General Question

Modern_Classic's avatar

Should I use a higher sampling rate when encoding songs in iTunes?

Asked by Modern_Classic (583points) August 25th, 2007

I recently picked up a 250G external HD to use as backup and to store my itunes. Very happy. Now I’m wondering if I should start using the 256KB sampling rate (higher quality) v/s the 128K (high quality) that I’ve been using. It seems that disk space won’t be a problem for a while (wait! when does that Terrabyte drive go on sale?) although it take a little longer to rip or copy. I’m currently only using my iPod with regular earbuds, so I don’t think I can hear a difference. Do you think the higher sampling rate will be noticeable with better ‘phones or when I burn CD’s?

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12 Answers

bob's avatar

There’s definitely an audible difference between 128 and 256 if you’re using good equipment. In my experience, the difference is not noticeable in everyday use for most tracks. But I keep my iTunes sampling set at 256 because I think there is an intangible difference. For example, I can’t always hear the difference between different headphones, but over time I can tell that certain headphones make my ears fatigued.

Since you have the space, go for the higher quality.

Hawaiiguy's avatar

I’m using a pair of shure e3c’s they pick up the difference in sampling rate quite well

hearkat's avatar

I’ll be watching this question because I have the been wondering the same thing. I want to have my music preserved at the highest possible quality; but in iTunes and on my iPhone, have a version that is compressed, but relatively decent audio quality. Is it possible to make bit-for-bit copies of an audio cd to retain as much of the original as possible on the external hard drive, and then store the compressed versions in the iTunes Library?

segdeha's avatar

I’ve always used slightly higher settings than the recommended on the theory that it’s a good trade off between better quality and not taking up huge amounts of disk space. I guess I didn’t want to discover 10 years down the road that I wished I’d ripped at better quality all those years. I can’t really tell the difference, but I chalk that up to not having great kit on which to listen. At some point, maybe I will, then I’ll be happy it’s better than the default.

The settings I use are: 160 kbs, variable bit rate (VBR) and sample rate set to “auto”.

glial's avatar

@hearkat – I believe the Apple Lossless Codec will give you the highest quality.

sndfreQ's avatar

just remember that higher bit rates equal larger file size and while not so noticeable on your cmputer you will notice it on your iPod…I hear the 160GB iPod is not far from release though so probably won’t e an issue then

Apple lossless does sound good at approximately 1/2 the size of full uncompresses 16-bit CD quality especially if u havehigh quality monitors/headphones…

A he forum for the portable audiophile fanatics is: http://head-fi.org

You won’t believe some of the stories on that site-people spending thousands of $a on headphones and specialty headphone amps-it’s crazy but makes for some entertaining reading if you’re into audio tech…

hearkat's avatar

@sndfreq: thanks for the link!

@glial: So you recommend the Apple Lossless for the iPod? How can I make a bit-for-bit copy of my CDs to preserve them on my external hard drive? Will drag and drop do that, or will it modify it? I’m using OS X 10.4.10 on an Intel iMac.

bob's avatar

@hearkat: I have done exactly what you’re suggesting—I have a lossless backup of my music, but the music on my laptop and iPod is compressed to save space.

You will want to import your CDs using Apple Lossless or another lossless format (such as FLAC). Making a bit-for-bit copy of the CD is possible, but lossless formats are better. You don’t lose any audio data with lossless formats, but they will take up 50% of the space of a normal CD. All “lossless” formats preserve 100% of the original data from the audio CD—there’s no loss in quality. AAC files, on the other hand, are “lossy”—they may sound just as good as the CD, but there’s some audio data that’s missing. Use the Apple Lossless files for your back, and use AAC files for the iPod.

Here’s my process: In iTunes preferences, set iTunes to import your files as Apple Lossless.

Import your CDs into iTunes.

Take all those lossless files and copy them onto a backup hard drive. You can drag the tracks from iTunes into a folder on your desktop. Now you have a backup of your music. Check to make sure the files are there.

Next, convert your iTunes tracks to whatever sample rate you prefer. You can do this by changing the Import settings in iTunes, then choosing “Convert Selection to…” from the Advanced menu.

Erase the lossless files from iTunes, and you’ll be left with just the compressed files in iTunes and on your iPod / iPhone.

hearkat's avatar

Thanks, @bob! I appreciate the explanation and step-by-step guide. Very helpful!

Modern_Classic's avatar

This is great. Thanks, everyone. I’m tethered to a PC. Is the following possible. I rip my CD collection with highest quality possible. Save everything thing in one folder. I now have beautiful archived but huge files. I want to load my iPod. Can I make a playlist in iTunes and batch convert/compress those. and save in a different location, and use them to populate the iPod? Any ideas?

yannick's avatar

@ Modern Classic: Just a few links you might or might not find interesting…
128 kbps vs. 320 kbps
MPC vs. OGG vs. MP3 at 175 kbps
128 kbps vs. 256 kbps

Alfunction's avatar

it just depends on how picky you are with your audio quality versus the storage space you’ve got. save 2 albums at different sample rates and compare the audio difference in your normal listening environment. If you can’t hear the difference, don’t worry about it.

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