iTunes Match, Apple's newest iCloud offering is a great way keep a backup of all of your music "in the cloud" and make all of your music available on all of your iDevices, Mac's and Windows PC's all the time. Buy a new song on your iPhone and it automatically downloads and is available on your Mac. Rip a new CD on your Windows PC, and all the songs are automatically on your iPod. All your music is sync'd, all the time. If your Windows PC crashes or the iTunes library on your Mac gets corrupted, no problem - all your music is safely stored "in the cloud".
For many users, having their music stored "in the cloud" is not worth anything near $25/year, but there is one feature Apple has thrown into iCloud that might make it well worth it: Upgrade all of your old, low quality, less-than-legal music downloads to high quality, professionally digitized, 256k music files from Apple's digital library! That's right - With iTunes Match, you can replace your low quality and illegal downloads with new, perfect 256k files! Even if you only pay for one year of iTunes Match service, all of the files you replace with Apple's high-quality copies are still yours to store on your computer, iPhone, iPod or other music player, forever.
The process to convert your low-quality music to high quality 256k files is not difficult, but it does not happen automatically as some people might think - read on to learn how:
How to convert your low quality music to 256k using iTunes Match:
- Be sure you are using iTunes 10.5.1 or newer
- If you will be transferring your music to an iDevice, be sure to have iOS 5.0.1 or newer
- You will need a free iCloud account and activate iTunes Match for $25 (See below)
If you have not yet activated iTunes Match, you can do so by clicking the iTunes Match link in the left-side of iTunes. After your iTunes Match subscription is completed, iTunes will automatically begin the process of "matching" the music in your iTunes library. Depending on how many songs you have, your internet connection speed, and the load on the iTunes Match servers, this could take from a few minutes to several hours.
After your iTunes library has been processed, enable the iTunes Match status columns by RIGHT-Clicking on any column header, and making sure there is a check-mark next to "iCloud Status" and "iCloud Download". If it is not already selected/showing, also be sure to click "bit rate". You should now see the iCloud status and quality/bit rate of all of the songs in your iTunes library.
iCloud Status Meanings:
- Purchased: This song was purchased from iTunes and is already a high-quality digital music file
- Matched: This song has been 'matched' to the iTunes Match library - meaning a high-quality digital file is available
- Not Eligible: This song is not eligible to be stored in iCloud for a myriad of reasons
- Uploaded: No match is available in the iTunes Match library - your file has been uploaded to the iCloud and will not be eligible to upgrade to a higher quality
You can now scroll through your iTunes library and look for all "Matched" songs that are lower than 256k quality - These are the songs you will be replace with Apple's 256k, high quality files.
To convert your existing low-quality music file to 256k:
- DELETE (yes, DELETE!) the song you want to upgrade from your iTunes (be sure you have a backup - just in case things get ugly)
- After deleting, you will notice that even though you got a warning and confirmation to delete your file, it is still listed in your iTunes library - but now you will see an iTunes Cloud download button in the iCloud Download column
- Click the iCloud Download button for the song you just deleted - a new, high quality, 256k will download from the iTunes Match iCloud to your iTunes library - You now have a high quality version of your music file!
- Repeat for all of the low-quality songs with the "matched" status - you can select, delete and download multiple files at once by holding the CONTROL (CNTRL) button (or the Command button on the Mac) and clicking at the same time
- Enjoy your new, high-quality 256k music files!
To copy your new high-quality music files to your iPod, iPod Touch, or iPhone:
If you have not yet activated iTunes Match on your iDevice, sync your iDevice with your iTunes library as usual. All of your new high-quality files will overwrite your old krappy sounding files on your iDevice.
If you have already activated iTunes Match on your iDevice: Music files that you convert to 256k and download to iTunes WILL NOT AUTOMATICALLY SYNC to your iDevice if you have already enabled iTunes Match on that device! To copy over your new high quality music files, disable iTunes match on the iDevice, then sync with your iTunes library "the old fashioned way" - either by USB cable or via WiFi. After your high-quality music files have been copied to your iDevice, you can re-enable iTunes Match.
- Even if you do not renew your iTunes Match subscription all the music files in your iTunes library will remain your property, with no DRM/Copy protection. By not renewing your iTunes Match subscription, you only lose the ability to sync in the cloud or match new songs that your RIP from CD or download from other sources.
- If you have added meta-data to your music files such as album name, cover art, etc, all of that data will be retained when you convert to the high-quality copy.
- Not all music files will be available for "matching" (and then upgrading). Your music files must be 96Kbps quality or better, under 200MB (each) and must be in Apple's library of several-hundred-thousand songs. Out of my 750 songs ranging from Led Zeppelin to Insane Clown Posse, 685 were available for iTunes "Match"
- If you have 256k or higher files that are damaged or incomplete, you can replace them with new, perfect files using this method as long as the status is 'matched'
- There is a limit of 25,000 songs for iTunes Match