Most of my over 350 audio CDs were ripped years ago into 128 kbps MP3 format. While my ears don’t easily detect the shortcomings of that format, for archival purposes I recently spent untold hours redoing them all into 256 kbps VBR MP3 format in iTunes. That’s twice the base bit rate, plus a variable rate beyond that to help preserve more complex sound forms. Unfortunately that meant my 16 GB iPhone 3G couldn’t hold nearly as much music since each track took up far more room. But an online tip helped me solve that problem.
On the iPhone’s summary screen in iTunes there is the helpful option “Convert higher bit rate songs to 128 kbps AAC” which used to only apply to iPod shuffles. Unless you have golden ears you won’t hear any difference on your iPhone, but this saves a lot of space and lets you pack in more music. You still hear the higher bit rate versions of the songs on your computer and, if you have an Apple TV like I do, on your home stereo.
AAC is the successor to MP3, offering better sound at the same bit rate. It’s the format your iTunes Store purchases come in. And while it isn’t as widely supported as MP3, it is great for this purpose.