I am 100% sure you have to re-rip them after you have made the proper changes to your Itunes preferences. Go to Edit-Preferences-Advanced-Importing change to import using Apple Lossless encoder.
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If you ripped your CD's to a lossy format like mp3 when you put the music on your iPod, a lot of the original data was discarded in order to create smaller files. You can convert those mp3 files to a lossless format but you won't recover the lost musical information, you'll just create a file that sounds the same but takes up more space.
If you want to have the same quality as the original CD you'll have to rip it again into a lossless format.
you can convert AAC into Apple Lossless... I just did it. It may depend upon your version of iTunes though.
I had some older files that had been ripped to AAC at 320K as I was seeking a good enough format to rip everything into... Lost the CD but found the older files on an unused hard disc.. Violin! They converted just fine!
The posted bit about loss is true enough though, Re-ripped - converted files, from lossey to lossless is going to be almost entirely unoticable from the lossey (smaller) format.
Re-rip from the orig CD... and use the "error checking" feature as well. There is indeed improvement to the audio going that way... Error checking + lossless = Better!
The above applies only to those CD's that you rip this way... downloaded 128/256 K etc., AAC can't be improved, just fresh rips direct to a lossless codec.
Yes, good luck.
But before you re-rip all those CD's, do just one or two of them and see if it's worth the effort to you. If you ripped them at a reasonably high bit-rate, 192 or 320, the difference you can hear in your system may not be worth all that time and energy.
If you're using the iPod as your source, the difference in quality between a high bit-rate mp3 and an Apple Lossless file may not be audible. If, on the other hand, you're using one of the computer hard-drive based possibilities to a DAC with USB input, a Squeezebox or an Airport Express connected to you main system it might be worth it to you.
Listen first, then decide.
"you can convert AAC into Apple Lossless... I just did it."
Just because you CAN doesn't mean you SHOULD. Sfar is spot on; the original compression of the CD track to mp3 discards a heap of data to end up with a file about 1/10 of the original, data you simply can't get back. Converting from mp3 to Lossless (or burning an audio CD from mp3's) simply expands the file with lots of interpolation. All iTunes is doing is changing the file type to AAC; it can't recover the lost data, but just tries to fill in the gaps with some high tech guesswork.
It will never sound the same as an original lossless rip.
Again I have to agree with sfar; judge whether your end use of the ipod warrants such high quality files before you re-rip all those tracks!