I’ve got a huge collection of music, and I still haven’t ripped all my CDs; in addition, I regularly buy new CDs, and rip them as soon as I get them. So when I got a new Mac Pro, I was hoping that the iTunes import speed would be substantially higher than on my previous Mac, an iMac G5. Alas, it wasn’t much faster; I got from about 8x to a maximum of 16x on the iMac—the speeds on the Mac Pro are about the same.
There are some ways you can increase ripping speed slightly, such as turning off error correction (although you risk getting diginoise in your music files), and quitting extraneous applications to make sure that iTunes gets as much CPU time as possible.
But with a Mac Pro, there’s another option available: Add a second optical drive. The built-in DVD burner reads CDs at up to 32x; this translates, on my Mac Pro, to an average of about 15x ripping in iTunes. So I bought a cheap CD-R drive (not a DVD/CD drive) that reads CDs at up to 52x. The results are stunning: I now rip CDs at an average of more than 30x, hitting more than 40x at the end of the disc. (Ripping speeds are always slower at the beginning of a CD, because the CD itself turns at the same speed, but since there is less data per revolution near the middle, at the beginning of the CD, the drive simply reads less data.) The only downside to this is the noise that the drive makes, but at less than 2 minutes per CD, it’s more than acceptable.
With two CD drives, you might think you could rip two CDs at the same time. Well, you can, but you need a trick to do so. iTunes can only rip one CD at a time, but if you have a second account, and open a copy of iTunes in that account, you’ll be able to rip a second CD. You can then switch from one account to another if you want to have a marathon ripping party. You may also be able to rip a second CD in one account if you use another program—try the free Max, which can rip music in lots of different formats.
Note : This will obviously work on any other Mac that supports dual optical drives; you could also connect an external FireWire CD drive, but the throughput may not be enough to make a difference.