iTunes - importing CDs

Discussion in 'Mac Basics and Help' started by djr7572, Aug 20, 2013.

  1. djr7572 macrumors regular

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    #1
    Not sure if this is in the right forum or not ...

    Ok, regarding iTunes on my iMac. When it comes to importing CDs into iTunes, can someone please break down, in layman's terms, the differences between the different encoders in "Import Settings"?

    When I import, I want the result to yield the highest quality playback sound. Which, as I understand it, Apple Lossless is the way to go ... but it will cost you as far as taking up a lot of space. If hard drive space is not a concern, should I just go with Apple Lossless if I want the best quality sound?

    Another suggestion to me was to use AAC encoder with bitrate 320 (VBR). Supposedly this will also yield a high quality playback, but with the benefit of a smaller file.

    Any thoughts and feedback would be appreciated.

    Thank you
     
  2. AcesHigh87 macrumors 6502a

    AcesHigh87

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    #2
    You are pretty much right in your assumptions. Lossless will get you the least amount of compression and therefore the best quality however it will take up a large amount of space (I would estimate at least 100mb per song but I'm not an audio guy).

    For the average individual AAC encoded at a bitrate of 320 would be more than enough. There is a difference between AAC and lossless but unless you're a really big audiophile you likely won't notice it. Not worth the file size IMO.
     
  3. Nermal Moderator

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    #3
    It's more like 20-25 MB. A typical song as stored on CD is about 35-40 MB (10.584 MB per minute), and the compression can shrink it down from there.
     
  4. AcesHigh87 macrumors 6502a

    AcesHigh87

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    #4
    There you go. I think I'm still thinking in video land where we get really large audio files but they are recorded from pro audio recorders so tend to be less compressed to start.

    Still, 25mb per song, at least IMO, is pretty high for a slight discernible difference. My ears aren't overly tuned though so maybe you might hear it more than I.

    If harddrive space is not a concern why not simply make a copy of a song, convert it to both formats, and play them to see how each sounds. If you find Lossless sounds THAT much better to you than use it. If not go with AAC.
     
  5. djr7572 thread starter macrumors regular

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    #5
    Thanks for the reply. I guess I was on the right track, but just wasn't 100% sure.

    So, AAC encoder at 320 bitrate VBR would be a nice compromise it sounds like. And no, I don't think I can call myself an audiophile. I mean, I know what sounds good and what doesn't sound good, but my ears would never be able to pick up the kinds of subtleties that a true audiophile would. So, if my pretty-average ears can't tell the difference, then why take up a bunch of space for no reason.
     
  6. iMerik macrumors 6502

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    #6
    I know this isn't what you are asking, but it might be fun for you to also Google terms like "X Lossless Decoder (XLD)" and "CD Ripping Guide for Mac Users". You might learn a few things, as the tutorials sometimes explain really well what they are having you do, and you might end up deciding you like ripping outside of iTunes.
     
  7. AcesHigh87 macrumors 6502a

    AcesHigh87

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    #7
    That's my logic on it. I usually encode my high-def video renders with AAC audio so if it's good enough for HD video I'd say it's likely good enough for the average person's iTunes.

    As I said above, however, if you want to test it the process wouldn't be overly challenging.
     
  8. djr7572 thread starter macrumors regular

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    #8
    Also, is there ever a reason to use MP3 or AIFF? Should I be considering these two when importing CDs, or should I stick with either Lossless or AAC ... ?

    ----------

    Thank you! I'll check this out.
     
  9. Apple fanboy macrumors P6

    Apple fanboy

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    #9
    I used to have an issue when the songs I copied from CD's were louder than those I purchased on iTunes. Used to really bug me on mixed playlists. These day's all I listen to is purchased from iTunes so it isn't an issue. Might be worth considering though.
     
  10. AcesHigh87 macrumors 6502a

    AcesHigh87

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    #10
    Higher compression and therefore lower file size. If you want quality I would avoid them. Personally I have no major issues with mp3 but, again, my ears kinda suck.
     
  11. Nermal Moderator

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    #11
    Ignore those unless you have a specific need (such as old third-party hardware with no AAC support). MP3 is worse quality than AAC. AIFF is full-quality but bigger than Apple Lossless.
     
  12. djr7572 thread starter macrumors regular

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    #12
    Got it. I'll stay away from MP3.

    A little confused on the AIFF, though. You say it's full quality but larger file size than Lossless - I thought Apple Lossless is both highest quality and largest file size ... ?
     
  13. Nermal Moderator

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    AIFF is pretty much a 1:1 representation of what's on the CD. There is no quality loss, and the files are at the same data rate as CD (1411.2 kb/s).

    Apple Lossless provides the exact same audio quality as AIFF, but uses lossless compression to make the files smaller. Apple Lossless is the largest of the common compressed formats, but uncompressed files like AIFF are larger still.
     
  14. djr7572 thread starter macrumors regular

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    I guess that begs the question then, why would one use AIFF if you can get the same quality from Apple Lossless and a smaller file size?
     
  15. Nermal Moderator

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    For that question I direct you back to my earlier post :)

     
  16. djr7572 thread starter macrumors regular

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    #16
    Thanks for everyone's response, I appreciate the help!
     
  17. macs4nw macrumors 601

    macs4nw

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    Without knowing how big your iTunes library or your HDD are, I can tell you AIFF is at the top of the heap, uncompressed, bit-accurate file copies, but there are alternatives that, for all intents and purposes, are just as good.

    A while back I've started re-encoding the music I own on CDs, to Apple lossless, just for archival purposes, so I can get rid of the physical discs, and because HDDs are so inexpensive now. Originally I had encoded most of them with AAC at 192kbps, back when computers came with 60 or 80 GB hard drives.

    Before deciding to do this, I did some extensive storage implication- as well as sound quality- testing. AAC-192 (which I had been using before then) vs AAC-320 both without VBR, vs Apple lossless.

    First the storage: a three minute song at AAC-192 came in at an average of 4.2MB; at AAC-320 the same three minute song would use up about 6.9MB while Apple lossless would chew up 15.8MB. I deliberately didn't use VBR, to see what was the max sound quality, it could get from those set bit rates of 192 and 320.

    The sound quality difference I heard between the 192 and 320 bit rates, was clearly audible on good sound equipment, or through my AKG 701 reference headphones. Comparing that AAC320 against Apple lossless, was less of a pronounced difference, but audible nevertheless, a more open sound, with better definition in the high end. With a good separate DA converter, which I'm in the process of getting, I expect the difference to be even more pronounced. (I have auditioned the HRT music streamer ll+, as well as the music streamer HD in my local audio store, and was extremely impressed; so much so, that I started this massive project of re-encoding all my CDs)

    To future proof all the music I had on CD, I've decided on Apple lossless; if better audio equipment comes along, without owning the CDs anymore, I'll still have all the information that was on them. The bit rate on Apple lossless seemed to vary from the low 600s kbps to the high 900s kbps, and in my case, an average of four CDs take up 1GB of storage.

    If you're not going to expect the best possible sound quality from your music at this time, it may seem overkill to waste so much storage on your music library, but you may change your mind in a few years and HDD storage is so inexpensive nowadays, that it seems like a bit of future-proofing.

    If you have the means to, my recommendation to you would be to, at a minimum, use AAC-320 with or without VBR. If you have enough storage capacity for your music library, and want the best out of your CDs, go for Apple lossless.

    For any music you buy from the iTunes store, you are for now still limited to 256kbps of course, but there have been some rumors in the past that Apple was working on High Res files, at a premium, of course. And there are of course High Res audiophile music download services, such as HDtracks and the like available online, if that's your cup of tea.

    You've said, you want the best sound quality; you may want to check out these links:

    http://highresolutiontechnologies.com/music-streamer-ii-plus
    http://www.audioquest.com/usb_digital_analog_converter/dragonfly-dac

    As I mentioned above, I've auditioned these, and it's an eye-opener, there's no going back! Good Luck.
     
  18. djr7572 thread starter macrumors regular

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    #18
    I never did thank you for your response on this thread. Your feedback was very helpful, thank you!! :apple:
     
  19. macs4nw macrumors 601

    macs4nw

    #19
    Glad I could help.
     
  20. i1280 macrumors regular

    i1280

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    #20
    Can you convert a current MP3 to apple lossless? Can the iPod play apple lossless? Can apple lossless be converted to FLAC?
     
  21. macs4nw macrumors 601

    macs4nw

    #21
    Theoretically, you could convert an MP3 file to Apple lossless, but there's no point in doing so as all you're doing is creating a larger file of the same quality as the MP3 file. When the MP3 was created, a large amount of data was permanently removed in the process, and there's no way to accurately replace that. To get a true Apple lossless file, you'd have to go back to the original source, if still available, and re-encode it to lossless.

    The iPod can definitely play Apple lossless, but as these file sizes are significantly larger, you will however greatly reduce the number of songs you can store on your iPod, if you use lossless, or any other non-lossy format.

    Many people, who want to retain the best quality for archival purposes, encode their CDs to WAV, AIFF, or Apple lossless, for their main iTunes library, and then convert the songs they want to put on their iPods or iPhones to (much smaller) lossy formats, such as AAC or MP3, to maximize the storage of those devices, which are oftentimes used with earpods, or in non-audiophile settings where the highest possible quality may not be discernible anyway. This does of course not apply to iTunes-store purchased content, which is already limited to 256Kb/s.

    As for your third question, because they are both lossless formats (even though they both use different data compression algorithms), Apple lossless can be converted to FLAC. I have never done this myself, and can't comment on it further, other than to say I know there are third-party converters available that are claimed to do this without loss of fidelity.
     

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