The audiophile’s guide to streaming music

Don't sacrifice sound quality in the name of convenience. With a lossless codec, a well-optimized streaming setup, and a few easy tricks, you can push phenomenal audio to every room in your house.

Get the AccurateRip Plug-In

Audio purists want rips to be as accurate as possible, a goal that AccurateRip--a third-party Exact Audio Copy plug-in--helps achieve. EAC will enable AccurateRip by default. Each time you rip a CD, AccurateRip compares your results with an online database containing the results that other people obtained with the same CD. (A rainbow-colored CD icon in EAC's bottom-right corner informs you if the CD is in the AccurateRip database; if it isn't, you can contribute your results later.)

When the ripping process is finished, EAC will generate a confidence report: If your results are in line with everyone else's, you can be sure that your rip was completely accurate. But if the comparison shows that your results are different from many others' (the program will report 'cannot be verified as accurate'), your disc might have a problem. Cleaning the disc will sometimes resolve the issue.

Set the EAC Extraction Options

Exact Audio Copy has a deep bag of tricks for yielding highly accurate results. Some of these tools are native to the program; others are plug-ins created by outside developers. I'll use some of each to achieve the best possible rips from even badly scratched CDs. Rather than go through every possible option, I'll mention only the ones for which I recommend changing their default values. Click the EAC menu and choose EAC Options from the drop-down to get started.

Uncheck the item labeled No use of null samples for CRC calculations. This will deliver more-accurate results and ensure that your ripped tracks are compatible with the widest array of software players. Uncheck Lock drive tray during extraction so that you can open the drive should the program freeze or crash during the ripping process. Lastly, change the values for 'Extraction and compression priority' and 'Error recovery quality' from their default values to High. That might slow the ripping process, but it will produce better results. Leave everything else at its default value.

Click on the General tab, click the check box next to On unknown CDs, and select the option to automatically access the Freedb database. Leave everything else at its default value, skip over the Tools and Normalize tabs, and select Filename. This is where you'll determine how EAC will name the files it will rip for you and how they'll be organized on your hard drive. Type the following characters in the 'Naming scheme' box: %A\%C\%N - %T

Now check the box labeled Use various artist naming scheme and type the following characters into the box beneath it: Various Artists\%C\%N - %A %T

The instructions in the previous two steps will have EAC create a nested directory structure in which each artist will have a dedicated subdirectory, with subdirectories within them for each album title (compilation CDs and soundtracks will be stored in a subdirectory labeled 'Various Artists'). Click the Directories tab and enter the main directory into which you want to store your ripped CDs (My Music, for instance). If you were to rip the Dire Straits CD Love Over Gold to your My Music folder, for example, the resulting directory (and the first track) would look something like: C:\My Documents\My Music\Dire Straits\Love Over Gold\01 – Telegraph Road.flac

Ignore the rest of EAC's extraction options and click OK.

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