New in iTunes 10.6: Auto-Conversion of Music Files to Bit Rates Other than 128

iTunes 10.6 was released yesterday, and there’s one new feature which will, I think, please a number of the readers of this blog. As you may know, when you sync an iPod, you can have iTunes automatically convert your music files to a lower bit rate, so you can save space on a portable device. Previously, the only choice you had was 128 kbps. But iTunes 10.6 offers three choices: 128, 192 and 256 kbps:

This will certainly please those who have iTunes libraries with music in lossless format, who didn’t want to downsample their music to 128 kbps. The three options available are sufficient for all users; if you want more than 256 kbps, then you’ll just sync lossless files.

Note that this conversion can take a long time, so the first sync may take hours – especially if your iPod has a lot of storage – but subsequent syncs, if you’ve only updated a small amount of your library, will be much quicker.

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20 thoughts on “New in iTunes 10.6: Auto-Conversion of Music Files to Bit Rates Other than 128

  1. This is a very welcome feature. I have one question for people who have used it before: after you finish the sync, what happens to the newly created files? Does iTunes automatically delete them from your library? Or does your library now have duplicate files–the original one in a higher bitrate and one in 128/160/256?

    • The new files are only copied to your iOS device; they don’t stay in your library. (I assume there are temporary files that are deleted once they are copied.)

  2. This is great news. It should let me maintain one iTunes library. Right now I have a AIFF library and the other is an ACC library to synch to my iOS devices. Since I have already done iMatch with my ACC library I wonder what will happen if I turn it on for my AIFF library?

  3. I don’t want to jack the thread. But is Apple Lossless as good as AIFF? Would conversion from AIFF to Apple Lossless be worthwhile?

    • Lossless is exactly the same quality as AIFF. Think of a zip archive of a text file; when you unzip it, it’s the exact same text. That what lossless is compared to AIFF.

      The advantage would be in the space saved: from 40-60% (see this article for an idea of how much space you can save.

  4. This is great if you have a lot of lossless tracks. Unfortunately this feature will also convert any 320 kbps MP3s to 256 kbps (f’rexample) AAC files. Marginal space savings, but definite quality loss and wasted time during the sync. And likewise with any variable bit-rate MP3s or AACs you have that happen to be slightly more than 256 kbps. So there should be an option for this feature to only work on lossless tracks.

    • Since the goal here is to convert files for use on portable devices, I’m willing to bet that you wouldn’t notice the difference between the original 320 kbps MPS and the 256 AAC, and that the quality lost would be infinitely small.

      • Still, seems like a waste of time during every sync, esp. if ‘autofill’ is turned on. And for what?… space savings are marginal if you go from 320-to-256. 320-to-192 or 128 I could understand.

        • Remember, the conversion is only done once. If music stays on the device, then it’s not converted again at the next sync.

          I’d say that 256 is useful if you’re starting from lossless; otherwise, there’s really no reason.

  5. One question I can’t find an answer to anywhere is what to do when you get a new IPod. I got one yesterday and have all of my Lossless library converted to 128 on my old IPod. I would just like to transfer the converted music from the old IPod to the new IPod and then continue as if nothing happened. If I have to start from scratch and re-convert it I will be waiting for Christmas to use it. Anyone ever done this?

    • You’re right, you can’t bring over the music files from the old iPod. Let it convert overnight; or over several nights, if it’s an iPod classic.

  6. I’d reconvert – improvements to the underlying conversion engine _may_ give you a better result. I just did 9500 tracks overnight to my classic, so its no big deal to go one night, is there?

    • Connect your iPod, then, in iTunes, click on the iPod, then on the Summary tab. Check the option shown in the screen shot above, and choose the bit rate you want from its menu.

  7. Question- i lost my external hard disk with all of the original files on my ipod, the bulk of what is on the device, now, i have been adding more and more and backing it up along the way, and the old files where the ‘source cannot be found’ of course still remain on the ipod.

    q: does the conversion take place internally on the ipod (rendering all the files to a lower bit-rate) or will the conversion once applied just wipe all my old tracks off because the source will be changed?

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