Ripping CDs is still the best.
Rip a CD to FLAC files and you’ll get better sound than from any other format (e.g. MP3, Windows Media Audio [WMA] – or Apple’s AAC). You’ll need a player that will play FLAC (they are out there but there aren’t many) or you’ll need the Rockbox firmware for your iPod.
I love FLAC (the files are huge compared to mp3 but if you’ve got a good home stereo, you will notice the difference)
I don’t own an iPod or anything from it’s competition myself. I’ve never seen a need for one. But I like having FLAC and (some) MP3 files because my computer is my “home stereo” (I invested in good speakers). And I’ve got an external hard drive that’s my “digital jukebox”. It’s a 250 GB drive that right now has about 150GB of music on it.
85% of those files are files I ripped from CDs. CDs are still the best.
Why? Well, you get a permanent backup if your hard drive dies or your mp3 player gets lost or stolen (yeah, I suppose you can back up your iTunes stuff to CD/DVD but even then it’s on a recordable disk that can end up with corrupted data – and it’s still fucked up with DRM).
But mostly the thing for me is, I’m old school (and old). I remember buying records in the 1970s and I actually read the liner notes.
I like liner notes and you don’t get that if you buy your music from iTunes or Amazonmp3 (or steal it). You do get them if you buy CDs (although you often need a magnifying glass to read them – but at least they are there).
I have used both iTunes and Amzonmp3 and there’s no question, Amazon is superior. But they are both best for that song you like but you don’t want an whole album/CD.
Another great electronic download option is eMusic (which is #2 (!) in online download music music sales). A lot of people don’t know they exist but those of us who do love them).
eMusic (like Amazon) offers high-quality DRM-free MP3s for download. The difference is, you pay a subscription fee instead of buying each individual track (or album). However, the tracks are yours forever. It’s not “renting” like you do with others like Rhapsody or Yahoo! Music Engine.
eMusic is a great bargain. The catch is most of their music is not stuff you’ll hear on the Radio, or see on the Billboard charts. It’s indie stuff, but in many different genres.
They also have a lot of “catalog” stuff by artists that are well known (or used to be).
But I digress…
iTunes is for people who are too ignorant to know any better. DRM sucks ass.
if you are a iTunes fan, your best option is to switch to buying CDS – and/or go with amazonmp3.
Oh wait… there is good old fashioned stealing music on the Internet, but most of what you get there is crap (from 14-year olds who know nothing about ripping a CD to a good quality mp3 – let alone FLAC). I soured on stealing music several years ago).
But when it comes to whole albums, nothing beats buying the CD. That beats amzonmp3 (and most definitely iTunes) any day.