Ripping audio CDs on macOS

A novice’s guide to CD ripping

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Hello Fediverse. I’m going to share with you about my experiment ripping audio CDs into digital formats on macOS. I collected a few OSTs from games, and albums from a Singapore singer named Sun Yanzi a long time ago. Since I got my first MBP in 2008, I’ve almost stopped collecting CDs. But here I am. This is the adventure of a novice in becoming a music listener.

This is a novice post.

This post is longer than I’d expected. If you have suggestions, please let me know. I don’t mind you pointing out if I made any mistakes. Thanks.


Let’s rewind the timeline for a bit. When I was studying at the institute, one of my classmates was very into music audio. We were at our early twenties. He was passionate about the quality of music. He introduced me to foobar2000—a music player on PC. At the time, .mp3 was very popular, and he taught me about the .wav format. I remembered he had an iPod, but still, he brings along a CD player with him. That was kind of hard core. As I recall, Guilty Gear XX Reload was his favourite—both the game and the soundtrack. While I was very into the singer, Sun Yanzi. I collected almost all of her albums, live concerts included. I wonder why I have stopped listening to them.

Since joining the Fediverse, I’ve stated that I’ve been influenced by the Mastodon community. I really mean it. I’d like to learn something new, step out of my little comfort zone. I also don’t want those CDs that I’ve collected to go to waste. Once I convert them to digital, they can be listened to again. The reason for that, of course, is that I don’t want to subscribe to Spotify or Apple Music. I want to listen to music that I bought offline.

External CD drive

So, I got myself a cheap CD/DVD writer. It looks like it was the lowest price I could get at local stores. I don’t need any fancy features, as long as it works. But once I opened the package, I thought, “I’ve made a tactical error.” The device has two USB 2.0 ports, one for data transfer and another for power. I was aware that it doesn’t have USB Type-C, but I could use an adapter for that. But two USB 2.0 ports? It could be a problem because the 13″ MBP only has two ports. I’ll have to unplug the power charger or the wireless mouse receiver and use a USB hub to get it to work. It was a bit clumsy, but at this price point, I’d say it gets the job done.

Apple Music

I was a bit excited to try it out. Then I inserted in the Gris Original Soundtrack CD into the drive. The Music app on macOS opened up automatically. I forgot to screencap, but it looks like there weren’t any options available for drive speed or output file formats. This was also the first time I used Music.

Form the user standpoint, it was a no-brainer. The entire CD was imported into the app with just a few clicks. The audio CD was converted into tracks in .m4a format, but no metadata was included. I tried to sign in to my Apple ID to get those details, but failed. Damn. There was some labor involved in manually entering those album details, such as track title, artist, cover art, and so on. I figured you can press command + a to select all tracks and edit multiple items by pressing command + i.

A screen capture of the Music app showing a list of tracks from the album Gris Original Soundtrack
The UI is consistent with Apple’s aesthetics. But it looks very similar to Spotify—that’s modern design for you

The Music app works for me on my mac. Aside from loading those metadata, I haven’t encountered any issues so far. I’m not a power user by any means, so, I guess I don’t have much choice. But for the UI, however, the “heart-shaped favourite button” is just too small for the cursor to click on it.

Using XLD

Just when I was about to call it a day, something came to mind. Apparently, I’m no expert in audio file formats. But I do wish to “do it right”. Then I searched for tools that are available to decode audio files that are lossless in .flac. I stumbled upon XLD—X Lossless Decoder. I confess, I thought it was a Command Line tool at first. Remember when I converted some images into WebP using the Terminal? You might have guessed it, I use Homebrew, again. I thought I was clever.

brew install --cask xld

Not long after, I realized the app has a GUI version. You don’t know how grateful I was. I’m going to tell you how to fumble with the settings in XLD. The following content is basically based on my experience after reading an article about XLD Ripping Guide. If you wish to learn more, it is recommended that you read the piece. I intend to avoid getting “in-depth”, I simplified them to make it easier to understand. I’m not sure I was doing it right, but, I want to share it anyway. Let’s get on with it, shall we?

A screen capture with the options available in the General tab
Figure 1: General settings (view larger image)
A screen capture showing the Option for Compression Level
Figure 2: Option for Compression Level (view larger image)

You can launch the XLD app, and plug in the disc. The Preferences should look like the following screen capture. First, set the Output format to FLAC (Fig. 1) and click Option, it’ll prompt a window (Fig. 2), and set the Compression Level to High while leaving other options unchecked. You can also specify the directory for the output files. Again, leave everything else unchecked in General.

A screen capture of File Naming tab in XLD
Figure 3: File Naming (view larger image)
A screen capture of Batch tab in XLD
Figure 4: Batch (view larger image)

Next, we need to customize the naming format of our output files (Fig. 3). I went with the default %n %a - %t, because it kind of made sense. It includes the Track Number %n, Artist %a, and the Track Title %t. For the directory name, it would be the album title that we specified in Figure 1. You can refer to this image for options if you wish to do it differently.

We move on to the next tab Batch (Fig. 4). I simply keep everything unchecked other than “Preserve directory structures” and “Automatically split file with embedded cue sheet”. We can leave the CCDB tab untouched.

A screen capture of Metadata tab in XLD
Figure 5: Metadata (view larger image)
A screen capture of CD Rip tab in XLD
Figure 6: CD Rip (view larger image)

For Metadata (Fig. 5), keep the first option checked, and everything else unchecked. I think it’s better if we keep things simpler, right? As far as I know, XLD has a feature to get Metadata online, but it was not working in my case. Maybe because the disc somewhat not including any details at all. That was strange.

For the next tab, CD Rip (Fig. 6), we set the Ripper Mode to “XLD Secure Ripper”. For the “Max retry count” and “Read sample offset correct value”, they should be set automatically. You can follow the screen capture to see which options are checked. It is recommended to enable “Save Log File” and “Save Cue Sheet”, as well as setting “Test before copy” to “Always”.

After all the settings, if you’ve already inserted the CD, go to “File”, then select “Open Audio CD” from the menu. It will run detect pre-gaps for the disc.

A screen capture of Extraction Mode in XLD
Figure 7: Extraction Mode (view larger image)
A screen capture of Edit Track Info in XLD
Figure 8: Edit Track Info (view larger image)

The Extraction Mode window will prompt as in Figure 7. Here, we can edit the Metadata for the tracks. This is very similar to Apple Music: pressing command + a to select all tracks, and then command + i for editing multiple track info (Fig. 8). If you’re done, it’s time to click “Extract”. A new window will pop out showing the Progress.

A screen capture of Log in XLD
Figure 9: Log

When the extraction has completed, it will show a Log (Fig. 9) for which to see the result—the quality of our rip. Again, I don’t intend to go into the details too much. You can check this post to learn more if you wish.

That’s pretty much it. I’m still figuring out how to use XLD properly. But it will be another time.

Final thoughts

I’ve known how to extract audio from CDs since I was in high school. I even knew how to clone the disc into an ISO image and mount it on Windows. After two decades, I’m now learning “how to” do this or that with macOS. Perhaps that’s because I was not keeping up.

For now, I’m listening to the CD I’ve just ripped in Music. It’s because it’s hassle free, and I can play music without worrying too much. I’m now researching apps that are available for playing .flac on iOS. That would be interesting.

If you’re still with me, thank you for reading. I would be very grateful if anyone could give me feedback. Anything at all. Please let me know what you’re thinking. See you next time!

This is #Day97 of #100DaysToOffload.


  1. In case you wanna know, the model is called External Slimline CD/DVD Writer from the brand Verbatim. No worries, I’ve got zero affiliation to the brand (I wish I’m sponsored). It just so happens that it sold for around USD$20. ↩︎
  2. It looks like the audio CD doesn’t include any info, not even its album title, for which I’ve got no idea why. ↩︎