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Music File Formats

iTunes works with five audio file formats: AAC, AIFF, Apple Lossless, MP3, and WAV. Using the Import feature, iTunes can encode files from a CD to any of the five file formats. It can also automatically encode multiple file formats when burning a CD. Each file format is suited for a specific purpose.

  • AAC (Advanced Audio Coding) format compresses files even smaller than MP3 without a noticeable loss of quality. When iTunes imports a song from a CD to your computer, by default it encodes the CD-DA formatted song to an AAC format. MP3s and AACs are ideal for storing music on your computer, requiring 80 to 90 percent less disk space than other formats.
  • AIFF (Audio Interchange File Format) is sometimes referred to as Apple Interchange File Format. It is a music format used by the Macintosh operating system. Web designers sometimes use snippets in the AIFF format for sound files that can play in web pages on a Macintosh computer. The file size of the Beatles song “I Want to Hold Your Hand” is 24.3 MB as an AIFF file, compared to 2.7 MB as an MP3 file.
  • Apple Lossless encodes CD-DA files (CD music files) into a size that’s half the size of the original file, without any loss of quality. This format creates files that are larger than the MP3 and AAC formats, but if you have a discriminating ear for music, the Apple Lossless format provides the best quality possible.
  • MP3 (MPEG-3) is a highly efficient compression system that reduces music files up to 90 percent, but maintains a very high quality. Highly compressed, MP3s are ideal for downloading from the Internet or for storing on your computer.
  • WAV (Windows waveform format) is a music file format used by the Microsoft Windows operating system. Web designers use snippets in the WAV format for sound files that can play in web pages on a Windows computer. The file size of the Beatles song “I Want to Hold Your Hand” is 24.3 MB as a WAV file, compared to 2.7 MB as an MP3 file.
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