Digital Audio Compression Formats Made Simple

In the world of digital audio compression there seems to be mountains of info and technical jargon surrounding all the various file formats and compression algorithms to convert your music.  Our aim with this guide is to offer solutions for converting your music collection and get it sounding great with your integrated audio systems.What is a Compression Algorithm?

To simply put it, a compression algorithm is the software or method of compression that converts audio or video into file formats.  Compressing audio files reduces the amount of storage space necessary.

Okay, than what is the file format?

File formats are typically associated with media player software. For example “.mov” file is for QuickTime, a “.wmv” file is for Windows Media Player, and an Mp3 file is for….. you guessed it, an Mp3 player.

Compressed Audio Types

In digital audio there are two main categories of compression algorithms: lossy and lossless.Lossy: Lossy compression algorithms significantly reduce the file size by crunching info that is considered “less-essential”.  The upshot of this loss in file size is a noticeable hit in audio quality.Lossless:  Lossless compression algorithms s are able to compact the info without losing any information.   This method does reduce the file size, but not nearly as much as a lossy compression.

Converting Audio

While there are many options for converting audio, here are the free software packages that we recommend.

For its ease of use we generally recommend iTunes as it plays particularly nice with a SoundVision favorite, Apple TV.  Here is our guide to converting audio in iTunes.

Uncompressed Audio Conversion

If storage is not at a premium you can opt to convert your music to uncompressed formats such as WAV or AIFF. Converting to a WAV file will deliver the best sounding and most compatible conversions, at the expense of disk space.   Keep in mind with uncompressed conversions, a typical song under 4 minutes could get as high as 30MB in size.1. Go to the edit menu and choose Preferences.

2. The Preferences pop-up menu will appear.  In the General tab, click on the Import Settings button.

3.  For Import Setting Select WAV Encoder in the drop-down menu , and in the Setting drop-down select Automatic.  Hit the OK button and you are all set to start importing your CDs at the best quality possible.

Lossless Audio Conversion

Here are our recommended settings for Apple Lossless Audio Compression (also known as ALAC).  This is a somewhat proprietary format, but is a great option if you are primarily using Apple or Sonos products as your media playback devices.Follow steps 1-2 from above to get to the Import Settings Pop-up menu.From the Import Settings menu choose Apple Lossless Encoder, and in the Setting drop-down select Automatic.  This setting will ensure that your digitized music will retain a high quality sound without sacrificing too much disc space.

Lossy Audio Conversion

For a more lossy, but broader range of compatibility, you can opt for Mp3 conversions.  The quality will be  lower than Apple Lossless, but you will save the most disk space  with Mp3 conversions.  It’s worth noting that iTunes has the ability to slightly modify the quality of Mp3 compression under the Setting drop-down.Follow steps 1-2 from above to get to the Imoprt Settings Pop-up menu.From the Import Settings menu MP3 Encoder, and in the Setting drop-down select Higher Quality (192 kbps).  This setting will ensure that your digitized music will not lose too much quality despite being a lossy compression.

If you have any questions, or care to share your advice feel free to contact us or drop us a note in the comment section.

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