I’ve finally started backing up my CD collection, only half a year after I planned to do this. The goals are:

  1. To have lossless backups, including offsite ones, of the entire collection.
  2. To do whatever error correction is possible when creating the backups.

(The vast majority of the CDs are between 10 and 20 years old, and are showing their age.)

If it weren’t for the second point, I would backup the CDs by doing dd if=/dev/cdrom of=.... But I don’t trust that to produce as clear a copy as possible.

Digging around, there seem to be various tools which specialize on doing good copies: cdparanoia for Linux, Max, for MacOs, and Exact Audio Copy, for Windows. Since my CD collection is located in the room where my Mac is, Max seems like the way to go.

Unfortunately, this is where my naivete about just what is on an audio CD begins to show. My naive method produces one big file for the entire disk. Max, however, wants to generate a collection of files, one per track. My understanding is that, if I tell Max to generate WAV files, then that’s more or less the same data as the naive method (on a disk where reads are error-free). But is it exactly the same data (modulo trivial packaging), or is there some sort of extra data that I’m missing? I know CD’s contain almost no metadata, but I’m worried about stuff like gaps between tracks – iTunes has a habit of screwing that sort of thing when ripping CDs (though they claim to have improved that with the latest release), and I have several CDs (e.g. operas) where that is quite annoying, so I’m a bit worried that I’m missing something there.

Does anybody know of a good FAQ on these matters? I’m having a surprisingly hard time piecing together the information that I’m looking for: what exactly is on an audio CD, what the relationship is between that and a collection of WAV files.

Anyways, I’m glad I’ve gotten started. It may take months for me to actually finish the process, but it should be a relatively mindless one from now on. (Assuming that a collection of WAV files proves sufficient.)

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