Pros: A careful CD ripper that includes album art, good instructions, and a double-sided jewel case for MP3 DVDs.
Cons: Pricing not as aggressive as low-end providers, charges for damaged discs even if they’re not converted.
The following capsule review is reposted from a six-way comparison article found in our Free iPod Book and Back to School Guide, originally published in August, 2005. For the complete comparison chart, check out the book at the link above.
What is CD Ripping?
Turning old CDs into iPod-ready MP3s is called ripping. And ripping is the only bad part of buying an iPod. With a fast CD drive, rips take 6-10 minutes per disc – that’s 10-17 hours for 100 CDs, not including the time you’ll spend organizing all of the songs.
If you have more than 100 CDs, it’s definitely worth something to have all your ripping done for you – but how much? And can you really trust just anyone with your CD collection?
Picking a Trustworthy Ripper
You’ve built your CD collection from nothing into huge stacks of jewel cases, paying thousands of dollars for music you’d like to hear on your iPod. Do you really want to turn over your discs to a stranger who’s working out of a college dorm room, using your collection to build his own master music collection? No. So we sought out six reputable CD rippers – professional and trustworthy companies with centralized ripping facilities. We looked for companies that didn’t use misleading advertising or other tricks to fool potential customers, and ones that were committed to protecting the rights of musicians: none of the companies on our list were willing to rip copied CDs or CDRs.
How We Tested
We assembled a total of 600 CDs, sending 100 CDs to each of the six companies as a test. Each collection included some “bad” discs: cracked, mixed data and audio, or seriously scuffed CDs, and we also tossed in some CD-Rs to see whether the companies would rip them, despite their statements to the contrary. We used 224Kbps encoding from each company, and rated only based on standard included services. We list most of their other key options in our table to the right.
The Process, Start to Finish
Each of the companies used FedEx or UPS to send us a well-padded box and spindle (or two) for our CDs, insured for between $10 and $15 per disc in case of any damage. Typically, the boxes are sent from and to the companies by ground transportation, which can take several days in each direction depending on your distance from the company. But several of the companies offer expedited shipping for a $50-60 premium. Most of the companies provided status updates on our discs before shipping them back. At the end, each company converted our CDs into two DVDs full of great MP3 files, and most included installation instructions, too. None of the companies ripped our bad discs, but some wanted to charge for them anyway. Others offered refunds.
Which Differences Really Matter?
All of the companies delivered our CDs and DVDs, but differences emerged in pricing, speed and frills. One company was willing to rip music at 128kbps for $78 including shipping, but prices for our across-the-board 224kbps rate ranged from $99-156 by company, including shipping. The best turned discs around in 1-2 days, some included iTunes- and color iPod-ready album art, $20-25 promo cards, or other extras, while others charged high premiums for anything other than “standard” service. Most discs arrived without incident. Only one of our boxes was lost in shipping, which FedEx attributed to a bad shipping label from the sender. It arrived dead last.
Specifics on Ready to Play
Total Price for 100 CDs and Shipping: $124
Total Price for 500 CDs and Shipping: $605
Included Insurance on CDs: $10/CD
Shipper: UPS Ground
Promised Processing Time (not including Shipping): “Typically 1-2 Days”
Actual Number of Days: 2
Location: Palo Alto, CA
Standard Bitrate for Encoding: 192Kbps CBR
+ Loads iPod at no charge
+ MP3, WMA, AAC, OGG ripping
+ 224/320K ripping
+ DataGroom to fix ID3 tags
Paid Special Services:
+ Sells HDs
+ Sells iPods
+ Lossless Files on DVDs
+ Send your jewel cases, not spindles
– Charges for damaged discs even if not converted
– Limited updates
A good, careful compromise. DVDs arrived in a double-sided jewel case with album art, which was good for the price, as well as data on the converted files and a detailed printed installation guide. Pricing not as aggressive for large-quantity users, but good for most color iPod owners.
Company and Price
Company: Ready to Play
Price: $124/100 CDs
Compatible: All iPods