Apple's iTunes has emerged victorious in a series of listening tests reported by the CD Freaks Web site.
The report explains a number of tests were run by members of the public and facilitated by RareWares of five AAC (Advanced Audio Coding) codecs, and Apple's implementation of the standard won through.
The AAC codecs tested were: Nero AACenc v.184.108.40.206, Compact! 1.2beta3, FAAC 1.23.5 (all three in 128kbps VBR), Apple iTunes 4.2 and Real Producer 10 beta (both in 128kbps CBR). The test closed February 29.
The report says: "In 12 songs tested, iTunes had the best score on average with Nero close behind." To assess the scores, results of the public tests were aggregated and subjected to a statistical analysis, which means the report coordinator is able to say he is "95 per cent confident" that iTunes implementation of AAC is better than its closest competitor.
The report adds claimed insider information from Apple: "It's worth mentioning that according to a key developer of the QuickTime/iTunes AAC encoder, this codec nearly didn't get tuned since the last test (in June 2003) because they were busy with porting iTunes to Windows and working on speed optimization."
"With iTunes' AAC encoder pretty much the leader in AAC quality, it means iPod lovers can stick to iTunes for encoding their audio CDs as well as transferring their tracks to their player," the report claims.
Full test results are available here.