At what level of quality should I rip my audio selections and still maintain reasonable file sizes?

A. When you archive your audio CD collection, you'll want to save your music in the highest possible quality and still preserve disk space. I used to use 160Kbps MP3 files, but more recently, I switched to 128Kbps Windows Media Audio (WMA) format, which provides better sound quality in less disk space. That format is great for music you play off your hard disk, but what about portable devices, where space is at an even greater premium? Modern media players--such as Media Player for Windows XP--include a feature called transcoding that lets you compress music further when you copy it to a portable device, such as SonicBlue Rio, Iomega HipZip, or Pocket PC. So you can store music at 128Kbps on your hard disk, for example, then transcode it to your portable device at 64Kbps or another speed. That way, you can have your cake and eat it, too--on the road.

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