Making better mp3 files with iTunes

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I am an mp3 snob, and I am not ashamed to say it.

I ripped my first mp3 file in 1994. I ripped them at 128 kbps, with no ID3 tag information. I did this with most of my cds and any other cd I could get a hold of for years. Back then that was the way to go. Most people didn't have computers, forget about portable mp3 players.

Flash forward to today. If someone hasn't heard the term "mp3" or "iPod" yet, they have been living under a rock, or in a time warp. There isnt a person that I know who doesn't have some music on their computer in some format.

When it comes to music player, the iPod wins, hands down (at least until the zune comes out... hey, im hopeful for it). iTunes is the defacto standard for loading up your ipod with music. Most people drop in a cd and import (rip) it without thinking. All they know is that they now have the music on their computer and iPod, to most people its all just computer voodoo magic.

Default settings on most things SUCK, including iTunes. Lets look at the default settings of the itune cd import. first off, iTunes doesn't defaulty rip cds into mp3 files. It uses an apple specific AAC format.

Why AAC files sucks:

   1. non Standard format, very few players and devices support it (mostly apple only)
   2. DRM : digital rights managements. In english, rules they say how you can and cant use that file
   3. Most of the time they are very lossy and sound horrible (high quality is 128kbps)

Why MP3 files rule:

   1. Standard format that almost any audio device can read, from computers to car stereos
   2. NO DRM : no one can tell you what to do with them once its in MP3 format, you are home free
   3. Capable of producing very high quality sound

Terminology: BitRate
In a nutshell, the amount of data that is pushed out over an period of time. The more data being pushed, the more detail the audio file can hold. The more detail, the better the sound.

Common Bitrates and their real life equivalents
32 kbps    am radio
96 kbps    fm radio
128 kbps    very low cd quality
160 kbps    low cd quality
192 kbps    near cd quality
256 kbps    high cd quality
320 kbps    very high cd quality

looking at the list above, how would you want your cds transferred to your computer? Most software defaults to 128 kbps.

Personally I can tell you if a file is anything less then 192 kbps from listening to it. Im of the school of thought that if I am go to take the tile to convert my cds into digital formats to listen to them, they should sound reasonably good. For me reasonable is anything 192 kbps and higher.

With higher bit rates comes higher disk space usage though. In the space you can store 10 songs at 128 kbps, you might be able to store 5 - 7 songs at 192 kpbs. personally I would rather 1000 songs that sounds awesome on my mp3 player then 1500 that just sound ok. A great combination of size and quality is VBR (variable bit rate) encoded MP3 files.

Basically when there is a part of a song, like a half second pause, you dont need that at super high quality, so if the blank part of the song has a bit rate of 128 kbps, who cares, When there is a lot of detail to the music, the MP3 file is encoded at a high rate, like 256 kbps. The net result is a song that changes rates hundreds if not thousands of times, ending up with a song that sounds great and takes up a reasonable amount of space. Any person who is serious about their music should rip High quality VBR MP3 files. end of story.

Below is how to make iTunes record High quality VBR MP3 files


   1. In iTunes, go to "edit->preferences" on the tool bar

   2. Go to the advanced tab and select "importing", we want to change these settings, the default ones suck

   3. Select the MP3 encoder for importing, then pick the Custom setting

   4. You should get a pop up window what lets you adjust settings, select 192 knps as the bit rate, check use VBR, and set that to High

   5. I like to keep my mp3 files away from my other documents, so I changed where the library is. I also like to have iTunes organize the folders. iTunes will create a directories in the following manor. ArtistName/AlbumName/trackNumber trackname.mp3


Sorry for the small images, ebay makes them sooo small.
Hope this has helped you :)

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