To work with FLAC or other lossless formats you could use a media playback or management app that supports them, like Media Monkey or WinAmp. Today, however, we're going to look at small tools that focus entirely on CD ripping and file format conversion. First of all, they're fast and efficient, and can be automated to do clever tricks like reconverting or encoding to two formats simultaneously. Secondly, they're designed to be accurate, and this is important when you're trying to create an archive.
Sure, you might rip a hundred CDs and never hear a pop or a glitch from one of them, but if your album collection hasn't always been kept in perfect condition, then you don't want to be listening one day to find that scratches and marks have left your archive not 100 per cent fit for purpose. These CD rippers use a number of error-recognition and correction techniques to ensure you get perfect rips without you having to listen to each track individually as you go.
Thirdly, some allow you to add additional processing on top of the rip, so that you can normalise the volume of tracks in your collection or tweak the EQ during encoding (though most audiophiles would shrink in horror at that sort of thing). Finally, these tools give you more choice than iTunes or WMP when it comes to the codecs you use, not just opening up other, more exotic options like APE or OGG, but also allowing you to experiment with alternative MP3 or AAC codecs, not to mention more exotic file formats. The open source LAME MP3 encoder, for example, is widely considered superior to the Fraunhofer encoder used by Windows Media Player 11 and the encoder used in Apple's iTunes.
This isn't really a group test or round-up in the classic sense. The three, popular tools we look at here all have advantages and disadvantages, and each has features that make it particularly useful to a specific group of users. Think of it as more of a guide, and if you have your own favourites to recommend, please feel free to tell us all about them in the Comments section.