the other me might even be better than this one

Adventures in CD ripping

November 15, 2020 — Gideon Mayhak

It all started several years ago when I read Thomas Vander Stichele's The Art of the Rip and learned about the new morituri project. Up to that point, I'd been ripping my CDs straight to Ogg Vorbis using Grip. I would usually enter track information manually to suit my preferences, and I used a fairly low bitrate for playback on a little digital audio player running Rockbox.

The idea of ripping my CDs to FLAC and having thorough metadata brought in from MusicBrainz (which was also new to me at the time) was a revelation. Add on top of that the promise of a rip that was "guaranteed" to be accurate not only by doing local checks but also by comparing it to an online database (AccurateRip), and I was ready to rerip my modest CD collection.

The undertaking

Everyone remembers their first time. Okay, maybe not like that. I bought two new disc drives for my computer in preparation to rip my CDs two-at-a-time with morituri. Most of my discs were already in MusicBrainz, and I only had to manually add a couple from local artists. It took several days, but I ended up with as close to perfect of a backup of my CDs as I could get at the time.

I continued using morituri to rip new CDs over the years, holding onto the last RPM Thomas had built until it stopped working on the newest releases of Fedora. I know I could've built it from source, but I was lazy.

The successor

morituri was eventually forked as whipper, but I didn't start using whipper right away. As previously mentioned, I held onto that last RPM as long as I could for the sake of familiarity and consistency. But it was time to move on, so I did. whipper of course works much the same as morituri and the "transition" was seamless.

Because whipper worked the same and used the same default directory and file naming, I didn't feel the need to rerip anything. I just used it for any new discs I bought.

But a challenger appeared, and its name was cyanrip.

The replacement

cyanrip had been on my radar for a while, but it didn't quite have what I needed until this past summer. Around the 0.5.0 release, it was starting to look like it might work as a replacement for whipper, even though that would mean reripping my CD collection all over again.

I started testing it out by ripping some of my more challenging items: things like the Talking Heads "brick", which MusicBrainz lists as 16 discs with the same album title (but separate disc names). This helped uncover things that made cyanrip less suitable for my needs, and Lynne was super responsive to fix bugs and add the functionality I wanted.

The collection

In the midst of that testing, I also decided to catalog all of my exact releases on MusicBrainz. In the past, I was content to use whatever morituri pulled in for my disc IDs because it was close enough; but I've learned that sometimes my copies weren't exactly the same.

For example, I found that I had a few discs that were BMG Direct versions. Others were reissues with new barcodes. These things didn't impact stuff like album titles or track names, but I wanted everything to be as accurate as possible if I was going to rip all my CDs again. This all gets stored in the files' metadata, after all.

A result of that effort is my CD collection on MusicBrainz where I've listed the exact releases for every CD I own. It's not a huge collection, but it's mine.

Now that I had a reasonably complete record of my discs, it was time for...

The undertaking, part 2

With the 0.7.0 release, cyanrip had everything I needed and wanted to rerip my CDs. It was time. I spent several days ripping, and I still have a few discs left to go. In the process, I found a few discs whose information in MusicBrainz still wasn't quite right. Once those changes are accepted, I can rip those last discs.

The great thing is that cyanrip is so much faster than whipper, but it still takes a while. Every disc I have that is in the AccurateRip database has come back accurate, and even a couple tracks that weren't accurate when I ripped years ago are accurate now (must be the different drives I'm using these days). It's been a satisfying project, and I can't thank Lynne enough for making cyanrip.

The method

I'll close this chapter in my CD ripping saga with some details about how I use cyanrip. I've created a little script to automate my preferred directory structure and file naming, and you can find it here.

You'd run this with something like:

$ +6 56d295fc-84fb-4f17-aa78-c53249cf44bd

That gives you FLAC and 96 kbps Opus files. The directory structure and file names would look like:

FLAC/Talking Heads/Talking Heads (Disc 1 of 16) - Talking Heads_ 77/01 - Uh‐Oh, Love Comes to Town.flac

As you'll see in my example and cyanrip's documentation, there's a lot of flexibility when it comes to how you want your music to be organized.

Just play the dang thing already

Hopefully no one else reading this will obsess over there CD collection as much as I have mine. However, while this process has at times kept me from just enjoying the music, I've also found a new appreciation for some of the albums I've had for a long time. I revisited album art, release histories, and more that brought music flooding back to mind.

When I've ripped the last disc, I plan to listen to every single one all over again.

"I will sing and I will make music with my soul."

Psalm 108:1b, WEB

Tags: cd-ripping, cyanrip, how-to