Q: I would like to know if it is possible to convert songs that are presently on my 8GB nano from AAC to Apple Lossless format? Also, once they are converted will they fit on a standard audio cd due to the larger format? I’m basically looking for a better quality sound. Thanks in advance.

– Michael

A: Although you can use iTunes to convert tracks from any format to any other format, the reality is that you would be wasting your time and disk space by converting AAC tracks to Apple Lossless, since you will not gain any quality by doing so.

Most of the popular digital music formats such as MP3 and AAC are what are known as “lossy” formats. Essentially, what this means is that when you convert a higher-quality audio track (such as one from a CD) to MP3 or AAC, there is actually audio information being removed from these tracks. Depending upon the bit-rate that you are using, and the quality of your equipment and ears, much of this discarded information will be frequencies and audio fidelity that you cannot hear, which is why to the average undiscriminating listener, a 128kbps AAC file sounds more than adequate when compared to the original CD.

Unfortunately, once this conversion is complete, this discarded information is gone forever from the resulting file, with no way to get it back. Converting a “lossy” AAC file back to an Apple Lossless file will produce a larger file with absolutely NO additional audio quality, since you can’t regain that which is already lost.

If you’re looking for higher-quality audio, and want to consider Apple Lossless, the only way to get true Apple Lossless tracks is to re-rip your music from your original CDs or other original source. Apple Lossless is, as the name implies, a lossless format, which means it compresses audio without actually discarding any audio information. The result is a file that is going to be around 60% of the original CD track size, but still considerably larger than even a 256kbps AAC file.

For burning any tracks back to audio CD, similar logic applies. Audio CDs are the ultimate lossless format (original uncompressed audio), so you can burn any format back to an audio CD without worrying about whether or not the tracks will “fit” since they’re all converted back to the standard CD Digital Audio (CD-DA) format. However, much like converting AAC to Apple Lossless, you cannot regain any audio fidelity that is not in your source track to begin with, so while burning an audio CD from a lossy track can be an efficient way to play it on different equipment such as a car CD player, you won’t gain any quality at all over the original AAC or MP3 file.


Jesse Hollington was a Senior Editor at iLounge. He's written about Apple technology for nearly a decade and had been covering the industry since the early days of iLounge. In his role at iLounge, he provided daily news coverage, wrote and edited features and reviews, and was responsible for the overall quality of the site's content.