Many audiophiles turn up their noses at the idea of listening to compressed music. But at 10MB per minute, uncompressed audio isn’t typically a viable option. Even the Apple Lossless Encoder, which can reduce files to between 40 and 60 percent of their original size, still produces large files (lossless compression creates smaller files, but doesn’t compromise sound quality to do so).
Unless you have a very small library of music and a very large iPod, you’re going to have to accept AAC or MP3 as your musical file format. There are things you can do to make the music sound better. iTunes’ default AAC bit rate is 128 Kbps. While this is appropriate for some music, it’s not ideal for classical. Importing files as 160-Kbps AAC files will make a noticeable difference—these files sound very good even on high-quality stereo equipment. If you prefer MP3 (and you also have a non-iPod music player or use a music-streaming server in your house), then you should go to at least 192 Kbps—AAC files generally sound better than MP3 files at the same bit rate, so it’s worth the slightly larger file size.
If your ears are truly golden, you can go with the maximum bit rate for AAC or MP3 files. I defy anyone to tell the difference between files compressed at 320 Kbps and original CDs. And at 2.3MB per minute, you can still fit more than 3.5 hours of music on the smaller iPod shuffle, and nearly 450 hours of music on a 60GB iPod photo.