BonkEnc

BonkEnc

It was a difficult decision whether to go for this or the popular CDex or Audiograbber tools as my final choice, but as Audiograbber is no longer in development and development of CDex seems to have stalled since 2006, I've gone for BonkEnc. BonkEnc actually uses the core CDRip library developed for CDex but surrounds it in a more modern GUI (albeit one that looks a bit odd in Windows Vista). Generally speaking, the user interface is more intuitive than that of EAC, and while it doesn't have the DSP effects or plug-in codec support of dBpoweramp, BonkEnc does support a range of codecs straight out of the box, including LAME MP3, OGG Vorbis, FLAC and AAC.

At first it appears that BonkEnc suffers from a lack of options when it comes to ensuring accuracy, but a quick trip to the CDRip tab of the General Settings menu reveals that you can switch to a CDparanoia mode, using the error correction capabilities of Xiph.org's cdparanoia audio extraction libraries to track and fix glitches caused by drive error or a scratched CD.

Perhaps the approach is less rigorous than that of EAC, but in my experience BonkEnc with cdparanoia mode switched on managed to fix one track on my scratched disc that neither EAC nor dBpoweramp could manage. I couldn't say whether cheating was employed to gloss over the glitch, but at least the track was listenable and pop-free. On the downside, engaging CDparanoia mode has serious effects on BonkEnc's speed - and it's not as if it's the fastest ripper in the first place. The time taken to rip my test CD to MP3 went from a slow 5 minutes, 48 seconds to a painful 14 minutes, 33 seconds with the checking mode enabled.

So what has BonkEnc got going for this? Well, the program is small and light on its feet, it's clever enough to do simple things like grab CD metadata from freeDB by default, the ripping and encoding options are easy to configure and BonkEnc offers a range of ways to do things, either by clicking on buttons or selecting options from the pull-down menu. It's possible to rip a CD with just three clicks, and still choose your target file format, and you can't really ask for more than that. Meanwhile, BonkEnc's use of a central joblist to manage its workflow also makes it ideal for converting large batches of tracks from one format to another at once. Just keep adding files to the workflow, then click the big Play button and you're away.

However, like EAC, BonkEnc doesn't set up artist/album folders as it rips, and it also doesn't provide any means of ripping tracks to FLAC and MP3 (or APE and OGG) in one pass. Instead, you have to rip to FLAC then use the File > Add > Audio Files command to add the FLAC files to a new joblist, which you can then encode to the lossy format of your choice. It's not too annoying, but it does add another step onto the process. Of course, you could always rip a number of CDs then set up a new joblist to process the lot in one go - this is a perfectly efficient way of doing things.

Overall, dBpoweramp has BonkEnc pipped when it comes to features and speed of encoding, while EAC has the edge when it comes to the accuracy demands of the more obsessive audiophile. That said, if you want a totally free tool that encodes and rips pain-free, then BonkEnc does the job perfectly well.

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