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Solving the Audio Re-Encoding Problem

John Ludwig has an entry on re-encoding his entire CD collection in lossless format. As I wrote in a comment:

I've put an immense amount of effort into my iTunes-based, AAC-encoded music collection. Part of this was reripping when I had gotten about halfway through my CDs and decided the evidence was good for switching from 160 kbit/s to 192 kbit/s. Another part of the effort has been in simply getting all the album and song titles right -- inconsistent capitalization and poor spelling on CDDB drive me crazy.

Given all that effort, I worry about the longevity of my library. Is 192 kbit/s AAC-encoded material going to seem reasonable to me in five years' time? Am I going to have to re-encode everything... and then re-reencode it?

After some thought, here's a specific feature request for Apple that I believe would solve this problem once and for all: provide the option for multiple representations of a given audio or video file. For example, I might like to store three different versions of a given song: one encoded using Apple Lossless for archiving purposes, one encoded as a 192 kbit/s AAC file for my iPod video, and one encoded as a 128 kbit/s (or even 96 kbit/s) AAC file for my iPod shuffle. Allow me to do this without having the song show up three times in my library. For +10 points extra credit, provide me with a simple method of specifying rules about what version to download to what device. For +25 points, enable me to rip CDs to Apple Lossless and then automatically generate alternate compressed versions. For +50 points, enable me to mass-delete and then re-generate alternate compressed versions from my entire library at once. For +100 points and a triple word score, hook this up to the iTunes Music Store so that I can optionally download lower- and/or higher-bitrate alternate compressed versions for purchased audio.

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