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RipNAS Essentials – Automated CD Ripping with WHS
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by Greg King on April 15, 2009 in Audio, Windows

Having a home server can bring obvious benefits, but what if it could do more than just sit there? If you’re a music buff, then you may be interested in an audio CD ripping solution from Illustrate, called RipNAS. Pop in a disc, and minutes later it will be available for streaming. It couldn’t be more simple, but is it worth the $45 asking price?

How It Works, Testing & Final Thoughts

Once installed, the RipNAS software integrates directly into the Windows Home Server console. Along the top of the window, you have your basic functions including connected computers and their respective backups, user accounts, shard folders, server storage, overall network health and the RipNAS software icon.

Once on the RipNAS tab, displayed is a list of your previously ripped albums and whether or not each album experienced errors in the ripping process. While settings are sparse compared to the full-blown version of dBpoweramp, you do have the choice of ripping your music quickly, or slowing things down in an effort to silence the process as much as possible. Depending upon your drive – in my case, a generic Lite-On DVD-R/W – the software did a sufficient job in quieting down the ripping by slowing the speed down to a rather pedestrian 4x.

To begin the ripping process, all that is required is to put the CD in the server’s drive, close it and the software takes over from there. RipNAS will automatically reach out to four different meta data providers with PerfectMeta, download the data for that album (including album art) and then begin to rip the disc. While this is completely painless, you are going to want to edit the settings before you do anything.

In the upper right corner of the WHS console, there is a settings button. Clicking on this will bring up your settings page (naturally), allowing you to change the format which your music is ripped to and the bit rate that you rip it at if you’re using any form of compression. I personally rip everything to MP3 using LAME at 320 kbit/s. I have the available storage, but I personally don’t need lossless music, so I compress it to 320 and call it a day.

If MP3 isn’t your cup of tea, RipNAS also offers the ability to rip your music into both Apple Lossless and FLAC if storage is of no concern, or if you are an audiophile. As we mentioned earlier, I am no audiophile and have been ripping my music to MP3 for a long time now, so for the sake continuity and space, I still use the tried and true compressed format. So, if you’re like me, you can just choose LAME to get your music into digital form. Also available is Wave (bit-for-bit lossless) and Windows Media Audio 10.

You also have the ability to control where your music is placed once ripped. By default on WHS systems, it will place it into your music share, allowing your music to be available for streaming as soon as a song is ripped.

The process is as simple as that. There is really little effort involved. Once you have your settings in place, it literally as easy as putting in your disk and closing the drive. That’s it. Nothing more. Offering integration with SqueezeCenter, iTunes and Asset UPnP software, if you’re using your WHS as a media hub and you use any of these programs, your good to go right out of the box.

Final Thoughts

Without working with the RipNAS hardware, I cannot comment on it in any way other than my own personal opinions based solely on what I have read and the pricing of the goods. For what you get, the pricing of the RipNAS places it squarely in the premium segment of the market. What you are getting though, judging by what I’ve read, is what we assume a solid Home Server with a plethora of media streaming capabilities.

Having only worked with the software, and using WHS installed on my own personal hardware, I can say that unless you are in love with styling or plan on showing off your RipNAS in your entertainment center, I see no reason to spend the money on the hardware when you can build your own WHS for far less. The only real downside, of course, will be the much larger size.

Instead, if you’re truly interested in WHS, build your own system and then purchase the RipNAS Essentials software separately. Illustrate is a highly respected software provider in the audio community and while not the entire package, the RipNAS WHS integration is truly a great addition to the overall home server experience.

There is a catch, however. Illustrate sells three versions of their RipNAS Essentials, and the one I took a look at here is the least-expensive, as it’s only the software. The other two versions cost considerably more, but include arguably the best external ROM drive available, which assures you’ll have the most accurate rips possible.

The difference between those two bundles is that one includes secure ripping abilities while the other doesn’t, and that’s a $40 premium. This is a huge letdown, given that the $35 dBpoweramp does offer that ability to people. What it means to you is that if you’re ripping a scratched CD, you may very well rip glitchy audio.

But past that, our overall experience with Illustrate’s RipNAS software has been pleasant and we like what they are doing. There is little more than 5 minutes in between installation of the software and completion of your first album. The settings page provides you with enough options to keep most people happy, and the ease of use is something that we haven’t seen from anyone in a very long time. As we have said, you just put in a CD, close your drive and RipNAS does the rest.

If you have a large amount of CDs that you’re looking to archive, and you use WHS as a central media hub, the purchase of this software is truly a no-brainer.

    Pros

  • Easy to use.
  • Affordable at $45.
  • Multitude of available formats.
  • Seamless integration into Windows Home Server.
    Cons

  • Many free alternatives available if integration isn’t of a concern.
  • No secure ripping on non-bundled version.

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1. Introduction
2. How It Works, Testing & Final Thoughts