HOWTO: Convert audio CDs to m4a using EAC, QAAC, and iTunes
Published on 2015/04/05 by Igor Levicki
This article does not condone piracy — the instructions provided are meant solely for making your legally purchased audio CDs available in your iTunes music collection.
If you have some audio CDs which you would like to make available in your iTunes music collection so you can listen to them on your iPhone or iPad, then this article is for you.
iTunes music is nothing but AAC encoded audio in an MPEG-4 Audio container (file extension .m4a). To get from CD audio track to .m4a file the pre-requisites are:
The reason you need iTunes is because QAAC is a command-line tool which uses iTunes CoreAudioToolbox component to compress audio into AAC format. If you have iPhone or iPad the chances are that you already have iTunes installed. If you don't use iTunes then don't worry, you don't have to install the full package, just one of its components.
Start by downloading and installing 7-Zip archiver, then proceed to download iTunes setup. Once iTunes download is complete, right-click on the executable and choose 7-Zip->Open Archive. In the 7-Zip window which appears select and extract AppleApplicationSupport.msi and AppleApplicationSupport64.msi files to a temporary folder. If your PC is running under 32-bit operating system, double-click on AppleApplicationSupport.msi to install it. Under 64-bit operating system you can use either of those two packages, just make a mental note which one you decided to use because you will need to know that in the following step.
Next, download the latest version of QAAC and extract it from the .zip archive into a temporary folder then do one of the following depending on which Apple Application Support package you have installed:
- If you installed AppleApplicationSupport.msi and your PC is running under 32-bit operating system then create a folder QAAC in C:Program Files, and copy the contents of the x86 folder which you extracted from QAAC .zip archive into it.
- If you installed AppleApplicationSupport.msi and your PC is running under 64-bit operating system then create a folder QAAC in C:Program Files (x86), and copy the contents of the x86 folder which you extracted from QAAC .zip archive into it.
- if you installed AppleApplicationSupport64.msi then create a folder QAAC in C:Program Files, and copy the contents of the x64 folder which you extracted from QAAC .zip archive into it.
Proceed by installing Exact Audio Copy and when you launch the application in its Configuration Wizard choose that you prefer accurate results over speed. Choose song naming pattern from the list (iTunes uses Artist NameAlbum Name 1 Track Name format) and leave the compression options at their defaults for now.
Once Configuration Wizard is finished, select EAC->Compression Options... (or press F11 key). In a compression options window which appears select External Compression tab, check the box Use external program for compression and from a drop-down list select User Defined Encoder. In Use file extension edit box enter .m4a, then click Browse... and select either QAAC.exe or QAAC64.exe, depending on your previous choice of Apple Application Support package.
In Additional command-line options edit box enter the following:
--no-smart-padding -v%bitrate% -q2 --title="%title%" --artist="%artist%" --album="%albumtitle%" --composer="%composer%" --genre="%genre%" --date="%year%" --track="%tracknr1%/%numtracks%" --disk="%cdnumber%/%totalcds%" --tag="too:" --tag="stik:1" --tag="rtng:0" %hascover%--artwork=%coverfile%%hascover% %haslyrics%--lyrics=%lyricsfile%%haslyrics% %source% -o %dest%
This list of options will pass the proper tags from Exact Audio Copy and embed them into the final .m4a file, including the lyrics and cover art if available. Here is what some of the more obscure options do:
- --no-smart-padding will make sure the resulting bitstream is identical to the one which you would get by using iTunes for encoding
- --tag="too:" will suppress the annoying "Encoded with QAAC..." signature added to each file
- --tag="stik:1" will set content type to Music
- --tag="rtng:0" will set the content rating to None — you can also set it to Clean (2) or Explicit (4) if you want
If you want to match iTunes Plus quality you should select 256kBit/s from the Bit rate drop-down list. Radio buttons High quality and Low quality do not matter, because we are always using the best quality (-q2). Finally, check the boxes Delete WAV after compression and Check for external programs return code and click the Ok button to remember those settings.
You can now insert an audio CD and try copying one song to make sure everything works as expected. One important thing to note for those who obsess over album metadata is that --artist option (which is mapped to Track Artist in Exact Audio Copy) is shown as Performer in iTunes, so make sure that for compilation CDs you leave the CD Artist blank, and enter the list of individual artists/performers into the Artist column of each track instead.
If you don't care about storage space and want to encode your music for archival purposes using lossless compression, instead of -v%bitrate% and -q2 options you should use -A option which will create ALAC compliant .m4a file.
That's all folks, enjoy your music.