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If you have an Apple iPod, all you have to do is put a CD in your computer's CD drive, and copy the tracks to iTunes. They will then be drag-and-drop uploadable to your iPod - but will not be in MP3 format.
If you have another MP3 player or want to make sure that your files are in MP3 format, there are many free "rippers" available for download on the Web that will record your music on your hard drive in MP3 format.
One such "ripper" is FreeRIP, which lets you record tracks into .wav format, then convert them to MP3 or Ogg Vorbis format.
Another one that is not free, but encodes directly to MP3 format is GoGo CD to MP3 Ripper. It runs for about $25, and can also convert .wav to MP3 and back if you so desire.
The standard format used by iTunes, AAC or Advanced Audio Coding, is also used by Sony's Playstation 3 as it has better sound quality than MP3 when compared at the same bitrate.
It features more sample frequencies than MP3, better handling of frequencies above 16KHz, and higher coding and compression efficiency. It also features more sophisticated error detection and correction techniques.
For these reasons, this codec is growing in popularity and is supported by the Sony Walkman, the Sandisk Sansa, the Microsoft Zune and the Palm OS PDAs with music player support.
MP3, which is short for MPEG-3, is an audio format that produces nearly CD quality sound with little memory space. WMA is an older format, and stands for Windows Media Audio. It was designed to work with Microsoft's Windows Media player and can be converted to MP3 using a conversion utility such as Jet Audio.
At 128 kbps, Microsoft claims that WMA is very close to CD quality, however, MP3 has become the overwhelming standard for portable audio players.
Some MP3 players also support WMA, but much of the content available in WMA format is protected. MP3s on the other hand, can be easily downloaded through peer-to-peer file sharing programs such as Gnutella and Napster.
Most audiophiles also claim that MP3 provides superior sound quality as it uses a perceptual encoding technique.
Files in the .flac format, or Free Lossless Audio Codec, can be easily converted to the MP3 format using any one of the free utilities downloadable from the web, or using an all-inclusive audio converter utility like Audio Converter.
Audio Converter is a CD Ripper and a file format converter that can convert mp3 to wma, wma to mp3, mp3 to wav, wav to mp3, wav to wma, ogg to mp3, flac to mp3, mpc to mp3, ape to mp3 and wma to mp3.
It runs for about $25, and may make sense if you do a lot of format conversions or want all your files in one format for simplicity.
MP3 audio encoding already compresses the files so they can be stored compactly without loss of quality.
That having been said, it is possible to compress the files further using a utility such as Blaze Media Pro, however, it is a good bet that the corresponding sound quality will suffer from something known as "compression artifacts."
If sound quality is important to you, then it is best to leave your files as is and purchase more memory!