What audio format for remastered Beatles listening on iPod only??
October 27, 2009 1:11 AM   Subscribe

What audio format would you rip the recently remastered Beatles albums in for optimum iPod listening?

Let's say you've got the recently released Beatles in Mono (or Stereo). Let's say you have to use iTunes and you only listen on your iPod, via Sony headphones or the car stereo. And let's say storage isn't an issue. What format would you rip them in? MP3 192kbps? AAC iTunes Plus? Apple Lossless?

I've seen parts of this question answered here, here, here, and here, but not specifically for strictly iPod listeners with something this good.

Maybe with just the iPod, you don't hear the differences anyway.
posted by Avenger50 to Technology (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
I would rip it to FLAC and to MP3/AAC: FLAC for archiving (archive paranoia favors open formats), and MP3/AAC for putting on the iPod and listening. I don't know if there's much difference between those two; my personal preference would be variable bit-rate MP3.
posted by sinfony at 1:23 AM on October 27, 2009


Maybe with just the iPod, you don't hear the differences anyway.

Once you're using any halfway decent coding that consumes 192 kbits/second or more, the iPod is indeed not really good enough to reveal the coding artifacts. AAC is perhaps marginally cleaner than MP3 for any given bit rate.

All the lossless formats are exactly quality-equivalent to the original media. Ripping to any of them and then transcoding to another should result in files that are bit-identical to those you'd get by ripping directly to the final format, so use whichever one you have the best access to tools for.

Open formats are indeed a Good Thing, and iTunes can be taught what to do with FLAC, for what it's worth. You'll still need MP3 or an Apple format on the iPod, though, as far as I know.
posted by flabdablet at 1:47 AM on October 27, 2009


These days I use QuickTime's True VBR AAC mode, not available within iTunes but accessible using XLD, which will also increase the chances of getting an error-free transfer from CD as well.

For the True VBR options, I have the encoder quality set to "Max" and the target quality slider set to 95 (using QuickTime 7.6.4; this is the equivalent of 127 using older versions of QuickTime).

The awesome thing about the *true* VBR mode, as opposed to the VBR setting available within iTunes, is that it really does vary the number of bits per AAC frame wildly depending on the actual needs of that bit of sound. Easy to encode sections of a track get a low bitrate but it's not afraid to pile on the bits when the encoder needs to. Mono tracks come out freakishly low but sound great.
posted by D.C. at 1:47 AM on October 27, 2009


What Apple say about AAC & MP3 I & II.

You can use Apple Lossless encoding if your iPod has a dock connector & you've updated the software which will be the best quality. This is my personal choice for max quality and decent space saving when I'm not using WAV or AIFF.

The most important thing is to get some decent headphones, e.g. Sennheiser HD 25s, as you won't notice any quality difference on bog-standard ones. Sony have some good & some not-so-good so depends which ones you have.
posted by i_cola at 1:51 AM on October 27, 2009


Oh, and have the Use error correction when importing Audio CDs option in iTunes > Preferences > General > Import Settings...
posted by i_cola at 1:55 AM on October 27, 2009


Seconding the FLAC (or other lossless format) recommendation for archival.

Having the pristine originals then allows me to second the use of AAC for the listening, and specifically D.C.'s comment. (I haven't tried what he's discussing but it's sound reasoning.)

P.s., I like Koss Porta-Pro headphones for very cheap, very cool looking and quite high-quality listening.
posted by krilli at 1:56 AM on October 27, 2009


If you have the discs, then I don't know why you would rip to FLAC. You have the original copies anyway (and if you don't play them they should stay good for quite a number of years and probably be a more secure backup than FLACs on a hard drive).

I'd go for some variable bit rate MP3 or AAC. I really hardly know anything about AAC, but if you go for MP3s then V0 (the "extreme" setting) should work nicely.
posted by bjrn at 2:03 AM on October 27, 2009


Agreeing with sinfony that a Lossless format is the way forward for archival purposes and to save re-ripping should your set-up improve one day. In the situation you describe (i.e. Having to use iTunes), then Apple Lossless would get my vote since FLAC isn't supported.

It retains the absolute best quality and future-proofness that lossless provides, and can easily be transcoded in to which ever more popular (as in widely supported for playback) format you choose (even a different lossless format - like FLAC if necessary). After all lossless is lossless is lossless.

Any other format will suffer some degradation - even if you can't notice it now - that's why they're called lossy formats.

Also, the MP3 encoder built in to iTunes sounds poor compared to LAME, so if you need to make MP3s do your ears a favour and choose a better encoder / ripping program for your platform. e.g. EAC for Windows and XLDfor Mac , paired with whichever codec (FLAC / LAME etc.) suits best.

posted by dirm at 2:09 AM on October 27, 2009


There's finally a reasonably nice way to play FLAC files in iTunes now, thanks to the magic of FUSE: TwistedFLAC.

You point it to a directory structure containing FLAC files, which it remounts as a volume containing magical and equivalent on-the-fly-decoded WAV files.

Sounds weird but it's actually Quite Awesome. May not be everyone's style, though.
posted by krilli at 2:12 AM on October 27, 2009


If you have the discs, then I don't know why you would rip to FLAC.

My FLACs are for media server use - streaming around the house to the big stereos, and they can then be transcoded down for portable use.
posted by rodgerd at 2:58 AM on October 27, 2009


Sorry, I should have been clearer: If you have the discs, and the digital copies are only for putting on an iPod and listening in a car (as per the question), then there's no reason to rip to FLAC in my opinion.
posted by bjrn at 3:01 AM on October 27, 2009


"If you have the discs, and the digital copies are only for putting on an iPod and listening in a car (as per the question), then there's no reason to rip to FLAC in my opinion."
I would prefer to rip a CD collection once and do it properly. If you rip a copy to AAC 128 for the car and at some point in the future you want to listen on good quality headphones, or perhaps replace your iPod with something that can't play AAC or you want a better quality version for whatever reason, you need to re-rip your CDs (which may get lost or damaged over the years).

Disk space is cheap and easier to manage than a pile of CDs, just back it up with the rest of your data.

The ability to rip once and transcode lossless to whatever other format you may require is a very good reason to rip to FLAC (or other lossless formats) in my opinion.
posted by dirm at 3:50 AM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you rip a copy to AAC 128 for the car and at some point in the future you want to listen on good quality headphones

May as well go at least 160, given there isn't much size difference. 256 doesn't result in very large files, either, and 256 AAC is indistinguishable from the source in most environments through most headphones with most ears, at the cost of a few more MB per song.

(I've got a set of Grado SR80s and good hearing range, and I bet I would fail a double-blind test to determine source v 256 AAC with the vast majority of my collection.)
posted by Mikey-San at 4:21 AM on October 27, 2009


iPod will play .FLAC files if you are running Rockbox. I recommend that.
posted by d-programmers at 9:52 AM on October 27, 2009


If storage space is really no object, why compress them at all? Rip 'em to WAV or AIFF.
posted by DandyRandy at 10:55 AM on October 27, 2009


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