What bit rate?

in iPod + iTunes + AppleTV edited January 2014
I've just become the proud owner of an iPod shuffle, woo hoo!!

I'm hoping that someone out there can help me.

I ripped some of my CDs' into iTunes using 128kbps AAC then transferred them to my iPod. While the sound was good, I felt that there was something missing.

I could work it out by trial and error but guessing that some of you have already done so, and given that it will somewhat be personal preference, what is the best bit rate to use so that the sound quality is acceptable. I don't mind sacrificing some play time for better quality. Say 6 hours of music rather than 8.

What is the comparison between the bit rates? Is it proportional, such that if I use 256kbps AAC then I'll get half the play time (twice the file size) as 128kbps?

Is AAC the best choice, or is MP3 better?

At the other end, how low can you go before it sounds rubbish?




  • Reply 1 of 19
    ipodandimacipodandimac Posts: 3,273member
    man this debate can get almost as bad as the abortion debate. i personally think 160kbps in AAC is good, but you'll get a different answer from everyone. just keep messing around until something works for you. keep in mind that it's easy to let yourself think one format or compression is better than another just because someone told you so (the whole placebo effect thing). so anyways, go experiment with music.
  • Reply 2 of 19
    shetlineshetline Posts: 4,695member

    Originally posted by Berthos

    Is AAC the best choice, or is MP3 better?

    As other people will tell you, you pretty much have to try out different bit rates and formats and decide for yourself.

    You also have to ask yourself "better for what?". In listening tests I've read about AAC has generally ranked higher in perceived quality at the same bit rate -- YMMV. If "better" means "more compatible", however, then MP3 might be the way for you to go. If you can spare the extra storage space, high bit rate MP3 encoding might give you something that sounds just as good to you as AAC, but which can be played back on a wider variety of platforms.

    I'm personally pretty happy with 192 kbps AAC when I encode music from my own CDs, and the 128 kbps stuff from iTMS is satisfying enough that I've bought quite a pile of it despite the fact that I wish it was available at a higher bit rate.

    By the way, the LAME MP3 encoder is generally regarded as a higher-quality MP3 encoder than the encoder built into iTunes, but it would take you some extra effort to use LAME over what's easiest to do with iTunes and your new iPod.
  • Reply 3 of 19
    whiterabbitwhiterabbit Posts: 208member
    I think AAC is also used by the "mp4" file format. It's basically the same, except that the mp4s have some extra metadata added or something.

    So as far as the mpeg group or whatever is concerned, aac is generally superior for quality.
  • Reply 4 of 19
    andersanders Posts: 6,523member
    I tested different codecs and bitrates and settled for 192 AAC for most of my music. Other kinds, like Arvo Pärt, Mogwai, Sigur Rós, Moby, Sonic Youth is loseless.
  • Reply 5 of 19
    zozo Posts: 3,117member
    I'm in the 192 AAC boat as well.

    I will go 256 AAC for classical music or stuff that I love (Led Zep) and stuff where every distinct note is important
  • Reply 6 of 19
    aquaticaquatic Posts: 5,602member
    One more for 192 AAC!
  • Reply 7 of 19
    sopphodesopphode Posts: 135member
    192kbps AAC & Lossless for some difficult to encode music.

    I'll probably switch over to the new 160-182kbps VBR setting in iTunes 4.8, though
  • Reply 8 of 19
    berthosberthos Posts: 10member

    Originally posted by Sopphode

    192kbps AAC & Lossless for some difficult to encode music.

    I'll probably switch over to the new 160-182kbps VBR setting in iTunes 4.8, though

    Thanks all for your comments. iPod Shuffle doesn't support Apple Lossless it seems.

    I'll try 192kbps for a while and see how it goes.


  • Reply 9 of 19
    zozo Posts: 3,117member
    oh god... please not ANOTHER ripping session if AAC VBR comes out...

    I'd rather wait 3 years for the next next generation codec.

    I'm still ripping CDs I had ripped 3-4 years ago in MP3.

  • Reply 10 of 19
    spiers69spiers69 Posts: 418member
    wow. i just tested out different bit rate AACs and i can only just hear the difference between 64kbps AAC and 192 kbps!

    i was ripping Darude's "Sandstorm" into different bit-rates. And the only real difference is the backwards symbols samples (which sound washed out @ 64kbps) and the fast little drum beats in the background dont sound as crisp.

    Can anyone else recomend a particular song (which i may have on CD - i own plenty of dance tunes and old-skool hip hop + some rock) that i should try in different bit-rates?
  • Reply 11 of 19
    mattyjmattyj Posts: 898member
    You'll find that for most tracks 160kbps AAC is fine for a digital music player such as your shuffle. 128kbps and you still get that annoying 'blurring' with bass response and underwater drum effect. With 160kbps this is minimal imo if not eradicated. However, 192kbps or up is good if you use a serious music system.

    Just my £0.02-Oh-Great-Brown-Can-Bugger-Up-The-Economy-Again
  • Reply 12 of 19
    kwsanderskwsanders Posts: 327member
    When I first started using iTunes, I ripped some CDs at 160 Kbps, but I then ripped some at 128 Kbps. I have since found that 160 Kbps is better sounding to me, so I am going to have to go back and rip those in 160 Kbps. I have downloaded a few songs from Garageband.com that were 192 Kbps. They sound very good even when burned back to CD as an audio CD.
  • Reply 13 of 19
    power applepower apple Posts: 335member
    Personally I rip most pop/rock/electronic music in 320kbps MP3 (LAME 3.90.3 "alt preset insane") and classical/jazz/film scores/very complex rock or electronica in Apple Lossless. I use iTunes on Mac OS X for CDs without any scratches and Exact Audio Copy (in Virtual PC) if I can see any scratches - however small they maybe. Now, this is because I rip all my CDs to iTunes and use that as my main music playback system - my regular CD player is mostly collecting dust these days.

    However, for use mainly with iPod I would recommend 192kbps AAC as the best compromise between sound quality, size and ripping speed. Just don't go 128 - someday you might regret (160 might do if you only use the ipod with the white earbuds from Apple, but if you ever want to hook it up to a stereo or use better headphones, 192 (or higher) is the way to go))
  • Reply 14 of 19
    spiers69spiers69 Posts: 418member
    you know it's funny you should say that. As i never use those tinny white headphones. i use proper one that cover the ears and i connect my iPod to my stereo daily (it's all i use to play music now).

    And 128 sounds like CD quality to me. Im gonna go and compare them right now.
  • Reply 15 of 19
    power applepower apple Posts: 335member

    Originally posted by spiers69

    you know it's funny you should say that. As i never use those tinny white headphones. i use proper one that cover the ears and i connect my iPod to my stereo daily (it's all i use to play music now).

    And 128 sounds like CD quality to me. Im gonna go and compare them right now.

    There are many factors to consider. One of them is the genre of music, which greatly influences the way you listen to - and experience the music. Darude's "Sandstorm" for example is not meant to be listened to the same way as, say, a classical music piece or complex rock or electronica etc. (and please don't take this as an attempt to belittle your taste in music in any way, it's not! I'm just stating simple facts: all music is different). Most dance and hiphop is not very critical when it comes to sound quality as it has been mixed and mastered to playback on shitty equipment - like small radios - with decent results. It will of course sound better with higehr bitrates but the difference will be less significant and it will not be as annoying at low bitrates like other kinds of music (eg. rock).

    Furthermore, every person has different priorities and taste. I just recommend 192kbps AAC as a good all-around compromise, as even classical music will sound "good" at that rate.

    (though anyone ripping in 64kbps should be arrested, sentenced and go to prison for at least 3 years )
  • Reply 16 of 19
    power applepower apple Posts: 335member
    sorry double post
  • Reply 17 of 19
    spiers69spiers69 Posts: 418member
    don't worry about abusing Sandstorm - i get that it all the time. The only reason i tested out the bit-rate with that song is because i remember hearing it years ago with a shitty bit-rate and it sounded terrible, so i figured it'd be good for a comparison.

    Now, Fatboy Slim, he really tickles my pickle. Man, he's great.

    I might see if i can dig up some classical music sometime, and do another comparison.
  • Reply 18 of 19
    budhusabudhusa Posts: 9member
    try this: if you rip the same rock song twice, once with lossless and once with 128 AAC (not mp3)...put them in a playlist, turn off the bitrate display, and click shuffle a few times... i have yet to find anyone who can tell me correctly which one is which - this of course is for ROCK songs...

    for jazz, world, electronica, etc. - 160 or 192 is clearly better.
  • Reply 19 of 19
    noleli2noleli2 Posts: 129member
    When AAC first came out, I ripped some Pat Metheny (very complex jazz) at 128MP3, 128AAC, and right to AIFF 44.1kHz/16bit. (I ripped to AIFF because the CD drive can be kinda loud....)

    Using AKG K240 headphones from my PB, there was a distinct difference between the AAC and the MP3, but it was hard to tell the difference between the AAC and the AIFF. That leads me to believe it's the limitation of the converter. Maybe I'll try it again now that I have an Mbox.
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