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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

3 Tips For A Better Sounding iTunes Encode

iTunes mastering prep image
iTunes is becoming less and less important as downloads wane in desirability, but that doesn't mean you can ignore it completely. There are those that still want to purchase their songs, especially at higher sample and bit rates, so having the best sounding AAC files is still worth striving for.

In that spirit, here's an excerpt from the latest Mastering Engineer's Handbook 3rd edition that provides 3 tips for a better sounding iTunes encode.

"There are a number of tips to follow in order to get the best sound quality from an iTunes encode. As it turns out, the considerations are about the same as with MP3 encoding:

1. Turn it down a bit. A song that's flat-lined at -0.1 dBFS isn't going to encode as well as a song with some headroom. This is because the iTunes AAC encoder sometimes outputs a tad hotter than the source, so there's some inter-sample overloads that happen at that level that aren't detected on a typical peak meter, since all DACs respond differently to it. As a result, a level that doesn’t trigger an over on your DAW’s DAC may actually be an over on another playback unit.

If you back it down to -0.5 or even -1 dB, the encode will sound a lot better and your listener probably won't be able to tell much of a difference in level anyway. 

2. Don't squash the master too hard. Masters with some dynamic range encode better. Masters that are squeezed to within an inch of their life don't; it’s as simple as that. Listeners like it better too.

3. Although the new AAC encoder has a fantastic frequency response, sometimes rolling off a little of the extreme top end (16kHz and above) can help the encode as well.

Any type of data compression requires the same common sense considerations. If you back off on the level, the mix buss compression and the high frequencies, you’ll be surprised just how good your AAC encode can sound.

Remember that iTunes still does the AAC encoding. You're just providing a file that's been prepped to sound better after the encode.



Anonymous said...

Interesting article, Bobby. the future looks bright for on-line collaboration. I'm curious as to why downloads have waned in desirability. What is replacing downloads? TIA


Bobby Owsinski said...

Bob, Why buy it when you can get it for free or rent it via streaming? It's cheaper, doesn't clog up your drive with files, and the library is larger.


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