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  1. #1
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    Judging CD/DVD drives

    I have a number of computers with optical drives, and I even have a stately hp dvd external writer 420e. I would like to rip some of my better audio CDs to be saved with as much fidelity as I reasonably can, given today's inexpensive storage, but I have no idea how to determine which device is giving me the best performance. Does anyone know of an objective way of determining it?

  2. #2
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    The device is going to immaterial at this point; its not like you are asking how to record a live performance somewhere, you have a known digital source, the audio CD which has a certain level of quality baked in; can't get any better than that. What quality level and in what format you choose for the software making the copy are the main decisions to be made.

    If you wan't to capture and retain all that you can from the audio use a loss-less codec like FLAC. If you have a tin ear like I do then 192 kb/s MP3 is more than adequate and plays on just about any platform that exists.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Infinicore View Post
    The device is going to immaterial at this point; its not like you are asking how to record a live performance somewhere, you have a known digital source, the audio CD which has a certain level of quality baked in; can't get any better than that. What quality level and in what format you choose for the software making the copy are the main decisions to be made.

    If you wan't to capture and retain all that you can from the audio use a loss-less codec like FLAC. If you have a tin ear like I do then 192 kb/s MP3 is more than adequate and plays on just about any platform that exists.
    The fidelity of the CD may be baked in, but the fidelity of my copy could be horribly mangled by either a hardware problem or a software problem or by ambient interference such as by recording it with the drive sitting on top of an operating and unbalanced washing-machine.

    I should really have used a more general example, although ripping audio CDs happens to be on my mind at present. The software will be MediaMonkey Gold, which apparently has a feature to compare accuracy of the digital copy to the source CD (which might itself be useful for the purpose of comparing the batting averages of my various drives if the program allows it - and I've just bought the Gold version so I haven't had a chance to fool with it). It can't take much in the vibration or eccentricity departments to make a drive perform poorly, and I haven't followed laser technology for years - not, now that I think of it, since it was strictly a lab device.

    I'm really just wondering if anyone knows of a convenient way to test a user's own drive(s), rather than rely on an entirely hypothetical benchmark that a drive of the same make once yielded for someone. I have seen a lot of literature on CDs and DVDs, where you have to know the precise series to know the true maker, rather than judge by the brand, with almost as much precision as um, single malt...

  4. #4
    Super Moderator CLiNT's Avatar
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    Just about any drive these days will do the job provided it is properly installed and secured in place with minimal vibration.
    Most CD/DVD drives are practically a dime a dozen in terms of cost. You could purchase expensive drives with good quality components, but
    it will be just as subject to the environment as any others over time.

    If you are going to rip to mp3 format, ensure you are doing so in variable bit rate; 192-320 VBR. EAC & LAME is still my favorite means.
    I am a big fan of FLAC, especially for storing music on the hard drive.

  5. #5
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    Digital bits is digital bits, not analog, so if a drive can't even copy the bits accurately...well, I don't think that really happens to any significant degree at all...and the software...well, just gotta trust that its good software and doing its job; or write your own if you think you know a better way.

    You could make an ISO file of the CD, compare bit counts, and mount it from the hard drive and rip and convert from there...provided you don't subsequently become worried about the quality of different brand hard drives.

  6. #6
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    Media Monkey does a wonderful job at everything I ask it to do. And as Infinicore said, I doubt there are noticeable differences in playback from one drive to another. The technology is pretty old and pretty standard. The real question isn't how good is the drive running the original CD, or how exact of a copy is being made, but when is it that you start to hear the differences between the two. In other words, forget hypothetical the benchmark and trust your ear. Listening to even FLAC rips on a PC is akin to listening to CDs over the air on FM. This is because the components in even a high end computer with an expensive sound card can't come close to matching the sound quality and faithful reproduction of even a mid range stereo system with good speakers or headphones. But I'm assuming you already know that are pumping the signal through a line out to a home sound system. So if that's the case, and you desire perfection, stick with FLAC.

    I rarely listen to ripped music at home. Its usually just the car or a small .mp3 player. So I find that 192 kbs VBR is pretty decent. With headphones, piped to my home system via line level, its only good, not great. But it for my needs its a nice balance between quality and disk usage.
    Chuck

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