This is a guide for how to configure EAC to make "perfect" lossless rips, which will allow you to make perfect copies of your CDs. The recommended settings are chosen with that goal in mind. I have added comments to many of the settings in order to explain how they will help you reach that goal.
The compression method detailed in this guide (step 4b) is for producing FLAC files, but you can have EAC produce, for example, LAME mp3 or Ogg Vorbis files instead. To be sure, it is perfectly OK to convert lossless files, such as FLAC, to lossy formats, such as mp3 or Ogg Vorbis. You do not have to rip your CD again if you want to have mp3s for your music player, for example. Just use your FLAC files for producing those mp3 files, too, with an audio converter such as dBpoweramp or similar.
What follows is a step-by-step guide. There are many settings, so you need to pay close attention to the guide as you go through the steps. Don't be disheartened if you still get it wrong the first (and second...) time. Once you have got it right, and saved the profile(s), you are all set to start making perfect rips without having to configure EAC all over again.
What EAC Does
The phrase "rip to FLAC" is a bit misleading. EAC rips music tracks from a CD to wave files (that have the .wav extension) that are stored in your computer. EAC can only rip to .wav. It can not "rip to FLAC" or "rip to mp3", etc. However, EAC can be configured to start an "external encoder" such as flac.exe. If EAC is configured to start flac.exe as an external encoder, the .wav files get compressed to FLAC as soon as they are ripped. From your end it looks like EAC indeed "rips to FLAC".
The wave files are usually deleted when compression to FLAC is done; they were only kept as temp files until the compression was finished. Since FLAC is a lossless format, you do not lose any audio information by saving your rips as FLAC files. The advantages are due to the fact that FLAC files are smaller than .wav files, so they take up less space on your computer, and are easier to transfer over a network. The FLAC files can be decompressed back to wave with no loss of audio information.
So, "ripping to FLAC" is really a two step operation. First you rip to wave files, then you compress those files to FLAC. That means that you need to configure two sets of features in order to properly rip and compress files to FLAC. But, that is actually not enough: you need to configure a third set of features, too. It's the features that have to do with the CD drive you use. Different drives have different properties, and you have to make EAC know and take good advantage of the properties that your drive has.
The three sets of features (EAC, Compression, and Drive) can be saved as separate "profiles". I recommend that you save a "complete FLAC profile", though, that contains all the three sets of features in one profile. That way, you will only have to load that complete profile in EAC when you want to rip your next CD, and all the settings will be correct. If you have more than one drive to choose from, you need to set up different complete FLAC profiles for them. More about that in step 6, when we have gone through all the settings for EAC, Compression, and Drive.
For detailed installation instructions, see the EAC (and FLAC) Installation Guide.
Configure EAC Manually
- Start EAC. If the Configuration Wizard shows up as you run EAC, simply cancel it. We are going to configure EAC manually.