I remember using an early version of Audiograbber years ago. Drifted away from it since but just recently found it to be better than anything else in one crucial respect. “…Proudly Presents…” in the AG splash screen is definitely justified. It has the best analog ripping solution. I want to share my experience and perhaps help someone in a situation similar to mine. There is little info on this elsewhere, especially for newbies, so I hope someone may find this post useful. The experts among you may know all this, I am sure.
This is based on Windows XP setup, but, if my memory serves me, should be just fine for Windows 98, 95, ME, NT and 2000. The principles are the same. This has been written fast and not proof read, so expect typos, omissions and possible judgement errors This just describes my experience… you may find/know a better way. Read and use at your own risk!
If you ever had a scratched CD, you may know that even a small scratch can make digital extraction either impossible, or unsatisfactory. In extreme cases, the entire CD may be totally unreadable. Yet, when you play the CD in a regular CD player, some defects are little noticeable. The tracks that will not rip or sound awful after ripping actually sound OK in a CD player. That is because the CD player plays it in analog mode.
In that case, digital ripping/extraction is out, and analog recording (you may also call it analog extraction or sampling) is the only way to get the tracks out of the CD. The question is, how to do it with the least hassle, have the tracks faithfully recorded with proper name, etc, and with as little loss as possible.
The long and painful way would be to use any kind of sound recording program, and record directly off of a CD as it plays in your CD-ROM drive. You could then edit the WAV file, split it, make it into tracks, name them… and a few hours later into doing it hang yourself, wondering why isnt there a program that will do all that for you. Amazingly enough, AudioGrabber does it all.
There are many ripping programs out there, but they all do some form of digital ripping. Very few offer analog ripping support. AudioGrabber is the only free one that I am aware of that offers full analog ripping support. AudioGrabber has little other free competition. EAC (Exact Audio Copy) which is probably the most competitive program to Audio Grabber does not do analog ripping mode. CDex? Nope, digital only. RealPlayer has a weird way of doing it, but the program is terrible. Windows Media player? Forget it… Same goes for various Creative software. Nero? Nope, only digital extraction. Anything else that does it, you have to pay for… and it does not do it as well.
By full analog ripping support I mean the program will record the tracks, separate them, get proper CDDB info for them, convert them as necessary etc… In short, it will do everything that digital extraction does, and do it just as user friendly and easily, except the actual sound will be recorded in Analog mode. No manual intervention from user is required and no need to deal with WAV files.
Perhaps I am digressing, but if you don’t know analog vs digital extraction, I will briefly mention the main difference. My terminology may be a bit off. When a track is extracted digitally, the drive tries to read 1s and 0s on the disk as if it was data. It then sends it over the IDE cables to the Hard Drive. The problem comes from defective sectors and scratches on CD’s, which translate into bad sectors, where the program does not know what to do with them. In best case scenario you will hear lots of bad and distorted noise over the music. In worst case scenario, digital reading of data will fail alltogether.
There are many schemes that are supposed to attempt to fix this digitally, by trying to detect scratches, intelligently scan bad sectors, etc. Sometimes they work well, sometimes they dont. For really bad scratches, they most definitely do not work, in my experience.
That brings us to analog extraction. That way, the CD-ROM in your computer reads the data and transfers it to sound card as either analog, or, suprise, digital sound. More on that later. The sound card then records it into a music file.
If you look on the back of your CD-ROM drive, it has ANALOG OUT and DIGITAL OUT. Most drives will have those connectors. Analog connector will feed unamplified analog music stream to the sound card, just like line-in on your stereo. All sound cards have a connector for that input, typically labelled CD-IN.
But, that is not the best way to go. If your sound card has a two pin connector that is named either DIGITAL IN or SPDIF IN, you can connect the DIGITAL OUT of the CD-ROM drive to it. Voila, now, when a CD is played in the drive, that digital stream is fed directly to the sound card.
The advantage of this is, you have practially NO LOSS in quality. The sound remains digital all the way to the sound card, whereas if you use ANALOG OUT, the CD ROM drive converts the sound from digital to analog, it travels to the sound card, where analog to digital conversion occurs again before sound is written into a music file.
This may be confusing, as we still talk about analog extraction. What one has to understand is that Analog extraction refers to any kind of audio sound recorded via the Sound Card, regardless how it gets there, whereas Digital extraction is data that travels via the IDE cable and recorded directly on the Hard Drive without any kinf of Sound Card involvement.
I hope you are not thouroughly confused. But, if you have a CD that just will not rip, but plays OK (perhaps not perfect, but plays) in a stand-alone CD player or CD-ROM drive analog mode, try the following method.
First of all, clean the CD using CD cleaner (washing it with warm water and soap does just fine too - DO NOT RUB the cd with ANYTHING - air dry or blot gently with paper towel - DO NOT RUB)
Then, use CD scratch remover in vain hopes of helping your CD drive a little bit. May not help on a badly scratched CD (did not help mine much) but wont hurt.
Now, for the real thing. There are two scenarios: Sound card with DIGITAL IN connector vs. Sound card without one. For best results you MUST use DIGITAL IN of your sound card, but using CD-IN will give excellent results as well.
If you Sound Card has a two pin DIGITAL IN(SPDIF IN) connector and you have DIGITAL OUT connector on the back of the CD-ROM drive, connect the two. You can buy a cable, or you can make your own cable by using standard two pin header connectors (like from computer case LEDs). In my case, I made the cable by taking two of those LED two pin connector wires, cutting the LEDs off and splicing the wires together. Voila, we now have a digital sound cable Observe correct polarity when connecting the cable, as it will be possible to plug it in either way. Just note the orientation of the wires going into the CD-ROM connector, and observe the same orientation in relation to the connector on the Sound Card.
If you only have CD-IN on your sound card, as is the case with most medium to low end or older sound cards, connect the CD-OUT (aka ANALOG OUT) of your CD-ROM drive to the CD-IN of your sound card. You most likely already have that connection if you do not like playing your CD’s digitally on your PC. Many computers come with this cable properly hooked up.
Then, go to the device manager, find your CD ROM drive, and under proprieties, UNCHECK the box that says “Enable Digital CD audio blah blah” That is not entirely necessary, but simplifies understanding of some mixer settings you will have to use later. If you are not sure, you can always recheck the box later. Unchecking the box simply tells Windows to play the CD via one of the Sound Card CD inputs that you just connected. Obviously, if no cable is connected you will not hear CDs play nor record them, so make sure you connect a cable as described above first. You may have to restart the computer after this setting is changed.
Next, open the Windows sound mixer aka Play control. You can switch between PLAY and RECORD control by going to OPTIONS, PROPRIETIES and selecting either PLAYBACK or RECORDING. While you are still under PROPRIETIES, select PLAYBACK and look at the checkboxes under “Show the following volume controls” header.
Make sure that at the very least, WAVE, CD DIGITAL, CD AUDIO are checked. I have all of boxes checked. CD DIGITAL refers to the sound card DIGITAL IN or SPDIF IN connector that is INTERNAL to the sound card, meaning it is a pin header on the card itself, that cannot be accessed except by opening the computer case.
CD AUDIO will refer to the internal CD-IN sound card connector.
If you see SPDIF-IN box that most likely refers to the EXTERNAL (acessible with the computer case closed) digital in connector, if your card has it, next to your MIC-IN and speaker out jacks on the back. It is not the same as the INTERNAL SPDIF-IN that we going to use.
Now, select RECORDING. Under “Show the following volume controls…” check all of the boxes as well, or at least make sure that CD AUDIO and CD DIGITAL boxes are checked.
Hit OK. You are now in RECORD CONTROL as indicated on top of the mixer box. With respect to the cable you connected earlier, if you are using DIGITAL IN of your sound card, you need to check CD DIGITAL box. If you are using CD IN of your sound card, check CD AUDIO box.
Go to Options, Proprieties, select Playback, hit OK… you are now in PLAY CONTROL, as indicated by PLAY CONTROL banner on top of the mixer. MUTE everything but WAVE, CD AUDIO and CD DIGITAL.
It is time to test everything. Play a CD using a simple program. BEWARE: some advanced programs (like Nero MIX, etc) have their own settings for selecting DIGITAL vs ANALOG CD Playback and ignore windows setting. Make sure that if your CD Player program has a choice of digital vs analog playback, that you use ANALOG Playback for CD files (aka CDA files, CDA input, etc).
As the CD starts to play, you should hear it.
As you listen, MUTE the WAVE box in PLAY CONTROL. You should STILL hear the music. Congradulations, your CD is playing in Analog or Semi-digital-through-the-sound-card mode, depending on the cable connection you used.
If, when you mute the WAVE box, the music disappears, that means your CD playing program overrides windows settings and uses digital playback instead. Use another CD playing program or enable analog play in the current program.
Now, if you still hear the music, mute CD AUDIO or CD DIGITAL respective to the cable you had connected to the sound card. The music should disappear, telling you the connection is working properly.
You are pretty much done. Start AudioGrabber… under settings select ANALOG Cd ripping method. Choose the right CD ROM drive… Set SOUND VOLUME to 100% for now, you can experiment with it later. Voila, you are done. You can now take that scratched up CD that will play but not rip, stick it in the CD ROM drive and use normal AudioGrabber ripping procedures to produce the best analog rip possible.
Tip: Make sure that during the ripping process the sound level bar actually indicates peak sound level. If it does, everything is good. If it does not, you have most likely set RECORD CONTROL in mixer to the wrong input, or muted the wrong input in PLAY CONTROL. BOTH PLAY CONTROL and RECORD CONTROL in mixer have to be set correctly for this to work.
Wow, I just wrote a book. All of this is really easy, but as I wrote it I kept of thinking of many tiny but important details, and look at this now… I have created a monster! Rest assured, after you do it once, it becomes a second nature.
My setup is a DVD writer hooked up digitally to the sound card. I have also found that some DVD/CD drives produce slightly better analog rips then other. If you hav two drives in your PC, it will not hurt to experiment - record the same file from two drives and compare side by side. One may have less noise then the other.
Case in point: I have a scratched CD that could not be ripped digitally in EITHER EAC or AG… the songs that did rip were just unpalatable due to all the crackle and pop…
EAC’s most secure ripping method simply rejected some of them as unsalvageable. AG digital ripping methods did not fair any better. That tells you about the limits of digital ripping. Under analog ripping in AG, the tracks produced were actually not bad at all, not perfect, but good enough to listen to. It helps to keep in mind that with analog ripping “What you HEAR is what you get”… so if listening to a CD on, say, a boombox is acceptable, analog recording will be as well.
Some of you may say, wait a minute, there are cases where digital extraction was possible to salvage a track that did not want to play properly even in analog mode. Well, that can happpen. My suggestion in, try it both ways and compare the results. Digital extraction is best for undamaged CD’s, no doubt about it. For damaged CD’s, if digital fails, try analog, and you can’t go wrong with AudioGrabber for that purpose.