Jeff Key recently posted on WMA/AAC/iTunes etc etc. I personally don't care about any of this and here is why:

  1. I have an iPod
  2. I have a Windows Media Center PC
  3. I have a few Windows XP machines
  4. I have a few Macs

I want to be able to listen to my music everywhere. I also want to rip my music ONCE in my life (unless massive hard drive failure occurs in which case I have to do this all again). I don't buy DRM'ed music because I cannot purchase WMA and listen to it on my iPod and I can't buy iTunes music and listen to it on my Media Center PC (which is the hub of my living room and bedroom entertainment centers).

So, here is how you get the best of everything:

  1. Get a big hard drive. I have two 200 GB drives in a RAID mirror for redundancy. I have a third 200 GB drive that acts as a backup to the RAID.
    1. The reason I do this is that I've lost my entire music collection once due to hard drive failure.
  2. Using a PC, rip all your audio using WMA Lossless. This results in about a 50% lossless compression. So each CD takes up on average 250 - 300 MB of data. Lossless compression ensures that your audio is encoded digitally bit for bit.
  3. Transcode all the audio to MP3 using the Windows Media Plus Pack Audio Converter for $19.95 and an MP3 encoder (you need an MP3 encoder to convert from WMA to MP3). It took my PC 2 days to convert about 150 CDs to MP3 (running 24/7) w/o any user intervention.
  4. Use Napster 2.0 to stream/download any music I want and listen to on any PC device (Macs not included). Anything I like I and want to listen to on my iPod I purchase the CD of using Amazon.com One Click. Napster holds me over till I get the real bits, and encode losslessly and then transcode so I can enjoy on my iPod.

The nice thing about encoding using lossless is that I can transcode to any audio format that has a direct show encoding plugin (hooks into Windows Media Player). This means that I'm not tied to any single audio format, so the end result is I don't care if it's MP3 or AAC or whatever lossy codec is popular.

The only downside to my system is that I cannot purchase music online and enjoy on all my digital devices. However, if I'm going to pay .99 cents for a song I sure as heck don't want lossy music. I just get the CD from Amazon and wait a few days to listen to the music on my iPod. I can live with that for now till there is a good enough WMA based device to replace my iPod (and right now there isn't a good enough device that matches or beats the iPod).