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Rip a Music CD With Pristine Fidelity

If the thought of losing any music quality makes you squirm, use a lossless format to copy CDs to your PC and music player.

During compression, MP3s and other condensed files lose some clarity. But a lossless codec saves a perfect copy. The tradeoff is that a lossless codec produces a file about half the size of the original CD version, whereas an MP3 file is usually about a tenth the size of the original CD. Still, if you insist on retaining the highest-quality audio you can--and you have gigs of disk space to spare--pick a lossless codec.

When you use the Apple Lossless codec, there's no bit-rate setting to adjust: The codec handles everything.
In iTunes, you'll want to use the Apple Lossless codec: First choose Edit, Preferences, click the Advanced tab, and click the Importing tab. Then choose Apple Lossless Encoder from the pop-up menu, and click OK. Henceforth, all of your CD imports will be copied in Apple Lossless format, and they'll sound as crisp as they did the moment they were mastered.

In Windows Media Player, the appropriate codec to use is Windows Media Audio Lossless. To specify this format, right-click the Rip tab and choose More Options. Then change the selected entry in the Format pop-up menu to Windows Media Audio Lossless. The playback quality of any audio file copied in this format should be indistinguishable from that of the original CD.

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