CD collection

abcde – CD ripping software for the command line

Last Updated on July 22, 2020

CD audio grabbers are designed to extract (“rip”) the raw digital audio (in a format commonly called CDDA) from a compact disc to a file or other output. This type of software enables a user to encode the digital audio into a variety of formats, and download and upload disc info from freedb, an internet compact disc database.

Is copying CDs legal? Under US copyright law, converting an original CD to digital files for personal use has been cited as qualifying as ‘fair use’. However, US copyright law does not explicitly allow or forbid making copies of a personally-owned audio CD, and case law has not yet established what specific scenarios are permitted as fair use. The copyright position is much clearer in the UK, as it’s illegal to make a private copy of a copyrighted CD. Whereas it’s legal for an owner to make a copy of a legally purchased CD in Australia and New Zealand. Life is never simple!

I suggest you check your country’s copyright legislation before using any CD ripping software.

abcde (A Better CD Encoder) is a CD ripper originally developed by Robert Woodcock. It has witnessed a few maintainer changes over the years, but development has made steady progress. The utility can be operated entirely from the command line. The program can be run ‘as is’ (i.e. launched with just a bare abcde command), or can run with command line switches, or from a config file.


Let’s look at grabbing abcde from the project’s website, rather than use a distribution package (there are packaged versions available for Debian, FreeBSD, OpenBSD, NetBSD, and others).

First, download the latest compressed tarball. At the time of writing, this is abcde-2.9.3.tar.gz. Then at a shell we need to uncompress that tarball, type:

$ tar zxvf abcde-2.9.3.tar.gz
$ cd abcde-2.9.3/

In this directory, there’s three shell scripts, abcde, abcde-musicbrainz-tool, and cddb-tool. You can copy the scripts to your preferred location. To use abcde-musicbrainz-tool, you’ll need to install the MusicBrainz::DiscID Perl module.

Next page: Page 2 – In Operation

Pages in this article:
Page 1 – Introduction / Installation
Page 2 – In Operation
Page 3 – Encoders
Page 4 – Other Features
Page 5 – Summary

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