The CD ripping crisis – a cataloguing nightmare

CD ripping can be a disaster for music when you have large numbers of discs to play on your computer or HiFi streamer. Classic music seems worst. There are ways to handle it.

This article was written in June 2012.  It’s now November 2022 and we’re downloading music instead of buying CDs. But the problem has not improved.  I still spend a ridiculous amount of time tidying up the files I download from HiRes webstores – that’s for new albums, from big music labels.

CD ripping crisis - some record companies make it worse

The problems

With low-circulation albums mastered on home computers, the “metadata” about the album is sometimes blanks or comes from the wrong album. For professionally created albums, the problems include:

  • Album names. There is no consistency in whether albums are named by composer, soloist, conductor or orchestra.
  • Artist names. Likewise, “artist names” gets confused, especially with chamber music involving several soloists.
  • Boxed CD track numbers. Many multi-CD sets have the same directory name for each CD. So for an opera on 3 CDs, you have to listen to all 3 track 01’s, then all 02’s, and so on.
  • Blanks. Occasionally the names are blank.
  • Invalid filenames. The name of individual tracks can be so long that they are invalid.
  • Missing artwork. The Folder.jpg image is often missing, so there is no artwork when browsing. (The track name still appears.)
  • Track names. No consistency in naming, and often not the info you want displayed.

Popular music is better, although they often get the composer wrong.

Solution 1: Check when ripping

Software like dbPowerAmp CD ripper ($38) allows you to change the album details when ripping, and you can even add a Folder.jpg image.

It takes about 2 minutes, or more if you have to create artwork.

That’s easy if it’s your latest CD purchase and you’re not in a hurry. But for a library of 1500 CDs it’s a major pain. And it does not work for downloaded music, where the details are already there for the FLAC, WAV or MP3 file.

Snag is, you need to be very consistent with naming. (I like composers by surname then first name, e.g. Beethoven, Ludwig van.)

Solution 2: Change the folder names

If the ripped CD or downloaded music has the wrong folder name, change it.

For boxed CDs, rename immediately after each CD so that if the next CD has the same directory name, it won’t matter.


e.g. If Pierre Fournier’s heart-wrenching recording of Elgar’s Concerto for Cello and Orchestra ends up in a folder with his name, change the name to folder name or move it to “Elgar, Edward”.

When browsing for music, use the directory structure rather than the artist name.

Solution 3: Duplicate

My directories start with ARTIST, COMPOSER, JAZZ, ROCK & POP, etc. For special performances like this I have 2 copies: one under artist and another under composer. With FLAC compression, the extra disc space is not important compared to the convenience.

CD-ripping: Conclusion

A CD can often be ripped in about 2-5 minutes, depending on CD quality. It takes 2 – 20 minutes to check and catalogue the CD, depending on whether you are a perfectionist.

It’s tedious, but not complex.

If you don’t do it, there will be many pieces that you may lose for months (or years), and you’ll get bad experiences from some boxed sets.