General Question

rwj's avatar

Since iTunes doesn't like FLAC files, what file format and bitrate are optimal to preserve FLAC quality but allow syncing with iTunes?

Asked by rwj (43points) August 7th, 2010

I’m currently using XLD to encode to 128kbps AAC (.mp4).

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15 Answers

jerv's avatar

128Kbps? Oh my!

I use that on my old 512MB but most of my stuff is encoded at 192kbps as I find it offers a decent quality (good enough for earphones when I am out in the real world with background noises at least) without the onerous space requirements of 320kbps, FLAC, or most lossless formats. For home use, well, I have a terabyte so space matters less at home.

If the only mobile music players you have are iPods or iPhones then I would take @johnpowell‘s advice. Otherwise, I would just up your bitrate and accept that it’s going to be lossy.

theichibun's avatar

Or you can always not use iTunes. Other programs will manage your iPod too. MediaMonkey and Winamp spring to mind.

jerv's avatar

@theichibun If you haven’t updated to iOS 4 :(
Of course, I haven’t checked again in the last couple of weeks, so maybe that has changed recently

rwj's avatar

My mistake; I actually meant .m4a (not mp4), meaning it looks like I’m already using Apple Lossless.

Jerv – 128Kbps AAC is equivalent to a much higher mp3 bitrate, from my understanding.

jerv's avatar

@rwj MP3 is so last century!
Still, unless storage is tight, I like to up the bitrates as I find 128kbps to be like FM radio; not bad but not great and no comparison to FLAC.

Lightlyseared's avatar

There has been research that has shown that younger people prefer the sound of low bit rate MP3’s over loss less formats.

jerv's avatar

@Lightlyseared Lower sampling rates basically cut off the higher frequencies (like dog whistles) than us older folks generally cannot hear.

Lightlyseared's avatar

In that case I shouldn’t be able to tell the difference between a 128kbps MP3 ripped from a CD and a 24bit FLAC. But I can.

jerv's avatar

@Lightlyseared ?! I think you misread.
A 128kbps MP3 will lack quite a bit of fidelity especially in the higher registers that older folks can’t hear and younger folks and dogs wince at. FYI, those are the same frequencies that some stores use to deter teens from loitering without driving off older shoppers; they take advantage of the fact that older folks lose their high-range hearing first.
For a true audiophile, the difference is glaringly obvious, and is also why I dislike 128kbps MP3 tracks. Personally, I can hear the difference even over the wails of a Haas HL-2 CNC lathe. Why do you think I use a higher sample rate for my rips?
However, I find that once you get past 192kbps for a VBR WMA, the difference is really easy to ignore in light of the background noise and that higher sample rates don’t warrant the added storage space under the conditions that I use a portable player for. And when quality really matters, I am listening to something non-portable in a quieter environment than a machine shop or an ‘85 Corolla.

IMO, the optimal format and bitrate is dependent on the situations you are listening under, and I can only speak from my experience. Fidelity matters less when there is a lot of other noise in the background.

Lightlyseared's avatar

@jerv I didn’t miss read. You said that low bit rates cuts off high frequencies that older people can’t hear. If that is the case then older people shouldn’t be able to notice the missing information.

jerv's avatar

@Lightlyseared There is more to it than that. Maybe if you read my reply and interpreted it as I intended it to come out (italics and all), you would get that. Ah well. Let me try to rephrase.

Even the tones in the midrange will sound noticeably different at lower bit rates. It’s not like high-frequency clipping is the only thing that happens when you drop bitrates. Most of your guitar and vocals (and anything else in approximately the same frequency range) will sound rather dull and flat.

If we are still mis-communicating, I am going to give up since it’s increasingly obvious that we don’t speak the same language.

Lightlyseared's avatar

@jerv don’t worry, I get it. I just like being an argumentative old sod. sorry

jerv's avatar

@Lightlyseared Normally I do too, but this doesn’t seem like a good thread for an argument. Now, if you start going on about how awesome VLC is, then I’ll have fun arguing with you :D

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