Audiobook Builder and errors importing from a CD

If you see an error when importing from an audio CD, that’s almost always a sign your Mac detected a hardware error while reading data from the disc.  You can usually confirm this by opening /Applications/Utilities/Console.app, clicking the system.log item in the list of logs on the left, then using the Filter field at the top right of the window to find terms like “I/O“,”SAM Multimedia“, or “underrun“.  Each term is bad juju when interacting with a CD/DVD drive.  Even if you don’t see these in your logs, keep reading.

Here’s how to zero in on why an error appears:

  1. The disc you’re importing may be dirty or damaged.  Eject it and, if it’s not obviously scratched, give it a cleaning with a soft cloth – making sure you wipe in gentle, straight strokes from the center hole to the outer edge.  Do not wipe in a circular motion.  If the disc still doesn’t work, it may be damaged in a way you can’t see with the naked eye.  Do other discs work?  If so, it’s probably just this disc.  The next step might work.  If none of your discs are working, though, you might have a hardware issue, like failing cabling or even a bum CD/DVD drive.
  2. Try importing into Music or iTunes with error correction enabled.  For Music users, open Music, go to the Music menu at the top left of your screen and click the Preferences… menu item, click the Files button at the top of the window, then click the Import Settings… button near the bottom left of the window. For iTunes users, open iTunes, go to the iTunes menu at the top left of your screen and click the Preferences… menu item, click the General button at the top of the window, then click the Import Settings… button near the bottom right of the window. Now, in either application, make sure there’s a checkmark next to “Use error correction” and click the OK button.  Try importing the disc and, if it works, drag the imported tracks from Music or iTunes to your Audiobook Builder Project.  If the disc still won’t import, you’ve either got a bum disc or a piece of bum hardware.
  3. Last ditch – see what happens when you go to the Finder and try to drag all the tracks from the disc to your Desktop.  Do you get an error?  If so, the disc is in question.  Try the same thing with several other discs.  If they copy over just fine, you’re back to looking at the CD/DVD drive or your Mac’s connection to it.

Importing from a flaky audio CD or with a questionable piece of hardware is tricky business – and it can get confusing because, darn those moving parts and analog to digital conversions, sometimes things work and sometimes they don’t.  Heck, the discs might even play just fine – but reading each track’s data, bit for bit, is a much more intense process.  Remember, we’re talking about tiny light rays expected to reflect just-so while one or more motors – one in the CD/DVD drive itself and maybe one in your Mac – are vibrating the disc.  Throw in the potential for some small issue with the way the disc was made or scratches (lovingly?) applied by others, and you’ve got a recipe for inconsistent results.  A troublesome setup might appear to work just fine a few times with the same disc, then fail a few times, then seem to work again.  That’s because the hardware might try more than once to read data from a particular part of the disc and succeed sometimes and fail other times, and that’s why it’s critical to both observe behavior and dig deeper by examining your system logs, where you’ll see whether your Mac experienced any actual errors even while it seemed to be performing just fine.  Don’t draw a conclusion until you’ve tested several discs.  If more than a few fail, and especially if you see errors in your system log, it’s probably time to schedule some quality time with an Apple-certified technician.

This is an updated version of an article we posted back in 2015 for the original Audiobook Builder. If you have Audiobook Builder 1.5.7 or earlier, read that article here.

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