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CDs, ripping vs playing: do you need a quality transport for ripping CDs?

alessio_m

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Oct 10, 2016
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Having an external DAC, i'm facing (like many others i guess) the dilemma of going for a quality CD transport or for a CDless setup, something like the Brennan B2/Cocktail Audio equivalents…

I'd like to give a CDless setup a try buy i'm concerned about the data quality of ripped CDs.

Is a quality transport needed in ripping CDs?

Common sense would suggest that yes, you need a quality transport, so the ripped files (say FLACs) will have all the correct data from the CD.

Anyway i read that there's a crucial difference between ripping a CD and playing a CD.

When playing a CD, the machine has to do it in real time and correct any error of the fly.
So a quality transport comes in handy to minimize reading errors 'live'.

When ripping, on the contrary (at least from what i understand), the 'problematic' parts of the disc get read several times to extract all the correct data from them.

If that's true, the logical conclusion would be that a FLAC ripped by a low cost CD rom drive will always sound better than a CD played by a very expensive CD transport.

Any thoughts/insights on that?
 

Frank Harvey

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Jun 27, 2008
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In theory, most rippers should do exactly the same job as, as you say, the disc being ripped is read many times, and usually to the point that it is a perfect rip. The differences really start appearing from that point onwards.

The quality of the streamer you use will affect the end result, as they'll use different DACs, and the quality of the analogue output will vary, just as other electronics (and the rest of the system) do. Some streamers won't do anything above CD quality, which may or may not be an issue for you.

You're then faced with whether you stream your music over the network, or connect your storage device via USB (if possible). I chose to plug directly into my digital pre-amp, so there's no network streaming going on (network is used to control the player). That's as direct as I could get things, so at least I know the sound in my system isn't being held back by a streamer, nor wireless networking.

CDs will be affected by the same issues - DAC quality, quality of analogue output etc - but have to error correct on the fly, and it is this area that many believe affects the ultimate capability of the output.

My ripper/storage device has no analogue circuitry in it - it's purely digital. It is plugged directly into my digital pre-amp, so bypassing any networking. In my opinion, it is as good as any high end CD player I have heard. So as long as a good DAC is used, I no longer see any need for high end CD players. If you're buying an all in one device like a Brennan, you needn't worry about much of what I have said, but if you're out to get the best possible output from a storage device that will perfectly rip a CD in the first place, the Innuos models are the best place to start.
 

tino

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Sep 29, 2011
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alessio_m said:
I'd like to give a CDless setup a try buy i'm concerned about the data quality of ripped CDs.

Is a quality transport needed in ripping CDs?
If it's any consolation I rip CDs with a £30 computer DVD/CD drive. So long as you use good quality CD ripping software e.g. EAC that you can configure for your CD drive parameters, error correction, verification and comparison of the ripped file against a database for correctness (AccurateRip) you should be OK.
 

paulkebab

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Dec 26, 2014
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+1 to both the above replies, also why bother with FLAC when storage is so cheap now if ultimate quality is what you want? Before anyone points out, yes I know FLAC and WAV are arguably the same quality, but WAV's don't need the decompression stage done for FLAC hence one step out of the path.
 

daveh75

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Jul 31, 2008
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paulkebab said:
+1 to both the above replies, also why bother with FLAC when storage is so cheap now if ultimate quality is what you want? Before anyone points out, yes I know FLAC and WAV are arguably the same quality, but WAV's don't need the decompression stage done for FLAC hence one step out of the path.
Because there's zero benefit to WAV and it's hugely inconvenient WRT to tagging support etc...
 

Xanderzdad

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Jun 25, 2008
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Agreed - for tagging and playback FLAC is much more convenient and has no real downside compared to WAV.
 

nopiano

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Feb 15, 2009
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tino said:
alessio_m said:
I'd like to give a CDless setup a try buy i'm concerned about the data quality of ripped CDs.

Is a quality transport needed in ripping CDs?
If it's any consolation I rip CDs with a £30 computer DVD/CD drive. So long as you use good quality CD ripping software e.g. EAC that you can configure for your CD drive parameters, error correction, verification and comparison of the ripped file against a database for correctness (AccurateRip) you should be OK.
Pretty sure someone posted a pic here a few weeks ago of the Naim ripper that costs getting on for two grand and it contained a Samsung computer drive that costs about £15.
 

alessio_m

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Oct 10, 2016
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Pretty clear, thanks guys.

So it seems confirmed that reading a CD is different than ripping it.

And that the quality of the transport isn't relevant in ripping music from a CD as it is for reading and playing the same disc 'live'.

That makes my choice between a new CD transport and a CDless setup much easier ;)
 

andyjm

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Jul 20, 2012
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alessio_m said:
Pretty clear, thanks guys.

So it seems confirmed that reading a CD is different than ripping it.

And that the quality of the transport isn't relevant in ripping music from a CD as it is for reading and playing the same disc 'live'.

That makes my choice between a new CD transport and a CDless setup much easier ;)
There is no difference between reading a CD and ripping it, apart from the ability to go back and re-read sections where the checksum has failed during a rip. These days, having to re read is rare.

Modern CD drives are very good, and the Reed-Solomon error correcting techniques embedded into a CD are pretty robust and catch most of the read errors that do take place without a re read. My cheapo PC drive happily rips CDs without having to re-read in all but exceptional circumstances where the CD has been abused and is badly scratched.

​To the best of my knowledge, no hifi manufacturer makes their own drives - these things are commodity items and can be had for less than £20 even in retail quantities. It is very likely that the case on that fancy niche CD player cost more than the drive actually spinning the disc.
 

manicm

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May 1, 2008
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andyjm said:
​To the best of my knowledge, no hifi manufacturer makes their own drives - these things are commodity items and can be had for less than £20 even in retail quantities. It is very likely that the case on that fancy niche CD player cost more than the drive actually spinning the disc.
Actually there are manufacturers which have designed their own drives - Cyrus for one. And Marantz have designed their own too for their new flagship cd/sacd player.
 

iMark

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May 16, 2008
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manicm said:
Actually there are manufacturers which have designed their own drives - Cyrus for one. And Marantz have designed their own too for their new flagship cd/sacd player.
But these drives are used for reading and directly playing, not ripping. As long as the file that is ripped from the CD buy a cheap drive results in a bit perfect file there is no need to spend silly money. I use a €20 Samsung DVD-writer with my Mac Mini to rip CDs and that works just fine. Occasionally the ripper will slow down, especially if a CD is bit scratched. But the outcome is usually fine. Over the years I have ripped nearly a 1000 CDs and there have been about 3 tracks that didn't rip properly. These also didn't play, so no surprise there.
 

manicm

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May 1, 2008
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iMark said:
But these drives are used for reading and directly playing, not ripping
You don't see the faux pas you made don't you? Even when ripping a drive is just reading the disc. And the drives from my 6 year old laptop and new one behaved differently using the same software namely EAC.
 

andyjm

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Jul 20, 2012
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manicm said:
andyjm said:
​To the best of my knowledge, no hifi manufacturer makes their own drives - these things are commodity items and can be had for less than £20 even in retail quantities. It is very likely that the case on that fancy niche CD player cost more than the drive actually spinning the disc.
Actually there are manufacturers which have designed their own drives - Cyrus for one. And Marantz have designed their own too for their new flagship cd/sacd player.
An interesting post. Couldn't find much about either story. Cyrus are a small private company in Huntingdon, and don't have the resources to design and produce a CD drive. Their marketing isn't clear, but it does look as if they have re-written some of the servo control firmware on a standard drive to slow it down and achieve more accurate ('higher resolution' according to their marketing..) reads from the disc. Not sure I am convinced of the merits of this, but good luck to them if it makes a difference.
 

manicm

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May 1, 2008
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@andyjm

Quote from Hifi Choice:

Five years ago, I remember Cyrus’ Peter Bartlett sitting down, looking me square in the eye and telling me his company was investing hundreds of thousands of pounds in its very own optical disc mechanism. Many in the audio business would have thought this to be about as sound business sense as flying halfway around the world with a huge bag of money and then throwing it into the North Atlantic. Let’s just say, when you could buy any old DVD-ROM drive, tweak it lightly and chuck it in your CD player for pennies, Cyrus’ new Servo Evolution mechanism didn’t appear to make commercial sense – especially when the curtain was coming down for Compact Disc as hi-res began its inevitable ascent.

The CD Xt Signature is Cyrus throwing the kitchen sink at the problem. It has all the best bits of everything the company knows about silver disc spinning. This starts with the improvements made to Cyrus’ recent Anniversary System CD player, which includes the latest version of the Servo Evolution firmware that controls the way the laser tracks the disc, to optimise the accuracy with which it does it. It uses a special front slot-loading assembly and a specific laser is fitted along with bespoke motors too. Altogether, the mechanism is able to track the pits in the disc as accurately as possible says Cyrus. This gives over 20 percent fewer read errors than the Philips CDM12 mechanisms used in the previous generation of Cyrus (and many other) CD players. The idea is that by not having to come back to retry the read, there’s less power supply drain from the servo; it’s better to get it right first time.

So effectively Cyrus did develop their own cd mechanism - not just software.
 

andyjm

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Jul 20, 2012
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manicm said:
@andyjm

Quote from Hifi Choice:

Five years ago, I remember Cyrus’ Peter Bartlett sitting down, looking me square in the eye and telling me his company was investing hundreds of thousands of pounds in its very own optical disc mechanism. Many in the audio business would have thought this to be about as sound business sense as flying halfway around the world with a huge bag of money and then throwing it into the North Atlantic. Let’s just say, when you could buy any old DVD-ROM drive, tweak it lightly and chuck it in your CD player for pennies, Cyrus’ new Servo Evolution mechanism didn’t appear to make commercial sense – especially when the curtain was coming down for Compact Disc as hi-res began its inevitable ascent.

The CD Xt Signature is Cyrus throwing the kitchen sink at the problem. It has all the best bits of everything the company knows about silver disc spinning. This starts with the improvements made to Cyrus’ recent Anniversary System CD player, which includes the latest version of the Servo Evolution firmware that controls the way the laser tracks the disc, to optimise the accuracy with which it does it. It uses a special front slot-loading assembly and a specific laser is fitted along with bespoke motors too. Altogether, the mechanism is able to track the pits in the disc as accurately as possible says Cyrus. This gives over 20 percent fewer read errors than the Philips CDM12 mechanisms used in the previous generation of Cyrus (and many other) CD players. The idea is that by not having to come back to retry the read, there’s less power supply drain from the servo; it’s better to get it right first time.

So effectively Cyrus did develop their own cd mechanism - not just software.
Manic, you may well be right. I can't find anything however that would confirm that they designed the hardware, just comments about the servo control firmware. Their marketing isn't clear, and there are no white papers or technical info I could find. I still think it would be bonkers to do the CD equivalent of redesigning the wheel, but who knows.
 

nopiano

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Feb 15, 2009
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An interesting read, their website. I think the 20% more data claim stretches credulity a bit, and the oft cited claim here that one can check data integrity to the last bit would surely show that the claim is spurious.

They may have a point, and the rest is plausible to my eyes at least. But I wonder if they are making the common error of ascribing analogue characteristics to digital domains? (A typical example is deeper bass from a digital cable).
 

manicm

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nopiano said:
An interesting read, their website. I think the 20% more data claim stretches credulity a bit, and the oft cited claim here that one can check data integrity to the last bit would surely show that the claim is spurious.

They may have a point, and the rest is plausible to my eyes at least. But I wonder if they are making the common error of ascribing analogue characteristics to digital domains? (A typical example is deeper bass from a digital cable).
Lasers can be manipulated, as I have done from some notorious copy-protected Sony CDs. 14 years ago I bought Roger Waters' Flickering Flame compilation. It wouldn't rip on my PC. Someone suggested taking a marker to the circumference - and this worked, I could then rip it. Cyrus are, if I'm correct, using their own/specially developed lasers.
 

iMark

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May 16, 2008
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I can understand that the Cyrus mechanism could make a difference in real time playback. There's a lot that goes on in the chain from reading the CD to getting an analogue signal from the DAC. And it has to be done in real time.

But if a cheap DVD-drive manages to retrieve a bit perfect rip from a CD that's the best that it will get. There's no point in spending more on a better constructed drive if the cheap one already gives you a perfect rip. It really doesn't matter if the drive makes noise and wobbles a bit. It's the result that counts.

That's very similar to buying a more expensive HDMI cable that won't improve the picture and sound because an HDMI either works or doesn't work.
 

MajorFubar

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The minute a drive can extract data from a CD without corruption or loss there is nothing left to improve. The error correction built into CDs and DVDs is called Cross-Interleaved Reed–Solomon Coding (CIRC). It is good at its job. CDs are read under a constant stream of errors, but the CIRC error correction is so good that it fixes read errors exactly and precisely. If it wasn't, you couldn't ever load software from data CDs and DVDs because the the read errors would make the data corrupt. There does come a point where CIRC can't fix a problem: on an audio CD you might hear that as a click or a skip, and on data CD you'd get a read error.

No doubt ably assisted by CIRC, the £15 USB DVD ROM I bought off eBay to rip my CD collection managed to rip nearly 650 CDs bit-perfectly without error at read speeds far in excess of real playing time. If a disc player (CD, BD, whatever) costing hundreds if not thousands of pounds can't do it as effectively in real time, then they need to go back to the drawing board.
 

manicm

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@MajorFubar, no-one's disputing that but Cyrus claim their CD transport system doesn't need to do half as much error correction.

And from my experience not all lasers are created equal. My two laptops behaved differently with EAC - my newer one was averse to error correction for EAC.
 

ISAC69

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Once I was looking for CD transport I eliminate the Cyrus as option due their slot load mechanism consider to be less reliable over time than the traditional tray method thus why I prefered the cheaper Cambridge CXC which is doing a fine job in my system, a very high value for money .
 

iMark

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manicm said:
And from my experience not all lasers are created equal. My two laptops behaved differently with EAC - my newer one was averse to error correction for EAC.
The original question was about ripping, not playback. I think we can conclude that when you get a bit perfect rip from a cheap DVD-drive, it doesn't get any better by buying a more expensive one. Perfect is perfect.
 

manicm

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iMark said:
manicm said:
And from my experience not all lasers are created equal. My two laptops behaved differently with EAC - my newer one was averse to error correction for EAC.
The original question was about ripping, not playback. I think we can conclude that when you get a bit perfect rip from a cheap DVD-drive, it doesn't get any better by buying a more expensive one. Perfect is perfect.
You are aware I WAS talking about ripping, and EAC is ripping software, don't you? My two laptops behaved differently when using EAC.
 

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