I can't believe the sheer amount of misinformation floating around out there concerning iTunes. Yet again I'm showing off OS X to someone who is curious about how I use it and how it works. When the conversation turns to the iPhone, there's an immediate negative reaction regarding the necessity of using iTunes.
There are still people out there who believe that iTunes encodes everything it touches into some proprietary iTunes only format and doesn't read mp3's. Sigh.
Official announcement: iTunes can play back mp3 files.
iTunes depends on Quicktime for encoding and decoding of audio and video files. There's built-in support for a whole slew of standard formats. For a list of natively supported formats and when they were integrated into Quicktime at http://www.simnet.is/klipklap/quicktime/. On top of this list you can install Perian which adds a series of codecs to Quicktime to gives iTunes support for the following additional formats:
- AVI, FLV, and MKV file formats
- MS-MPEG4 v1 & v2, DivX, 3ivX, H.264, FLV1, FSV1, VP6, H263I, VP3, HuffYUV, FFVHuff, MPEG1 & MPEG2 Video, Fraps, Windows Media Audio v1 & v2, Flash ADPCM, Xiph Vorbis (in Matroska), MPEG Layer II Audio
- AVI support for: AAC, AC3 Audio, H.264, MPEG4, and VBR MP3
If you're using iTunes to encode or rip your CD collection, you have the following choices:
- Apple Lossless
The only incompatibilities that you might run into are when you are dealing with DRM protected files purchased from the iTunes Store. It's worth noting that there a portion of the music sold on the iTunes store is available without DRM and as such is completely portable. But even with iTunes DRM protected music, you have the right to burn a copy to CD which you can play in any regular CD player, or re-import into your iTunes (or other) library in the format that you prefer.