Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Ripping audio CD's in Safemode, closer to the studio master than ever before

                               Audiophiles that use the PC as a source will know the importance of bit perfect rips. Audiophiles will also be aware that a low jitter playback source gives better sound.

So why would the same not apply to a lower noise computer with less processes running, when ripping the CD?

Common sense must dictate that if an improvement is possible in the act of replaying the music, then equally an improvement must be possible when ripping the CD.

A few years ago many people thought that all bit perfect playback sources sounded the same. However now there is enough anecdotal evidence, as well as various test results to prove beyond doubt that all bit perfect playback sources sound different. Differences in sound vary from subtle to very noticeable.

Arguments will always exist when discussing audio because everyone perceives sound in a different way.
Likewise most people use different combinations of playback equipment with varying levels of resolution.
This in itself can lead to debate when discussing such issues. One person can't hear subtle differences on their system, when another person using another system can hear subtle differences very easily.

                              As an experiment, I tried ripping a familiar CD whilst my computer was in safemode.

When I played it back, I found that the music had incredible detail, and tone, depth, and clarity, much more so than any rip I had done before.

I had already ripped this CD before, with my PC running in "normal" mode, so I was able to compare the safemode rip, to the normal rip.
  • Both rips were done using EAC.
  • Both files were tested with sha256 checksum utility and were confirmed to be identical.
  • Both files were the same size. 
  • Both files sounded different!  
As mentioned earlier, the rip done in safemode is like nothing I have heard before.

So now, rather than speculating why it sounds different, we can try it for ourselves....

Here is how:

 These instructions apply to a Windows XP operating system.

First download Exact Audio Copy  http://www.exactaudiocopy.de/ which is free software for creating bit perfect rips of your CDs.

Seconly calibrate your CD burner by ripping a popular CD which gives your CD drive offest figures. See the EAC website for more detials...

 Next, start your XP operating system up in safe mode. You can do this a number of ways.

1) Press F8 when starting up your computer. You will boot into safe mode.

or the alternate way:

2) locate your boot.ini file in your C drive.
Open it and add the boot swich "/safeboot:minimal"
Save the modified boot.ini file.
restart your PC.
Your PC will start up in safe mode.

To revert to your normal start up, open the boot.ini file and delete the "/safeboot:minimal" line.
Easy! More info here: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/239780

Now, open EAC, and proceed to rip a CD.
Safeboot minimal will prevent the network from operating. and hence you wont be able to tag your album as you rip it.

If this really bothers you, you could use the alternate safeboot switch "safeboot:network" rather than "safeboot:minimal" and this will allow the network to run, and so you can tag your music.

Personally, I rip without the network. It sounds better.

OK, now listen to your rip using your normal playback software.

You should find that the rip done in safemode sounds so much better than a rip done without safemode enabled that you will never rip a CD without safemode ever again.....

Another suggestion is to rip directly to a USB stick. Depending upon your PC's power supply, it may sound better than ripping to the HDD, its worth a comparison.


Based upon some reports, I have tried to find out why some people can't hear a difference between safemode rips and normal rips.

I believe this is an issue to do with the resolution of the replay system. To take full advantage of the improved sound, a system of the highest resolution must be used. Certain DACs, playback software, and speakers are not conducive to revealing the full sonic effect of a safemode rip.

So, if you try it and can't hear a distinct difference, don't be too surprised. But for those with a well above average digital front end, and amps and speakers to match, the improvement will be apparent.

Did you hear a difference?
Please take the survey.... the survey is still running, and always will. There is no cut-off date. No matter what your findings are, if you have any interest in this topic, post your results. Thank you.


Update 28/10/14

A big thank you to those who have taken the survey. The survey results are taken from individuals who have done their own rips, and their own comparisons. I have had no influence over the results.

Here are the results so far:

People from all around the world have taken the survey:


  1. Hi!
    Before reading your post I was thinking of being totally mad.
    Now I know there're al teast two of us in the world ... ;-)

    I realized that ripping directly on a SD card on my laptop running in battery mode. At the moment I find this is the best for me at the moment.
    Am I too crazy for you? ;-)

  2. You are not crazy. Let your ears be the judge.
    Keep up the good work :-)