To Doug Schneider,
Thanks, Doug, for your very detailed explanation [for my previous question]. One follow-up question: is iTunes is as good as any other for ripping? Can one achieve excellent results ripping to ALAC and playing back with J. River Media Center?
I don’t know if iTunes is as good as any other program out there, but many people do feel it is good enough. There’s something important to know, though: by default the “Use error correction when reading audio CDs” in iTunes is turned off (at least it was in the version I used back when I tried it for ripping). It’s important that you turn it on, because if it’s not on and iTunes encounters a read error when ripping a disc, it will carry on without concern for the data that might be lost. If the error correction is turned on, ripping goes slower, but iTunes will re-read any problem areas until it gets a good data read (providing the disc isn’t too badly damaged). This ensures the highest-quality rip.
If you want to look at other options for ripping, many people swear by a Windows-compatible program called Exact Audio Copy, which I've tried and also seems quite good. I use Media Center’s built-in ripper in the Secure Rip mode, which, like iTunes’ error-correction feature, re-reads problem areas until it gets good data. If Media Center can’t get a good read, it provides you with that information in a log file. If I encounter an error that Media Center couldn't correct, I try cleaning the disc and ripping it again -- usually it will get a perfect rip the second time.
According to the folks at J. River, Media Center supports ALAC files, so it should work fine. I haven’t tried it, mind you, so I can’t tell you how it will sound compared to another format. But one thing to know is that if you have a good rip, you can use a format converter and change from one format to another without issue. For example, you could rip in ALAC and then convert those to WAV, FLAC, or some other lossless format. As I said in my article, the most important thing is to simply get the best rip that you can. . . . Doug Schneider