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Understanding file formats

From: iTunes 10 Essential Training

Video: Understanding file formats

In this chapter of movies we're going to look at the many ways to import music and other content into your iTunes library. So first of all I've gotten to rid of all the songs I imported in the previous chapter when I needed some examples to demonstrate the iTunes interface. So we're going to start with a clean blank iTunes library in this chapter, but if you have music in your library already, don't worry about it. Now in the movie following this one, I'm going to talk about importing music from audio CDs. When you import songs from a CD into your library, that song is encoded by iTunes into a file, and that file is stored on your hard drive. The amount of space that file takes up depends on the length of the song and the encoding settings you used when you imported it.

Understanding file formats

In this chapter of movies we're going to look at the many ways to import music and other content into your iTunes library. So first of all I've gotten to rid of all the songs I imported in the previous chapter when I needed some examples to demonstrate the iTunes interface. So we're going to start with a clean blank iTunes library in this chapter, but if you have music in your library already, don't worry about it. Now in the movie following this one, I'm going to talk about importing music from audio CDs. When you import songs from a CD into your library, that song is encoded by iTunes into a file, and that file is stored on your hard drive. The amount of space that file takes up depends on the length of the song and the encoding settings you used when you imported it.

And the encoding settings you use are also going to affect the audio quality of the particular song. Generally, larger files are going to sound better than smaller files. Let's go into iTunes > Preferences. If you're on Windows, you go into the Edit menu and choose Preferences, and here into the General section, we're going to look at the area near the bottom of the window. Now in the previous chapter, we looked at the menu where you can determine what happens when you insert a CD into your computer, whether you want iTunes to automatically start importing to CD or ask you to do so and so on. We also have this checkbox here called Automatically retrieve CD track names from Internet, which is on by default.

And that basically means that when you insert an audio CD, iTunes will connect to an online database and try to determine what CD you've just inserted and then list the track names instead of just giving you a generic list of names, like track 1, and track 2, and so on. So you probably want to keep that option checked to save yourself the hassle of manually typing track info in each time you import a CD. iTunes won't always recognize every CD, and it does occasionally misidentify CDs, but it gets it right most of the time and you can manually make any necessary changes or corrections, but what I really want to talk about in this movie are the import settings.

And at the top of this window that opens you'll find the Import Using menu. And these are the encoding options that are built into iTunes 10, and you'll find the same options on both Mac and Windows. Basically, these encoders are different ways for iTunes to convert music into files to store on your computer. Now, by far, the most well known type of encoder is the MP3 encoder. The term MP3 is pretty much synonymous with digital music, regardless of whether the file is actually an MP3 or not. MP3 was the codec that made it possible to take a sound file and compress it down to a small transferable file size while maintaining decent audio quality.

So many people are still encoding music as MP3s these days, but you probably saw that the default encoder in iTunes is the AAC Encoder. AAC files generally sound as good or better than MP3 files that are encoded at the same or even higher bit rate. Now, when I talk about bit rate, I'm referring to this Setting menu here. The default setting for the AAC encoder is iTunes Plus, which is 128 kilobits per second for mono recordings, and 256 kilobits per second for stereo recordings. All that means is that every second of music either takes up 128 or 256 kilobits of hard drive space, depending on whether that audio track is in mono or stereo.

Most recordings are in stereo these days, so you're most likely looking at 256 kilobits for files encoded with these settings. Now, you can also choose High Quality, which drops the settings down to 128 kilobits per second for stereo recordings, and there is also a Spoken Podcast setting which is optimized for audio tracks which don't involve music, but rather spoken word recordings. And you can also choose Customize, if you want to take that Stereo Bit Rate as high as 320 kilobits per second, but if you are like most people, you're probably not going to be able to hear the difference between anything encoded at around say 192 kilobits per second and anything higher than that.

Now, if you can hear the difference and don't mind larger file sizes, by all means choose a high bit rate for your encoding, but most people won't need to make any changes in here. Now, the MP3 Encoder is set to a default setting of High Quality 160 kilobits per second, but most people seem to agree that even though this produces a larger file than an AAC file that's set to a high quality of 128 kilobits per second, the smaller AAC file will sound better. Ultimately, you're going to have to be the final judge as to which encoder sounds better to you.

You might want to experiment with encoding one MP3 and one AAC version of the same song and see if you can tell the difference. If you can't, you might want to go with the smaller file. Now we do have a couple other import options here. We have the AIFF Encoder and the WAV Encoder, and these two are similar in that they don't apply any compression to the audio files. They produce a very high quality sounding files that are usually several times larger than AAC or MP3 files, and they generally take up about 10 megabytes of space per minute of music. So where an AAC or MP3 file might take-up say 3 to 4 megabytes of space and AIFF file or a WAV file might take-up to 10 megabytes of space.

The fifth encoding option we have here is the Apple Lossless Encoder. This encoder is going to give you a very close to the same quality as the AIFF and WAV Encoders, but at about half the file size. So Apple Lossless files are still going to be larger than AAC or MP3 files, but they'll sound better than AAC and MP3 files, without taking up as much space as the AIFF or WAV files. If you plan on burning a high quality audio disc of the songs you're importing, you should use either the Lossless Encoder or the AIFF Encoder for the best sounding results.

Just remember that the Lossless Encoder takes up less space, so unless you can here the difference between the AIFF and the Lossless, go with Lossless. Now, the WAV Encoder would work as well too, but that's more for Windows computers that aren't using iTunes or computers that don't have MP3 playing software. So you generally don't need to use the WAV Encoder even if you're on Windows, since you're already using iTunes. Now, if your primary purpose of importing music and audio files into your computer is just to play that music on the computer itself, or on your iPod, or to other computers on your network, you should definitely choose either MP3 or AAC as your default encoder.

I suggest AAC because I think it sounds better, but if you're going to be trading files with other users who don't use iTunes, or maybe embedding audio files into a website that you're designing, you might want to pick MP3, since AAC is not as widely supported outside of iTunes as MP3s are. So basically, whatever encoder you choose here, that's what we'll apply the next time you import a CD, but you can always come back in here to preferences to change your settings before you import content too. So nothing is set in stone here. What you should try to avoid though is importing a song as say an AAC file and then when you find your need one of those AAC files as an MP3, you then convert the AAC into an MP3. Because you essentially will be compressing an already compressed file and degrading the overall quality.

You should always try to encode your files from the original source if you can. So if you do end up needing an MP3 version of a song you took off a CD, put that CD back in and import the file as an MP3 fresh from the CD. All right, so I'm going to leave my encoder set to AAC Encoder and the setting to iTunes Plus. Now, we also have a checkbox in here that turns on error correction when reading Audio CDs. Basically, if the CD you're importing is in poor shape, maybe it's scratched up, that might introduce errors into the file you're importing. You can check this box to let iTunes take its time in importing the files.

It might take longer to import the songs, but it also might result in a better sounding import. So check this box if you're having trouble importing certain tracks. I'm just going to uncheck mine again. Finally, just be aware that none of the settings you select here apply to songs you buy from the iTunes Store. Those tracks have already been compressed and optimized by Apple and you can't change their encoding settings. So these import settings are really about the settings you're applying to music you're importing from a CD or to files that are already in your iTunes library that you want to convert into another format. All right, so I'll click OK. Now, before we wrap this movie up, I want to look at the Advanced section of our preferences.

And it's here where you'll find the default location of where your iTunes music and other media are stored. So when I copy music off a CD and import it onto my computer, I can see that on my Mac it will go into my User folder, into Music\iTunes, and a folder called iTunes Media. Let me show you what this looks like in Windows. So here in Windows you can see that the default location is the C drive\Users\my name\ Music\iTunes\iTunes Media. Now, if want to store my iTunes elsewhere, I'm free to click Change and select another location, but I generally recommend you leave that default location.

A little later I'll talk about moving your library or adding additional libraries, but for now I just need to be aware of where iTunes is storing your files by default. You'll probably also want to make sure you leave Keep iTunes Media folder organized checked. This automatically organizes your media into artist and album folders, which can also make it easier to copy and backup your music manually. We also have this option to Copy files to the iTunes music folder when adding to library. This doesn't apply to music you import off a CD, which will go right into your music folder location. But if you have audio files that maybe someone emailed to you or that you copied off the web and that you want to add into iTunes, with this option checked iTunes will create a copy of that file in your iTunes music folder when you drag it in, and we'll talk more about this in a couple of movies from now.

So those are the import options I wanted to show you in regards to importing music from a CD, which we'll take a look at how to do in the very next movie.

Show transcript

This video is part of

Image for iTunes 10 Essential Training
iTunes 10 Essential Training

60 video lessons · 19974 viewers

Garrick Chow
Author

 
Expand all | Collapse all
  1. 1m 37s
    1. Welcome
      1m 1s
    2. Using the exercise files
      36s
  2. 31m 45s
    1. Opening iTunes for the first time
      3m 20s
    2. Exploring the Source pane
      4m 49s
    3. Using the playback controls
      6m 33s
    4. Setting general preferences
      3m 21s
    5. Exploring the interface differences in the Mac and Windows versions
      7m 14s
    6. Setting parental controls
      4m 39s
    7. Using keyboard shortcuts
      1m 49s
  3. 57m 19s
    1. Understanding file formats
      8m 58s
    2. Importing from a CD
      5m 41s
    3. Entering song info manually
      8m 40s
    4. Finding and adding album artwork
      6m 41s
    5. Adding lyrics to songs
      4m 2s
    6. Dragging in song files
      6m 32s
    7. Converting single files
      2m 24s
    8. Using the Automatically Add to iTunes folder
      5m 0s
    9. Joining tracks
      4m 46s
    10. Importing videos
      4m 35s
  4. 25m 44s
    1. Consolidating your library
      4m 8s
    2. Upgrading to iTunes Media organization
      2m 29s
    3. Extending your library
      4m 47s
    4. Working with multiple libraries
      2m 38s
    5. Finding duplicate songs
      3m 56s
    6. Moving a library
      7m 46s
  5. 1h 2m
    1. Browsing
      6m 34s
    2. Searching
      1m 52s
    3. The Snapback button
      1m 18s
    4. Rating songs
      2m 7s
    5. Exploring playback options
      9m 35s
    6. Creating playlists
      5m 53s
    7. Creating Smart Playlists
      7m 13s
    8. Creating playlist folders
      2m 55s
    9. Shuffling and repeating
      3m 4s
    10. Using iTunes DJ for party playlists
      7m 14s
    11. Using the Equalizer
      7m 1s
    12. Using the Visualizer
      4m 20s
    13. Using internet radio
      3m 27s
  6. 20m 6s
    1. Sharing over a network
      5m 6s
    2. Turning on home sharing
      4m 2s
    3. Burning discs
      6m 54s
    4. Using AirPlay to stream content from iTunes to an AppleTV or Airport Express
      4m 4s
  7. 38m 46s
    1. Store overview
      3m 29s
    2. Creating an account
      3m 28s
    3. Browsing for content
      4m 2s
    4. Searching for content
      3m 29s
    5. Purchasing content
      7m 32s
    6. Purchasing gifts for others
      3m 44s
    7. Redeeming iTunes gift certificates
      1m 15s
    8. Using the Genius sidebar and creating Genius playlists
      5m 50s
    9. Using the Ping social network
      5m 57s
  8. 9m 2s
    1. Finding and subscribing to podcasts
      6m 50s
    2. Listening to and interacting with enhanced podcasts
      2m 12s
  9. 27m 38s
    1. Managing your iPod
      7m 21s
    2. Syncing music and movies
      7m 16s
    3. Syncing photos from a Mac
      3m 51s
    4. Syncing photos from a Windows computer
      3m 2s
    5. Syncing contacts and calendars from a Mac
      3m 5s
    6. Syncing contacts and calendars from a Windows computer
      3m 3s
  10. 14s
    1. Goodbye
      14s

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