects and trivialities of audio encoding. For those who care to know...

Star Man Aevum Jan 6, 2007 10:25 PM

So, for some odd reason, lame.exe is not included in the bundle of files provided by LAME's website. That, and the link you have provided for LAME is also down. Any thoughts on the matter?

Additional Spam:
Nevermind. Take an extra five seconds and refine a Google search will get me what I need.

Moguta Jan 8, 2007 07:27 PM

Sorry, Aevum. Evidently Rarewares.org -- the site I link to for the LAME encoder -- was down for a bit due to a billing dispute. But it's back up again.

Cal Jan 10, 2007 03:50 AM

The track/artist/#/etc doesn't seem to work when ripping in MPC. EAC actually names the artist, for instance, '%a'.

Moguta Jan 14, 2007 09:02 PM

Hrm, Cal, that is very odd. EAC should be converting those symbols (like %a) into the actual artist/album/track/etc. strings shown in the main window before it passes the command to the encoder. Perhaps you could try it without the surrounding "quotes"?

EDIT: I just tried to reproduce your problem, but to no avail. Even with the ""s around the symbols, the tags were written fine. :(

Cal Jan 15, 2007 03:57 AM

Is there any way I get get EAC to append APE and not ID3?


Note: Selecting "User defined encoder" disables the effects of the "high quality/low quality" buttons & the bit rate drop-down menu.
Apparently it's the opposite case with Musepack.

Moguta Jan 17, 2007 07:48 PM

I'm not exactly sure what you mean by that, Cal.

EAC and Musepack work together fine for me under these compression settings (and with the rest of the commandline that's off-screen, identical to what I wrote in the guide above).


Rocktime Jan 26, 2007 11:53 AM

Hey, I've used your guide for ripping in the past, but I recently reinstalled Exact Audio Copy and LAME and followed the procedure again. This time, I'm encountering problems. I go to rip, and everything seems to be going fine through Exact Audio Copy, but the LAME encoder isn't converting all the files to MP3. It does many of them, but what I am left with is a partially ripped CD. I know it might be hard to pinpoint, but I was wondering if you might know what the problem would be.

Moguta Jan 26, 2007 09:26 PM

Hrm.... Rocktime, see the screenshot in my last post? Check-mark "Check for external programs return code" at the bottom left. Then, when any error dialog box pops up during extraction, save a screenshot of it. Hopefully we can figure out what the problem is that way.

Rocktime Jan 27, 2007 03:37 PM

1 Attachment(s)
Alright, So, I go to rip the CD, I believe I have followed all the instructions as described above. The first 3 tracks go fine, the fourth track is copied OK by EAC, but when it goes to compress I get the error shown in this attachment. The rest of the CD goes fine after OKing the error, except the same thing happens with the final track. This time, I tried going back and having it retry only the missed tracks, and it was able to copy and compress them sucessfully, so I guess my problem isn't so much of a major issue as an inconvience.

Though, the previous time I tried ripping this CD it failed on more than half the tracks, and several other CDs had the same issues.

Moguta Jan 28, 2007 03:19 PM

That's really weird. Especially so with you saying that it won't work sometimes, and then sometimes those exact same tracks will encode. o.O

I don't understand that at all. Even if EAC was getting different rip results each time... the audio itself shouldn't make LAME error. Only, like, invalid parameters or such... and EAC should be passing LAME the exact same parameters each time.

The only thing I can possibly think of is LAME having trouble with the temporary file names, since that's the only thing that changes each time. Perhaps the ()s in the temp file name that you linked? Although, really, I can't think of why that would be any problem.

Diversion Feb 20, 2007 05:18 PM

For some reason, the files are doing some funny things.

I ripped the audio off of a DVD. In Adobe Audition 2.0, I split the tracks up, did the fading and touching up, and kept the original WAV file. One of files, for example, has a length of 13:10. When I listen to it, it ends right on time! Hooray! Time to get it to a more convenient format.

Doing everything above, I produced the MP3s. But when listening and verifying they sound right, something's off. The length STILL says 13:10, however, it goes over that and ends a few seconds after it. It sounds exactly the same, though, but it's almost as if during the course of the song it managed to lengthen itself somehow. I also tried burning the WAV files onto an Image and ripping the image through EAC with the same result.

I was using the recommended LAME VBR command line and still, for some reason, get odd results. Any known reasons why?

Edit: I tried the CBR of 320 (-b 320), which also produced 13:10, but it ended at the right time. Seems there's a problem with my computer handling the VBR.

Moguta Feb 20, 2007 06:22 PM

What application are you using to play MP3s? Winamp shouldn't have this problem, nor should Foobar2000. Yet it wouldn't surprise me at all if Windows Media Player messed it up; past versions have handled VBR files rather shoddily.

Diversion Feb 20, 2007 08:43 PM

It is WMP, actually, I'll try it out in other programs (should of did that in the first place, I assumed it was a bad encoding).

Hmm, does seem to work better now. It sounds exactly the same, don't know why it does that.

lundeberg Feb 26, 2007 02:20 PM

There's nothing about mpeg4 files!! How Do I convert them ? Is there a freeware that does it?


Moguta Feb 26, 2007 09:06 PM


Originally Posted by Diversion (Post 396107)
It is WMP, actually, I'll try it out in other programs (should of did that in the first place, I assumed it was a bad encoding).

Hmm, does seem to work better now. It sounds exactly the same, don't know why it does that.

Glad to hear you figured out that it's the player (it figures, I've never liked WMP), rather than the MP3. If you're not using the latest version, perhaps updating could help.


Originally Posted by lundeberg (Post 400960)
There's nothing about mpeg4 files!! How Do I convert them ? Is there a freeware that does it?

There is no one specific MPEG-4 audio specification, but instead there are a number of versions of AAC. I removed the AAC encoding from my guide because the only encoder that works with Exact Audio Copy produces notably worse quality than the Apple, Quicktime, and Nero AAC encoders.

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