Sound advice: MP3 at high bit rate is best compromise

  • Article by: DON LINDICH , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 27, 2012 - 1:48 PM

Also: Universal disc player vs. region-free disc player.

Q I just bought an iPod Classic and have 200 to 225 CDs I would like to import. I'm not sure which encoder to use in iTunes. Should I use the AAC encoder, Apple Lossless encoder or something else?

I like the sound quality of CDs, but the space might be too limited on the iPod so I might have to compress the music when I encode it. I mainly want to use the iPod in my car, and sometimes on my home audio system, which is of good quality. If I do not use the Apple Lossless encoder, which bit rate should I select if I use the AAC or MP3 encoder?

A The Apple Lossless encoder will preserve 100 percent of the sound quality of your CDs, but the compression reduces the size of the file only by about half. A 700-megabyte CD will take up about 350 MB, and your CD collection will almost fill up your iPod. Using AAC or MP3 will give you a lot more space to work with.

AAC is most effective at lower bit rates. At higher bit rates, there is less of a difference. Try MP3 at 320 kilobits per second or better. That will be a nice compromise between sound quality and space. You probably won't hear the difference in your car, given road and wind noise. There's a better chance of hearing the difference on your home system.

Universal and region-free

Q What is the difference between a universal disc player and a region-free disc player? Are any players both? Does Blu-ray also differ by world region like DVD?

A Before the advent of Blu-ray, a universal player was a player that could play DVDs, CDs, Super Audio CDs (SACD) and DVD-Audio (DVD-A.) Now that Blu-ray is here, a player would also have to play that format to be universal. Universal players tend to be audiophile items, because SACD and DVD-A are niche formats.

A region-free player is a player that can play discs from anywhere in the world. DVDs are coded by region and intended to be sold only in that region. The players sold there are designed to play only discs with the corresponding region code.

North America is Region 1; Europe and Japan are Region 2; Southeast Asia is Region 3; Australia, Mexico and South America are Region 4; Eastern Europe and Africa are Region 5; and China is Region 6.

Blu-ray has only three regions. Region 1 is North and South America, Southeast Asia and Japan; Region 2 is Europe, Africa and Australia; and Region 3 is India, China, Russia and Eastern Europe.

I don't know of any universal region-free players, although they might exist. If you want to watch discs from around the world and play all disc formats, it would be easiest to have a region-free player and a universal player.

Send questions to donlindich@gmail.com. Get more recommendations and read past columns at www.soundadviceblog.com.

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