I’ve just decided to upgrade my music library to 256kbps AAC. I was using 192kbps, but iTunes Plus has made me re-evaluate. I’ve got plenty of storage on the computer. In fact, I’m just about to buy a fat external hard drive for iTunes media files alone. My 80Gb iPod has 5Gb free to allow for expansion like this and I’m banking on this year’s model having 100Gb or more.
256kbps alleviates more of the worry that compressed audio is a bad idea. I have a good ear but quell my most audiophile urges by allowing some loss of quality in exchange for usability. I don’t like to play CDs any more, especially ones that come in digipaks, slipcases or custom covers, for fear of wear and tear. All my delicates are sealed in plastic.
This is the third iteration of the ripping project. When I first started, I had to use 128kbps because of space limitations on computer and iPod. About a year and a half ago I decided to upgrade to 192kbps. I had more space in both camps and a friend of mine who is much more of a “sound guy” did a number of tests and determined that 192kbps was significantly better than 128. I didn’t notice much difference in the overall sound but the bass seemed to be better, so I went with 192.
Now for phase 3: 256. I am enjoying music more at this bit rate. Much more like a CD.
Here’s a tip: You might think that reripping is a chore, but you can make it a lot easier if you carefully tag your CDs in the first place. iTunes stores all the tags from a CD in the iTunes Library database file, so back this up or you will lose this CD tag data and you’ll have to download all those inaccuracies from CDDB again. If you don’t change any of the tags of the ripped files, then later put the CD in the drive to rerip it, you will be asked if you want to replace the existing files. This obviates the need to delete duplicates. I find that I inevitably have to change some tags over time to eliminate typos, correct genres, etc., so I have to verify the CD before I rip it. If the track name, artist, album, track number and/or disc number are different, iTunes will assume that the CD is a wholly different one from the one you are intending to replace, so check this.
Of course, if you aren’t intending to squeeze your whole library onto an iPod, I think you should get a big hard drive and rip from anywhere between 256kbps to 320kbps (highest bitrate supported by iTunes, iPod, iPhone and Apple TV) or even Lossless.