Converting AAC Files

Forget iTunes

iPod is undeniably the most popular media device of this generation. It has transcended popular electronics to become a global cultural phenomenon. You won't find many New Yorkers listening to Indian music, but there's a good chance you can find someone from both countries listening to their tunes on an iPod.

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So, obviously, we can't ignore iPods when it comes to converting music files. Clearly, that would be some sort of cultural and harmonic blasphemy.


Nothing’s more cultural than an iPod

Contrary to popular belief, iTunes does not need to be the centerpiece of any iPod library. The popular legal download program, which offers users the ability to acquire songs from a massive database for about a buck a song, can actually be completely avoided when populating an iPod with songs. Many people try to keep the process simple by keeping their downloads to iTunes, which exclusively uses *Advanced Audio Coding, or AAC, compression[AAC in Digital Audio Files]. This is not necessary and, in many cases, completely inconvenient.

When Windows Media Audio, or WMA files are necessary, conversion becomes a necessary process. For those who haven't ventured out from iTunes, the iPod does not natively play WMA files, which, inconveniently enough for Apple nuts, is the second most popular audio format (behind MP3, which the iPod does play).

So, how do I convert WMA to MP3 or AAC (or vice versa)?

To completely avoid the limitations of AAC and iTunes, Apple iPod owners will want to download Winamp. Keep in mind that Winamp cannot overcome *Digital Rights Management, or DRM [Digital Rights Management], which we've outlined in our correspondingly named section. This simply means that you can't strip the DRM coding so that the file can be copied as many times as you please. You'll still be limited by Apple's initial restrictions on AAC files, but of course this really only matters if you are converting AAC files back to WMA or MP3.

For the most part, owners of the iPod will be interested in converting files from WMA to MP3 or AAC. That way they can integrate one of the most popular audio codecs into their own library of songs.

The key to this process is the ml_ipod plug-in, which was initially developed by Harvard University professor Will Fisher for the Winamp player. This plug-in, which becomes a part of Winamp itself, will connect to a linked iPod and sync the Winamp Music Library content with the reservoir in your player. Fisher's plug-in isn't a two-bit operation either, as it supports playlists. You can also sync DRM-protected content with ml_ipod and, although this requires iTunes to be installed, it needn't be active.

As of the recent release of Winamp 5.2, ml_ipod is an integral part of the program, meaning that users can perform a variety of unique tasks. Those with Winamp can now engage in podcasts, use audio books, and find support for the Creative Zen and Microsoft's PlayForSure products, as well as the iPod.

Fisher's ml_ipod is a part of the free Winamp player, which can be downloaded from just about anywhere online. Search and you will find what you are looking for.