A Digital Symphony

A classical music lover’s guide to enjoying your collection on a computer.

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Step 1: Rip the CD's

Of course, you may be starting with a download or an existing digital album - indeed you may have already tagged your music, perhaps inconsistently and not to your liking. In that case, just go straight to Step 2 - tagging.

Start your chosen CD ripping software (see resources section below). Load the CD. I suggest that you place the output file in a “work-in-progress” folder outside your main music library. Your ripped, but not fully tagged, music will then not get mixed up with the properly tagged files.

Don't worry too much about the tags at this stage as you will overwrite them in the next steps (although, if your ripper will produce tags from MusicBrainz, this can make the main tagging process a little easier).

Configure any other settings you require (refer to the manual / help pages for the chosen CD Ripper). The important thing is to rip to a lossless format (FLAC is suggested).

Rip the CD.

Ripping resources

Suggested CD ripping software includes:

  1. dBpoweramp - CD Ripper and converter. Available from http://www.dbpoweramp.com. The cost (May 2018) is £30 + VAT. A full-featured trial is available.
  2. Exact Audio Copy - free but slightly more complicated to use. Use the CUETools plugin.
  3. An alternative free and simple ripper is CUERipper.
  4. If you use MusicBee then that includes its own ripper

The advantage of dBpoweramp is that it comes with other useful tools for conversions etc. It also has access to metadata sources (in particular, SonataDB) which are not in the others. However, CUETools/CUERipper is much more reliable at picking up metadata from MusicBrainz.

One approach is to use CUERipper first, but to switch to dBpoweramp if the CD is not in MusicBrainz.

Below are some notes on dBpoweramp and CUERipper.

dBpoweramp CD Ripper

Firstly read the help files carefully and set up the ripping options as recommended.

Optionally, set up a ripping profile to use the following naming method (this is not really necessary if you subsequently use Picard to rename files):
[album][IFMULTI]Disc [disc][][track] [GRAB]1,25,[title][] ... [RIGHT]25,[title][]
This will replace the middle of titles with "..."(assuming they are over 50 characters). There may be better ways of doing this. The key thing is to organise the tracks by album and disc and to give them unique (but not too long) filenames. Note that dBpoweramp will replace special characters which are illegal in filenames - this setting is found in "Options - Meta Data - File name restricted characters". The standard replacements are pre-populated, but you may need to add others because, although Windows may appear to display them correctly, not all music software will handle them properly. A specific example is ř as in Dvořák, which should be replaced by a plain r.

On the DSP tab, add ReplayGain if required.

Following the introduction of iTunes tagging support for classical music, CD Ripper now includes boxes for the new work and movement tags, provided the genre is "Classical" or "Opera". I suggest you ignore these because (a) there is no way of automatically creating them from the Title tag, (b) the genres are too restrictive and (c) the metadata sources do not yet include these tags. In any case, if you use Picard with the Classical Extras plugin, all these tags will get overwritten.


The instructions on the wiki are quite straightforward. Use lossless for the audio output type and FLAC for the extraction type. If the CD is in MusicBrainz then this will be selected by preference and will be shown with the relevant icon in the metadata selection bar.