Rip CDs from the Command Line

Use command-line tools to rip CDs the old-school way.

There are a lot of CD-ripper and MP3-and Ogg Vorbis–encoder GUI programs out there nowadays that streamline and automate the process of turning a CD into a directory of digital music files. Most of these programs, however, still make use of the same old ripping and encoding tools that have been used on the command line for ages. If you want to hearken back to the era of command-line CD ripping—or maybe your machine isn’t even running a graphical environment—this hack will walk you through the two-step process of ripping and encoding so you can quickly turn a CD into a directory full of MP3s or Ogg Vorbis goodness.

Rip the CD

The first step to convert a CD into MP3 or Ogg files is to rip the CDDA audio tracks from the CD to individual WAV files. My tool of choice for this is cdparanoia, which is a commonly used program for ripping CDs. Chances are that your distribution includes it, but if not, you can download the source directly from the official project page at There are a number of other CD-ripping programs available including the original cdda2wav program, but I like cdparanoiaas because, well, it’s more paranoid. CD drives and CDs themselves aren’t perfect, and a jittery CD drive, or a scratched CD can often result in pops or other errors in your tracks when you are ripping. cdparanoia compensates for all these problems and reads the CD very carefully, bit by bit. ...

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