With iTunes Match finally released to us here in the UK, I signed up and have been using it for about a week now. Here’s my definitive guide to exactly what iTunes Match is, and what it isn’t; as well as a quick guide on how to upgrade all your matched songs to high quality 256kbs versions. Hopefully along the way I’ll answer any questions you have about the service too.
What Is iTunes Match, Really?
iTunes Match is cloud storage for up to 25,000 songs. Wherever possible, your music files are matched to a DRM-free, 256kbs high quality version on Apple’s server, if available. If not, your songs are uploaded as is.
You can overwrite your local, lower quality media, with higher quality 256kbs version from iTunes Match. And yes, this includes songs you have pirated, downloaded, borrowed off a mate, or ripped at a low quality from your own CDs. Bear in mind that a 256kbs file is going to be twice as large as one encoded at 128kbs though.
Once in the cloud, your entire music library is available to download or stream on up to 5 devices registered to your iTunes account.
- Songs less than 96kbs cannot be matched.
- Only music and music videos are valid for matching – not audiobooks (there is a workaround with that if you classify audiobooks as media type: music and if they are ripped at 96kbs or better, they will be uploaded and stored in the cloud with every other track).
- Your ID3 tags will not be overwritten – if you have a track 01, iTunes will NOT automatically fix that for you. It will replace the audio with a higher quality version, but it will not give you missing tags, artwork, or lyrics. The meta-data associated with each song remains the same, even if it it’s broken. On the upside, this means your handcrafted ID3 tags won’t be replaced either.
- As mentioned, there is a 25,000 song limit, on up to 5 devices.
Once subscribed, you’ll see one of the following icons next to every track.
iTunes is then in the process of scanning your tracks to see which it has a match for.
Out of 7,400 songs in my library, it matched roughly 2,800 songs. The additional items took a total of about 4 days to fully upload, but you can start using everything else that has already uploaded in the meantime, and begin upgrading tracks that are eligible.
To Upgrade Songs to 256kbs Versions
This isn’t as easy as it should be, but basically you need to delete matched songs from iTunes, then download them from the cloud. The problem is figuring out which songs are eligible for an upgrade. To do this easily, create a new smart playlist with the following options:
- Media type – music
- Quality – less than 256kbs
- AND ANY OF THE FOLLOWING (option click on the + symbol to create this ANY rule)
- - iCloud Status is Purchased
- - iCloud Status is Matched
Any songs on this playlist are matched in the cloud and therefore a higher quality version is available to replace any you have locally. To trigger that upgrade, you need to delete those tracks from your library – by either right clicking and selecting delete or pressing option-delete.
When asked if you’d like to delete the tracks from iCloud too, make sure you DON’T. However, do move them to the trash / delete from your local computer. The tracks won’t disappear from the list though, instead they’ll be there still but with an iCloud download icon next to them. Highlight them again, right click, download.
Once downloaded, they’ll disappear from this smart playlist – that’s because they’ve been replaced with 256kbs versions, and therefore don’t match the list criteria anymore. Congrats, you’ve upgraded them. Continue for every other song on the list.
Note that this isn’t necessary for your iOS devices – they will automatically use the higher quality matched version when you attempt to stream or download to the device. This playlist is only to facilitate replacing the existing, lower quality songs on your computer.
Setting Up iTunes Match On iOS Devices
From the Settings -> Music menu, enable iTunes Match from the top of the list. You’ll be given a warning about the music on your device being replaced with iTunes Match. Continue.
Give it about 10 minutes to sync up with the cloud. Now when you launch the iPod / Music app, everything in your iCloud library will be there. If you still have some songs in the process of uploading, they’ll be greyed out.
You can either stream songs just by clicking to play them as usual (I experience about a 5 second lag before it starts sometimes), or you can download them to your device by clicking on the iCloud icon.
If you want to download a full playlist or genre, artist etc, just scroll down to the bottom of the list where you’ll see a button to download all.
I just upgraded about 2,800 songs to high quality 256kbs, legal DRM-free versions, which I can keep forever, legally. I can now stream my entire music collection to any of my iOS devices (including family if you share an iTunes store account). Of course, any music you add in the future to your library will also be automatically matched, if available, or uploaded if not. The library remains in sync across all devices. This is personal music streaming done right, and it’s even legal, which always gives me a nice fuzzy feeling inside.
What do you think of iTunes Match (assuming you’ve actually signed up)? For you, how does it compare to similar services like Google Music? Got any problems or questions about the service? Ask away in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer!