iPod not storing advertised song capacity

Q: Is there a special trick to loading music on my iPod nano? It’s advertised to hold 500 songs, but mine is full at 214. Help!

– Brendan

A: Because of the way digital audio works, it’s not the number of songs, or even play time that truly matters for capacity – it’s file size. How does this explain your issue?

Songs, when imported as digital audio to iTunes, are encoded at various bitrates, which is to say they can occupy a varying amount of file size per play time. Generally speaking, the higher the bitrate, the higher the audio quality. When Apple quotes the song capacity of their iPods, they assume that the user is importing music at 128 kbps, or kilobits per second. Additionally, they assume that the average song is 4 minutes long.

If you’ve set your music to import at higher bitrate, or if your songs are on average significantly longer than 4 minutes, you can expect your iPod to hold fewer songs.

To find your preferred balance between audio quality and the practical capcity of your iPod, change the bitrate you encode your music at. iTunes’ encoding bitrate preferences are accessible in the “Importing” tab in the “Advanced” panel of iTunes’ “Preferences” window.

If you’d like to convert existing songs en masse to the new bitrate, you can do so by selecting them, right clicking on them, and select “Convert Selection to AAC/MP3.”

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