Forget iTunes! Rip CDs with Exact Audio Copy (EAC)

Having a physical music collection is awesome, don't let anyone ever tell you otherwise. But in the modern age of digital everything, it's unlikely you're still carrying a cassette walkman or a personal CD player to listen on the go.

We mostly have the iPod to thank for that. Now everyone has a personal media player in their pocket in the form of a smartphone, but to listen to tunes on the go you have to get them off the CDs and onto a computer.

For that, you should be using Exact Audio Copy (EAC).

EAC

Why use EAC to rip tunes?

There's a bunch of stuff you can do with EAC, but on the simplest level it lets you record from a CD to your PC, and attach metadata and album artwork. You can also compress the file sizes if you wish, or go for the full, exact copy for the more audiophile-friendly experience (hence the name of the app).

You can't transcode to MP3 directly within EAC, however. Instead, you'll be prompted to download an external tool such as LAME to do this. This basically adds an extra step to the recording process, as EAC will pull the audio as a WAV file then handoff to the external program to do the compression to MP3.

When it comes to Metadata, you get a selection of sources to choose from, but the important thing is this: It's as close to flawless as anything I could imagine. You do need to tell EAC you want metadata added (because apparently some crazy people don't), but it'll come up with the goods and give you the right album artwork, too. In some cases, you'll be presented with a selection of album art to choose from since such things do differ from territory to territory.

EAC

There's also a comprehensive way to tell EAC how you want your files to be cataloged. You get to decide the format tracks are titled in, and in which order you have the artist, track name, number and album. This might not matter to some, but if you're creating a large library or something like a Plex server, it's crucial to keep your lists on point.

How much would you pay for all this? That doesn't matter, because EAC is completely free, though you can happily donate to the developers if you're loving their work. There's no real reason not to use it. If you have been using iTunes stop immediately and give this a go. You'll be glad you did.

Download Exact Audio Copy for Windows

Richard Devine is an Editor at Windows Central. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently you'll find him covering all manner of PC hardware and gaming, and you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

139 Comments
  • I've never used iTunes to rip CDs. I've always used Windows Media Player to that. I give this a look-through though :)
  • Exactly.
    I use Windows Media Player on W10 every time. No need for any other tool. Thanks
  • Windows Media Player seems simpler than this. No separate transcoding.
  • Same here - I've always used WMP on Windows. I've never even installed iTunes on a single machine I've owned!
  • I always use the Zune software to rip works for me.
  • The Zune software was great for ripping...and beautiful to boot
  • What do you mean was? It still works and can still be downloaded from Microsoft :)
  • I didn't know I could still get it! Cool 😎
  • Filehippo has it http://filehippo.com/search?q=Zune+Software
     
  • That's not exactly an 'official' source.   Most consumers would be wary about that.
  • Here you go, officially from Microsoft :) https://www.windowscentral.com/e?link=https2F%2Fclick.linksynergy.co...
  • With a tradedoubler link!
  • lol! You can thank Windows Central for doing that
  • Hey look!!! Someone other than me still uses Zune software for music :) Zune users ftw!! Love the look of Zune software, so beautiful
  • I always hated Zune, it was an issue for me using Zune for importing media from my Windows Phone 7.x I stopped using it with WP8 devices.
  • I think you might be the very first person I have ever heard of not liking Zune. But to each their own. I love it, works great, and still using it on Windows 10.
  • My wife still insists Zune is also the easiest podcast software.  Too bad the HDD on her Zune120 died.  
  • same here.
  • Agreed, that's what I use too. WMP allows to convert CDA to mp3 320kbs which is the standard format when you purchase digital music in Groove store so why use another format than mp3 if its the standard.
  • The standard? There is no such thing as a single standard. Plus, MP3 is really long in the tooth, and is thus bested with regard to sound and compression level by more recent alternatives.   And while I'm at it: If you really go through all the pain ripping your music, do it right, do it once and for all: For mobile playback, rip it lossy, if you please, but for archival purposes and real hi-fi applications, consider keeping a flac or alac file. You don't store all your holiday  pics as thumbnails only, do you?
  • "...which is the standard format when you purchase digital music in Groove store..." - he wasn't claiming it is THE standard of music files, just the standard of purchases in Groove. So which recent alternative do you find better than mp3, for compatibility with software and devices, and quality, related to file size?
  • I know of no audio professional that chooses an mp3 over a broadcast quality wav file.
  • Me, too, I just use Windows Media Player.  It's fast and it just works.  If I need to do any meta work I use MP3Tag.  I refuse to use iTunes or any other Apple product.
  • iTunes is the best app for getting Metadata and Album Art. Their database is huge. It also has a really good metadata editor.  As someone who consumes podcasts and Audiobooks (you can authorize iTunes to your Audible Account, and it's better than the Audible UWP by a clear margin) iTunes is amazing.  I use it on my Mac (duh), but it works equally well on Windows. Most of the iTunes B.S. is F.U.D.  I have an iPhone and Kindle HD, so it's unnecessary on my Laptop (which I almost never use these days, except for playing YouTube in bed with Headphones on a decent screen). 
  • I used MusicBee in the past, but Windows was getting extremely mad about its tag data. It would make files unusable, which made me mad. Now, I just rip via WMP, then use MusicBee for playback.
  • Never used it either, I was using Audiograbber for this, when I had an optical drive, before going all digital on this with Deezer and stuff. :D
  • EAC is superior in many ways. The most important: It can check back with accuraterip whether or not your rip is bit perfect. If not, it can automatically re-rip parts of the disc so you really have a rip that's worth archiving. Plus, it's not really more complicated to use. The only thing is the setup, which has to be done - once.
  • Same here. WMP to rip (and as a media player in general actually...) and then if I want to change metadata on the tracks, I use Mp3Tag (http://www.mp3tag.de) which is also free and really simple to use.   But I'll look into EAC if it combines both into a single program.
  • EAC is probably the best solution if your cds have scratches on them. It re-reads those parts multiple times trying to get it right and will inform you of said errors. IIRC there were other approaches as well to get a perfect copy. And from personal experience I can say I've gotten better results with EAC than with other rippers
  • heh, the last time I ripped a CD was when I had Windows XP on my PC with 1GB ram and 2 core Pentium :D
  • Funny, I had to install Avast Antivirus on my old Windows XP Netbook machine and after I uninstalled Avast Windows Media Player stopped working, unfortunately I don't know what is the issue so I had to install iTunes, but since my netbook only has 1GB of RAM and Atom 1st gen CPU I had to browser a 2010 version of iTunes using oldversion.com I still love Windows Media Player and is my primary music software for listening music but when it doesn't work iTunes can be used.
  • Hello Pappale, you could laugh at me, but I still rip CD's on my PC with 512 RAM, Windows XP SP3 and Intel Celeron :)
  • My main man... Je concur!
  • I don't allow iTunes on any of my own computers, what a POS.
  • The only safe way to use iTunes is not use it at all.  But if you must use it, the next safest option is isolation in a dedicated VM, and then purge the VM afterwards.  
  • old versions of iTunes are less resource instensive and they still connect to iTunes store in case you purchased content there, you can use oldversion.com to download old versions of iTunes
  • Agreed. Friends who have it suffer from the iTunes finder constantly running and showing the pc down.
  • Not so user friendly. There's a learning curve
  • Not really. Took me about 5 minutes to be up and running and I'm not usually good at learning to use, well, anything
  • Untill you want to rip a "tracked" live CD, without gaps :) or a extremely scratched CD of which you can't find another copy.
  • Wait, you're not good at using technology? What are you doing here, Richard?! ;)
  • Not at all. I've been using EAC for a decade and it's fast, reliable and accurate.
  • There is a learning curve.  EAC is a speciality program for people who insist to get the most accurate copy of a given CD. 
    Therefore they accept a little more effort (which also equals to more control over the process). 
      The learning curve is the price you pay for a better rip-quality. 
    If you're prone to that.  
         
  • I just use good old WMPlayer. Rip each CD to mp3 highest bit rate and wav. mp3 for mobile devices, the wav files go on a NAS so I can stream to my audio receiver which is connected to the network. No audio quality loss for home, and using software that has been around forever without the mess that is iTunes.
  • But you can't really use WAV with tags. Plus, you end up wasting tons of space. Why not rip / convert the "home" files to flac, which saves 45% space on your hdd, is free and open source, and allows decent tagging of each music file?
  • MediaMonkey is a little more feature rich, and is also free.
  • I've tried numerous including EAC and also prefer MediaMonkey.
  • I've long forgot iTunes. MediaMonkey has workered well for my Windows, Android and ISO needs.
  • Now there is a better way? EAC has existed for ages. Poor souls that ever used iTunes for that.   If anything I would say very few people rip CDs these days.
  • Probably so, though I just ripped about 40-50 CDs myself recently (something I put off for a long time because my PC's optical drive wasn't easy to get to).
  • The iPod isn't the only mp3 player and not the first one, so yiou cannot say we mostly have an iPod. The Creative Zen MP3 Player is a better player than the iPod. I have physical CDs on shelf and have copied them to my PC
  • I think he's just saying that the iPod kick started the transition away from physical media, not implying that everyone has/had an iPod.
  • Zune ftw!
  • I still have my 8GB Zune. Ah, those were the days! Such a great interface and sound quality at the time... I wonder, can I update the storage on that thing? ...
  • I still use my Zunes.
  • The iPod is crap and didn't kickstart jack! That credit goes to the Diamond Rio PMP300! Youngsters these days need to get their history straight!  Without Diamond leading the way the iPod would never have even existed!  After all they are the ones who had to fight the RIAA in court to even make portable digital media players legal!  What more could one want from an MP3 player other than that massive 32 MB of internal storage (enough for 30 minutes of 128kbps audio!!!) plus, PLUS!, a smart media card slot for additional storage!  And a parallel port adaptor for speedy transfers! Not to mention this little marvel ran off a single AA battery, imagine never having to charge up!  :) 
  • I still have one, problem is no interface to connect etc however the 64mb of music on there is still full with 1999 music era!
  • Just as Apple wasn't first in smartphones, their device is what led to market explosion. To suggest the tech never would have happened without your old-timey solution isn't any smarter or useful than people who ignore the roots of tech.
  • It was a joke, in case you couldn't tell. ;)
  • What encoding settings do people use these days?  MP3 CBR or VBR, ... or ACC?  
  • I've always used/converted to WMA Pro.
  • FLAC
  • MP3 320kbps (the standard of Groove Music Shop)
  • Lossless always, wether it's AAC/M4A, FLAC or even APE. All that on an (external) HDD. Afterward you can also create a MP3 copy of those. But the lossless is the first copy I always make, even before playing the CD itself. But infact after having bought the CD and ripped it with EAC or iTunes, the disc itself becomes just a collectors item, and sits on the shelves for the rest of my life :)
  • "But infact after having bought the CD and ripped it with EAC or iTunes, the disc itself becomes just a collectors item, and sits on the shelves for the rest of my life" Or when the HDD containing your music library dies, whichever comes first.
  • CBR 320 kbps is what most sites use for "high quality" I've been personally using HQ VBR for well over a decade now since the "old" IRC days.
  • Cool, will have to try this out!
  • C...D...?  Must be a meme I haven't heard of yet. :p
  • You should have seen the look on my neice's face when I pulled out a lazer disk and told her that was the original CD size. Before floppy disks dissapeared, you could get the same reaction with the 8" floppies.
  • LaserDisc was never the original CD. LaserDisc was meant for Video, where CD was meant for Audio.
  • Duh. Its pretty safe to assume someone (such as myself) who has lazerdiscs to show someone knows what they are. She didn't know that it wasn't really a giant CD. When her eyes returned to her head. I explained it. LoL
  • If you legally buy music, CD is often the cheapest option. Check the album price on iTunes/Amazon/Tidal and compare it with the prices on eBay for the CD. Mostly eBay is cheaper. Besides that with a CD you have a booklet with lyrics/coverart and something to hold, though thats interesting for music-nerds only. And also; searching, finding, buying and finally having the CD... (to me) it gives the music something extra, instead of click-pay-listen.
  • CD is also still the best option if you care for quality.  Buying MP3 music is not my thing because the quality is already degraded.   
  • MP3 is crap. Just most people don't know the difference anymore.
  • If you care for audio quality, vinyl is the only option. Hipster all the way!
  • Hello. Having a CD is the better option, always (when possible). Better than have music ripped by someone else God only knows how... I can't believe most people and sites offering music say MP3's 320 kbps bitrate is "Lossless" when it has up to 70% quality loss. I rip CD's with dbPoweramp in FLAC set to "Uncompressed" which allows 1:1 maximum quality conversion from WAV... For my Lumia 640, I have my entire music library in MP4 at 44.1 Khz, 56 kbps bitrate. I've been doing this since the days of my faithfully departed Nokias 5130 and C2-01 :)
  • Not music-nerd enough if you buy CD. Try buying vinyl.
  • Did you mean...buying vinyl? That's just for "old romantics" I think, and I'd never do that because I don't want to go on using software to reduce "new" hissing :|
  • Absolutely agreed. Amazon is also good for CDs, though my favorite is Discogs. Another positive to CDs is you can sell them if you feel like it. I only buy CDs when buying music as long as it's not a super rare CD that I can't afford. I feel stupid buying digital music files.
  • I'll try it.
  • Hasn't been updated in almost a year. Wants to charge $7.99 for GD3. Pass. I'll stay with MediaMonkey.
  • ITunes is crappiest software out there.
  • This is not free, but the best, with a long standing track record for the desktop version! EZ CD Audio Converter, check it out ... https://www.microsoft.com/store/apps/9nblggh40fb7
  • Hey, it's a Centennial bridge desktop app, cool!  Good to see some apps using that to get in the Store.  So far have only heard of Adobe, Evernote etc., wonder how many of these desktop bridge apps have been added to the store.  It can be a way to breath whole new life into some of these old legacy apps.  
  • Indeed, EZ CD Audio Converter is great. I had no idea it was in the store. I wonder if there's a way to reuse my existing licence with the store version.
  • EAC is a great tool 
    and it is better than other tools on the market 
    because it works more exact. Hence the name.    It has been around "for ever", and I can recommend it.  Rip with EAC (losslessly) and upload it to OneDrive. 
    And stream your music with the Groove app.