While there are many free programs that can rip CD’s and perform audio file conversions, many of them do not support multi-core processing. For most modern PC’s this means that the software does not utilize the full processing power of your machine, resulting in longer encoding and conversion times (significantly longer if, say, you were processing a large audio library).
Fre:ac is a versatile, free, and feature-rich audio converter and CD ripper with multi-core optimized encoders. It can convert to/from most major audio types (MP3, MP4/M4A, WMA, Ogg Vorbis, FLAC, AAC, WAV, and Bonk). Other functions include ripping audio CDs and downloading metadata from online sources (CDDB/freedb), playlist creation, and encoding into a single file. (Note that the program used to be called BonkEnc before the name was changed).
I found out about this program when I received the following email from a reader: “I recently did a big project of moving all my AAC files to OGG to use on my Droid. I found every audio encoder, including the one you have recommended [Any Audio Converter] to be so slow. I found this one on SourceForge and I think it is much better and much faster. It actually supported multithreading on my machine.” (Thanks Kyle S).
It turns out this program was, in fact, the very first program I reviewed on Freewaregenius, except back then it was called BonkEnc. I am glad I was reminded of it, though, because I had been looking for an audio converter to add to the next update of my Top Freeware page, especially as one audio converter I liked, Xrecode, had become payware after I had reviewed it.
Fre:ac snapshot 20101205: this is the name of the latest beta of this program, which has tag editing functionality, offers a 64bit native version, and (presumably) also offers an integrated video downloading function from video sharing sites, in order to save downloaded videos and encode straight to audio file/MP3. (I say “presumably” because I couldn’t figure out how to use this function, if it exists at all). Unfortunately, this version would not work for me on Windows 7 64 bit, and crashed when I tested it (in the middle of encoding to Flac) . Keeping fingers crossed that an update will be offered soon.
Here’s a list of PROs and CONs:
- Optimized for multi-core PCs: which means you get to use the true potential of your PC.
- Self-contained: all encoders/decoders included, nothing to download and/or install separately.
- Unicode support: can perform ID3 tagging in unicode characters for non-latin song names.
- Nice interface: no nonsense, simple, functional.
- Portable: unzip and run without installing.
- The beta version didn’t work. Please fix it.
The verdict: this was a “Freewaregenius pick” when I first reviewed it when it used to be called BonkEnc, and it still is in its new guise. If you are looking for a standard, powerful freeware audio converter and CD ripper then I recommend you turn to Fre:ac (bad pun deliberate, I’m afraid). This program is rich in features, fast, nice looking, portable, and open source. What more could you ask for?
Version Tested: 1.0.17a
Compatibility: Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7; 32bit and 64bit. Linux support introduced in “Fre:ac snapshot 20101205″.
Go to the program home page to download the latest version (approx 6.7 megs).