Previous 1 2 Next 25 Replies Latest reply: Nov 15, 2005 9:05 PM by EYEmacconvert
Michelle Maimonis Level 1 Level 1 (5 points)
I'm new to the world of Mac and don't really understand the difference between importing music as an mp3, aac, or apple lossless. I just assumed that mp3 was the encoder I should use when importing my cds but I'm starting to think I was wrong. Could someone explain the difference between the encoders and what would be best for someone who wants to have a large library of songs in itunes? Which format takes up the least space on my hard drive but doesn't lose the audio quality? Also which format is best for uploading music to an ipod mini? Thanks for the help!
  • Michael Allbritton Level 6 Level 6 (16,785 points)
    Michelle, it really depends what you want to do with your music. If you want to listen to it on an iPod, or other digital music player then MP3 is the best bet because more digital music players support that format. Since you say you want to use your music with an miniPod then I suggest you use AAC. You will get slightly better sound quality, at lower bit rates like 128 Kbps, with slightly smaller files than if you used MP3.

    Both AAC and MP3 are what are called "lossy" file formats. When you encode music in these file formats part of the music is being discarded so that the file can be made as small a possible. In general the part that is thrown away is inaudible to the human ear so most people cannot hear what is lost. Apple Lossless, as the name tells us, is a "lossless" file. No data is thrown away and the full CD-quality audio is retained. The drawback to this is that lossless files are considerably larger than lossy formats.

    Full quality CD audio will take up about 10 MB per minute of song (this is a rough estimate). So a 4 minute song will be approximately 40 MB. An Apple Lossless file of this song will be about half that, say 20 MB. An MP3 or AAC of the same song will be about 1 MB per minute of song, so roughly 4 MB.

    And that, in a nut shell, is all about the different file formats.

    If you want compatibility go with 160 Kbps MP3. If you want better quality and file size go with 128 Kbps AAC.
  • applejedi11 Level 1 Level 1 (45 points)
    All three formats are encoders, but there are distinct differences in each.
    mp3 is the most common encoder used right now and its music quality is pretty good. Most people can not tell the difference between AIFF (file on a CD) and mp3, although I sometimes do. The best mp3 encoding that I use for files is 160 kbps. The files are small, and the music quality is better than the standard 128 kbps (default in iTunes). With mp3 files, use can burn mp3 CD's (I have 3) that can be read on CD or DVD players that can decode mp3. A typical mp3 CD (160 kbps/song) can hold upwards of 200 songs.
    Apple Lossless is an Apple proprietary encoder that can only be read by iTunes and iPods (mp3 can be read by most music players and music desktop software, but if you have iTunes, what else do you need?;-) ) and it has the quality of AIFF at half the size. mp3 files and AAC basically "cut out" the extra soind that we supposedly cannot hear. Unfortunately, for a large music library, Apple Lossless is not really a good choice because if a CD holds 700 MB and you have 20 CD's, your music library would span about 7 GB, and not fit on an iPod mini by a long shot...
    AAC (extension is .mp4) is my choice of encoding. AAC at default (128 kbps in iTunes) is the equivalent of an mp3 file at 160 kbps and it takes up less space than the mp3 file. The amount of songs you can hold calculated by Apple on its players (1500 songs, 15,000 songs, etc.) is calculated by a 4 minute song in AAC. I can tell a slight, but convincing difference in the sound quality of AAC compared to mp3. AAC is also the format used in the iTunes Music Store for their songs. AAC is not as common yet, but its features are great. AAC (I think) can only be played in iTunes and on the iPod (but its not a problem since you have both).
    So for the answers to your questions, I would recommend AAC for all the above inquiries because the sound quality is great, it takes up less space than Apple Lossless and equivalent mp3s, and since your iPod mini is a 4 or 6GB model, you can hold a lot more songs in great quality using AAC compared to the others.

    I hope this helps!
  • Michelle Maimonis Level 1 Level 1 (5 points)
    Thanks that was very helpful! =)
  • Joanna Whybra Level 1 Level 1 (15 points)
    have been converting my library of mp3s to aac format so library is smaller size-wise.

    is there any reason why certain songs or actually certain bands get BIGGER files for aac when most get smaller? It's weird.

    Some examples of ones that got bigger:

    The Beatles
    some of Queen (not others)
    Ben Folds Five
    some Greenday
    Jeff Buckley
    Jimi Hendrix
    Mendellsohn but not Tchaikovsky
    random TV Themes originally converted from WAV files

    I can see no correlation in style / length / 'busy-ness' of track etc.

    Any ideas?
  • Lita Kaufman Level 5 Level 5 (5,315 points)

    It really is never a good idea to convert from one lossy format (MP3) to another lossy format (AAC). You may be able to squeeze some space out of the conversion process, but you'll lose a lot in the sound quality. You are really better off, provided that you have the CDs, to reimport at the preferred codec and bitrate.

    As for some of your files getting bigger - if you originally imported at a lower MP3 bitrate (say 64 kbps), and you are converting to 128 kbps AAC, the files will get larger, but will sound no better.

  • Frank Madonia Level 1 Level 1 (105 points)
    "It really is never a good idea to convert from one lossy format (MP3) to another lossy format (AAC). You may be able to squeeze some space out of the conversion process, but you'll lose a lot in the sound quality"

    -I really wish I was aware of this when I first purchased my Powerbook. For some strange reason, the default importing setting in iTunes was AAC?....If anything, I would think it would be WAV because thats what CD's are on, or at least MP3?

    I didn't realize this until recently. I would say that half of my songs are in AAC instead of MP3, which is not good because I have an RCA 40 GB Lyra MP3/MP3 Pro/Windows Media player. I don't think it recognizes AAC?....

    I'm just wondering why AAC was the default file format for iTunes? I also noticed the sound output was panned almost all the way to the right and sometimes goes back?....Plus there's a glitch in the 12" Powerbook's that doesn't let the sleep function work(black screen of death), doesn't wake up without having to manually press the power button?....Now I'm having problems with the iTunes "exclamation mark" problem erasing randomn songs?...

    I paid $2k for this thing, I'm starting to grow impatient with Apple?...

    any suggestions or comments to any probs would be appreciated, most importantly the mp3 vs aac....THANKS!
  • Boss McGillicutty Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
    Like the last poster (“Frank”) I, too, am getting frustrated with Apple. The DEFAULT is to convert all of MY imported music files to THEIR exclusive format? Plain and simple, that’s a jack. At least pop up a window asking me first. Or have the decency to buy me dinner. It’s quite normal for people to assume that importing should happen in the native format, especially with Apple being so heralded by all the Kool-Aid drinkers as being so great, empowering, free, etc. And all these folks on this site, and in total hipster places where it’s oh-so-cool to have a Mac, act like Apple’s any better than Microsoft -- ??

    I switched from Windows, getting an iBook G4 a month or two ago but, after waiting on hold for 50+ minutes over two separate calls to Apple Care, NOT having my problem fixed, having to drive to the nearest (2 hrs away) Apple store to get a new power cord (the one that came with the computer was faulty), and the computer not functioning the way it should on a number of fronts, I’m quite frustrated. At least one thing this devil box should do is to burn a CD in mp3 format to play in my car stereo.

    Ohhhh, no. Not until now searching through all these forums do I know what’s up. Now that my entire freakin’ music collection has been hijacked by this stupid exclusive AAC-format thing, which is no different than Microsoft doing the same thing with its .wma format hijack deal. Furthermore, I see that converting to mp3, so I can use MY freaking songs on MY freaking car stereo apparently decreases the quality. Thanks,iTunes. (Ohhhh, I tunes is so cool, and if I buy an iPod me and Bono from U2 can be friends and I’ll be so hip…) Good thing I’ve got all my music backed up, so now I get the sunshiney smiley-face task of RE-importing all my music into the computer in mp3 format (of course, after I change the default setting). Happy-happy, joy-joy.

    On top of it all, at least Windows folks just share in their frustration over machines that are crap like the Apples. The ONLY thing that makes Apples any better – and I’ll admit, this is significant – is that they don’t get viruses. But otherwise, wake up folks, it all comes down to which system you’re most accustomed to. And neither is objectively any better than the other.

    For example, we get Jedi Knight posting above, surely spending all his time in his parents’ basement watching Star Wars videos and playing Role Playing Fantasy games, writing, “but if you have iTunes, what else do you need?;-)”
    Awww, Smiley Face.

    Here’s why, Jedi Genius – because the stupid AAC format doesn’t play on car stereos. (Here’s where you take another gulp of Kool-Aid and tell me I need to buy an iPod and use it in my car instead of my car stereo, right?) MP3 is a universal format, except with those trying to control what you can do with YOUR music. Those trying to do so are Microsoft, with their stupid .wma automatic conversion, AND (gasp! No, don’t say it Bossman, don’t say it!) Apple with their stupid iTunes that every nuthugger on this site seems to have bought into. “Ohhhhh, I just love my Apple. I’m so cool and righteous, I have an Aaaaaple.” What a load of crap.

    Yeah, the Bossman’s keeping his Apple, but only because it doesn’t get viruses like Windows machines do. But all you Kool-Aid drinkers need to get a life and realize that A) it’s just a freakin’ computer, OK, it’s not your identity – if it is, you need therapy and a new life – and B) Apple is no less evil than Microsoft.

    I welcome your Kool-Aid induced hate mail:
    Have a nice day (smiley face;) :-0 )
  • Bruce Hoover Level 7 Level 7 (30,370 points)
    The DEFAULT is to convert all of MY imported music files to THEIR exclusive format?

    Huh? AAC is really MP4, the sucessor to MP3, so hardly Apple exclusive. Protected AAC is exclusive, but it doesn't rip your CDs to that. WMP rips to WMA format, which is totally exclusive.

    It’s quite normal for people to assume that importing should happen in the native format

    No idea what you are talking about. The "native format" of audio CDs is not imported in Windows or Mac OS. If you want full guality then in Widows you get WAV and Mac you get AIFF, but neither are the format native to the CD.

    But then judging from the rest of your post, you aren't going to let facts get in the way of a good rant anyhow.
  • Boss McGillicutty Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
    OK, so the Bossman has his computer techno semantics wrong. AAC apparently isn't exclusive. BUT, throughout the Boss' ranting (yeah, the Boss understands that it might've been tough to get the point through all of it, but he was frustrated -- and still is!!!!), the problem was that it converts MY music OUT of the format (yes Bruceman, NATIVE format, since that's the format I imported it in) and into theirs. The problem with this is that my mp3's got converted to the stupid AAC format, and the stupid AAC format doesn't work on mp3 players. Am I wrong that mp3 players, which are very widespread, play mp3 format? So why does Apple feel free to convert it without first checking with me?

    The "native format" thing. Of course regular audio CDs don't come in as mp3 format. Duh. I wasn't talking about just audio CDs, though those are clearly a problem, too, if iTunes converts them into this AAC format which can't readily (without significant loss of quality) convert to mp3 so it can be played on an mp3-playing car CD stereo. Surely the Bossman isn't the only one with a car stereo that plays mp3 discs, is he?

    So, the Bossman has lots of mp3 music stored on an external hard drive (backed up from his Windows machine). Upon importing that to iTunes, it AUTOMATICALLY, without first checking with the Bossman, converts it to AAC. Then, I'm S.O.L. when trying to burn an mp3 CD -- from what were MY mp3 songs -- for my stereo. What gives? Understand now? And THAT's a jack. Total ripoff. Totally lame. Let me axe you this -- why doesn't it just import in the native format? Meaning, when I import an mp3 format, it stays as mp3 -- is it not reasonable to understand that if I want it in a DIFFERENT format, then I'd tell it to convert it??

    I'll answer the Bossman's own question. A: Because, just like the Microsoft system everyone here seems to so despise (me, too), Apple wants to take YOUR music and convert it to a file that encourages you to buy THEIR players/machines (like the iPod, rather than an mp3 player) rather than whichever ones you want. It's a form of thievery.

    If someone wanted to use it in an iPod, they could choose to convert it to that format, no? Why does Apple assume it's OK to just convert people's music to their AAC format? Not very cool/hip/free or whatever Apple clearly markets itself as. It's like taking someone's possessions and then asking them later if it's OK and telling them they can reclaim their stuff if they jump through a million hoops and then their stuff is all hacked to bits anyway (like the reduced sound quality if I convert BACK to mp3 from AAC). Thievery in a sense, no? After all, if I'm importing it, whose music is it -- Apple's or mine? That's the problem here, is that BY DEFAULT Apple/iTunes hijacks MY music, and that's FULLY LAME. If I import mp3s, then keep them as mp3s. Don't convert them to a format that I can only use on a stupid iPod or only iTunes or whatever. I want them as mp3 for a reason. That's why I have them as mp3 in the first place. In my case, that reason is so that I can burn mp3 CDs to play on my car stereo. Surely I'm not the only person who has such a car stereo, or who owns an Apple computer but doesn't also own an iPod. Am I wrong?
  • Bruce Hoover Level 7 Level 7 (30,370 points)
    Bottom line... you didn't bother to read the instruction manual, and now you are mad. Apple doesn't force you to use any particular format. You get to freely choose among many different ones. Of course they have to default it to something, and they happened to pick .mp4 because it's generaly thought to give better guality for the same bitrate than .mp3. Don't like it? Then change the setting.

    Oh, and it doesn't destroy the original .mp3 file either, it simply makes a copy in iTunes as .mp4; the original file is still there untouched.

    So if you want to keep them as .mp3 in iTunes just delete the .mp4 version, change your preferences to .mp3, and reimport the original .mp3 files. What's the big deal?
  • varjak paw Level 10 Level 10 (169,810 points)
    the Bossman has lots of mp3 music stored on an external hard drive (backed up from his Windows machine). Upon importing that to iTunes, it AUTOMATICALLY, without first checking with the Bossman, converts it to AAC.

    If you import, iTunes copies and converts the tracks to the format you set in the preferences. If you _Add To Library_ or just drag the tracks to the iTunes window, iTunes will add the tracks as is. So it's up to you how things happen; if they didn't happen the way you wanted, then it's because you didn't have the settings correct.

    And Bruce is correct; iTunes doesn't change anything. Your MP3 tracks are still MP3. Just delete the AAC versions from the iTunes library and re-add the MP3s from your external drive using the Add To Library command and you should be fine.

    And Apple doesn't use AAC to encourage anyone to buy an iPod. An iPod will play MP3s (as well as WAV, AIFF, Apple Lossless, and yes, AAC) natively. Apple uses AAC as the default import format because they feel that it's a better format at a given bit rate than MP3 and they want new users to have the best audio experience. If you don't agree or want to keep your tracks in MP3 so you can use them with another player, that's fine. Just use iTunes properly and it will be no problem to do just that; I've got tons of tracks in MP3 on my systems.
  • Michael Allbritton Level 6 Level 6 (16,785 points)
    Upon importing that to iTunes, it AUTOMATICALLY, without first checking with the Bossman, converts it to AAC.

    This did not happen. iTunes does not change MP3 to AAC when the files are added to the Library. The files are left in their original format: MP3. If your MP3 files have been transcoded to AAC then you, or someone, did that manually. It was not an automatic process.

    I suggest that if you really want help with a problem, that you post a New Topic, so it will be noticed, describing the problem in as much detail as possible and listing what steps you have taken to try to solve the problem. If, on the other hand, all you want to do is complain and rant don't bother. The mods and other users on these boards have a low tolerance for aimless rants; but we will do our best to help solve problems if that is really what you want to do.
  • Bruce Hoover Level 7 Level 7 (30,370 points)
    Thanks Dave, I didn't make the distinction between adding and importing clear enough, and as usual you did an excellent job of explaining the issue.
  • Michael Allbritton Level 6 Level 6 (16,785 points)
    I would like to add that it is impossible to "import" a lossy file like MP3 or AAC into iTunes. If you try to use the Import command from the File menu (AppleShiftO on the keyboard) and select lossy files the files will be grayed out. The only way to get lossy files into the Library is to use the Add To Library command. And as both you, Dave and I have pointed out this command does not transcode files from one format to another.
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