Ripping to a Mac, any software?

After importing several songs to my iMac via iTunes, I found the results disappointing. I used Apple Lossless and had the error correction in Preferences checked. Any tips for the mac for better sound quality? Any decent ripping software for the Mac? How about using a better cd spinner, such as an external Plextor drive? Thanks!
I use a Plextor and Toast. Also, I copy at max 4/1. E-mail me if you want specifics.
What exactly is disappointing? I import into Itunes (with error correction) using WAV files and burn at no faster than 4X with quality media and the results sound no different from files ripped/burned from Toast and using an external LaCie Porsche design burner. Which is to say, they sound excellent. Have you tried using something other than Apple Lossless?
I have been ripping CDs with iTunes on iMac for over a year now and it works really well. What kind of disappointing result did you get? Can you explain a bit more?
My experience is the same as Sidssp's. I use iTunes for ripping and it works perfectly for me. It's easy for me to A/B the original and the copy using the switch on my DAC to flip back and forth between the original disc in my transport and the ripped copy streaming from the hard drive. I can't hear any difference.
Hey guys, thanks for your responses. I've gone over my iTunes settings and found the Equalizer was on, at the "Flat" preset.
This may account for the lack of high frequency response and dull, lifeless music I was hearing. I'll do some critical listening this evening and report back tomorrow.

Are you using an external DAC?
If you are using an external DAC,
are you controlling volume with
the iTunes user interface, or with the DAC?
If an external DAC, what interface are
you using between the computer and the DAC?

You might find it best to defeat the iTunes
equalizer altogether: un-click checkbox on equalizer
widget top left.

Importing directly to iTunes, error correction 'on',
Apple Lossless, will give you bit-for-bit at playback.
*All other things being equal*, your music server should
sound exactly like a transport. Mine does.
One of the response makes me ask, what being used by everybody when importing directly to iTunes, the equalize ON in FLAT or with the equalizer OFF. What best?
Michaelct, yes I am going to an external dac, the Acccustic Arts Dac1 MK3. As others have suggested to me, I have the iTunes volume set at max, and the external dac is selected as the audio output device in "Sounds" under the "System Preferences" tab of my iMac. Volume is then controlled by my preamp. Regarding interface, I'm using an Empirical Audio Freeway 2 USB to SPDIF converter. After I turned off the Equalizer (I didn't realize it was on) and Sound Check, the sound quality became VERY good and I am now pleased with the results. To my ears it's not quite equal to the quality of sound from playing cd's in my Meridian 508.24 player, but it's close, I'd say about 95%. My next step is to replace the wall wart power supply on my Opticis optical USB cable with something better. BTW, is no one is using a better quality external drive? That's something I was considering as well.
Travelstead, I believe the Equalizer has nothing to do with any imported song data, is affects the audio playback. Turn it off for best results.
Heymikey, so you've got some top-notch gear there all-around.
I don't know, but it's fun guessing, and my first guess might be ...
I wonder if you might be losing anything in the Mac-to-DAC
USB to SPDIF converter. Just a guess,
my experience has only been with USB all the way:
Mac to Bel Canto DAC3 USB port.

I don't think the hard drive makes a bit of difference,
as long as it's not junk, and noisy -- in the same way one USB cable
is just like another, save maybe better fitting ends.
It's all bits in both cases.
There is a less known feature of the Mac that may potentially degrade sound quality. The Mac has an internal sample rate converter. I don't know if it is implemented in hardware or software but believe me, you don't want to use it in either case. The problem is that it is automatically engaged if the sample rate of the source material is different from the setting of the audio output device. For example, if you are playing a 16/44.1k track from iTunes and the Mac's audio output device is set to 24/96k, it will up-sample your track and output 24/96k signal to your external DAC.

The only way to disengage it is to make sure the sample rate of the source material is the same as the sample rate setting of the audio output device. To check that, you need to use the Audio MIDI Setup program which is usually located in the Application/Utilities folder.

Once you open the Audio MIDI Setup, click the Audio Devices tag at the top and look into the "Properties For:" drop down box. As soon as your USB to SPDIF converter is connected, it should show up as one of the selection. Now select that and look over to the lower right corner and you should see some controls show up in the Audio Output section. Now you can change the sample rate to match.
Sidssp, that's good info, some people are not aware of the Midi utility. I'm familiar with the midi settings, but due to my downstream hardware it is not possible to set it for a 16 bit rate, mine is 24 bit only. So I have mine set at 24 bit, 44.1 khz, even though the iTunes audio is imported at 16 bit, 44.1 kHz. It does not appear to be possible to set iTunes to import audio at a 24 bit rate from a cd source, please correct me if I am wrong.
You are correct. iTunes does not convert sampling rate when dealing with lossless formats.

If you want all your tracks to be 24-bit, you will have to convert them with other tool before importing into iTunes.

Just curious, what downstream hardware do you have that requires 24-bit data?
Sidssp, I'm using an Empirical Audio Freeway 2 USB to SPDIF converter, then out to an Accustic Arts Dac1 MK3. With this configuration, there is no 16 bit rate option available in the iMac's Midi settings, 24 bit only. I do have sampling rate options if 44100.0, 48000.0, 88200.0 and 96000.0 hz, I leave it at 44100.0. The Midi options will change if I put in a different dac. I don't know if it would be worth the trouble of converting audio files to a 24 bit rate before importing to iTunes, I guess I could try it and see if it makes any difference. See quote below, from
"What is the difference between 16 and 24 bit?
16 and 24-bit refers to the sample resolution of the included samples. 16-bit is the standard resolution of audio CD's, while 24-bit is an enhanced resolution supported by many samplers. Some Big Fish Audio libraries are produced in 24-bit, while others are in 16-bit.
It is not necessary to convert from 16-bit to 24-bit. All samplers that read 24-bit files can also read 16-bit files, and while it is technically possible to convert 16-bit files to 24-bit files, there is no increase in fidelity and therefore no advantage gained by converting in this direction."
It sounds like there is a bug in the Freeway 2. USB is a plug-and-play interface. Upon connection, it will announce itself to the host what it is and what capability it has. It looks like the Freeway 2 has forgotten to announce it is 16-bit capable. I would suggest you contact Empirical Audio and see if they have a newer firmware for the converter.
I also have an Imac using Itunes for playback.
Been extremely happy after a year and 1500 cds ripped
My set-up is an Empirical Audio Offramp Turbo
into a Grace 902. Using modest cost external HD's and CD drives.

As others have stated MAX will rip and convert to Apple Lossless

Another great Mac ripper is xACT 1.59

On the 24 bit side of things.....I do a lot of my own recordings in 24 bit and keep all of these in my Itunes library (Max will convert 24 bit WAV to 24 bit Apple Lossless)

I have my output set at 24/44.1, when i play
a 16/44.1 file in Itunes it sounds perfect up-sampled to 24/44.1
Sidssp, nope, just had a few emails with Steve at Empirical, the Freeway 2 is working as designed. This one has the newest driverless firmware.
Edtyre, thanks for all that great info! It's nice to hear from someone else with similar gear. Yes, I keep my Midi settings at 24/44.1 also. So far, all my audio files in iTunes are 16 bit. Here's what Steve at Empirical told me about 16 bit files and the 24 bit setting: "This is the best-sounding way to listen to 16-bit files, extended to 24-bit."