Backup CDs

Don’t throw out your CDs yet. If you, like me, have mostly made the switch over to online music, you may be thinking your days of keeping actual media around are over. However, one thing you may or may not be aware of is that often online music is tied to a subscription or account. End the subscription or account and you may no longer have access to the music.

So, before switching over you probably amassed a sizable CD collection that is now collecting dust. Maybe you’re still buying CDs from artists you see at music festivals. (Which by the way pays them better than from any streaming service.) Wouldn’t you love to have that CD on your phone to listen to whenever you want without incurring data costs and without worrying about subscriptions?

Some preamble: I am not a lawyer. I cannot give legal advice. It is my understanding that under Canadian law Bill C-32 and Section 80 of the Copyright Act, making private copies and “format shifting” of musical works that you legally own is allowed. I could be wrong. This is Mrs. Answer Guy’s default position. If in doubt contact a lawyer.

With that out of the way, here’s what you’re going to need to put those old CDs on your phone for your next road trip. You’ll need iTunes on your computer. You can download iTunes for Windows from

First, let’s set your preferences. Open iTunes -> Edit -> Preferences -> General. Then next to ‘When you insert a CD:’ select ‘Ask to Import CD’ and in Import Settings choose Apple Lossless Encoder. Make sure ‘Use error correction when reading Audio CDs’ is checked. OK. Now check that ‘Automatically retrieve CD track names from Internet’ is checked.

I advocate using Apple Lossless Encoder. It makes a near-perfect copy of each track. It does, however, take up a lot of space. Most radio-length songs will run around 12 – 18 MB per song. If you’re planning on storing a lot of CDs on your phone you may not need or want to have the full lossless file on your phone.

In exchange for reducing quality slightly in favour of saving space, you may choose a lower quality setting for the actual copy on your phone. I think 256kpbs is a good setting. It reduces file size from lossless by about half and the quality is still high enough that unless you’re an actual music producer you probably won’t hear any difference.

When you plug your phone in it should appear in iTunes. At the top left, there’s a small icon that looks like a phone. Select that and a page should show the settings for your phone. Choose Summary. At the bottom of the Summary page, you’ll see a setting ‘Convert higher bit rate songs to’ with a drop-down dialogue box. Check the box and choose 256kbps.

Now choose Music under Settings on the left. Check the Sync Music box on the page. Now you can just leave Entire Music Library checked and then whenever you rip a CD it will be added to your phone on the next sync. Or choose ‘Select playlists, artists, albums, and genres’ and then select which ones you want. Your choice.

Now you’re ready. You shouldn’t have to change any of those settings again.

Insert a CD. You should see a dialogue box pop-up asking if you’d like to import the CD. The CD Name and track names should be displayed behind the dialogue box. Say Yes to import.

Ripping a CD takes time. A lot of time. It runs fine in the background, so stack up the CDs you want to copy and through one in whenever you think about it and eventually, you’ll have them all.

Just for fun, want to see if you can tell the difference between various levels of encoding? Try NPR’s “Do you have the ears of an audio producer” quiz - tinyurl. com/3zr2e7fc.