I have several CDs and other FLAC collections (classical music but not only). I want to add them to my iTunes library but I am looking for some recommendations regarding how I should encode them in order to keep the best sound quality and without running out of disk space.

I found Max conversion tool for converting them but there are too many formats and configurations to choose from.

Also I do want to use a format that is able to use keep tags, like MP3.

The winning response should contain a numbered list of formats compatible with iTunes and iOS, ordered descending by the sound quality:

  1. Apple Looseless
  2. format X, (extension), bitrate, vbr
  3. format Y, (extension), bitrate, ...
  4. ...

Please specify the format name clearly, preferably including the codec, like "MPEG-4 AAC", "Apple Looseless", "MPEG-4 HE-ACC", "LAME MP3", "AAC ADTS", "MPEG-4 Audio versus Apple MPEG-4 Audio",

  • 1
    In lossless the sound quality is the same as the original so there is no ranking like you suggest. There is one possible by size
    – mmmmmm
    Mar 21, 2011 at 12:46

3 Answers 3


You can use X Lossless Decoder(XLD) too:

X Lossless Decoder(XLD) is a tool for Mac OS X that is able to decode/convert/play various 'lossless' audio files. The supported audio files can be split into some tracks with cue sheet when decoding. It works on Mac OS X 10.4 and later.

because it's lossless it keeps the best sound quality.

Apple recommends using the following formats for your iTunes:

  • Audio files (AAC, MP3) with appropriate file extensions (.m4a, .mp3). For best results during playback, Apple recommends converting MP3 files greater than 32 megabytes (MB) to AAC format. For AAC audio files, Apple recommends the following specifications:
  • Audio Format: Baseline Low-Complexity Profile with AAC-LC (Music)
  • Data Rate: Up to 160 Kbps
  • Channels: Stereo in .m4v, .mp4, and .mov formats
  • Output Sample Rate: 48 kHz
  • Encoding Quality: Better
  • Thanks, I updated the question a little bit in order to improve it. Can you make some recommandations regarding different formats and settings for these formats?
    – sorin
    Mar 21, 2011 at 12:37

The easiest and most iOS compatible way to transfer your cd's to your computer, is to import them via iTunes.

Just pop your cd in, launch iTunes and click on the import button.

If you want a lossless codec, then you may choose Apple's own "Apple Lossless Encoder". That way you wont have to edit any settings, the full quality will be preserved!

According to wikipedia, the compressed files will be about 40% - 60% of original file's size, so if you have small capacity iOS devices, their file size should be considered.

The same goes for Flac to Apple Lossless, but there you should use a third party software. The good thing is that by choosing Apple Lossless, there will be no options to edit. Just select the codec, convert your flac's and then import them to iTunes for iOS sync.


iTunes and iPods support a lossless compressed format - Apple lossless. Max will convert FLAC to Apple Lossless including conversion of tags (I am not certain if all are converted ut the main ones are in my experience)

There is a comparison of the relative sizes of the commpressed files made in 2005

  • 6 years old? I suppose important changes could happen during these years.
    – sorin
    Mar 21, 2011 at 12:40
  • Which is why I gave the date however I suspect the compression ratios will still be in the same sort of range about 60%
    – mmmmmm
    Mar 21, 2011 at 12:45

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