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CDex is a tool for ripping CDs to your hard drive in several popular audio file formats.  It also allows you to convert between formats.  If you don't already have it installed, you can download it here from the official website.
http://cdex.mu/

 Once you have it installed, there are several options which should be configured before beginning the process of ripping your CDs.  Initially this may seem somewhat tedious, but after you've configured these settings for the first time, in general you shouldn't have to worry about them again.  Although CDex can rip discs to several audio formats, I will focus on ripping to MP3 since it is most commonly used.  After installing CDex you should have shortcuts to the program on the Desktop and in a group labeled
"CDex"
which can be found on the Start menu under
"Programs"
or
"All Programs"
depending on how your Start menu is configured and the version of Windows you are running.  The first time the program runs, it's possible that you may receive the following error:

CDex
Failed to load the wnaspi32.dll driver!
Use the "Native NT SCSI library" driver option instead?
Yes No

Select the
"Yes"
button and the program should open.  When the program first opens, the focus is placed in a listview that displays the list of tracks for the disc which is currently in your CD reader.  The list is empty if there is no disc in the drive.  Even if there is a disc in the drive, the list may only display track numbers until the
"Remote freedb"
section is configured which is discussed later in this tutorial.

The first thing you'll want to do is configure the program.  The
"CDex configuration"
dialog can be accessed either by navigating to the
"Options"
menu and selecting the item labeled
"Settings"
or by using the F4 function key.  When the
"CDex configuration"
dialog opens, the
"Encoders"
section is initially selected which is convenient since this is the first item which should probably be configured.  There are many options in the
"CDex configuration" dialog,
too many to describe in great detail so I am going to focus only on those which are strictly necessary and relevant.  Please leave all other settings alone for now unless you are sure what they do.  If you have questions about any other settings which I haven't discussed, you can always ask later.  The
"Encoders"
section is where you choose and configure the default encoder which CDex will use for ripping discs and converting files.  I would suggest that you modify the following settings in the order which I list them since certain options are dependent on other settings being selected first before they become available.  Tab to the
"Encoder"
combo box and choose the
"Lame MP3 Encoder".
By default it is already selected.  Note that if you want to rip your discs to another audio format such as FLAC, this combo box is where you should select the corresponding encoder.  For example, choose the item labeled
"FLAC Encoder DLL"
to use FLAC as the default output format.  I will assume that you are familiar with the associated settings if you select a format other than MP3 and you can skip the rest of this section since it involves choosing settings for the MP3 format.  Now find the combo box labeled
"Quality"
and choose
"Very High Quality ( q=0 )".
Next locate the combo box labeled
"VBR Method"
and choose
"Disabled".
VBR stands for
"Variable Bitrate".
Whether files encoded using VBR or CBR (which stands for
"Constant Bitrate")
produce better audio quality is a subject which is heavily debated.  However, since there are several algorithms for implementing VBR to choose from and it is partially a matter of preference, it is simpler to work with constant bitrates unless you're very familiar with the various VBR modes.  Next find the combo box labeled
"Bitrate Min"
and select
"192".
You can choose a higher bitrate if you wish.  This will result in slightly improved audio quality, but will also increase the size of the generated files.  192 is a good compromise.  I would not recommend setting the bitrate any lower than 192 if the material you are ripping is music.  This is another heavily debated subject, but generally a bitrate of 192 is considered approximately CD quality for the MP3 format.  If the material you are ripping is spoken audio or quality is not very important, you can set the bitrate as low as you like.  Although 64 might be a good compromise.  If you tab once at this point when the
"Bitrate Min"
combo box has focus, you'll land on a radio button which allows you to select the stereo mode.  It has 4 choices.
"Stereo", "J-stereo", "Forced Stereo", and "Mono".
If you're using a bitrate of 192 or higher,
"Stereo"
is the recommended setting.  If you're using a bitrate of 160 or lower,
"J-stereo"
is recommended.  You can select
"Mono"
if the material you are ripping is not in stereo.  After this radio button, there are four checkboxes.
"Private", "Checksum", "Original", and "Copyright".
The first three,
"Private", "Original", and "Copyright"
do not impact the audio quality in any way shape or form.  They are simply flags which are applied to the generated MP3 files.  The
"Checksum"
option provides an extra layer of error protection, but it also slightly reduces audio quality so I recommend leaving it unchecked.  These are all of the settings which need to be modified in the
"Encoders"
section.

Now let's move on to the
"Remote freedb"
section.  These are the settings which are responsible for retrieving album and track titles from one of the online CDDB databases.  There are generally only a couple of settings which need to be modified in this section.  Tab to the edit field which is labeled
"Your E-mail address".
Type in an E-mail address.  It does not have to be a valid address, but you do have to provide one.  Now locate the checkbox labeled
"Auto connect to remote freedb"
and check it.  That's it.  We're done with the settings in this section.  Now every time you insert a new audio disc into the drive, CDex will automatically look up album and track data for that CD.  Assuming the disc can be found in the database, CDex will then apply that information to the track list in the main window, file names, and ID3 tags when you rip the disc.

Now navigate to the
"Directories & files"
section.  In this section you can control the formatting of the file names which CDex generates and select the default output folders for newly created files.  Generally the default settings in this section should be sufficient for most users.  Later you can learn more about advanced file name generation using identifiers by reading the help file.  The only settings you may wish to change here are the default output folders.  If you tab around you'll find two read-only edit fields labeled
"WAV -> MP3"
and
"Recorded Tracks".
They display the currently selected output folders.
"WAV -> MP3"
is the default folder where converted audio files are saved.
"Recorded Tracks"
is the default folder where tracks ripped from CDs are saved.  If you press the Enter key while either one of these fields has focus, you'll be presented with a browse dialog which will allow you to choose a new output folder.  Select your preferred folders or use the defaults.  By default CDex will use the folder
\Users\<UserName>\Music\
to store newly created files.  We're done with the
"Directories & files"
section.

Finally, navigate to the
"CD Drive settings"
section.  We're almost done.  In this section you can modify all the settings related to your CD drive.  In the combo box labeled
"CD Drive"
you can choose the default drive CDex will use for ripping discs if you have more than one.  You can also activate the checkbox labeled
"Eject CD when ripping has been completed"
which will give you an indication of when the program has finished copying selected tracks.  That's it. To save your settings and exit the
"CDex configuration"
dialog, select the
"OK"
button.  Now we can get on with ripping some CDs.  Just a tip, if you want to backup the CDex settings so that you don't have to go through all of that again in an emergency, you can backup the CDex.ini file.  It's located in the folder
\Users\<UserName>\AppData\Local\CDex
and it contains all of the CDex settings.  If you ever need to reinstall CDex for any reason, you can just copy this file back into the same folder and your settings will be restored.

Now you should be back in the CDex main window.  Insert an audio CD into your drive and wait a few seconds.  At this point, CDex will attempt to locate album/track data for the disc.  If it finds more than one match for a particular disc, you will be presented with a list of results and you can just select the one which seems most likely.  When the data is successfully loaded, you should see the names of the tracks in the listview.  If you tab around you'll notice that there are also data fields for
"Artist", "Album", "Genre", and "Year".
You can fill these in manually if necessary before ripping the disc.  You can also edit the selected track name in the list by selecting
"Rename track"
from the
"Edit"
menu or using the F2 key.  When you're done editing the name for the selected track, you can either press Escape to return to the track list or Enter which will activate the next track name for editing.  Remember that retrieving album/track data will only work for commercially produced CDs.  The program cannot locate data for discs which have been created by you or a third party.  Very rarely, even commercial discs cannot be located using this method.  Of course, you can always enter the data manually for those rare discs that are not found in the database.  When you're done making any necessary changes, you can begin ripping the disc.  First, select the tracks in the list that you wish to extract.  If you want to extract the entire disc, use the shortcut Control+A to highlight everything.  By default, CDex selects all of the tracks on the disc, but items may become unselected as you navigate the list.  You can begin the ripping process either by selecting
"Extract CD track(s) to a Compressed Audio File"
from the
"Convert"
menu or using the keyboard shortcut F9.  This option will rip the disc to which ever audio format is configured as the default in the
"Encoders"
section of the
"CDex configuration"
dialog.  Now sit back and wait for CDex to finish ripping your CD.  When it's done, repeat the procedure for the next disc.  If you have a reasonably fast machine, you should be able to perform other tasks without noticing much of an impact.  If you notice your machine becoming abnormally sluggish during the ripping process, there's something that you can try which might help.  Go back to the
"CDex configuration"
and in the
"Encoders"
section locate the combo box labeled
"Thread Priority".
By default it is set to
"Normal".
Try setting it to
"Below Normal"
and see if it makes a difference.  Lowering the thread priority means that CDex will take longer to finish, but it also means that you'll be able to do other things while it's working so it is a bit of a tradeoff.

I hope this all helps and good luck.  If you have any questions, feel free to post them on Tech Talk.

Carlos