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The complete guide to using iTunes with lossless audio

Kirk McElhearn | April 15, 2016
While you might not notice the difference in sound quality, the lossless format leaves you with an archival file that you can convert at any time in the future. You’ll never need to rip those CDs again.

Converting files to Apple lossless

I mentioned above that you may have FLAC files that you’ve downloaded, either from websites where bands allow trading of live music or from vendors who sell lossless files in that format. While iTunes doesn’t support FLAC files, you can simply convert them to Apple Lossless, retaining the same quality. 

Using iTunes Match or iCloud Music Library with lossless files

You may want to use iTunes Match or iCloud Music Library to keep your iTunes library in the cloud. If your iTunes library contains lossless files, iTunes Match and iCloud Music Library treat them differently from other files. If the files are matched, then they’re matched to the iTunes Store equivalents: files at 256kbps AAC. If iTunes can’t match them and needs to upload them, iTunes converts them to 256kbps before uploading. This means that your lossless files will never be in the cloud.

However, if you use the cloud to listen to files on the go, you don’t need them to be lossless, as I explained above. So this might be the ideal solution: keep lossless files in your iTunes library, and use the matched or uploaded versions on your iOS devices.

One more thing: Is it worth re-ripping CDs to a lossless format?

I get this question a lot. It’s a big job to re-rip a CD collection. I would say that if you’re satisfied with the way your rips sound, then don’t bother. If not, you might want to consider re-ripping CDs, especially if you have old rips you made at very low bit rates, back when storage was more expensive, such as 128 or even 96kbps. If you do, and you can afford enough storage, think about ripping to lossless. While you might not notice the difference in sound quality, you’ll have an archival file that you can convert at any time in the future. You’ll never need to rip those CDs again.

 

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