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When I say "digital", I mean that some newer CD player software has the option of using the analogue cable or digital extraction. In a sense, digital extraction *does* mean ripping the sound, but only because the software reads the data directly from the CD and does the sound mixing in system memory. The major advantage is that most CDROM drives only have an 8- or 12-bit DAC, whereas newer sound cards usually have at least a 16-bit DAC (digital-analogue converter). That's where the "16" in SoundBlaster 16 came from, to give you an idea of how old that technology is. For CD Audio, 12-bit is more than enough, but for DVD audio and multi-channel CD-DA, it's not even close. So you do the decoding in software, and use what your sound card is capable of. Most of the time, you won't hear a difference, but if you're listening to something that's recorded in 5.1 and your sound card/speakers are capable of it, you'll actually get the 5.1 instead of the 2.0 downmix that the CDROM produces.
For Analogue mode, the CDROM drive is doing the digital-analogue conversion, and then uses an audio patch cable to plug into your sound card. This audio cable is pretty flimsy, and connects the CDROM directly to the sound card. Until fairly recently (around 5 years ago), this was the only way to play CDs on a computer, largely because there was no need for better sound, and there was no reason to tie up system resources on audio decoding when the CDROM was perfectly capable of doing it in firmware. In everything I've bothered to check except Windows Media Player, analogue is still the default. Anyway, in analogue mode, your CDROM is doing the audio decoding, and the signal is carried through a pair of copper wires into your soundcard's input, and from there maybe amplified but otherwise sent directly to the speakers without modification. If either the cable or the connector at either end is defective, you'll have a problem with sound. Not to say that wouldn't cause a problem in digital mode, either, but the problem would be more than just sound.