Conversion §

In my last entry I detailed some strange Podcast behaviour in iTunes (which, in follow up, appears to have been resolved in iTunes 5.0.1) which freed up that 4GB of space. Well, while I was digging around in iTunes, I got to wondering about MP3 vs AAC file formats.

The advantage to AAC - which leads me to a bit of a tangent, but it must be said, I am tired of people calling this a “proprietary” file format that only Apple uses. That is blatantly false. AAC is an industry standard format that was created as the successor to the MP3 format, by the creator of the MP3 format. What is proprietary about iTunes is the Digital Rights Management (DRM) that Apple uses, not the file format. Microsft’s WMA (Windows Media Audio) is proprietary and contains DRM, that, in my opinion, is worse. (but who am I to judge?)

Ouch, back on track now, the advantage to the AAC file format is that it can encode much higher sound quality in a distinctly smaller file size. And since I was digging around in my iTunes library anyway, I decided to put this claim to the test over the weekend.

I first created a Smart Playlist that listed “Kind: MP3” and “Podcast is False.” This created a playlist of all of the MP3 files in my Library, but did not include any podcasts which are mostly MP3s. (I didn’t include those because I delete them after play anyway, so no need to convert.)

Next step, I selected the entire contents of the list, and then Converted them to AAC (which is under the “Edit” menu, in case you’re actually using this article as a tutorial). For the record, iTunes was set to the default import mode of 128 kbps high quality stereo, from what I’ve been told this is equivalent to 192kbps MP3 files.

I had over 800 songs that were still MP3 files and it took my Powerbook a very large part of the day to complete the conversion, but when it was through I had freed up over 1GB of space, that’s a little over 1 MB per file.

It may not seem worth it, but my hard drive is small and filling quickly, in this scenerio every little bit helps. I think that what this does make the case for is large libraries (a friend of mine has over 20GB of music) that are mostly in MP3 format.

If you follow my average through to the library of my aforementioned friend, he could free up to 5GB (assuming 5,000 songs per 20GB), depending on how many are MP3! Halving the size of his music library without sacrificing quality. In fact, that 5,000 songs figure comes from Apple’s iPod specs and assumes 128kbps AAC files, which is what we’re converting to. So in the case of a library composed of mostly MP3s, or all MP3s, you could free up even more than that.

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