There was a lot more feedback on the iTunes 9.1 auto-compression post than I had anticipated, and although I could probably have looked it up on a forum somewhere, I decided to try the whole thing out myself. I have about 10.8 GB of music in my iTunes library, and I sync the whole thing […]
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Should you use iTunes 9.1 to compress your iPhone’s music? That Depends.

There was a lot more feedback on the iTunes 9.1 auto-compression post than I had anticipated, and although I could probably have looked it up on a forum somewhere, I decided to try the whole thing out myself. I have about 10.8 GB of music in my iTunes library, and I sync the whole thing to my iPhone. Most of the tunes are 256kbps VBR (variable bit-rate) AAC or MP3 files, which sound good to me, but would probably make my audiophile friend’s ears bleed.

The whole process of converting all 10.8 GB (1695 files) took about three and a half hours, and once the dust settled, that number had dwindled to 6.39 GB — an approximate difference of 4.54 GB. My hard drive, unsurprisingly, lost a bit of space — about 500 MB worth. I’m guessing that these are temporary files from all of the conversions somewhere, although I’m not sure where to look for them.

As for sound quality, I tried my best with my current setup: a pair of V-Moda Vibe II’s, an iPhone 3GS, and my MacBook Pro. In a direct comparison of several songs on both machines, I believe I can hear a difference between the high quality MacBook music and extra compressed iPhone tunes, although I did have to really listen for it. Songs still sound good on the iPhone, but they always sound a bit more muffled — as if I was playing the music in a very small, carpeted room, as opposed to the auditorium acoustics I’m used to enjoying. I’m no audiophile or audio expert, so take from that what you will.

Although I’m quite happy to see so much free memory on my iPhone, I think I’m almost definitely going to reverse this process and stick to simply moving the music from iTunes over to my iPhone. The MP3 and AAC files are already compressed enough thanks to their variable bit rates, and I still don’t have the use for all of the extra space I cleared. I’ll never install 5GB worth of video on my iPhone — and I’m already near max capacity on apps as it is. I also just miss that extra oomph that my music has when it’s at a decent quality.

However, if you simply have too much music on your device or have a set of very cheap earbuds that won’t pick up the difference, then go right ahead and compress all of those files to 128kbps AAC. You’ll probably end up regaining 33-50% of the space your music collection currently takes up. Just be prepared to take a (very) long nap after you start the process.

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