From disc to drive: The best way to digitise your CD collection


There are plenty of reasons to digitise your old CDs. You might miss a particular album you won't find online or just the supreme audio quality of CD. — dpa

Your CD collection may once have been a treasured possession. But in the era of online streaming services and music played on phones, it's likely just gathering dust.

So what to do with your obsolete CDs? The answer is digitisation – transfer your music from your CDs to your computer. Fortunately, it's not a difficult process.

"Basically, digitising CDs has not been rocket science for a long time and can be done easily," says tech reporter Hartmut Gieselmann. But "for larger CD collections, it can be time-consuming."

PC expert Matthias Metzler recommends the free program Exact Audio Copy (EAC). "Thanks to a special selection process, EAC can create very high-quality copies of music CDs," he says.

The tracks are losslessly digitised from the CD and EAC reads the audio several times. "This ensures that dust or other flaws on the CD don't lead to bits being misread," Gieselmann says. Alternatives are the Media Player that comes with Windows or iTunes for Mac users.

No matter which program you use, the settings will be decisive. "If the audio data of the CD is read in directly, the software saves it as a WAV file with a sampling frequency of 44.1 kilohertz and 16-bit word width. A complete CD then takes up about 500 to 700 megabytes on the hard disk," Gieselmann says.

You'll also want to think about what file format you use. Audiophiles are advised to use the FLAC audio compression method, which is supported by many hi-fi audio players, smartphones and other devices.

FLAC is a "lossless" form of audio compression, meaning there is no loss in sound quality. These high-quality files can easily be converted into other formats such as MP3.

MP3, though a lossy format, also produces high quality audio and at a smaller file size than FLAC. Many listeners will need good-quality loudspeakers and a quiet environment to notice the difference. Along with AAC it's the format most commonly used on mobile devices.

When digitising your music collection it's important to preserve the track's metadata such as the artist, the track title and the album. EAC connects to a free online database where this information is stored. However, the data isn't always completely accurate so you might need to add some of it by hand. – dpa

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