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.