How to Choose iTunes Audio File Formats.
iTunes can sing to a variety of audio file formats. Most digital tracks imported into the iTunes database are compressed (or shrunken) so that the music doesn’t require a lot of space on your Mac. But when you compress your songs, you generally have a tradeoff between file size and sound quality. As you might imagine, larger files offer the finest sonic fidelity — at least in theory.
The best known of these compression schemes is MP3, a method in which files are squeezed to a reasonable size, even though the sound is perfectly acceptable to all but the most serious audiophiles. Apple prefers an alternate compression method. On Macs with QuickTime 6.2 or later, Apple uses a default encoding scheme known as MPEG-4 AAC (Advanced Audio Coding), a compression format that Apple claims is equal if not superior to MP3s encoded at the same or a slightly higher bit rate. (If you have an earlier version of QuickTime, MP3 is the default.)
The songs you purchase at the iTunes Store are also in the AAC format. According to Apple, the High Quality AAC setting produces files that take up less than 1MB for each minute of music. But iTunes also recognizes other file formats, among them: Apple Lossless, AIFF, and WAV. These last two flavors are uncompressed, so the music is of exceptional quality, but the files gobble up disk space. Apple Lossless is an audiophile format that matches AIFF and WAV in sound quality but takes up half the space.
If you’re itunes download quality inclined to mess with these file formats, visit iTunes Preferences, click the Advanced tab, and make your choice in the Importing section. You can set up the encoder to import using AAC, AIFF, Apple Lossless, MP3, or WAV, and also choose the stereo bit rate. In techie terms, 128 Kbps is the default.
How I significantly improved my iTunes song quality.
It was driving me crazy that the quality of the songs I was streaming from a website known as Bandcamp sounded better than the quality of the songs I was playing from my iTunes collection. In my case, I itunes download quality recently bought a Marian Call CD named “Something Fierce”, and had imported the songs from that CD into iTunes. But the songs I streamed from Bandcamp sounded better than the songs I imported from the CD; how could this be?
I dug into the problem and found two simple fixes, both in iTunes. In this article I'll show you how to make those fixes to dramatically increase your iTunes sound/music quality.
Test : If you want to hear a high-quality song, go to this Bandcamp URL, and play Marian Call’s song titled “Temporal Dominoes”. It’s the sixth song on the list, itunes download quality it’s free, and it’s also a great song. Turn up the volume a little bit, listen to the quality of that song, then play one of your own songs in iTunes on the same computer, and see if there’s a difference.
Before I made the following changes, when I played that song from Bandcamp it sounded like she was in the room with me, but when I played it from iTunes it sounded like she was singing in the closet. If you notice a similar difference, this article might be able to improve your iTunes sound quality.
1) Fix your iTunes “Import CD” settings.
The first thing I did was to dramatically increase the bit rate of the songs that I was importing into iTunes from CDs. I knew I had been using the default setting for MP3 files, which was 128 kbps. As a test, I jacked this up to the maximum -- 320 kbps -- and the difference was noticeable.
The following images show how to do this. First, switch to iTunes, then click “iTunes” in your Mac menu bar, then click “Preferences”. That brings up this dialog:
As the notes on that image show, first click the “General” button if it isn’t already selected, and then click the “Import Settings” button. That brings up the second dialog:
On this itunes download quality dialog, the first dropdown widget lets you choose the “type” of file you want to import. I always choose “MP3”, so I’ve done that here. The second dropdown is the one I needed to change. It was set to “128 kbps”, and as you can see, I increased that to “320 kbps”.
When you select “Custom” on that second dropdown widget you’ll be presented with this next dialog:
As the arrow on this image shows, I changed the bit rate quality to “320 kbps”, which is the highest quality supported by iTunes for MP3 files. (After reading other articles on the internet, I think this is the highest quality supported, period.)
After making these changes, I clicked “OK” on all of the preferences dialogs to close them.
Note 1: I suspect that this configuration will significantly increase the size of the song files that are saved to your hard drive. This setting increases the quality by a factor of 2.5, and I suspect that the files on your hard drive will also be increased by a size of 2.5. I don’t think thhis is a big deal on your hard drive, but when you transfer the songs to your phone or tablet, the increased size may be an issue there. (I haven’t looked yet to see how to control the size/quality of songs that are transferred to iPhones and iPads yet.)
Note 2: You might be able to get a better quality and/or smaller music files by choosing a format other than “MP3”. I’m definitely not an expert in this area, but I’ll see what else I can learn. (It’s always been important to me to be able to copy my music to whatever devices I own, so I’ve always used MP3s, and never thought about the other formats.)
2) Re-import your songs.
The next thing I did was to delete the songs in iTunes so I could re-import them.
In my case I deleted the songs in my iTunes collection from Marian Call’s “Something Fierce” album, and then imported them again from itunes download quality the original CDs. With the settings I changed in Step 1, these songs are now in iTunes in the highest quality.
Note: I haven’t tried this yet, but you may not have to delete your songs in iTunes. I suspect that it’s possible to just overwite them when you re-import them at the higher quality. I’ll update this article after I test that.
3) Fix your iTunes playback settings.
After re-importing her CD, I immediately played her song titled “Temporal Dominoes”, because at the beginning of that song I could hear a dramatic difference between the iTunes quality and what I was streaming from Bandcamp. Unfortunately the Bandcamp version of the song still sounded significantly better. I listened to it several times, and realized that the song in iTunes sounded muffled.
The solution to this problem was to go into the iTunes Playback settings and experiment with the options there.
In my case, the biggest culprit was the “Sound Check” setting, which “Automatically adjusts song playback volume to the same level.” That setting seems like