How to Rip Audio Files on Your MacBook

By Mark L. Chambers

You don’t have to rely on Internet downloads to get audio files. MacBook lets you create your own MP3, AAC, Apple Lossless, AIFF, and WAV files from your audio CDs with iTunes. (If you have a MacBook Air or MacBook Pro Retina, you need an external drive to read audio CD.)

The process of converting audio files to different formats is called ripping. (Audiophiles with technical teeth also call this process digital extraction, but the popular crowd usually ignores them at parties.) Depending on what hardware or software you use, each has its own unique format preferences.

For example, most iPod owners prefer MP3 or AAC files, but your audio CDs aren’t in that format. Being able to convert files from one format to another is like having a personal translator in the digital world. You don’t need to worry about whether you have the wrong format; you can simply convert it to the format that you need.

The most common type of ripping is to convert CD audio to the AAC or MP3 format. To rip MP3s from an audio CD, follow these simple steps:

  1. Launch iTunes by clicking its icon in the Dock.

    Alternatively, you can locate iTunes in Launchpad.

  2. Choose iTunes→Preferences.

  3. In the Preferences window that appears, click the General toolbar button.

  4. Click the Import Settings button, which appears at the bottom of the iTunes window.

  5. On the Import Using pop-up menu, choose MP3 Encoder.

  6. On the Setting pop-up menu, choose High Quality (160 Kbps) and then click OK.

    This bit rate setting provides the best compromise between quality (it gives you better than CD quality, which is 128 Kbps) and file size (tracks you rip will be significantly smaller than audiophile bit rates such as 192 Kbps or higher).

  7. Load an audio CD into your MacBook’s drive.

    The CD title shows up in the iTunes Source list (under the Devices heading), which is on the left side of the iTunes window. The CD track listing appears on the right side of the window.

    If iTunes asks you whether you want to import the contents of the CD to your Music Library, you can click Yes and skip the rest of the steps. If you’ve disabled this prompt, however, continue with the remaining two steps.

  8. Clear the check box of any song that you don’t want to import from the CD.

    All songs on the CD have a check box next to their title by default. Unmarked songs aren’t imported.

    The Browse button changes to Import CD.

  9. Click the Import CD button.

Another form of ripping is available: If you have a USB turntable or cassette deck connected to your MacBook, you can digitize your old analog recordings on albums and cassettes into shiny digital audio files using the application that comes with the device. Often it’s simpler to just buy the same music from the iTunes Store, but if it isn’t available, digitizing is the next best thing!