If you have a stack of CDs sitting on your shelf, then chances are you aren’t maximizing the enjoyment of your entire music collection. Digitizing your music allows you to bring your collection virtually anywhere and it doesn’t require you pack extra suitcases filled with jewel cases. Follow along for tips on how to download and add music from CDs to iPhone, iPad and across all of your devices.

CDs to iPhone

Using iTunes To Rip Your CDs
iTunes is free and available for both Mac and PC. If you own an iPhone, chances are that you’ve already downloaded and installed iTunes. You can download the latest version of iTunes from Apple.

Settings for Import CD
iTunes offers a number of options for how it will import your CD. Years back when hard drive space was at a premium, it was increasingly important to conserve space. Now, that’s not so much an issue.

Tip: It does however become an issue when you are using an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch with limited capacity. A workaround is to subscribe and setup iTunes Match.

On a Mac
Navigate to iTunes > Preferences > General Preferences > Import Settings

Mac iTunes Import

On a PC
Navigate to Edit > Preferences > General Preferences > Import Settings

PC iTunes import

Both offer the option for what happens when you insert a CD.

  • Show CD
  • Begin Playing
  • Ask to Import CD
  • Import CD
  • Import CD and eject

I usually set mine to ‘Ask to Import CD’.

Tip: When ripping multiple CDs, change the setting to Import CD and eject. This will save you time and help you quickly add music to your library.

There are five different types of encoders. Both AAC (Advanced Audio Coding) and MP3 encoders offering multiple options, including the ability to set a custom setting. These are what are considered to be “lossy” compression, a data encoding method by which some of the data is discarded. If you are not an extreme audiophile, it’s doubtful that you’d be able to distinguish between lossy and non-lossy, unless it’s a terribly low rate of encoding. Dare I say, if you use a device not made by Apple, most will play either format without an issue.

Encoding formats

If you want CD quality and never plan on using your files outside of the Apple ecosystem, the Apple Lossless audio codec (ALAC) might be for you. These files us the .m4a file extension .

iTunes Plus

By default, Apple sets your encoding to use iTunes Plus at 256 kpbs (stereo). This is the same setting as iTunes Plus songs that are downloaded from Apple. These are AAC files.

Other options:

  • WAV: A Microsoft format that is normally uncompressed audio.
  • AIFF: This is a cross-platform friendly, non-compressed format.

Our Suggestion: If hard drive space and iOS device storage space is not a concern, opt for iTunes Plus. You won’t have to mess with any settings, you’ll be ensure good high-quality conversions and your music can be played on other non-Apple devices.

Matching Your Music
When you insert your CD, iTunes will attempt to match CD track names using the Gracenote Media Database. If all goes well, the songs imported will be titled correctly. If you selected  ‘Automatically download missing artwork’, then there is a good chance the artwork will also be part of your newly ripped music.

Ripping CD
Place the CD into your Mac or PC. Depending on the setting, you’ll likely be asked if you would like to Import CD or it will begin immediately. If it succesfully matched your music with the online database, all the tracks will be shown. If it does not, then you’ll want to tidy up the resulting files.

import cd itunes

Once you select Yes, iTunes will start the process of adding music to your library. Depending upon the speed of your CD/DVD drive, this could take roughly five to ten minutes. iTunes will provide you with an update once the track has been imported.

cds importing itunes

Tip: Select the songs you’ve just imported, but do not contain the proper information. Control-click (Mac) or right-click (PC) to bring up the contextual menu. Select Info. Type in the information that pertains to the album as a whole. You’ll want to individually click on each song thereafter to enter the track title.

edit song titles

Bonus Tip: If you’d like to import a select few songs, command-click to select them and drag them to the ‘Library’ section.

Triple Bonus Tip: If you are entering your own information, try selecting all the tracks within an album and dragging the album artwork from Amazon to the bottom left corner where it says “Drag Artwork Here”.

Cleaning Up Your iTunes Library
Over the years, your iTunes library can take on the virtual look of a messy storage closet with incorrectly titled tracks, duplicates and missing artwork. There are paid apps such as TuneUp and RinseMyMusic, but I’ve always had great success with the free tools at Doug’s AppleScripts (Mac only). For duplicates, I’d highly recommend using Dupin.

If you have songs that were ripped at a lower quality bitrate, you can use iTunes Match to upgrade the audio quality of your songs.

Taking the time to rip and download your CDs into iTunes will allow you to experience your music on all of your digital devices and iCloud. The cost of hard drive storage is so low, that it’s easy to rip high quality versions of your music. Using iTunes Match and iCloud, you can get by the storage space restrictions of today’s iPhones. In due time, that will pass. Encode your music not only for today’s devices, but those of tomorrow.