Review: Phile Audio

Phile Audio is a CD ripping and audio file encoding application that allows you to archive a CD collection fast. It is the only ripping application on the Mac that works with multiple CD drives simultaneously, supporting the fastest possible workflow. The software also enables you to import files directly into iTunes without the need for a separate step.

I tested Phile Audio with the three DVD/Blu-Ray burners I have hooked up to a Mac Mini via FireWire 800 and USB 2. Phile Audio’s promise to use multiple players seemed like an exaggeration to me. I figured the speed of ripping would decrease as the I/O bus got saturated, but the software proved me wrong. Three CDs were ripped at exceptional speed — they finished ripping well within the time it takes iTunes to rip one.

I always rip to AIFF, which is also the file format I use for playing music in iTunes. For classical music, I don’t think you can do with less when listening to a Hi-fi output. Phile Audio not only supports ripping to AIFF, but also to MPEg4-AAC, Apple Lossless, Ogg Vorbis, MP3, WAV, and FLAC. Compressed formats can be further configured in Phile Audio so you can get an optimal ripping quality at the best speed.

Ready to rip

Automatic addition of music to an iTunes database is impossible when you choose AIFF. I had to select Apple Lossless, MP3 or AAC for that to happen. I find that strange as ripping from inside iTunes to AIFF is perfectly possible.

Of course Phile Audio has naming configurations, which allow you to dynamically set up names for tracks, but the best part of the names and metadata section of Phile Audio is its support for the online FreeDB metadata database. This database has a good deal more information than iTunes’ default Gracenote database has.

When ripping, Phile Audio shows you the progress, but also allows you to add CD art to your tracks. A nice surprise is that you can add art via the Internet — the software searches for art associated with the track name and you can save that art to the CD image dock in the interface, saving you a trip to the scanner. Phile Audio can handle scanned art and can also search your own system for art, though.

The bottom of the Phile Audio window shows how much room your disk has left, both for the temporary files and the end results. A good size disk is necessary, certainly when ripping multiple CDs at once at the higher quality formats.

While Phile Audio can automate much of the ripping process, it does provide users with the ability to go manual, even with respect to CD metadata and cover art. Encoding can be paused and it is easy to see which tracks are queued and which are being processed.

One thing that I would like to see added to Phile Audio — although much of its speed advantage would disappear as the application must then check with an online database — is support for Accurate Rip encoding to AIFF or WAV, which ensures a CD is copied without any errors.

However, even without AccurateRip capabilities, Phile Audio is far superior to iTunes when it comes to ripping. It’s much faster and offers the same level of accuracy. Phile Audio is sold trough the Mac App Store for 8.00 Euros, a ridiculously low price for what it does.

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