Q: I originally imported my entire music library at 256kbps AAC. Over time I became aware of the degraded ambience this caused. It was fine for the car and on the go, however when I purchased a Sonos system and streamed uncompressed it was apparent that I was losing something on my top shelf system. Realizing it was time to import everything lossless and store my CD collection, I did so. However, now where I used to fill my iPod classics at 256kbps compression and have great sound in my car, headphones, etc, now I am stuck with either lossless or 128kbps. How can I load my music onto my iPhone and iPod at 256kbps from the lossless iTunes library?
A: The simplest answer to this is to upgrade to the very recently released iTunes 10.6. With this latest version of iTunes, Apple has now added the ability to choose which bit-rate to convert tracks to when syncing them to an iOS device or iPod. As you’re probably aware, prior versions limited this to 128kbps only; iTunes 10.6 adds 192kbps and 256kbps options.
This settings is found on the Summary screen for of your devices, meaning that you can also configure it on a per-device basis, perhaps choosing a slightly lower bit-rate for lower-capacity models.
If for whatever reason updating to iTunes 10.6 isn’t an option, Mac users can check out the Lossless to AAC Workflow AppleScript at Doug’s AppleScripts for iTunes. This script works best with traditional iPod models such as the iPod classic and provides two workflows. The CD workflow allows you to import CDs as a lossless and AAC pair of files—the lossless copy goes into the iTunes library and the lossless directly onto the iPod. The iTunes workflow converts files in place to your chosen settings, transfer them to your iPod and then removes the converted files from your iTunes library. For CD import, both Apple Lossless and AIFF formats are supported.
The AppleScript solution has the advantage of allowing you to choose custom encoder settings beyond the (still) relatively limited options provided by iTunes. The downside, of course, is that this is a Mac only solution and remains more cumbersome and time-consuming that simply utilizing the new options found in iTunes 10.6.