View Full Version : iTunes, iPod and music format questions
Preface: I am both a Mac and digital music n00b. New iMac's status is presently "Sent to Manufacture". Also, I have just bought an iPod Shuffle. In the course of messing around with iTunes on my work PC and reading the AN threads and other materials regarding these matters I still have a mumber of questions. Any help with them is much appreciated. :)
1. Format. What are practical (or other) considerations of uploading CDs into iTunes in AAC, MP3 or other formats (NB. I have just installed a new radio in my [old] car and it plays MP3 and WMV formats, but I don’t see a reference to AAC; also, as noted, I have a new iPod Shuffle, which I will transfer songs to.) Preferably, I'd like to upload in the most convenient manner without sacrificing too much quality.
2. iTunes. Two of the six albums I have uploaded (AAC default) to iTunes on a work PC (actually two from the same band) have approximately every other song listed as “Not available”. I re-uploaded the album in MP3 format, not over-writing, and strangely some of the not available songs appeared while others did not (and are still listed as not available). What's going on?
3. iTunes. Now the iTunes screen for these albums show both uploads and is rather unsightly; is there a way to get it to show only one of the two versions?
3. iPod Shuffle – should I wait for my new Mac to be delivered before I plug it into a computer for the first time, or is it OK to plug it into my work PC before my Mac arrives? I’d like to use the file storing feature in the next couple of weeks, but can wait if the change from PC to Mac “confuses” or otherwise messes with the Shuffle (The licensing agreement on the disc that came with the new Shuttle has legal mumbo jumbo that was patently ambiguous.)
1. MP3 is the most versatile format, and the difference to AAC at the same bitrate is very small. Also, since your car stereo won't play AAC, it's the logical format of choice, anyway.
2. Just delete the files you have several times. I can't tell you why some didn't show up - but you could simply try deleting all the files from one album, and rip it again.
3. No problem plugging your Shuffle into your PC. It will work on both the PC and the Mac.
Thanks ghoti, that's very helpful. :)
Re bit rate for uploading or burning, is there a consensus about what is good quality, as I see rates listed in the Preferences as 128, 160, and 192.
Edit. Oh, re point 2 and deleting the files - is there any reason that one would keep both AAC files and MP3 files?
Man, I've got questions, it's like popcorn in my head: what about buying music frim the iTunes store - it comes in AAC no? Does that mean that I could not burn a disc for my car stereo of music that I bought from iTunes or is AAC convertible/saveable as MP3.
And is burning and ripping the same thing in digital music/DVD world? Or is one legal and the other not?
128kbps is a kind of standard, and is pretty good - especially for listening to in the car. If you are serious about quality, you should look into VBR (variable bitrate), which adjusts the bitrate so that it maintains a consistent quality, depending on what the music is currently doing (i.e., less information in silent parts, etc.)
I don't see a reason for keeping both types of files. It's only annoying having them around ;)
You are right about iTunes music not playing on your car stereo. Welcome to the wonderful world of file formats and DRM! ;) You can convert AAC to MP3, but you will lose some quality. Again, for the car, I wouldn't worry about that at all.
I don't want to comment too much on the legality of ripping, because I am not a lawyer. However, since you are not circumventing a copy protection system (as you do with DVDs), it should be less of a problem. Besides, it's ridiculous to not be able to listen to music you have bought the way you want to. And unless you start sharing that music on the 'net, there won't be problems.
i myself prefer 128 because i have a 20gig and after you start to get a lot of songs building up, that extra space you can save instead of going with say 192 will be quite noticeable, i dunno if it would have much effect on the shuffle though because isnt only like 1 gig or something to that effect?
there is another possibility. does your car stereo have an AUX input? if it does, you could jsut forgo the cd burning and plug your shuffle straight into that
aac does sound a lot better at the same bitrare... especially in classical music. On a good stereo system I can easily tell the difference between 128 kbps and 160 kbps AAC, although only really on remastered Lieder and violin sonatas, concerti... I encode at 192.. it's the best.. none of that strange hissy noise, m'boy... MP3 always sounds grainy at certain times in these same songs... in the st. matthew and john passions, for example certain frequencies sounded strange in MP3 but not on AAC and on the CD. Although I'm not an audiophile, it did piss me off to listen to MP3 at 192 and hear that (only noticeable for several seconds)
Thanks Ohara (and everyone else). What do you think about ghoti's VBR possibility?
Although if I concentrate I can tell the difference between 128 mp3 and 192 mp3, 128 is just fine.
My library consists of mostly mp3 files from CDs and elsewhere, and about a third protected AAC files from iTMS, so I have a 2-format library. However, my iPod handles both fine, and it doesn't matter when I burn to a CD, as both work fine.
There's an excellent introduction to audio file formats and bit rates (http://arstechnica.com/guides/tweaks/encoding.ars/1) at ars technica.
Although AAC is a fundamentally better format than MP3, the quality of the resulting files (MP3 or AAC or any other lossy format) is dependent to a large degree on the quality of the codec that is used to create the file. (An analogy could be me driving a Porsche 911 against Michael Schumacher in a BMW M3: the wily German will win even though I have the better car. Similarly, a good MP3 codec can beat a lacklustre AAC codec).
This is relevant in your case because iTunes is famous for its poor MP3 codec, so if you want to have decent MP3s you'll have to use something else to encode them (such as LAME, which is a less than ideal choice on the Mac). I urge you to actually try the following so you can see for yourself: import a CD track (preferably something with percussion instruments) as a 64 kbps MP3 and also as a 64 kbps AAC. The AAC will surprise you with its quality (for such a low bit rate) while the MP3 will sound like hold music on the telephone. This advantage over iTunes MP3 does not extend linearly as bit rate is increased, but I nevertheless regard iTunes' MP3 encoder as useful only in an emergency.
Happily, iTunes AAC encoder is by contrast very, very good (among the best lossy codecs out there (http://www.rjamorim.com/test/multiformat128/results.html)). Given this, it would be very difficult to recommend MP3 over AAC with iTunes unless you have a compelling reason to use MP3 (such as your car's head unit...argh!). The iPod shuffle plays both MP3 and AAC of course (and WAV, though frustratingly, not Apple Lossless).
If you have enough disk space (about 300 MB per CD you want to import), then Apple Lossless is by a large margin your best choice in this case. You can keep everything in Apple Lossless, with correct tags, etc, and simply convert to AAC or MP3 at appropriate bit rates as and when you need. So for your car stereo you can encode 128 kbps MP3s (because quality isn't important in a noisy car) and for your shuffle you can encode 160 kbps AAC (or higher if you have good headphones: the shuffle delivers superb sound quality). And in the future when new codecs come out that you want to use, or you find other uses for your music (mobile phone, etc), you won't have to import all your music again.
For what it's worth, I don’t have enough disk space for lossless, and have chosen to import my music as AAC at 256 kbps. I don't buy music from the iTunes music store because I don't feel the price is good for 128 kbps AAC with DRM. Your value considerations may be different.
I really appreciate the efforts Dorian, ghoti et al. :) That should do it on these topics. (A couple more Freshman threads and I'll be MASTAH (Rhode Island speak).)
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