Considerable Improvement with EAC Rips

associated equipment:
-Squeezebox III w/ Transparent Reference Digital Link .wav or .aiff
-dCS Delius
-dCS Purcell Upsampler 1394 (DSD)
-Levison 336
-B&W N802
-Transparent Reference Cabling and Power Conditioning
-ASC Tower Traps

I will be short and to the point. I think error correction, or "secure ripping" is absolutely crucial to hard drive based music server performance and I think the free program EAC probably performs this task better than iTunes. The difference is audible.

On disc after disc, EAC ripped tracks had a more refined, pleasant presentation, greater resolution, improved dynamics, with better imaging and instrument separation than iTunes tracks. In addition, electric and acoustic bass was tighter with more articulation and string attack. The imaging of loud swells in the music that on the iTunes tracks would sound "congested" held together more on the EAC tracks. Vocals were not as boomy or forward sounding. It goes on and on.

I tested with a fellow audiophile and we both heard and were able to describe to each other the same type of improvement on each track in most cases. In every case we heard a material difference in the tracks and on the majority of the discs we could successfully identify and distinguish EAC tracks from iTunes tracks in a blind test.

In some cases, tracks that iTunes ripped rather quickly took over an hour to rip as EAC read and reread bad sectors on the disc. Average rip speed was around 4-6x normal playing speed and on some discs dropped as low as .1x normal playing speed. We used iTunesEncode to allow EAC to automatically use iTunes' encoders to convert the raw EAC wav into .aiff and add it to the iTunes library with the proper metadeta. The entire process of EAC ripping and adding to iTunes is one click, once setup properly.

EAC indicated it was performing error correction on several discs that were thought to be in good enough condition for real time playback on a CD transport.

As a side note, the CD drive we have used has, what based on my research (also known as googling), is the best combination of features for a CD-ROM ripper: 1. it does NOT cache audio when ripping 2. it uses c2 error correction and 3. it utilizes "accurate stream".

I believe the final result with EAC is as good, if not better than the Goldmund Mim36 transport the Squeezebox replaced. On almost every disc I found myself saying "it sounds like the old transport!"

The bottom line is that if you are seriously building an archive on PC you should probably at least test this program. If you can't bring yourself to use EAC, at a minimum, iTunes error correction should be engaged.

This is a tweak for serious listening and like a lot of audiophile upgrades the differences are subtle, but important. I could not identify a difference on my Pro-Ject Headbox SEII, Sennheiser HD600 headphones and PC soundcard, but out of my main system it was obvious to me.

In conclusion, the right drive and EAC has made the system sound better than ever, without a doubt. There may be other software that rips as well or better but I am not aware of it. It also suggests computer software may play an important role in the future of the hobby, especially with USB DACS on the rise.

At the very least, the meticulous manner in which EAC reads and rereads suspicious sections of a disc, the ability to detect and compensate for unwanted drive behavior like caching, the reduced speed at which it rips, the accuracy reports it gives, and the program's reputation give me piece of mind that my files are about as good as they could be.

It is either my imagination or the best free tweak I have found to date.

No question. I agree entirely.

I would love to know the steps needed to use the itunes AIF codec with EAC if that wouldn't be too much to ask.

I've been using EAC > FLAC, and to WAV to burn a dupe CD if needed. I would prefer to rip and not convert thereafter, however, if at all possible.

have you also noticed the EAC app always chooses the 'master' drive as the better, or less error ridden drive, when more than one drive is installed in the PC? I've two desktops and even swapped one pair of drives around... which ever was master on the IDE CHAIN WAS SAID TO BE THER BETTER UNIT. i SORT OF THOUGHT THAT WAS FUNNY.

It is however, spooky good once done, despite the slow rip speeds.

Lastly, when you rip, do you rip directly to a server or NAS drive? Or right to a HDD, and then copy them to some other unit?

Ever notice ripped and then copied files being of lesser quality following such a move?

What OS is your PC running? I'm curious to know if that makes a difference too.


Excellent write... :-)

Kind of wondering why you'd use a lossy compression algorithm after going thru all the trouble to rip them accurately.

I'm also using the setup you describe and ripping to ALAC. I then save the .wav's to an archive drive in case i want to re-rip at a different compression algorithm.....
Maybe I'm missing it but I can't find any mention of anyone using a lossy compression. Just FLAC, WAV, LOSSLESS & AIFF.
Can you compare one of the EAC ripped files that you hear a difference on and the iTunes ripped file bit by bit and see how many differences there are?
To answer all of the above:

I certainly do not use lossy compression. That would be a violation of every audiophile instinct (neuroses) in my body! I use uncompressed .aiff, which as a side note, I believe is identical to .wav in sound quality. I use it because .aiff seems to handle meta data tags better and if the iTunes library every gets corrupted or lost, the files themselves will retain some artist and album information.

The operating system is Windows Vista. In this case, it makes a difference because I am not aware of a program like EAC on the mac. You could do this with XP. Plextools might give similar results on Mac but I'm not sure about that. I don't have a mac.

The process for me is the CD drive straight to an internal hard drive that is separate from my main system disc. The library is managed by iTunes. The Squeezebox III serves the files to the DSC from wifi and provides the interface. My computer (intel quad core) serves as only ripper and file server.

The process to integrate EAC with iTunes is as follows:

1. Download and Install EAC

2. Download and Install iTunesEncode in the EAC folder at:

b. Extract iTunesEncode.exe into the same folder as EAC, usually it is (C:\Program Files\Exact Audio Copy). Just copy it into the folder, there is no installer program for ItunesEncode.

iTunes Encode is a command line program that needs to be fed a command string to tell it what to do. EAC will feed it that string but you have to set it up.

3. Configure EAC to use iTunesEncode
a. launch EAC (you may have to go through EAC configuration wizard if you haven't yet.)
b. in EAC, go to the following menu: EAC-->Compression Options-->external compression.

c. In external compression, set the following options:
(i). check "use external compression"

(ii). parameter passing scheme: set to "user defined encoder"

(iii). press "browse" and find and select the iTunes encode program, which should be in your EAC folder at this point.

(iv). Make the file extension option the extension of the itunes compatible format you wish to use (.aiff, .alac) but note that changing this only marks the files with the exension, IT DOES NOT ACTUALLY CHANGE THE FORMAT. That part comes next.

(v). Most importantly, enter the following command string into "additional command line options":

-e "AIFF Encoder" -a "%a" -l "%g" -t "%t" -g "%m" -y %y -n %n -i %s -o %d

Just copy and past it in exactly as it is seen above. If you want to use an encoder other than AIFF, change "AIFF Encoder" to to a different encoder. Within those quotes you can name whatever iTunes encoder you want to use and THAT is what will tell iTunes to use the appropriate encoder.

You may choose from "AAC Encoder", "WAV Encoder",
"MP3 Encoder", "AIFF Encoder",
or "Lossless Encoder".
(Default is "AAC Encoder".)

Some of this information is included in the readme file for iTunes encode.

(vi) I don't think the bit rate pull down does anything in this context but just to be safe make it the highest value which is 1024. It don't think it is really a factor though.

Click OK. Now EAC should be configured to encode into itunes. EAC will rip the files and after each file rip, iTunes encode should automatically launch itunes and use it to encode and important the files.

Note that EAC is capable of either retaining the original wav or deleting it. I personally have it delete the original wav automatically.

There is one other nuance here. The way I have my iTunes setup, everything it imports gets neatly COPIED and placed into a series of folders organized by artist and album. iTunes does this automatically for me and probably for you to. Thus after ripping, you may have a copy of the encoded file in your EAC folder, or whatever folder EAC is set to output to, AND in your iTunes music folder. This is a product of iTunes making a copy and keeping your itunes music folder organized. What I do is clear out my EAC folder the same way I would periodically empty the trash bin otherwise the duplicates build up. I also make sure EAC is set to delete the original .wav it creates before encoding or I would actually have three lossless copies on my drive after each rip.

Hope that helps.
DTC I'm not sure how I would go about looking bit by bit.

Also, sorry I meant to say the The Squeezebox III serves the files to the DAC, not DSC. Typo.
I should also mention that when you configure EAC as I described above, you want to use the mp3 button or "compressed" option to trigger your rips because that is what tells EAC to use the external encoder. If you clicked uncompressed, EAC would simply make a wav without using the encoder.

Also make sure you go to drive options and detect and select the drive that does not cache, has c2 error correction and accurate stream. EAC will tell you what functionality your drive has.
Blackstone, you mention using the right drive, but don't say what it is.

You make a credible case, but I continue to be skeptical of claims that more precise ripping will make a big difference. After all, your Goldmund transport doesn't do EAC-like re-reading. From everything I know and have read, getting the bits right is not the hard part of all of this. But I appreciate that you are not the only one making these claims.
Let me ask, has anyone run EAC under Parallels on an Intel Duo-Core Mac? Had good results?

One ugly question that enters my mind from time to time is whether the PC is a better platform than the Mac for computer audio, for whatever reason. I've never heard anyone say so, but I have a mild impression that the audiophiles who are truly thrilled with their computer audio systems seem to be running Windows machines more than Macs. As a mainly-Mac user for 20 years, I sure hope I'm wrong.
Drubin, first, I DID say what the "right" drive is. It is a drive that 1) does not cache audio, 2) uses c2 error correction and 3) uses "accurate stream". Mine happens to be a SAMSUNG 20X DVD±R DVD Burner Black SATA Model SH-S203B. Those three features are not present in all drives and EAC test your drive and tell you what features it has. Whether it caches audio seems to be luck of the draw. If your drive caches audio, EAC has a means of defeating it.

Second, it is true that the Goldmund did not do any re-reading. It was also a $6k "mechanically grounded" stand alone single disc device that was designed to get it right the first time. It was a CD turntable that weighed a ton and had a clamp that sat on the CD. It also read in real time at 1x speed. My internal DVD-ROM with EAC seems to do the same job for $30. It speeds up and it slows down. That doesn't bode well for transports.

I have not tried this myself, but it has also been said in various forums that if you compare checksum values for different rips of the same track, it is not uncommon to get different values each time--the file is different. The error correction is supposed to mitigate this. EAC actually compares your rip with a database of rip checksums and will tell you how accurate it thinks your rip is. It usually falls within 98%-100%.

I am not trying to convince you that it sounds better, I am only adding my personal experience with these forums. I don't have enough technical knowledge to make an actual argument for EAC based on theory. My hope was that more people would try it and report back.
EAC includes an option to compare 2 wav files. It is better than trying to do traditional file compares, since it understands the format and can ignore differences that are not important. I do not know if there is a similar utility to compare Apple lossless files, so I compared some wav files. I have not used EAC much but I think I did this correctly. I compared 2 tracks (first 2 tracks on John Coltrane's Blue Train). I ripped one file with iTunes to Apple lossless and then converted it to wav using iTunes. The other file was ripped directly to wav using EAC. For both tracks the EAC wav compare utility identified repeated samples very early in the track on the iTunes files, but no other differences. As I understand it the repeated samples are related to timing issues at the beginning of a track (lead in/gap differences), rather than data differences. So, if I understand the compare program correctly, there were no significant difference in the data for the tracks ripped by iTunes and EAC. If someone has more familiarity with the compare utility, it would be nice to know your experience and whether my conclusion is correct. Obviously, more trials should be done, especially with CDs with known problems. The one I used was new. Hopefully tomorrow I can listen to the tracks to see if I think I can hear any differences. Blackstonejd - maybe you could take some of the tracks that you hear differences on and try this comparison.
Dtc, thanks so much for your input here.

Here is the problem. I did the EAC comparison on the tracks below but I got the same sort of results you did. It did not really turn up anything suspicious and this was true comparing EAC paranoid mode tracks to both Itunes error corrected and uncorrected tracks. It pretty much turned up six samples at the beginning as the only difference, but +6 is also the amount of samples that EAC is set to offset on my drive.

I don't think EAC compare does a thorough binary comparison, however. I think its primary function is to determine the drive offset--which I don't think is critical to sound quality. I could be wrong.

BUT, foobar I know does a bit/binary comparison and this is what turned up when I compared the same tracks that EAC said were the same:

"C:\Users \Desktop\EAC TEST\The Driving Of The Year Nail.wav"
"C:\Users \Desktop\EAC TEST\iTunes\Leo Kottke\6- And 12-String Guitar\01 The Driving Of The Year Nail.wav"
Differences found: 10,048,036 sample(s), starting at 0.1579819 second(s), peak: 0.9287415 at 93.9665079 second(s), 1ch

Note: If I read this correctly, it picked up a difference at .15 seconds with a "peak" at 93.9 seconds

"C:\Users\Desktop\EAC TEST\iTunes\Leo Kottke\6- And 12-String Guitar\02 The Last Of The Arkansas Greyhoun.wav"
"C:\Users \Desktop\EAC TEST\The Last of The Arkansas Greyhounds.wav"
Differences found: 17,147,577 sample(s), starting at 0.1472336 second(s), peak: 0.8823242 at 84.7079592 second(s), 1ch

"C:\Users\Desktop\EAC TEST\iTunes\Neil Young\Live Rust\05 My My, Hey Hey (Out Of The Blue 1.wav"
"C:\Users\Desktop\EAC TEST\My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue).wav"
Differences found: 22,194,539 sample(s), starting at 0.0000000 second(s), peak: 0.8122864 at 0.7691383 second(s), 2ch

"C:\Users\Desktop\EAC TEST\iTunes\Sting\Soul Cages\02 All This Time.wav"
"C:\Users \Desktop\EAC TEST\All This Time.wav"
Differences found: 25,913,572 sample(s), starting at 0.0000000 second(s), peak: 1.5827637 at 117.6406349 second(s), 1ch

I am not sure what conclusions to draw from this result but I suspect the differences I am hearing are attributable to the millions of samples that are different? Could this data be right? Could it be millions of samples? These discs were all in good to excellent condition. All of the iTunes tracks were error corrected.


Thanks for the step by step path to add the AIF codec.

It truly is as a WAV, but with data embedded into the files tag info. I can’t tell them apart sonically… although sometimes I feel as though I hear a diff… but I doubt it… or it could be attributable to other factors like time of day, or simple humidity.

RE Dupe files
If you uncheck the COPY to itunes folder box in your Itunes preffs, that step will cease to occur. Outputting the EAC files into the actual itunes folder in the first place also saves time and dupes from accumulating.

Of course importing them into itunes or your fav media software still needs to be done.

Also saving the cue sheet at the same time into the same place will allow you to use EAC to burn a dupe more readily.

RE Audible diffs
Vista is audibly better than either XP or XP Pro… outputting the audio via USB. I have all 3 OS on different PCs. Vista sounds clearly better, regardless the media player being used. Some player software however does sound better than some other software with the file types being the same in each case.

RE More PCs?
That’s just a numbers game. PCs carry the bulk of personal confuser sales in general due to the price diffs of the two formats… Apple usually being the higher priced spread.

I have little choice in this matter of “confuser choices” as certain software I require is not Mac compatible…. Yet.

Re compariring the EAC v iTunes rips…
There is an EAC forum… or there was and perhaps the EAC author could input some info here… also the pc audiophile editor might be able to provide some insights as to the true nature of error correction as it applies to sonic reproduction.

I tend to think the author of such Error free (reportedly) ripping software might not be entirely on the same page as us in regards to purity of the data being transcribed. I keep getting the impression the error free aspect as it pertains to ripping, is more akin to overcoming defects on the surfaces of the discs rather than attending to maintaining the purity of the audio information.

Ex. The EAC app indicates you should use both a clean and a scratched disc at one point for comparisons… as well as the DATA base list of known CDs to set up the drive more accurately.

I feel the purity paradigm is a by product or an afterthought, if you will. The term purity too might well not the best one to use either, but I must admit, burning the EAC files to disc in several cases thus far have sounded better and/or as good as the orig store bought disc… especially those which sounded bright or compressed in orig form.


pc audiophile

also Hedrogenaudio

All the above sites can be helpful in answering questions regarding PC/MAC audiophile recreation.

Re improving HDD audio
I’ve found merely using a laptop solves much of the issues surrounding digital sourced music. I’m guessing it’s the DC power supply and Vista OS in my case. With desktops, I follow the same methods for audible gain I follow with components. Upgrading the power cables. Using a power cond or filter. Isolation. Outboard storage & DACs or at least outboard sound cards. Lossless file encoding, and ripping with error correction.

I’ve even noticed on XP & XP pro an audible difference between placing files onto a disc formatted in FAT32 or NTFS, with NTFS being the more dynamic, and FAT being the more articulate or resolving and detailed but with less bass. (using the exact ame files, put onto different partitions.) FAT also is cross platform so it’s easier to swap files about from a MAC to a PC or vice versa.

RE error correction
As to the numbers being logged and their comparisons… well, it’s a more simple matter for me. I just go by the outcome. Does my use of ABCs error correction sound better than XYZs error correction? If so, I will use ABC. If not…

The ‘ear’s have it’ usually. Naturally, the more resolving and articulate the system, the easier it is to notice these diffs… and I do mean diffs. Better keeps getting defined and re-defined, all the time.

Now if I could just find software that will allow me to rip CDs into 24/96 or higher word lengths and bit rates with error correction as well.
Blacksonejd - I tried doing the comparison with foobar and got results like yours - one track had 56 million differences. However, this seems strange to me. The CD was newly opened yesterday and has only been played twice - once to rip with iTunes and once with Exact Copy - both on the same PC drive. It could be a poor quality CD, but I do not think so. Exact Copy file compare does compare bits - I have seen references to people seeing differences using it and certainly if you compare 2 different tracks it reports lots of errors. Without more work, I am not sure which to believe. EAC may not sensitive enough to the differences. But maybe EAC is correct and foobar is doing a bit by bit comparison without adequately accounting for non-important issues, like gaps. It is hard to believe that iTunes with error correction on is making 56 million mistakes in the copy on one 10 minute track. Unfortunately, I cannot find any real information in various forums discussing these comparison routines in detail. Not sure many people have taken the time to do a thorough compare. I do believe Exact Copy deals with poor CDs better than other rippers, but I am very suprised that there is a significant difference with good quality CDs. I think more work is in order to uderstand the difference. I need to do some more critical listening. FYI my setup is a Musical Fidelity A3.24 dac, Classe CP-65 pre, Levinson 432 and Sonus Faber Cremona speakers with Transparent Ultra cables. My iTunes rips have been very close to my Classe CDP-10 player. It would be nice to think that the EAC rips would sound better, but I really do not want to re-rip all my CDs. I am not even thinking about the vinyl. Interesting discussion.
Here is the thing. When I rip the same track twice using iTunes w/ error correction and then use Foobar to compare the two .wavs, it typically finds NO differences. In one case it found a difference of 24 samples which obviously is negligable. The same is true with two consecutive rips using EAC. So it is not as if iTunes is not capable of producing consistent results. It just produces results consistently different from EAC--if Foobar is to be believed.

Whether those difference are material to sound quality I don't know--but Foobar at least gives some support to the idea that the files are different IN SOME WAY.
Dtc, I think your hunch about the EAC's offset correction (in my case it was set to +6) throwing Foobar off was correct. If you go into the EAC folder and temporarily disable the Accurate Rip function by changing the filename of acurraterip.dll to acurraterip.dll.whatever, you will find when you fire up EAC that you can now adjust your read offset and that it is set to +0 by default.

When I used Foobar to compare an EAC rip with +0 offset to one with +6 I found that it reports the millions of samples that we have been encountering. Further when I Foobar compare the +0 offset EAC .wav to an iTunes .wav, Foobar reports NO DIFFERENCES!

So I think at this point both EAC and Foobar are telling us that there is no difference between the EAC rips and the iTunes rips--at least on the track I tested.

At this point I have to acknowledge that there may be have been a powerful placebo effect at work in my listening tests. I can't say I believe any longer that EAC is better under all circumstances. On the disc I tested today I could not detect any difference in sound quality between the two. I was able to play it a bit louder today because I had the house to myself. That disc was in pretty good condition.

I will continue to use EAC because I like the way it behaves and the feedback it provides, but I am not sure what if any value it adds with respect to sound quality.
Very interesting. I will play with the offset when I get a chance. But it sounds like you figured it out. Great work. Now we can compare real differences, rather than these offset issues. I do think EAC may handle damaged disks better than iTunes. I have a couple of tracks that iTunes will not read. If I can remember which ones they were I will see how EAC does it, although they were not on CDs I listen to very often. I have read reports of people finding differences between EAC and iTunes until they cleaned the disk. EAC read the dirty disk correctly but iTunes did not. I did spend some time with the ABX capability of foobar today trying to hear differences - it plays 2 different files randomly and lets you pick which one it is playing and records your results. You can set the start and stop times, so you can zero in on particular parts of a track very easily. Makes blind testing very easy. It was hard for me to do better than 50/50 when comparing the iTunes and EAC rips. If you have not used it you might give it a try. Just need a PC with an optical out or a usb to optical/coax converter. It is a function I have wanted for a while, so was glad to find it, even though I do not plan to use foobar on a regular basis. I may use EAC in the future - but since I recently ripped everything with iTunes I will probably just stay with that. I am really amazed at the sound quality you can get these days with free software and a little hardware. The old European school of thought that the source is the critical part of the chain is still valid - but it is no longer as expensive, although the dac is still critical to the sound quality - and for many it is the weak link. Of course for you it is a strength of your system. For me having easy access to all my CDs is the great pleasure of these systems. Using the visual interface of iTunes is much easier than trying to remember what I have on the shelves. Great discussion and glad that we got to the bottom of at least some of this. But I still will not give up my vinyl. Enjoy the music.
I was able to get foobar to do the correct bit compare, but I think with slightly different settings than you used. When I set read offset to 0 I got compare results that the files were of different size. So I changed combined read/write compare offset to 0 and then the compares worked. I am not sure exactly what these offsets do to the actual file, but my impression is that they do not change the actual bits of the music, but rather adjust spacing of the tracks. I guess for making exact copies the offsets are important, but for playing the music it should not make a difference. Is that your understanding?
Yes, exactly. It has to do with alignment of the drive head. There is absolutely nothing I have found that suggests this has anything to do with sound quality. The "correct" value for offset depends on your drive.

I'm not really sure what it does or what value it adds but it does not change the bits of the music. It just moves them enough that Foobar can't match them anymore.
I did one more test - used Windows file compare (fc/b) from the command prompt and compared the files. fc found no differences. Looks like we are all set. Now it will be easy to compare iTunes and EAC files with confidence going forward. I will probably pick a few random tracks and do the compares, just to see how it comes out. It would be nice to do a batch process to compare a lot of tracks, but I am not sure it is worth the effort at this point. Enjoy.
just seeing my goof on this...

i TOTALLY missread aiff as a lossy compression.
It is certainly not that ...

and i APOLOGIZE PROFUSELY for all the confusion that caused..

Very sorry...
No problem. Aiff is a bit more obscure than .wav but basically they are identical. Aiff is an apple standard but unlike apple lossless, aiff is almost universally supported. I use it because aiff has better metadata tagging functionality.

I've tried ripping to AIFF with EAC. It's definitely a lot slower than ripping to FLAC. The problem I've encountered is that when I play back the file it's quiet (i.e. I have to turn up the volume a lot). Rippin to AIFF in iTunes playback is at the normal volume.