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iTunes: "Convert higher bit rate songs to 128 kbps AAC"?


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iTunes: "Convert higher bit rate songs to 128 kbps AAC"?
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Brad
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2010-04-04, 14:48

It looks like the latest iTunes 9.1 update finally brought the "Convert higher bit rate songs to 128 kbps AAC" feature to iPhones, iPads, and presumably the rest of the iPod lineup. Previously, it seems that this option was only available for the iPod Shuffle, but Apple must have had a change of heart, maybe realizing that people want large libraries on their iPads/iPhones/etc. but that the flash storage isn't growing quickly enough for that to be a reality.

Anyway, has anyone else tried this out?

I enabled the option for my iPhone last night and let it churn before going to bed. Fans kicked up to full speed and it took a good while to go through and convert files of higher bit rate. This morning when I checked on it, my free space had gone from 2.18 to 2.97 GB. Not bad! A savings of ~800 MB is quite good on a device that only has ~7 GB after accounting for the OS.

Apparently some people are complaining that this feature also strips out lyrics. I don't have/care about lyrics; so, no problem there for me. It looks like the rest of the metadata and album art are preserved fine, though.

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jdcfsu
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2010-04-04, 14:52

Does it preserve the higher bit-rate song on the computer while saving the lower one to the device or does it replace/add another copy to the computer har drive?
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Brad
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2010-04-04, 15:01

Yes, it preserves the original, unmodified file on your source computer's hard drive. It only converts the file when transferring to the iPad/iPod/iPhone.
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Robo
Formerly Roboman, still
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2010-04-04, 15:07

Apple probably did this so they can keep saying an 8GB iPod nano holds "2,000 songs," even though they've doubled the bitrate on the iTunes Store in the meantime.

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jdcfsu
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2010-04-04, 15:24

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brad View Post
Yes, it preserves the original, unmodified file on your source computer's hard drive. It only converts the file when transferring to the iPad/iPod/iPhone.
Interesting. So it converts as it transfers. I can see how that'd take a hell of a long time depending on the size of the library on your device. Considering there's over 10 GB on my phone, I'll wait until I'm at work to give it a whirl but I do like the idea.

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screensaver400
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2010-04-04, 15:43

Argh. Lossy-lossy transcoding?

What Apple should have done is mirror what they did with HD video: since HD won't run on iPods, they include the SD version with the HD purchase. When you purchase a song on iTunes, if you have the option enabled, it should automatically download a 128kbps DRM-free file for use on iPhones and iPods, which would be converted from the lossless original, not from an already-lossy file.

Heck, for already-purchased music, they could give you a one-time "$4.99 to double your iPhone's capacity!" option which would give you non-transcoded 128kbps files of all your iTunes Plus songs.
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Brad
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2010-04-04, 16:01

Quote:
Originally Posted by screensaver400 View Post
Argh. Lossy-lossy transcoding?
I know, I know. At least it's going from high-to-low, though.

The music on my iPhone is generally only played when I'm in the car listening via a tape deck adapter (old school!) or at the gym (which isn't nearly as frequent as it should be ). So, the listening conditions are such that some lossy encoding isn't really going to make a ton of difference for me.

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torifile
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2010-04-04, 16:22

So for files from apple lossless to 128 we're getting the equivalent of a 128 bit rip from the source, right? All my music on my main system is in ALC and I encode again at a lower bitrate for my iPhone and iPod.

If it's not red and showing substantial musculature, you're wearing it wrong.
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Brad
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2010-04-04, 16:26

Quote:
Originally Posted by torifile View Post
So for files from apple lossless to 128 we're getting the equivalent of a 128 bit rip from the source, right?
Correct!
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Brad
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2010-04-04, 16:53

Quote:
Originally Posted by Roboman View Post
Apple probably did this so they can keep saying an 8GB iPod nano holds "2,000 songs," even though they've doubled the bitrate on the iTunes Store in the meantime.
Aha! A likely scenario. Sneaky Apple. Very sneaky.
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screensaver400
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2010-04-04, 18:12

Quote:
Originally Posted by torifile View Post
So for files from apple lossless to 128 we're getting the equivalent of a 128 bit rip from the source, right? All my music on my main system is in ALC and I encode again at a lower bitrate for my iPhone and iPod.
You can convert lossless as often as you want with no quality loss. If you wanted to, you could do CD>FLAC>APE>ALAC>FLAC>ALAC with no quality loss, since all of those are lossless codecs.

However, lossy formats like AAC, MP3 and OGG should, if at all possible, be used only once in a file's "pedigree," and it should be used last.

CD>FLAC>ALAC>MP3 would be fine, CD>FLAC>ALAC>MP3>ALAC would be pointless, and CD>256kbps AAC>128kbps AAC would produce a file of notably worse quality than ripping straight to 128kbps.
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Brad
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2010-04-04, 18:28

Quote:
Originally Posted by screensaver400 View Post
CD>FLAC>ALAC>MP3 would be fine, CD>FLAC>ALAC>MP3>ALAC would be pointless, and CD>256kbps AAC>128kbps AAC would produce a file of notably worse quality than ripping straight to 128kbps.
Wherein "notably worse" is highly subjective.

Unless you're doing some Fourier analysis of the audio or are listening in a noise-free environment with perfect speakers and an excellent DAC, most people really won't notice the difference. Some may (or think they can), but most don't.

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MBHockey
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2010-04-10, 23:00

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brad View Post
Wherein "notably worse" is highly subjective.

Unless you're doing some Fourier analysis of the audio or are listening in a noise-free environment with perfect speakers and an excellent DAC, most people really won't notice the difference. Some may (or think they can), but most don't.
I used to be a bit rate snob until i couldn't tell the difference between a 192 kbps aac file and the original CD source.
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SpecMode
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2010-04-10, 23:28

On regular speakers, one song generally sounds as good as any other regardless of format or bitrate, to me at least.

OTOH, for portable use I have a pair of Grado SR-125s and Shure SE420 in-ear phones, connected through an Audio-Technica headphone amp powered through the dock connector. Generally, I can readily tell the difference between tracks encoded at <=160Kbps from higher bit rates, and occasionally between high-bitrate lossy (AAC/MP3) and ALAC-encoded tracks. There's slightly more definition at the higher end and richer bass on high-bitrate (320Kbps) and lossless tracks, and virtually no distortion at any range on the latter unless it was part of the original recording itself.

But then again, I'm not the "typical" listener, so for most people this would work just fine. I might suggest that Apple add a preference to change the default conversion bitrate to, say, 256Kbps for the pickier folks out there, though.
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Dorian Gray
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2010-04-11, 06:37

Quote:
Originally Posted by SpecMode View Post
Generally, I can readily tell the difference between tracks encoded at <=160Kbps from higher bit rates, and occasionally between high-bitrate lossy (AAC/MP3) and ALAC-encoded tracks.
Having participated in a public listening test run by Hydrogen Audio, I'm sceptical that you could tell the difference as readily as you think. It's one thing to think you hear a difference, and another to prove it in a blind ABX listening test.

Apple's AAC encoder is insanely good these days. The iTunes MP3 encoder was once relatively poor, but even it is greatly improved today. However, converting from lossless to AAC at slightly greater than 128 kbps, and then from that to 128 kbps, is likely to introduce artefacts that can be readily detected in good listening conditions. Most people still wouldn't think the sound is bad without a reference, and many wouldn't even then.
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SpecMode
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2010-04-11, 14:27

Well, most of my lower-bitrate tracks are non-LAME MP3s dating back to the beginning of the decade (or lossy-lossy transcodes from before I knew any better), so the encoding quality wasn't all that great to begin with. That's also why I added the "generally" qualifier to the very beginning of that sentence, and emphasized "occasionally" later. This is particular to my music library, and may not match others' experience.

And like I said, that's pretty much only because I'm using a setup that tends to bring out just about every imperfection in the track - distortion, missing or weak treble/bass, etc. On regular headphones, only the very low-end of the encoding spectrum makes itself apparent. (And, yes, I do have a small collection of those tracks, too, for which I can't find the original source to do a better encode.)
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Jerman
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2010-04-11, 21:18

I love that they added this. For the longest time I have hoped they would make this option available to other devices. I have 200 gigs of almost all lossless music, and it really limits how much music I can put on my 8 gig iPhone. Previously I used a script to do it for me (so that I did not end up with duplicate files in my library). Of course this meant that play counts were not preserved, I had to manually launch the script, etc. As SpecMode mentioned, it sure would be nice to have a bit more control over the bitrate. I personally would like to use at least 192. I wonder if there's a plist file I could edit somewhere to change this value...
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kieran
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2010-04-14, 22:39

Before:



After:



Freed up a bit of space. I'm not an audiophile by any means and this stuff sounds perfectly fine to me with my Apple in-ear headphones
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Kaelri
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2010-04-18, 12:12

I hope it wasn't the conversion that added 127 megs of photos? :P

I like the idea of this, but I'm not sure if I'd use it. I know I'm physically incapable of hearing the difference, but, well, it's psychological. I love that my iPod Classic contains my entire 30G music library, pure and unadulterated. (Plus a backup of my laptop's hard drive, but that's just bonus points.) Fortunately, my rate of music acquisition is much slower than the rate of drive capacity growth, so if all goes well, I'll only have to wait a few more years before a true consolidating device (phone + music + web) becomes available to me.
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Maciej
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2011-07-01, 16:56

Sorry to bump an old one but it seems this best fits the topic of my question. Has anyone heard of a way to change the default from 128kbps to say... 256kbps or 320kbps? With such a setting all of my music that is at lossless (and takes up the most space) is converted down but my lower quality stuff doesn't go through conversion?

My google-fu has been fruitless, seems like no one has figured out a way to do it yet, so this post is probably a shot in the dark.

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Brad
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2011-07-01, 17:56

As far as I know, no, I've never seen such an option, even a hidden one.
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YouOweNut
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2011-07-01, 18:41

When you right-click a song in your library you get a list of actions, one of which reads "Create AAC version" or MP3, Lossless, etc. I believe you can change this in import settings. Go into Preferences then on the General tab there is a bubble that says Import Settings... There you can choose what encoder you want for songs that you import from CDs and, correct me if I'm wrong, it also applies to that "Create AAC Version" option when you right-click a song. This way you can convert your songs to any bit rate and encoder you want
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torifile
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2011-07-01, 18:46

Quote:
Originally Posted by YouOweNut View Post
When you right-click a song in your library you get a list of actions, one of which reads "Create AAC version" or MP3, Lossless, etc. I believe you can change this in import settings. Go into Preferences then on the General tab there is a bubble that says Import Settings... There you can choose what encoder you want for songs that you import from CDs and, correct me if I'm wrong, it also applies to that "Create AAC Version" option when you right-click a song. This way you can convert your songs to any bit rate and encoder you want
What he's asking for is an automatic option for when a device is synced rather than having duplicates in the library.
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Maciej
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2012-03-18, 21:12

Quote:
Originally Posted by Maciej View Post
Sorry to bump an old one but it seems this best fits the topic of my question. Has anyone heard of a way to change the default from 128kbps to say... 256kbps or 320kbps? With such a setting all of my music that is at lossless (and takes up the most space) is converted down but my lower quality stuff doesn't go through conversion?

My google-fu has been fruitless, seems like no one has figured out a way to do it yet, so this post is probably a shot in the dark.
Yes! My dreams have been answered. I don't know when, but Apple finally added this functionality.

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jdcfsu
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2012-03-18, 21:29

I first noticed it on the current build, the one that came out with iOS 5.1 and the new iPad.
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dmegatool
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2012-03-18, 22:14

Read about that recently too. You can't convert to 320kbps though... Am I right ? I think the new options are 190 and 256 but I could be wrong. I just remember that I read the news and there was a small let down even if the feature is pretty cool as it is.
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Brad
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2012-03-18, 22:25

Quote:
Originally Posted by dmegatool View Post
Read about that recently too. You can't convert to 320kbps though... Am I right ? I think the new options are 190 and 256 but I could be wrong. I just remember that I read the news and there was a small let down even if the feature is pretty cool as it is.
Here's what I see:



Better than no option!
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Maciej
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2012-03-19, 20:52

Yeah, 320kbps was my hope too, but I'm happy there's an option at all now.
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torifile
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2012-03-19, 21:26

Now if only there were a way to do that for iTunes Match housed songs. I don't sync with iTunes anymore.
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Dorian Gray
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2012-03-20, 04:59

If I select 192 kbps, does that mean anything over that gets transcoded to 192 kbps AAC? (I couldn't find this in iTunes Help.) And if I select 256 kbps, that means anything over 256 kbps gets transcoded to 256 kbps, right?

Because what I really want to do is transcode everything over 256 kbps to 128 kbps, and leave everything at 128–256 kbps alone. Still unpossible?

Still, this is an improvement. One day, when I have an iPod touch with as much space as a plain iPod from six years ago (maybe in 2042 or so?), I'll not need any of these transcoding options.
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