10/28/09
6:17 am

MacMost Now 311: iTunes Import Settings

Many users never change the iTunes Import Settings, but it is important that you check them out and make sure that iTunes is importing your CDs using a format that you like. The default AAC may not provide the versatility that you need.

Video Transcript
Hi, this is Gary with MacMost Now. Today's episode let's look at iTunes import settings.
So the iTunes import settings is what controls the format that songs are imported from CDs into your iTunes library. It's very important that you consider this format before importing a lot of music into your library. Most people don't and leave it as the default, which may not be the best thing for you.
So there are two ways to get to the import settings. The first is when you've stuck a CD into your drive and you've selected it in the left here in iTunes. Then you get this big import settings button at the bottom-right. You can also get to it by going to iTunes, preferences. Under general preferences there's a import settings button there, as well. Both take you to the same place. Which are these import settings in this control panel and you've got a lot of options here.
The first thing you wanna think about is what format you're gonna use. Now, the default is to use AAC, which is Apple's own, kind of, MP3 like format. Another one you should consider is standard MP3 format. The rest of these really aren't for general use. AIFF and WAV are some standard sound files, but you really don't wanna use them for your music collection. And Apple Lossless will create very large files that are absolutely perfect but much too large for the general use for just a regular music library.
So AAC is a little bit better quality. So why would you choose MP3? Well, MP3's very standard and there's a lot of devices out there that will only use MP3 files. For instance, if you want to burn a CD to play back in your car stereo, chances are the CD player there will only play back regular CDs and MP3 CDs but won't work with AAC files. The same for a lot of little devices, for instance, you can pick up cheap 10 and 20 dollar MP3 players that will only play back MP3 files not AAC. So I find it worthwhile to make sure all my music's encoded in MP3 format because I can play it back on just about any device. Whereas if I did AAC, I have to convert individual songs every time I wanted to use them on some special devices.
Now, once you've selected a format, you've got quality setting here. You can go and choose one of Apple's default qualities settings, like good, high and higher, for MP 3. You can also select custom, which will bring up another control panel and give you very specific control here. So, if you're an audiophile, you may know what all these mean and you may know exactly what you want. But in general you want to pick what you've got here. Now in the past, going to good quality was a nice option because it made smaller files and most ears can't tell the difference. But, now that hard drives are so cheap and iPods and other MP3 players have so much space, it might be a good idea to go to even higher quality to get closer to actual CD sound.
Way back when I first started to use iTunes, I did a test where I took a high quality set of headphones and I recorded the same song, some classical, some rock, some jazz, and did it at different bit rates. And then I gave myself a blind test to see if I could tell the difference between say, 128 kilobits a second and 256 kilobits a second. And my ears couldn't tell the difference. So, I started recording a lot of music at 128 kilobits a second. You may want to do a similar test and try and decide what bit rate you should use for your music library.
Now, there's another thing that you import settings does for you in iTunes. It also sets how you're going to convert things. So, for instance, if you've got a song here and I right-click on the song. I can see there's a create MP3 version option here. So, say I wanted to go ahead and create an AAC version of that song. I would go to preferences, go to import settings, and change to AAC Encoder. Now by making that one change. Now if I right-click on that same song, I see it says create AAC version. So, import settings is also used to covert things. So, if you've got a lot of AAC songs, for instance, and you need to convert them to MP3s. You go first change your import settings, then select that song or group of songs, and go ahead and create AAC version or MP3 version, depending upon what you're converting to.
The bottom line here is not exactly how you should set these settings. 'Cause that's gonna vary from person to person. It's that you should set them before importing any music if you just started using iTunes. A lot of people have entire libraries encoded in AAC and then find out they can't use them very easily to make MP3 CDs, or to play them back on some devices simply because they never knew this import setting dialog existed and they didn't set it to MP3 to begin with.
Now you can convert from one to the other but you can only get better quality if you take the original source CD and create new copies of them. So, for instance, if you've encoded some albums as AAC and now you want to convert 'em to MP3, I would go get the original CDs and re-encode them with the MP3 settings. Instead of trying to convert the AAC to MP3.
So I hope you take a minute to check out your import settings in iTunes. Till next time, this is Gary Rosenzweig with MacMost Now.