- A new job that more than doubled my daily commute and gave me a lot of time to listen to music in the car
- Buying some new music from Amazon on my MacBook Pro and then having to move it to my iMac which holds my master iTunes Library
- This article I read about a guy who moved 25,000 tracks to iTunes Match to iCloud and deleted them all from his Mac.
Once iTunes Match finishes processing your iTunes Library, all of your Library tracks are available on all of your OS X and iOS devices.
Where things got interesting for me was in the matching part of the process. If a track in your Library is in the iTunes Store, it is marked as "Matched" even if you didn't buy the track originally from the iTunes Store. A match is a match regardless of whether you purchased the track from somewhere else like Amazon, ripped it yourself from a CD or even if you downloaded it illegally. The "Matched" version of the track is the same quality as a brand new song from the iTunes store and doesn't have any copy protection on it.
An important measure of the "quality" of a digital music track is the bit rate. Currently when you buy music from the iTunes Store or Amazon, the bit rate is 256 kbps. The larger the bit rate, the more information about the original song is captured in your digital file. (For a more detailed and technical explanation of bit rate, check out this article.)
I started my iTunes Library a dozen or so years ago with a large stack of CDs and an iBook with a small hard drive. I knew I needed to conserve space and I really didn't have a clue what bit rate meant, so I ripped all of my CDs at a bit rate of 64 kbps. With bigger being better, my initial Library being 64 kpbs and current tracks purchased at 256 kpbs, you can see that I made really, really cruddy quality rips of my CDs.
Fast forward to now. John Mellencamp's "R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A." is still the same song as it was in 2000, but if I bought it now it would download at 256 kbps (and therefore much better quality.)
In comes the hidden treat of iTunes Match: Once iTunes Match marked "R.O.C.K.in the the U.S.A." as a "Match", I deleted it from my iTunes Library and re-downloaded it from iCloud. The new download has a 256 kpbs bit rate! Salvation from my own stupidity from long ago.
Ok, maybe your iTunes Library doesn't go back to the age of the dinosaurs, but things have changed a lot in the past few years at the iTunes Store. If you fall into one of these categories, the Match, Delete, Re-download process can improve the quality of your iTunes Library:
- iTunes Store music purchases made before January 2009, were copy protected. The Kind listed in iTunes is "Protected AAC audio file" Protected AAC files play perfectly in iTunes on the Mac and on iPods and iOS devices, but they won't play on non-Apple music players. "Match, Delete and Re-download" removes the protection so the track will play on any device.
- iTunes music purchased before April 2009 was sold at 128 kbps. In April 2009, Apple doubled the bit rate of purchased music tracks to 265 kbps. "Match, Delete and Re-download" of any of your 128 kbps tracks will convert them to 256 kbps.