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High-Fidelity Podding

Taking advantage of the iPod's CD-quality capabilities By Frank Moldstad

iPodMost people only use their iPods to play songs purchased from Apple's iTunes site -- after all, that's what iPods are designed to do. When you buy a song from iTunes, it comes in the proprietary Apple AAC format, a compression format that minimizes file sizes at a quality similar to MP3 format.

But iPods have a versatile array of audio file types available in addition to AAC, including Wave, MP3, AIFF, and Apple Lossless. These can be mixed and matched in your iPod library, with no extra steps required to play them back. Which format to use depends on the type of material and the quality level desired. But for tunes that deserve better fidelity, why not take full advantage of the iPod's capabilities?

The iPod is actually capable of saving files at up to 16-bit/48kHz sampling -- even better than CD quality, which is 16-bit/44.1k. The 48k sampling might come in handy if you need to load audio for video files, which are sometimes at that rate. But for most music files, 16-bit/44.1k files in either Wave or AIFF format is the most practical, since that's what CDs use. AIFF is the native high quality audio format used by Apple's Logic Pro 7, Soundtrack Pro and other professional apps. The  Wave format, aka Broadcast Wave, is the high quality Windows audio format. Depending on the software application, these formats are compatible with both platforms. AIFF and Wave files offer dramatically better range, detail and clarity compared with heavily compressed internet download formats such as AAC and MP3. (CDs use a compression format, too, although a milder one.)

As an experiment, I took two16-bit/44.1k CD files and imported them into iTunes, one as an AIFF file on a Mac and the other as a Wave file on a PC. One was a song I had recorded, "Martha, O Martha," written and performed by a singer/guitar player named Darryl Marini for his recent EP, called "Sneak Peek." The other was a song by the Zutons, a band I discovered after downloading their song "Zuton Fever" from iTunes. I liked the song so much, I went out and bought the CD. The process of copying from a CD is simple, and I'll explain it below.

But first, it should be clarified that it is legal to make copies of music you own for your personal use, under the Fair Use doctrine. (Here it is  ... if you care to trudge through it: http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap1.html#107). The law gets murkier if you copy songs from a CD you own and give that copy to someone else -- that's probably not permissable unless you also give them the CD. And it's definitely illegal to post songs on file sharing sites for free download. It's ridiculously difficult to make a living as a musician these days, and those who do should receive fair compensation. 

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Related Keywords:iPod, iTunes , Wave, MP3, AIFF, Apple Lossless, AAC, CD quality, sampling


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