Can Anyone Please Walk Me Through This?

Hello Everyone.

There have been several threads that touch on the subject of lossless files for the Ipod, including my own posts describing my frustration "tagging" ordinary WAV files.

Although I still can't seem to find the right information in any one single place, an Audiogon friend recently told me that this whole business was a piece of cake with the latest version of Itunes.

Using Itunes or EAC (my old reference standard) could someone please tell me how to do the following in a Windows 2000 environment:

1) "Rip" individual tracks and/or entire CDs into my computer's drive in a true lossless or WAV format for maxium fidelity with no concern for storage space and

2) Do this in a way that preserves the track information, or at least permits easy "tagging" which will also transfer to the Ipod and

3) Extra credit: anything that enhances the ease and convenience of creating a library and/or contributes to maximum audiophile flexibility for other devices or formats or exportation to an external DAC.

Fingers crossed I might soon enjoy maximum fidelity for my big gig Ipod, even if I can only store a few CDs worth of content.

Thank you very much.
let's see...I don't use iTunes anymore, but I do remember that you set the cd-rip quality in one of the drop down menues at the top of the itunes console. Look around in Preferences and places like that.

If iTunes is open, and you put a cd in, you should see the round icon in the top right corner of itunes change to a symbol that says "encode/rip" or something like that when you drag your mouse over it.

some notes: iTunes lossless format is different than wav files, so you will be seeing smaller files once you get them ripped. Also, if I recall correctly, iTunes labels ripped cds for you.

You should be fine with a DAC running out of your pc as long as you use iTunes for playback. I believe their new lossless codec is proprietary.

Drop a line if you have any questions..
I'll preface this by saying I'm an iPod newbie to some degree myself, but what you are looking to do is exactly how I load music on my iPod.

When I first installed iTunes I set the compression ratios to WAV and made iTunes my default audio player in Windows 2000. When I load an audio CD in my computer's CDROM the operating system sees the disc and iTunes pops up. iTunes queries Apple's data base and the track listing appears; all the information about the disc is right there in front of you. The default is to select all the songs on the CD, click to de-select the tunes you don't want to save. You then click on Save in iTunes and the songs are saved as WAV files in My Documents=>My Music=>iTunes=>iTunes Music.

Sync up your iPod to your computer and the newly saved songs are downloaded to your iPod. Once the download is complete you can delete the WAV files from your computer, I always defrag after I do this.

Creating a library is simple in iTunes. Click on Edit => New Smart Playlist and fill in the info. Drag and drop your tunes into your new playlist and you're good to go. There is a new version of iTunes available for download on Apple's website, I suggest you update your software. Happy Podding, Jeff
Please take a look at these web sites for detail how-to steps:

In addition, based on my own experiences, I have the following recommendations if you have enough disk space:

1. If you are going to play from iTune, rip CD to Apple Lossless. Apple Lossless sounded the same as WAV when played from iTune. No need to waste 50% disk space.

2. If you are going to burn CD from iTune, rip CD to WAV, not Apple Lossless. CDs burn from WAV sound better than burn from Lossless. I cannot explain it but I have tried a dozen CDs and every one sound better when burn from WAV.

3. Convert the ripped WAV or Apple Lossless to MP3 VBR at 320kbs for iPod upload. When played back from iPod through HD-650 headphone, I cannot tell any difference between MP3 at 320kbs and WAV. No need to waste limited disk space on iPod.

4. Use smart playlists to separate the WAV, Apple Lossless, and MP3.

5. Do not delete the WAV or Apple Lossless even after you have uploaded to iPod because you cannot transfer them back from iPod easily – at least not from iTune, you will need other tools.
Thanks for the excellent posts so far. As much as I would like tubes and a turntable in my car, I think hard drived based music is here to stay for a while.

Sidssp, interesting that you were comfortable with MP-3 at 320kbs. Perhaps I was not using that standard but I thought I was using the highest quality settings on the LAME compression software, after ripping CDs with EAC.

(Maybe that is out of date now, but was supposedly the hot thing not long ago.)

The surprise for me was installing a Nakamich CD-400 in my car and there was a DRAMATIC difference between WAV files and my MP-3 files when played from my Ipod through the car stereo.

The MP-3 files had vague wandering image, a harder, more fatiguing sound quality, and less dynamic range ie compressed.

I have other Agon friends that say the best MP-3 is very good now, but that is why I was obsessed with the lossless files, even at the expense of disc space.
Cwlondon, I don't know how well LAME or EAC work, I have not used either. But I believe your MP3 files were encoded at a lower bit rate. I have experienced the same edgy, hard, and fatiguing sound quality you described when I ripped CDs at below 192kbs. But at 320kbs VBR, the sound quality is really excellent. Give it a try. It might surprise you.
I second the VBR mp3 file suggestion using EAC. In addition, as I've mentioned elsewhere, with the ipod, storage isn't your main concern, battery life is. The ipod has only a 16 or 32mb buffer (I think it's 16 though). With uncompressed wav files this keeps the hd spinning nearly constantly and battery life will plummet from an already sub-par battery life of 7-8 hours. Using my ipod, with several amps and with several headphones (the best being shure e5's) I was unable to distinguish between wavs and vbr mp3s.

The VBR mp3's are so good, that I picked up an m audio firewire audiophile external soundcard and run a digital out with coax Signal Cable from my computer into my stereo. The sound is excellent. The only reason I can occasionally tell a difference is because the mp3s sound a bit quiter for a given volume setting--I have no idea why this is though.

Avoid the standard 128kbps mp3s like the plague (I'm sure you know this already).

I am sure the 320 kbs is much better and probably pretty good.

I do find it interesting, however, in a forum where we split hairs between CD transports and cables, that the WAV (bit for bit) files would be indistinguishable from the compressed files on Sennheiser 650's which I dont own but understand are very revealing, more or less reference quality headphones.

Perhaps this is because the playback is ultimately still limited by the iPods internal amp and D/A converter?

Sorry to continue to be so stubborn on this subject, but it still seems to me that a lossless WAV file would be the best digital archive.

Then, if I could ever figure out how to get those bits from the computer, or the iPod, into a serious D/A, an external headphone amp, and my Etymotics ER-4's with custom silicon earpieces.......
Perhaps I'm dense, but I'm not twigging here on the issue... Why not just rip to WAV files using EAC and transfer those to the iPod if you are that worried about audio quality, or is the issue there that WAV files don't have ID tags and therefore you can't use the artist/album, etc. indexes? Could you rip to WAVs and just build custom playlists using MusicMatch or whatever jukebox software comes on your WinBox? The Win iPod should be .m3u compatible, so playlists should transfer.

BTW, 320kbps VBR makes no sense to me. VBR = *V*ariable *B*it *R*ate. Because 320kbps is a bit rate, 320 kbps CBR (C=Constant) makes sense, but not VBR. I use the alt preset settings--"-alt preset extreme" to be specific. It is a VBR scheme. You should realize that LAME, and mp3 compression generally, has a huge number of variables that you can play with besides simply bit rate. The "alt presets" are the coding communities' best effort to maximize audio quality for a given average compression ratio.

My recollection is that with alt preset extreme, I get compression on the same order as higher quality 128 kbps CBRs--about 10:1, about a MB/min. If you are compressing at 320kpbs, you ought to get 4:1 or so. At that point, I think I might just go with the WAVs. Or, try the "-alt preset insane" setting.
Whether or not you can hear a difference between various data compression formats is highly dependent upon the type of music being auditioned. My experience is that current production pop/rock recordings, i.e. heavy dynamically compressed recordings, are virtually indistinguishable from their originals when compressed to MP3 type formats. I say virtually because on my main system I still can detect a loss of imagining/soundstaging information. It's a subtle loss of info, but it is readily audible. In the car it's not a factor.
I don't think anyone is, or should, argue that mp3s are the equal of WAV files when it comes to quality. The point I would make is that some mp3s aren't equal to other mp3s when it comes to quality. Even my non-audiophile mother is going to be able to tell the difference between a WAV and 32 kbps CBR with the command line "-q 9 -m m". For a look at the command line options, see:

Face it, unless you wish to remain pure and stick with WAVs, you are going to get compromised audio. The *only* way of deciding what is appropriate for you--how much of a hit you are willing to take in terms of audio quality based upon the playback medium you are recording mp3s for--is to try some of the formats and see. This is totally a value judgment--am I willing to listen to -alt preset insane and get 20 albums only on my iPod, or -alt preset extreme and get 100, or -alt preset standard and get 500?
Edesilva, the reason why I'm advocating mp3s over wavs is because of the buffer size and battery life of the ipod. I have one, I've tried it and, unless you want to use it for more than one trip around the block, it will not work. For better or worse, the ipod is a player created for small files of compressed music. This is also why I'm advocating VBR over CBR. I'm furthermore advocating -alt preset standard over extreme or insane because, even the creator of the -alt preset settings admits that there is no audible sound difference between the three--simply file bloat. He admits to creating it for people who must feel like they have the best regardless of logic of reason (oddly enough, I believe that applies to 99% of the people on A'gon). Check out hydrogenaudio for more infomation.

The -alt preset standard generally produces file sizes that are roughly double that of 128 kbps CBR, but are still small enough to make the ipod's pathetic buffer size happy.

I'm not advocating mp3s as God's gift to music. I'm hoping (and I think) that this is a sad little chapter in music history. I think it's only a matter of a couple of years before we have our 1.8" 100GB Toshiba drives with 1GB of buffer and we can all happily use wav files (of course, you still can't tag and organize them...)

The point I am making though, is that most people's experience with 128kbps CBR mp3's shouldn't turn them off to enjoying good portable sound right now. Arm yourself with EAC, choose an -alt preset of somekind (ABX them first to make sure you're really happy) and enjoy the music.
I have been an audiophile and a DIYer since 1972. Over the years I have learn not to worry about hair splitting differences anymore. If my lady friend or I cannot consistently hear the difference, I would rather just enjoy the music and not worry about what was supposed to be better. Maybe you are right about the iPod’s internal amp and DAC limit, or maybe my old ears are just not sensitive enough anymore. But in either case, iPod playing MP3 encoded at 320kbs VBR sounded every bit as good as wav to me. That is why I encourage you to give it a try. If you can hear a difference, god blesses you. If you can’t, why waste the disk space?

You can tag Apple Lossless. On average, it is about 50% smaller than wav and about 50% larger than 320bps MP3 VBR. If one really wants to be perfect, Apple Lossless is a good compromise. One down side is that you will be stuck with iTurn and iPod, nothing else can play that format.
OK - maybe we can simplify this for everyone:

1) MP3 algorithims have improved dramatically, but they are still compressed, digital files and let's face it: they ain't high end.

Their limitations and artifacts may be obscured by the signal chain, or be less relevant with certain types of music or lesser quality recordings, but otherwise should be audible to any self respecting audiophile -- even on a high end car stereo which is what led me to start this thread.

2) WAV files are probably a better audiophile solution, but you cannot easily "tag" them with track information. This, unfortunately, defeats one of the chief purposes of computer based audio -- convenience.

In addition, there are buffer issues when using WAV files which will rapidly drain battery life on portable devices and also cause audible skips in your music. Not to mention of course, that they take up massive amounts of hard drive space, which dramatically limits the amount of music one can store on their hard drive based device.

So in the end, portable devices including the iPod dont really "support" WAV files, any more than an all wheel drive Porsche 911 Carrera 4 "supports" driving on unpaved surfaces. OK, you can sort of drive off road, but not with the results that you wanted or were expecting.

3) Until this is all improved, Apple's proprietary "lossless" format may be the best solution, as it takes up less storage space than a WAV file and also can be easily "tagged" with track info, just like MP3 files.

It is unclear, however, how good Apple's format really sounds. And since it only works with Ipods, this is difficult to test.

It is likely,however, that this, too, may not be up to the high end standards of this forum for uncompromised playback through the best associated gear.

Do we all agree?
No we do not all agree. Not as a personal attack, but you seem overly rigid in your position, so much so that I question why you're even bothering with an iPod.

I agree that MP3 style compression is not high end audio, but I still argue that for certain types of music (modern pop/rock/country) the sonic losses are quite small. Also, it's not unreasonable to argue that due to their high background noise levels that any car system is not high end. If the car system can't be high end, then why quibble over whether the source is high end enough?

I use an Apple computer with my iPod and primarily use AIFF type files. AIFF is Apple's version of a WAV and it uses no compression whatsoever. iTunes automatically tags the files with album/song data and that info is easily transferred to the iPod. I have never experienced any buffer or skipping problems with my iPod and this includes the playback of several single songs that last more than an hour.

Regarding battery life -- yes, using uncompressed files will shorten usable battery life due to the greater use of the hard drive. I've read that the battery in 3 series iPod can sustain approximately 400 charge/discharge cycles. Obviously you're better off not letting your iPod fully discharge. At home you should always leave it plugged in. In a car you should use any of the readily available third party supplied lighter adapter chargers. There are also add on battery packs that claim to more than double the usable discharge time of the iPod. Worse comes to worse, Apple will replace dead batteries for $99 installed.

With a 30Gb iPod using AIFF files I typically achieve 5-6 hours battery life and can store 650 songs. When I really want to load up a lot of music I copy the selected files to AAC (192kbps, mono) and then can store nearly 4,000 songs on the iPod. Mono works for me since I would only listen in the car and stereo information just isn't important
to me in such an environment.

Your next to last paragraph perplexes me. By design an iPod is not a high end oriented device. It's a convenience, lifestyle oriented product. I know that there are some audiophile who use their iPods with expensive cables and there's probably somebody out there contemplating how they can cryo theirs, but I still maintain it's not being entirely realistic to hold the iPod up to high end standards. For what it is the iPod is a great product, but you have to accept it for what it is. If you require true high end sound quality in a digital portable playback system you might want to consider one of the various Nagra products.
I disagree on a few points. First, read this article here:

Realize that 1.) To claim that your hearing is superior to some of these folks, while certainly possible, is unlikely. And if you're going to be straining like they were in a critical listening session, the ipod is not for you. 2.) The -alt preset mp3 encoding suggested in this thread is far superior to the mp3s used as test samples in this article.

Also, Apple's lossless compression is...lossless. I'm not really sure what you're going to add to lossless in any setting to make it sound better.

And, forgive me, but aren't you looking for a format for an ipod? You're not sitting in an anechoic chamber. You're going to be listening to headphones (and if it's the Apple earbuds this whole thread was for naught). You're probably not even going to be using a portable amp and I can guarantee you this, without an amp, any headphone straight out of the ipod jack is utterly incapable of resolving any difference in what may, or may not, exist between -alt present mp3s, Apple lossless and wavs. Even with an amp, my Shure e5's (while they might not be the ultimate headphone, they're pretty close) and Senn 600's made my VBR mp3s sound pretty fantastic--every bit as good as the original wavs.

What this all boils down to (and correct me if I'm wrong) is that you haven't even tried these formats yet. As always, trust your own ears. And while I am very thankful for a great deal of advice gotten from A'gon, I have come to the point where I realize, based solely on my hearing (which as a musician isn't shabby) that a lot of it is crap posted by people that must feel that they own the best. If possible, do some ABX testing so you can be honest with yourself. I think you'll be shocked. But regardless, I'm interested in hearing the results

I'm sure there are situations where there is an audible difference between mp3s and wavs. After all, mp3s are a lossy compression format. However, the ipod is not one of those situations. But for this reason, if your sole interest in this project is to make digital backups of your music, then obviously do not use the mp3 format. Personally, I have backups in FLAC (a lossless compression format) and those same cds in -alt preset standard mp3s for use on my ipod. Even if you have a thousand cd's, this solution isn't going to cost you more than about $100 in hard drive space. You'll have the peace of mind knowing that your music is backed up in a perfect format and you'll have the added benefit of enjoying a boatload of great sounding music and battery life (as good as the ipod gets at least).
Edesilva, you might be interested in the last post on this thread on hydrogenaudio regarding the -alt presets. By the way, Dibrom is the author of those presets.
I dont think I am as rigid as the tone of my post might have suggested. I am glad, however, that this has inspired a lively discussion and thank you everyone for your thoughts.

I am not trying to brag about my golden ears, and perhaps I was listening to 128 MP3s (which many of you have suggested are far inferior) during my test which actually was in my car.

To further shock and astound you, you would see from the "what car do you drive thread" that the car is a Porsche Boxster S with a stainless racing exhaust. Somehow -- even with the roof down -- a harder and more fatiguing quality was apparent on the MP3s vs the WAV files.

The system consists of a Nakamich CD-400 using low level outputs to an a/d/s amp, with a/d/s woofers in the door panels, addl soundproofing, and mediocre upward firing mid/tweeters in the dash. The iPod connects through a cable -- not cryogenically treated -- as the Nak has an aux input switch on the front panel.

Obviously, I am not trying to debate resolution, transparency or inner detail most of which will be lost in a car environment, just the sensation of listener's fatigue.

I dont necessarily expect the Ipod to be a high end device, and I am happy to listen to music casually on things that are not "high end".

But why not pursue the best when experimenting with a new format?
Sorry if my earlier post come off sounding like I was bashing you. It just seems to me that you're being unrealistic with what the iPod is capable of doing. Just my opinion.

You're real lucky that you Porsche/Nakamichi has a front panel aux input. It makes hooking up the iPod much easier. I'm reduced to using a cassette adapter or an add-on FM transmitter. Both work, but neither is a particularly elegant solution.

The Nakamichi CD400 has RCA inputs on the BACK, not the front, but the front panel selects the source radio, CD, or aux.

A RCA to mini jack cable is permanently installed and hidden under the center console, so the Ipod can be easily plugged in and kept inside the locking center compartment.

If you are using the cassette style or FM transmitter with your Ipod, I would agree that none of these differences should be meaningful.

But hard wired to the system, I was amazed by the differences -- even with the top down.

Thanks for your comments. No offense was taken.
My comments regarding sound quality comparisons were based upon listening through my bedroom system (Panasonic XR45 receiver, Sony SM7 speakers with a Apple G5 computer via optical cable as the source).
UV, we may be in violent agreement. I seriously doubt Dibrom was opining to people in the same category, in terms of critical listening and in terms of marginal value, as most of the people in this forum. You are talking to an audience that feels they can tell the difference between brass cones and mahogany cones under their CD player. That would not be me.

And, I have listened. I don't recommend alt preset insane, for example, b/c it doesn't make sense to me based on my hearing and the cost/benefit I see out of digital compressed audio. Before undertaking the not-so-small task of ripping over 1K CDs, I did some pretty extensive testing.

On the other hand, I'm probably not your average mp3 listener. Everything piped through my system is stuff I've ripped off of my CDs and run through LAME. In my study, my computer feeds a Theta Pro Basic IIIa through a Edirol USB to coax converter, from there it goes into an ARC LS-16 II, into an ARC D400 II into a pair of ProAc RS2s. In my main rig, the mp3s go from an Audiotron via coax to a Theta Casablanca into a pair of ARC VT100s into a pair of ProAc 3.8s. In those systems, I *can* hear the difference, and I can hear the difference between alt preset extreme and a real CDs--the mp3s are, in those systems, strictly for background music and convenience. I will admit, however, that in my garage, where an Audiotron feeds a little Henry Kloss table radio, and in my bedroom, where a cd30 feeds a little Nakamichi clock radio, and in my iPod, I manifestly *can't* tell the difference. Frankly, I might be able to tell the difference in the iPod with the ER6s, but those things make me nauseous. Haven't really spent much time trying to tell the difference in the stereo upstairs, which is somewhere between the extremes.

B'sides, UV, I wasn't trying to elevate or bash mp3s, alt preset whatever. The point I was trying to make was that its a compromise. Listen, and put the marker where you want in terms of sound quality versus file size. You raised a valid point that I hadn't thought about with respect to battery life and WAV files. I'm guessing, in fact, that you would have the same problems with alt preset insane for the same reason.

For me, the compromise happens to fit nicely at alt preset extreme. Even with my (now small) 20GB iPod, I've got more tunes on tap than I ever want to be forced to listen to on an airplane. Gives me sufficient choice until the batteries run out, and that is longer than I want to fly anyway. Frankly, if I was really freaky, I'd probably advocate fiddling with all the command line args to get exactly what you want. That is also my compromise--I don't want to fool with it, and I'll trust the coding community to give me as optimal audio quality under a specified set of parameters for compression under the alt presets.

Haha, love the comment about brass cones and mahogany cones:) When stated that way, yes, I am in complete agreement with you.

Also, in your defense, I have not been able to compare APS and APX as extensively as you on multiple systems so I'm quite happy to take your word for it. What is the typical difference in file size between those two?
Great thread and posts!