Music Quality

I have a bunch of music in Apple Lossless format that I need to convert to mp3 so that I can import it to the Clip Zip. Does anybody know if there is any appreciable difference in music quality between (1) converting the Apple Lossless files to mp3 using itunes, and (2) importing the CDs once again into itunes directly in mp3 format. I other words, how much music quality will be lost through option (1) vs… option (2). Will they be essentially the same quality-wise? Option (1) is certainly less labor intensive. Thanks in advance.

Given that both source formats are lossless and you are convertinig to the same lossy format using the same program, I would assume it really doesn’t matter.

Thanks, that’s what I figured.

The Clip Zip can handle the native AAC format of iTunes, if you prefer.  As long as it’s the base “DRM-less” format M4a file, this can be used on your Sansa.

As the bit rates increase, the subtle differences between MP3 and AAC kind of blur.  With MP3, running 192 kb/s or higher sounds quite nice.  I swap between formats quite often, depending  upon the media I’m working with.

Of course, Apple built a handy roadblock into iTunes , as the only device that will show up within the interface is an iPod.  That’s easily remenied by transferring directly from the iTunes library to your Sansa, or you can automate the process by making Windows Media Player the “concierge” between the two.

Bob  :smileyvery-happy:

Thanks for the response. I’ve actually had quite a number of problems importing aac files into the CZ. And these do not have DRM issues, as they were imported into itunes directly from CD. But, when I convert to mp3, the importing problems disappear. Consequently, I am in the process of converting my aac files to mp3. I tried many things before this - making sure tags were in order, using Hidden Cleaner to get rid of ghost tags - but none of it worked. I also thought it might be an issue with unusual script in the song titles - French accents, underscores, and the like, but that only seemed to be an issue with aac files. Once I converted to mp3, the import problems disappeared (so far - fingers crossed). I’d love to hear from anybody who has an explanation for why this is the case. Cheers.

Although the Clip Zip accepts aac files, it doesn’t necessarily play well with them. In contrast, the Clip Zip and mp3 files are fine buddies and get along just fine.

Agreed. Sansa should say so, it would have saved me literally hours - and I mean HOURS - of trouble figuring out the solution to “my” problems with importing tunes. I guess they just figure Apple users will stick with ipods. Poor attention to detail and marketing as far as I’m concerned, seeing as the CZ is a much better value. At any rate, I appreciate all the effort you made in trying to help out. Hopefully my experience will profit others with similar issues down the road.

So far,I have not run into issues with tracks purchased from iTunes, not playing on the Zip.  I’ll have to probe the media on these files to see just what I have.  It’s possible that there may be something amiss with the data.

I’ll have a look at the bit rate and encoding…

You can’t go wrong with MP3 format, of course, as it’s quite universal.

UPDATE!  Let’s see, I have a sample track, “We Are Young”, from 30H!3 (interesting name, one of my daughters’ latest iTunes tracks).  First transfer, allowing Windows Media Player to make the export.  The file on the Zip is in WMA format, converted automatically by WiMP12, also an interesting find (The original is still M4a / AAC-LC at 256 kbps) in the library.  WiMP took a few seconds during the transfer, and it made an automatic conversion to WMA.  How thoughtful.

Second test, using Windows Explorer (Win7).  Cool.  Win7 / WE pops up a dialog box, asking if I’d like to convert the file. Further, the second choice is equally interesting.  Windows says “would you like to transfer the original, but it may not play on your device?”  Nice touch, gentlemen.

Of course, I transferred the AAC file, unadulterated, to see if the Clip Zip will do several things.  The file was transferred without external album art, let’s just leave the embedded metadata alone, and see how the Clip Zip parses it out…

On the device, the file plays perfectly, the album art image is correct, and it can be located via artist / album / title.  Looking at Track Info in the submenu, we have M4a AAC-LC, 256 kbps.

Well, at least the test file plays. There may be something amiss with your track(s).  Does the file come up in navigation, and simply not play?

Bob  :smileyvery-happy:

Thanks for the reply. But, as I stated earlier, I haven’t had any problems with music bought from itunes. The problems I have e had are with music that I have imported from CD to itunes in the aac format, including “mainstream” recordings. Simply put, some import onto the CZ, some don’t. I’m sure there’s a link there somewhere, but I have no idea what it is. All I know is that when I find a problem album, converting it to mp3 seems to resolve the issue. All I can say is that I’m done with aac from now on, and am in the process of converting all those files I wish to put on the CZ into mp3. A drag, but since I have the player now and don’t feel like going out and buying another ipod, I guess I don’t have much choice. Whatever the issue is, Sansa should get it sorted if they are going to advertise the player as aac compatible. Thanks again.

iTunes may be converting the files to DRM-“protected” AAC during the import from CD. The Zip won’t play protected AAC files, only the plain-vanilla version.

Perhaps, but I can’t imagine why in the world why. And why would it only do so for some CDs and not all? I suspect some other issue is in play.

I haven’t tried using iTunes as the ripping engine with a standard “Red Book” audio CD.  Ironically, it’s  one of the few I haven’t tried.  Check your rip settings to see the output format.  If some CDs play, and others don’t, you should be OK as far as format is concerned, but it’s possible that the setting changed.

The Clip Zip (and Fuze+) are configured to be compatible with the standard non-DRM format AAC provided by iTunes, but there can be kinks with new things, i guess.  Most specifically, a converted CD can have settings different from the basic format, like Apple Lossless, or perhaps a bit rate issue.  i know that it’s happy with the high 256 kbps setting.

Any ripping engine, be it iTunes, Windows Media Player, EAC, Winamp, Media Monkey, and others, all use online track databases to locate the metadata that’s added to these audio tracks.  As the data is a colloborative public effort, it’s possible that the engine pulls incorrect information that can “choke” the payer during the parsing process, where it interprets the available data.  Sometimes, the only thing wrong is that the album art is not readable, or there’s a data field containing characters that the player cannot interpret.

If you have an issue where the desired track simply cannot be found, try Music > Folders and see if the actual track name is available.  All files on the device have a filename that is used by the disk operating system.  This is the one with a file type extension attached, as in here is your track.mp3 for example.  The Album / Artist / Song information is embedded within that file.

If the file can be played from this method of locating the little guy, iTunes (or any other ripping engine) has inserted data that the player isn’t happy with.  Check that your ID3 format is set to ID3 v.2.3 ISO 8859-1 (Latin-1) format.  Utilities like mp3Tag are great to check and correct this information.

I’m not going to pick on iTunes specifically, as the latest build does seem to run quite better than its predecessors, as messed up information during the ripping process happens with any engine.

All portable devices have a much more streamlined system than a computer does, out of necessity of course.  They are designed to be as efficient as possible, giving you the longest playback time, as processing the data consumes plenty of power.  The problem is that when there’s an issue with the data, the device simply freezes or ignores the music file.

Bob  :wink:

A couple of questions re. converting files:

(1) What would you say is the appropriate bit rate to convert an Apple Lossless file at when converting to mp3? 192, 256 or higher? (2) This one may be a bit silly, and definitely reveals my ignorance as far as these things go: Most of the aac files I wish to convert were imported at 128 bit rate. Does it make any sense to convert them to 196 or higher when I convert to mp3? Thanks.

I know that you may not like this answer, but: there really is no absolute answer (sorry!). It all depends on your own ears and how much space you want to use, and save, with your files (higher bitrates taking up more space, with lessening returns on the sound as the rate increases up). You might try experimenting, and see what is best for you. For me, I use variable bitrate recording with 196 kbps (I believe; it may have been 212) as the floor–I found that to be a good sound/space trade off for me, having experimented with different bitrates.

@divingduck wrote:

A couple of questions re. converting files:

(1) What would you say is the appropriate bit rate to convert an Apple Lossless file at when converting to mp3? 192, 256 or higher? (2) This one may be a bit silly, and definitely reveals my ignorance as far as these things go: Most of the aac files I wish to convert were imported at 128 bit rate. Does it make any sense to convert them to 196 or higher when I convert to mp3? Thanks.

For the first part, what Miikerman said is true. Your own ears are the best tool you have when deciding on a bitrate.

For the second part, when converting from one lossy format to another (I assume we’re talking about lossy AAC now, since you said most of your files were imported at 128kbps), there’s ZERO reason to increase the bitrate. You’ll just end up with larger files with absolutely no increase in sound quality. You can’t restore the quality that was lost when the files were initially encoded.

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Thanks, pretty much as I suspected. Re. #2, my reason for asking was that as I understand it some quality is lost when any conversion takes place, so I was wondering if using a higher bit rate would lessen this. Too bad I did the original importing using aac. Ignorance is not always bliss.

Hello Divingduck,

There is effect in quality of music from apple to mp3 :slight_smile: