"Optical USB drive for ripping"
(reminder of OP)
I appreciate the discussion so far, but since I am in same boat as OP, I will request some suggestions for devices that fall into the above category (there are none so far): a usb optical drive for ripping.
now, not to be a jerk (bad form for essentially my first post to forum in decade), let me add some parameters/thoughts:
it would seem that the most basic of basic drives today can handle this task given good software and patience of user; it is, after all, old tech. a better drive will have a better interface, i.e. a later and faster version of usb (2.0, 3.0, thunderbolt, which should help speeds) and then there would be the question of power supply and heat if one expects to do some long rip sessions. Would not want to do that powered off computer bus I'm thinking. So those 2 criteria as first filters.
As for secondary filters, we all want best quality for price and usually willing to spend more for better equipment, I would be curious about a stand alone desktop cd/dvd drive with enough heft, decent power supply, and quality laser to serve mainly as initial ripper but also an occasional live player and not one that might need replacement in short order owing to burning out after reading1000 cds. If that makes sense. And still a budget, more computer than audiophile, device.
I guess this might also be the place where people suggest an all in one device that rips and store and streams. That would fall into the "best" category in the good, better, best suggestions. I'm more interested in the good and better levels, good=a basic computer device that can extract data way upstream of the playback/dac, better being also capable of live play into a streamer or dac, with a steady decent laser, as noted.