Software Station: Exact Audio Copy

Stephen Yagielowicz
Exact Audio Copy is an audio grabbing application that is compatible with audio CDs using standard CD or DVD-ROM drives and that is free for non-commercial users.

According to the company, EAC is different from many other audio grabbers, in that works with a technology that reads audio CDs almost perfectly and that reports on any errors that can't be corrected, including the time position at which the (possible) distortion occurred.

"With other audio grabbers you usually need to listen to every grabbed wave because they only do jitter correction," stated a company rep. "Scratched CDs read on CD-ROM drives often produce distortions, but listening to every extracted audio track is a waste of time."

EAC addresses these problems by making use of several technologies, including multi-reading with verify and AccurateRip.

EAC supports all kinds of CD and DVD drives, including USB, FireWire, SATA and SCSI drives, and provides hidden sector synchronization for jitter correction. Secure, fast and burst extraction methods are user selectable for the specific application. Fast extraction runs at a similar speed to other grabbers using jitter correction; burst mode simply grabs audio data without any synchronization; while secure mode detects and corrects read and sync errors almost completely.

In secure mode, EAC reads every audio sector at least twice, and makes use of the extended error information that some drives are able to return along with the audio data.

"That is one reason why the program is slower than other rippers," the rep added. "By using this technique, non-identical sectors are detected. If an error occurs (read or sync error), the program keeps on reading this sector, until eight of 16 retries are identical; but at maximum, one, three or five times (according to the selected error recovery quality), these 16 retries are read. So, in the worst case, bad sectors are read up to 82 times!"

Comparing all of the retries helps the program obtain its high quality results.

EAC can copy ranges of music, not just individual tracks. It uses automatic speed reduction techniques while carefully analyzing damaged tracks and provides volume normalization of extracted audio. The program makes use of the Windows Audio Compression Manager (ACM codecs) for direct compression to MP3 waves and other formats.

EAC also offers support for the LAME DLL that is usable like an ACM Codec for on-the-fly MP3 compression, while supporting external MP3, WMA, flac and OggVorbis encoders for automatic compression after file extraction, with support for multi-processor environments. An integrated WAV editor offers a variety of functions, including the ability to delete, trim, normalize, pad, fade in and out, undo and more.

If you want a free audio grabber with paid-for performance, Exact Audio Copy may be it.