New York Times: most non-Apple devices cannot play Advanced Audio Codec (AAC)

“iPods, the most popular music players with more than 70 percent of the American market, can play MP3 music files, a popular digital audio compression format. But for the most part, Apple steers its customers to songs in another format, called Advanced Audio Codec (AAC), which most non-Apple devices cannot play,” Sean Captain reports for The New York Times.

“Apple’s iTunes software, which runs on PC’s and Macs, for example, automatically “rips,” or converts, music from CD’s into compressed AAC files for loading onto a computer or portable player. But users who want to convert tracks to MP3 files have to change the settings,” Captain reports. “And downloads from Apple’s iTunes Music Store come exclusively in a version of AAC that includes FairPlay, Apple’s digital rights management technology, to prevent illegal copying and sharing of music. ‘One of the problems I see a lot is that people who are using iTunes-iPods have ripped their entire CD collection to the AAC format because that is the default setting in iTunes,’ said Grahm Skee, who runs the Web site, in an e-mail interview. ‘Now they are stuck with a format that can only be played on iPods.’

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: And what, pray tell, are the “problems” you see, Grahm Skee? Is it that people who want to switch from iPod to an iRiver (all zero of them) can’t play their AAC files without converting them to MP3 first? Fact is, CDs ripped to AAC by iTunes are playable on Macs, PCs, and burnable to regular audio CDs; hence they’re playable basically anywhere. AAC is not some proprietary Apple-only format. AAC is MPEG-4 Audio. Apple should’ve just called it MP4 to soothe simple minds. AAC is the de facto standard format for legally-purchased online music. Period. The fact that some still try FUD to force people away from using AAC continues to perplex and amaze. And that Captain trots out the old saw that iPod lacks a built-in FM radio and voice recorder as reasons people might want to use some also-ran portable music player is a joke. Obviously the vast majority of people don’t care or add those capabilities to iPod via accessories.

The only people having “problems” are those online music outfits trying to sell music for portable players that nobody wants and hardware makers trying to sell portable music players that won’t work seamlessly with the world’s leading jukebox software and legal online music service – Apple iTunes and iTunes Music Store respectively. Consumers have choice, the only “problem” is that the Microsofts, Napsters, and Creatives of the world just don’t like that consumers haven’t chosen their failed products and DRM schemes.

Want to avoid any so-called “probems?” Most people have already figured out how to do so: buy an iPod, use iTunes to rip your CDs and transfer to your iPod, and buy online music from the iTunes Music Store via your Mac or Windows PC. “Problems” solved.

Related articles:
Music lovers make Apple’s iTunes Music Store AAC format the de facto standard for online music – August 28, 2005
Wall Street Journal blows it: iTunes only imports ‘weird AAC format,’ iPod only plays Apple formats – July 19, 2005
iPod, iTunes, and iTunes Music Store competitors lack Apple’s ‘seamless integration and ease’ – August 28, 2005
Apple’s roadkill whine in unison: ‘incompatibility is slowing growth of digital music’ – August 13, 2005
The New Zealand Herald serves up a steaming pile of iPod FUD – August 11, 2005
FUD campaign against Apple’s iPod+iTunes fails to stick – April 08, 2005
Apple’s iPod and iTunes competitors continue whining about FairPlay – February 07, 2005
The de facto standard for legal digital online music files: Apple’s protected MPEG-4 Audio (.m4p) – December 15, 2004
Apple discusses AAC vs. MP3 codecs; 128 kbps AAC as good or better than 160 kbps MP3 – April 29, 2003


  1. OMG! The CDs I”ve been buying in the 90s can only be played on CD and DVD players. If I ever want to stick them in my trusty Sony Walkman or my RCA Phonograph, I’m screwed. Damn you Philips for coming up with this deliciously nasty technology!

    MW: human. O, the humanity!

  2. What a waste of time this article is. If any of these other spare manufacturers wanted to add AAC capability to their mp3 players, they can at any time since it’s an open standard. Any song or CD that is ripped using iTunes to AAC will play on any player that supports the open standard AAC format. Plus, you can always change the settings in iTunes and rip to MP3 if you want as well.

  3. k. ::devil’s advocate hat on here:: Compressed music sucks in any format. Get CDs instead . ahaha (just kidding. couldn’t resist.)

    But listen eh?, I ripped my entire 1000 CD library. Streamed it as an internet radio broadcast for five years, even. Truth is it sounded crappy and nobody listened anyway. I’ve since deleted all the files and I’m just sorta hanging on the sidelines watching everybody else’s actions with their own compressed music.

    As far as the implied iTunes compression limitations go .. for sure, nobody is baffeled by the default AAC conversion settings in iTunes. There’s no reason to act as if it’s a significant issue. It isn’t. If there’s only one thing everybody does know how to do with digital music .. it’s how to convert between compression formats.

  4. I agree that this will cause some confusion to some people some of the time. Newbies just starting out with this stuff will hesitantly stick their CD in and ‘rip’ it (import it) and then listen to it in iTunes – then say “wow – this was easy” – so they rip 5 more CDs – “Wow – this is great”. Get an iPod – sync it – play it. “Wow – this is easy!!” “I Love this stuff” – Now they rip 150 CDs – their entire collection. Now they go out and get another player (non-iPod) – Guess what!! it doesnt work. They feel shamefully locked in -(not a good feeling).
    I personally rip to AAC with the understanding if I want to do something else with it – I will need to convert, but others are not as wise.
    Simply, the guy has a valid point, and I do not know what the solution is…

  5. Why is the NYT getting information from a guy that runs a website called Talk about credibility problems. Has the Times stooped so low to please the Reals and Microsofts of the world that they need to quote only “haters.” Without any fact checking.
    And the setting argument, how transparent is that.
    “Oh no my TV only plays ABC, but if I want to watch something else, I might actually have to change the channel.”

    Newspaper of record, Not for much longer.

  6. Mp3 requires a licensing fee, AAC doesn’t

    AAC compresses the files better at a better quality than Mp3.

    AAC to MP3 to WAV or whatever converters are widely available.

    Sean Captain is a moron

    I’m starting to see 5 iPods for every off brand player now.

    You will comply

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.