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How to Choose an iTunes Encoder

iTunes gives you a choice of encoders for importing your music. Your choice of encoders is perhaps the most important decision to make before starting to rip music CDs and building your library.

Choose iTunes→Preferences→General (Mac) or Edit→Preferences→General (Windows). Click the Import Settings button to see the Import Settings preferences. You can choose one of five encoders from the Import Using pop-up menu:

  • AAC Encoder: AAC is recommended for almost all music. (However, AIFF, Apple Lossless, or WAV is better if you plan to burn another audio CD at the highest quality with the songs you ripped.) Choose the High Quality option from the Setting pop-up menu.

  • AIFF Encoder: Use AIFF if you plan to burn the song to an audio CD using a Mac (use WAV for Windows), or use it with a DVD project. AIFF offers the highest possible quality, but it takes up a lot of space (about 10MB per minute). Choose the Automatic option from the Setting pop-up menu for best results. Don’t use AIFF format for songs that you intend to transfer to your iPod or to an MP3 CD; convert them first to AAC or MP3.

  • Apple Lossless Encoder: Use the Apple Lossless encoder for songs that you intend to burn onto audio CDs, as well as for playing on iPods. The files are just small enough (about 60–70 percent of the size of the AIFF versions) that they don’t hiccup on playback.

  • MP3 Encoder: Use the MP3 format for songs that you intend to burn on MP3 CDs or that you intend to use with MP3 players or your iPod — it’s universally supported. If you use MP3, you should choose the Higher Quality option from the Setting pop-up menu.

  • WAV Encoder: WAV is the high-quality sound format that’s used on PCs (like AIFF), but it also takes up a lot of space (about 10MB per minute). Use WAV if you plan on burning the song to an audio CD or using WAV with PCs. Choose the Automatic option from the Setting pop-up menu for best results. Don’t use WAV for songs that you intend to transfer to your iPod or to an MP3 CD; use MP3 instead.

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