Localized short-echo-time 1H-MR spectra of human brain contain contributions of many low-molecular-weight metabolites and baseline contributions of macromolecules. Two approaches to model such spectra are compared and the data acquisition sequence, optimized for reproducibility, is presented. Modeling relies on prior knowledge constraints and linear combination of metabolite spectra. Investigated was what can be gained by basis parameterization, i.e., description of basis spectra as sums of parametric lineshapes. Effects of basis composition and addition of experimentally measured macromolecular baselines were investigated also. Both fitting methods yielded quantitatively similar values, model deviations, error estimates, and reproducibility in the evaluation of 64 spectra of human gray and white matter from 40 subjects. Major advantages of parameterized basis functions are the possibilities to evaluate fitting parameters separately, to treat subgroup spectra as independent moieties, and to incorporate deviations from straightforward metabolite models. It was found that most of the 22 basis metabolites used may provide meaningful data when comparing patient cohorts. In individual spectra, sums of closely related metabolites are often more meaningful. Inclusion of a macromolecular basis component leads to relatively small, but significantly different tissue content for most metabolites. It provides a means to quantitate baseline contributions that may contain crucial clinical information. Magn Reson Med 48:440–453, 2002. © 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.