I’m sure for many people, this is a no-brainer, but having helped a minimum of three of my music collecting friends with this issue - who sadly had already encoded significant portions of their library - I consider it a public service of sorts to spell out with some detail how to get itunes to rip your cds into 320kbps mp3s instead of 128kbps(!!!) mp4s as it defaults too.
First, a word about bit rates as they relate to the quality of your rips: converting CD quality audio files to 128kbps mp4s during a rip represents a serious degradation in quality to your treasured CDs. Sure, you save some space on your hard drive, but really, why f*#@ up your rips (which essentially amount to backups) and waste time copying your music to your hard drive with anything less than the highest quality? Coencidentally, this is why I have generally negative feelings towards the itunes store as well – why buy tracks in a format that is (a) protected in such a way that your ownership rights are murky and (b) comes in a quality so low that aliasing can commonly be heard? As much as I would like to toast some more haterade to itunes in this article, I shall attempt to refrain – but believe me, I have a few more full glasses of the stuff. . . for the record, while I do admit itunes has its pros and cons and it makes a fascinating subject in light of the rapidly developing sales of music via the internet, until such a time I when harness my vitrolic prose to spew forth venom freely on the subject, I will have to refer you here and here.
Put simply, the idea is to rip your music into the highest quality format. I frequently rip into wave files (or FLACs) myself because I have had far too many CDs lost or stolen and I refuse to shed any more tears over irreplacable music disappearing. Ripping to 320kbps mp3s is going to be far more practical for most people and is nearly identical to lossless wave files so don’t despair. Plus, if you decide to make the jump to ripping directly to waves, the menu is accessed in the same method I am about to describe.
The first step is going to be different from Mac to PC, but everything else will be the same. On a Mac, you can access the Preferences menu from the Apple menu… on a PC you’ll find it under Edit>Preferences.
From the Preferences menu, choose the Advanced tab, then select the Import tab. Next, choose “Mp3 Encoder” from the “Import Using:” drop down menu that by default is set to “AAC Encoder”. Finally, choose “Custom bit rate” from the “Setting:” drop down directly below.
Now you are cooking with gas! The best settings for Mp3 encoding on this menu are “Stereo bit rate: 320kbps”, “Sample Rate: 44.100k”, “Channels: Stereo” and “Stereo Mode: Normal”. The two boxes underneath should be unchecked. Although 48k is a technically higher setting, CD wave files exist at 44k and no higher – if you were to set your encoding to 48k you may limit the compatibility of your files with some mp3 players and potentially your computer depending on the soundcard you have while gaining no actual benefit in audio quality from a cd rip.
And this, my friends, is why Apple hates you: one of the most fundamental settings if not THE most fundamental setting of a widely adopted program designed to organize and back up your music is hidden, what, four layers deep under an “advanced” menu and you have to choose the “custom settings” to set the mp3 encoding to the highest possible setting while itunes would have you believe that 192kbps mp3s are “high quality”? Personally, if I were to indulge in the adornment of a tin foil hat for a moment, I might be lead to think that Apple wants you to buy the same damn CD three times throughout your lifetime because you failed to back it up properly before it was hijacked by a former roommate once again… of course, in actually its just that Apple is working as a tool of the music/movie industry and that’s what they want. I mean, why else would Apple sell you files that you have to burn to a CD and re-rip if you want a DRM free copy anyway? This is addition to the aforementioned fact that what you purchase in the itunes store is lower quality than the same file you could buy on a used CD (in many cases for the same price or less) and rip yourself while having the benefit of a physical copy to have and hold. Don’t be a tool: rip your CDs in 320kbps at a minimum and try to avoid the itunes store unless its an emergency - fellow Djs will know exactly of what I speak.
I hope this tutorial/rant/public service announcement has proven to be somewhat informative to my fellow music lovers out there. I just wan’cha to hold on to what you have: stay gold, Ponyboy, stay gold…