Tutorial - How to import CDs

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Audacity does not contain any function for importing (ripping) audio from CDs. This can, however, be achieved by using other programs to extract the data into a file format Audacity does support.

Importing data from CDs

Users new to audio editing are often surprised to find that they cannot import the audio from CDs into Audacity with the File > Import > Audio command. In fact, most operating systems don't actually allow the import of data from the CD tracks into applications, because audio CDs don't have files or a file system like computer media, but consist essentially of a stream of bits on the disc. That is why when you look at an audio CD in a file manager like Windows Explorer, each CD track will appear only as a small .cda "file" 44 bytes in size, which is merely header information for the stream.

In order to import tracks from an audio CD, you must first usually extract (or "rip") the tracks to a WAV or AIFF audio file using CD extraction software; then you can import those WAV or AIFF files into Audacity with the usual File > Import > Audio command.

Warning icon Do not extract the CD to smaller-sized MP3 format if you want to edit the audio in Audacity, because every time you export an MP3 file, some of the quality is lost. Extract to WAV or AIFF which are lossless. You can always export to MP3 from Audacity after editing, but do that only once for the finished audio.


For users on Windows, CDex is a fully featured CD extraction program which can extract to the WAV format you need for editing the audio in Audacity.

In the CDex window, simply select the CD tracks you want to extract to WAV and press F8 or Convert > Extract CD track(s) to WAV file. Normally, every CD track will be extracted to its own audio file, but CDex also has a nice feature that lets you extract any range of audio (including all of it) to a single file. So if you want to extract a sample of two CD tracks that starts in the middle of one track and ends in the middle of another, you can. To do this, select Convert > Extract a section of the CD or press F10.

Make sure you know where to look for the exported WAV files when you import them into Audacity. By default CDex saves the WAV to one of your Documents and Settings folders for whatever account you are logged into at the time. Choose Options > Settings or shortcut F4 then click on General > Directories & files. Look in the second text box from the top (marked ".WAV -> MP3") and you will see the location where it saves its output files from CD extraction or file conversion.

Alternative ripping applications:
  • You can also extract audio CDs to WAV with Windows Media Player 11 (click Tools > Options > Rip Music and choose "WAV (Lossless)" in the Format dropdown in "Rip Settings"). Earlier versions of Windows Media Player are not appropriate for extracting CD audio for editing in Audacity, because they are unable to extract to WAV.
  • You can use the Windows version of iTunes (which is free to download) to extract audio CDs to WAV or AIFF.


OS X users have a quick way to import CDs, because when a CD is put in the drive, the CDA tracks are mounted as AIFF files in the Finder. It's thus possible to either drag the AIFF files from the Finder into Audacity, or use the File > Import > Audio command, instead of extracting the audio.

Warning icon If you import CD tracks into Audacity from Finder and save them as a Project, the CD must be present next time you open the Project, unless you set Audacity to make a copy of the data. To do this choose Audacity > Preferences: Import / Export and where it says "When importing audio files...", check the radio button: Image of selected radio button Make a copy of uncompressed audio files before editing (safer).

Another possibility is to use Max, a free software CD ripping and encoding application. It has full support for encoding into the FLAC lossless audio format. Click here for help adding FLAC support to iTunes.


On Linux or other Unix-like systems you can use K3b for the KDE desktop or RipperX or Sound Juicer for GNOME. Or use any built-in CD extraction utility that comes with the distribution.

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