Review: RipShark

Pros: Highly competant CD ripper does well on small and large volume orders both in price and speed of service. Delivers album art at no extra charge.

Cons: Limited status updates and no tracking information. Not the cheapest service we’ve tested, but still a good value given what’s included.

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.