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Better home audio, Tip #2: Less compression = Better sound

Ralph Graves is one of Crutchfield's blog editors, and part of the company's social media team. He writes about home audio/video gear, specializing in Apple-related and wireless technologies. Ralph holds a master's degree in music composition, and his works have been released on various labels. He's served as product manager for an independent classical and world music label, produced several recordings, and worked extensively in public broadcasting. Since 1984 he's hosted a weekly classical music program on WTJU, and is also active as a blogger and podcaster.

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Crutchfield Hi-Fi 2.0

We continue our series of tips for better audio with a simple fix for your MP3 player.

Select a lower level of compression - or better quality - for your music files
Compressing digital sound files is a great way decrease file size, but it comes at a cost. The more compressed the file, the lower the sound quality. Your music ripping software probably comes set by default to remove up to 90% or more of the digital information found on the original CD. This makes storage convenient, but compromises sonic detail and clarity.

If you've got enough storage space on your iPod or computer, try selecting a higher bitrate setting in your music software, such as 256 Kbps (kilobits per second), when ripping tracks from your CDs. If you're downloading music tracks from an online store, check out the technical specs of the files - more and more, you can find songs encoded at higher bitrates for little or no additional cost.

Higher-bitrate files are larger, but they also sound better. Programs like iTunes® and Windows® Media Player can also create "lossless" audio files, which maintain CD-quality sound while cutting the required storage space roughly in half. See our article about the MP3 format for more info.

This post is based on the article "15 Tips for Better Sound from your Home System" by the Crutchfield Writing Team.

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