iPod Sound Quality

Question: I've resisted buying an ipod so far because I am an audiophile and I hate the idea of compressed music, which I equate to poor sound quality! Can you transfer whole CDs directly into an ipod from a CD player without compression? If you could, it would still mean you could store around 220 full CDs onto a 160 gb ipod and get absolute sound quality.

Answer: You're going to love the sound that comes from an ipod, for a number of reasons.

First, to answer your question - yes, you can transfer whole CDs to your ipod without compression. Using iTunes, select Edit -- Preferences and then click the Import Settings button to configure CD import settings.

The default import encoder setting is AAC, and you have options for importing at 128kbps or 256kbps (stereo bit rate), or can choose a custom import quality level up to 320kbps.

If you prefer using an MP3 encoder, then you can select that option as well - with custom bit rate options up to 320 kbps.

You probably already know this, but for others reading this article: keep in mind that a larger bit rate settings (the kbps number) means higher quality music files but also larger files. The larger the files, the better they'll sound - in theory anyway - and the less you can store on your ipod.

Most ears won't notice the difference between 128kbps and 256kbps however, especially considering you'll most likely be listening to the music with headphones in an area where other background noises can be heard.

The headphones that come with an ipod are great, but if you really want to experience the full CD quality of your imported songs then I recommend investing in a pair of high quality ear-canal/earbud-style headphones like the Sennheiser CX300-B Earbuds that I own.

These earbuds fit snuggly in your ear canal and create a comfortable seal that keeps out a good amount of background noise while accentuating the music quality - giving you a much richer listening experience, including noticeably deeper base tones.

You mention in your article above that the iPod earbuds are great. Sure the sound is fine however the fit is horrible. What I did was to buy custom molded ear buds from a website called Earsound. I did this because I had already spent money on other earbuds that came with different sized tips but it still wasn't good. After ordering the company did send me to a hearing aid place and the molding process took about 10 minutes. Hope this helps too.

Ricky's picture

I think it really depends on your ear size, and what fits well for one might not fit well for someone else. My wife had to get a pair of fitted gel buds, whereas the Sennheisers work great for me.

Audiophiles frequently use the Apple Lossless encoder - very similar to the FLAC lossless or Meridian Lossless packing. Cuts file size by 50%, doesn't lose any information. Kind of like ZIP for music.

you can also utilize apple lossless (ALAC). it its lossless meaning that you do not lose any of the sound quality when importing from a CD. it is like a FLAC (lossless) file except that the ipod can play it.

obviously, the file is bigger. a 2 - 3 minute beatle song (stereo) ends up being about 10 mb.

Ricky's picture

Yesterday I also bought a pair of Bose QuietComfort 15 Noise Canceling Headphones. Here's my review.

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