Sometimes I come across things in the wonderful world of audio that drive me nuts
First I found out that FLAC does sound different from WAV, but now it also turns out that different ripping software programs also sound different from one another. Argh.
Without going too much into detail, being well aware of various settings that can have an influence, I wanted to report that not only myself, but also several friends that I invited over for a Streaming Audio listening test, heard that the four CD rips were easily distinguishable. Depending on the streamer that was used, one or another would make a better match.
The tests were done with the ripped files (WAV) copied to a Synology NAS, which was used as a server for all streamers. Where several ripping settings were possible, I chose “Burst”, except for EAC which was used with all default settings.
For the Linn Klimax DS for example, the programs EAC or dB poweramp made for the best match, allowing for the best dynamics while maintaining liquidity and smoothness. The Linn is just very creamy by nature.
Switch to the Naim NDX however, and it is quite another story, dB poweramp sounding a bit strict and lacking soul. Now rips made using Audiograbber and iTunes sounded much more friendly. The same applied, however less so, for the PS Audio PWD.
Even when using the same settings, different CD ripping programs can still yield different results. EAC should address this and bring piece of mind by being 100% accurate, but somehow EAC rips can sound somewhat sterile in my setup. Maybe you can actually hear the amount of processing that was used or, and this is more likely, this is a case of system matching, where a “smoother” (or less accurate) delivery better matches my system.
iTunes (on Mac) sounds a lot like Audiograbber (on PC), but both sound smoother and more relaxed than EAC and dB poweramp. Likely because it is the most accurate, EAC sounds most strict and can even sound dry depending on the rest of the playback system. dB poweramp is also precise but somehow less dry than EAC and it is my favourite program for ripping in terms of comfort as well as sound quality. iTunes and Audiograbber in all honesty sound a little blurry and imprecise, but because of this can ameliorate “digitalness” elsewhere in the playback system.
Really: where does it end?
I say again: Argh.
Update July 2016
My current and longtime favourite program is still dB Poweramp. Surprisingly, setting it to secure ripping doesn’t result in overly clinical files, but I’m just too impatient so I use the program in a “Burst” Mode at 8x speed, without error correction. Only when a CD cannot be read properly then I resort to secure rip. Ripping speed also has a clearly audible effect: rip faster than 8 speed and the sound will become thinner and less colourful and the bass will start to lose weight. Rip slower than 8 speed and the sound becomes too mellow. I know I know, call me crazy. Call it placebo effect. Just do me a favour and try this for yourself and then decide what sounds best.