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TMO Quick Tip - Improving iTunes CD Import Quality

by , 7:30 AM EDT, June 8th, 2007

Apple is now offering iTunes Plus 256kbps music downloads, so why should the CDs you import into iTunes be at a lower audio quality? I don't think they should, and it's easy to change that setting yourself. Here's how:

  • Launch iTunes. If it isn't in your Dock, it is hiding in the Applications folder.
  • Now choose iTunes > Preferences.
  • Click the Advanced tab.
  • Now click the Importing tab.
  • By default, iTunes imports your music CDs at 128kbps in AAC format - the same audio quality level as the standard US$0.99 tracks at the iTunes Store. Go ahead and choose Custom from the Settings pop-up menu.

  • Set your recording bit rate in the AAC Encode dialog.
  • Now select 256 kbps from the Stereo Bit Rate pop-up menu.
  • Click the OK button to close the AAC Encode dialog.

Increasing the bit rate from 128kbps to 256kbps allows iTunes to store more information about each song it imports, which means that more audio information about each song gets recorded on your hard drive. If you have quality speakers, your music in iTunes should sound much closer to what you hear when you play the orignal CD.

The trade off is that each song takes up more space on your hard drive, so keep that in mind if your storage space is limited. Also, if you are using lower quality speakers, or your Mac's built-in speakers, you may not be able to hear the difference in songs recorded at the different bit rates.

If you want an idea of what to look for in quality speakers and earphones, check out the TMO reviews on the Audioengine5 Desktop Speakers, Pro|Tone M100 and M250 in-ear phones, and the Future Sonics Atrio series earphones.


Jeff Gamet is TMO's Morning Editor and Reviews Editor. He lectures, teaches and speaks on Mac OS X and design-related topics, and is the author of The Designer's Guide to Mac OS X from Peachpit Press.

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