This guide is about how to burn audio CDs from FLAC files ripped with EAC with a noncompliant cue sheet. The cue sheet is called "noncompliant" because most burning software (or players, for that matter) can not use it. This noncompliant cue sheet, however, is the key to being able to burn exact audio copies: the gaps between the tracks will be burnt in a way that makes a stand-alone CD player recognize them the same way gaps are recognized on the original retail CD. See this page for more information.
You do not need to burn audio CDs in order to archive backups for your CDs. It is better, for backup purposes, to burn the FLAC files and the cue sheets for the respective albums to a data DVD. You can store several CDs in FLAC format on a DVD. This guide, however, is about creating an audio CD that is as near a perfect copy to the original retail CD as is possible.
You can of course burn an audio CD from the FLAC files using other software than EAC. Since the gaps between tracks are appended to the end of the previous tracks, you will hear no difference between an audio CD burnt using EAC and a noncompliant cue sheet, and an audio CD burnt with common burning software such as Nero (if you make sure that the software does not add extra gaps between the tracks). The difference lies in how the gaps are treated by a stand-alone CD player, as explained above.
Apart from the method described here, you can also use AutoFLAC in order to burn audio CDs from EAC without decompressing them to wav first (AutoFLAC does it for you). Note that you still have to set the correct write offset for your drive, as described in 4. Setting the Correct Write Offset below. Alternatively, you can use Burrrn. Burrrn is possibly the only software besides EAC itself that can handle noncompliant cue sheets, but it does not have the option to correct drive offsets, so the copy will not be exact if you use Burrrn. (Read more about offsets here). Also, you have to edit the cue sheet if you want to use Burrrn with your FLAC files, by changing ".wav" to ".flac". Oh, and do not apply ReplayGain when burning with Burrrn if you want to burn as "exact" copies of your CDs as possible. It will alter the files on the CD, and is thus different from adding ReplayGain information to FLAC tags.
Actually, you can use Burrrn for as-exact-as-possible CD burning if you first detect the correct offset for your drive, as described in 4. Setting the Correct Write Offset below, and then use that value in CueTools in order to create special files for burning with Burrrn. Note that you should not save files that have been altered for burning with a specific drive. Discard them after burning the CD-R, store the original files instead!
2. Decompress the Files To Wave
First of all, you need to decompress your FLAC files to wave files. The simplest way of doing this is to add them all in FLAC frontend, then click "Decode". You can keep the output directory the same as the input directory. The result will be that the original folder contains both FLAC and wave files for all the tracks.
Note to Vista users: you may need to run FLAC frontend as administrator.
Important: Make sure that "Dec. [=decode] through errors" is not checked. If it is checked, and your files happen to be corrupted, they will be decoded anyway, with no warning to you about their not being in perfect shape. Normally (with that checkbox unchecked), flac.exe tests the files while decoding them, and reports if there is something wrong with them. In other words, leaving that checkbox unchecked works as an extra security check before creating that exact copy of your CD.
3. Burning an Audio CD
This section is the one you can use in the future for instructions on how to burn an audio CD that is an exact copy of the original, but you have to complete step 4 below for any drive the first time you burn an audio CD with it. Once the drive's offset is properly set, you can use that drive to simply burn your audio CDs as decribed here in step 3.
Note to Vista users: you may need to run EAC as administrator, see the error message shown at the end of this section.
- In EAC, go to the Tools menu and click "Write CD-R..." or hit Alt + W:
- In the CD layout editor that has now opened, go to the File menu and click "Load CUE sheet...":
- Browse to the cue sheet for the album you want to burn and open it. If you have followed the instructions in the EAC ripping guide, it will be in the same folder as the files.
If you get this error message, you have either forgot to decompress the files to .wav, or there is something wrong with file names (or the paths to the files). The file names in the cue sheet need to be exactly the same as the actual file names, including, for example, spaces and hyphens. (CueTools has a handy "Filename Corrector" that will make the files referenced in a cue sheet match the actual file names in the same folder.) If the cue sheet has been edited to reference .flac files or .mp3 files, etc., you need to edit the file extensions back to .wav. In the picture below, the cue sheet contains the folder name, and needs to be edited as detailed in EAC Ripping Guide, step 10b.
ISRC codes in cue sheets may also cause problems, either because EAC finds something wrong with them such as illegal characters or length, or because your drive cannot handle ISRC codes. In such cases, simply edit those lines out of the cue sheet. You can use the cue sheet editor in EAC, or open the cue sheet in a text editor, either way is fine. You may want to make sure that the option to include ISRC codes in the cue sheet is unchecked for future rips, see EAC Setup Guide, step 3c.
- If and when the cue sheet is correct it will load properly, like this:
- Now just click "Write CD..." in the CD-R menu. An options box will pop up: I recommend burning at a fairly low speed to minimise the risk for burning errors. Leave "No Test Write" and "Close CD" selected (the latter means that lead in and lead out will be written to the CD as well):
- Then click "Make It So" and wait the few minutes it takes to write an audio CD that is an exact copy of the original!
If you are using Vista and get the error message shown below, you need to run EAC as administrator, as shown at the beginning of this section. The error message indicates that CDRDAO did not start, even though only the consequence is shown in the error message: EAC can not find the table-of-contents file that should have been created by CDRDAO.
4. Setting the Correct Write Offset
The audio CD you burn will not be an exact copy of the original CD unless you set the correct write offset for the drive. This is a one-time procedure, and well worth the effort if you are the kind of perfectionist that reads this guide in the first place. (However, if you upgrade the firmware on your drive (flash the firmware) you will need to complete this step again.)
- Start by going to the EAC menu in the main EAC window and click "Drive Options", or hit F10. Click the "Writer" tab and make sure that the drive write offset is set to 0.
- Burn an audio CD (CD-R) from your own rip from a retail CD, as decribed in step 3 above, with the drive offset at 0.
- When that CD is burnt, rip it as detailed in EAC Ripping Guide. Give it a different name from the original retail CD rip, for example by adding "CDR" at the beginning of the folder name, so that you will know which rip is which. (If you like, you can rip it to uncompressed .wav files. If you compress to .flac as you rip the CD-R, you need to decompress at least one file to .wav for the comparison anyway.)
You should now have two rips of the same album on your hard drive: the rip from the original retail CD and the rip from the CD-R.
- If your CDR-sourced files are compressed to .flac, decompress one of them to .wav, as described in step 2 above. Do not use the first track, since it may produce a misleading result if there is a negative read offset value.
Now you are going to let EAC compare the same track from the two rips. When you set the write offset to 0, you pretended that your drive had no offset at all. If your drive, after all, does have an offset (and most drives do), burning with a 0 offset will cause the two rips to be slightly different.
- So, go to the Tools menu in EAC's main window and click "Compare WAVs...".
- When EAC asks for the first file, choose the one from the retail CD rip.
Make sure that you really choose this "original" .wav file from the retail CD rip as the first .wav for the comparison. If you mistakenly use the file from the CD-R here, and then choose a .wav from the retail CD as the second file, the result of the comparison may be misleading. The .wav files will be compared in relation to each other. A positive value will turn into a negative value if the files are compared in the wrong order. More about that in the "Extra Confusion" section below!
- When EAC asks for the second file, choose the same track as before, but this time the .wav should be from the rip from the CD-R.
EAC then reports if there are repeated or missing samples, including the number of repeated or missing samples:
In this case, there are 6 missing samples. This means that the correct write offset value is -6. "Missing samples" for the CDR-sourced file equals a negative offset value. If the report had said "6 repeated samples", the offset value would be positive instead, +6.
- Go to the EAC menu and click "Drive Options", or hit F10. Click the "Writer" tab and type the correct offset value, then click "OK" so that it is saved.
Remember that this is a one-time procedure. Next time you want to burn an audio CD from your FLAC files with the same drive, you just need to do steps 2 and 3.
If you burnt yet another audio CD from your original rip from the retail CD, but used the correct offset, the comparison between wave files would show no result. This is also how it would look in the rare case of a drive that has no write offset value:
If your cue sheet contains UPC/IRSC codes and/or if you want to hace CD-Text written to the disc, you need to test if your drive can write that information to the disc.
- Insert a writeable disc in the drive, then click "Deteck Write Features...".
EAC will run a burn simulation twice, one for each test, and then show you the results of the tests:
- Click "Apply" so that the detected options get properly set.
I have presented the "normal" case above, but fact is that the result of the .wav file comparison can be presented in four different ways.
Here is the "normal" case once again:
The CDR-sourced file is to the right and the comparison shows that it is missing samples, so the value that you enter for "Write samples offset" should be negative. In this case, the correct value is -6.
Here is another "normal" case:
In this case, the comparison shows that the CDR-sourced file to the right has repeated samples. The "Write samples offset" value for this drive is positive, +18:
If you happen to choose the CDR-sourced file as the first .wav, and then choose the retail-sourced file as the second .wav file, the files will exchange positions (as compared to the "normal" case). Here, the CDR-sourced file is to the left, and the retail-sourced file is to the right:
The comparison shows 6 repeated samples under the file to the right. This is because, as mentioned earlier, the files are compared in relation to each other. If the comparison shows a value for the retail-sourced file instead of the CDR-sourced file, you have to change positive to negative and vice versa. In this case, the retail-sourced file has 6 repeated samples. You have to "convert" it into a negative value for the "Write samples offset", in this case "-6".
- Repeated samples for CDR-sourced file = positive value for "Write samples offset".
- Missing samples for CDR-sourced file = negative value for "Write samples offset".
- Repeated samples for retail-sourced file = negative value for "Write samples offset".
- Missing samples for retail-sourced file = positive value for "Write samples offset".
This is true even if the values happen to appear in the left column instead:
EAC remembers previous .wav comparisons. If you have once chosen the CDR-sourced file as the first .wav file in a comparison (so that there was a result for the retail-sourced file), the result will stay with that retail-sourced file even if you choose it as the first .wav file for another comparison, only the result will appear in the left column since that's where the retail file is.
Conclusion: make sure that you know which rip is which when you prepare to compare .wav files!