iTunes 12, iTunes Match and “Removed” Files

Apple hasn’t said whether iTunes Match has changed at all, but I’m seeing an issue with a number of purchased tracks in my library with iTunes 12. I have about 60 tracks that show an iCloud Status of “Removed,” and which, while they are in my iTunes library on my Mac, they don’t show up on my iOS devices that use iTunes Match. The Removed status means, according to Apple:

“This icon appears when you remove a song from iCloud (from a different computer). Songs deleted from iCloud are immediately deleted from associated iOS devices, but will remain on other associated computers until you manually delete them.”

As you can see here, Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks album, which I purchased from iTunes, shows several tracks as Removed. Some show as Purchased, as they should.

removed 2.png

This is a bit confusing; I only use iTunes Match with one computer. Since they’re all purchased songs, I think this has something to do with iTunes Match itself, and since I didn’t see this in iTunes 11, something has either gone wrong on my Mac, or on the iTunes Match back-end. I did turn off iTunes Match and turn it on again, and that did nothing.

I found that if I select one of these tracks, then right-clicked and chose Add to iCloud, it gets added to my iTunes Match library as Matched, not Purchased. When I deleted some of the tracks, then re-downloaded them from my Purchased list, they showed up correctly as purchased. This is a problem, however, because most of these tracks come from Bob Dylan: The Collection, a digital box set of Dylan’s music I bought years ago, which isn’t tagged by album. So to find the exact tracks in my Purchased list, I’d need to spend a lot of time, as there are multiple versions of many of these songs.

I’m also seeing some tracks that show up twice, once as Purchased and a second time as Matched.


And on a number of albums, tracks show up as Matched twice. There is one copy in my iTunes library, and another in the cloud, and the durations of the tracks differ by four or five seconds.

Different times

None of these problems occurred with iTunes 11. It looks as though iTunes 12 did something to whatever database is stored on Apple’s servers, which contains information about your iTunes Match library. I have no idea how to fix this, other than, for the Removed tracks, re-downloading them.

As for iTunes Match matching, I tried with some albums where some tracks matched and others were uploaded – this shouldn’t ever happen; if the album is on the iTunes Store, every track should match – and I saw no change. This suggests that the iTunes Match matching algorithm hasn’t been improved, though it would require more rigorous testing to prove this conclusively.

So, if you use iTunes Match, think twice before upgrading to iTunes 12 (though if you do upgrade to Yosemite, you don’t really have a choice). Feel free to post comments if you’re seeing the same problems.

iTunes Match and Mastered for iTunes: Which Tracks Do You Get When Matching CDs?

002.pngApple touts its Mastered for iTunes tracks on the iTunes Store as “Music as the artist and sound engineer intended.” Mastered for iTunes tracks are therefore supposed to sound better than tracks you rip from CDs. The basic goal of Mastered for iTunes is to provide a direct downsampling of music from 24-bit, 96 kHz files to 256 kbps AAC files, rather than having a first downsampling to the CD format (16-bit, 44.1 kHz), then another conversion to AAC.

Whether or not the difference is audible is debatable; at a minimum, the conversion from higher quality masters can be seen as producing fewer “rounding errors,” though it’s a bit more complicated than that.[1] Also, the Mastered for iTunes process requires that record labels make some slight changes to their files, notably to avoid clipping,[2] but it allows them to create different masters for the iTunes Store than for CDs, if they so desire. (Yet as you’ll see below, I found much more clipping on certain Mastered for iTunes files than CD rips or older purchased files.)

I was wondering what link exists between Mastered for iTunes files and iTunes Match. If you rip a CD, and match it, will you get Mastered for iTunes files, which are currently sold on the iTunes Store (if available), or will you get equivalents of the CD’s ripped files? Since Apple says there’s a difference between the two, how do they handle this?

When you purchase a Mastered for iTunes file, there’s information in the file telling you this. You can see this by selecting a file, pressing Command-I (on Mac) or Control-I (on Windows, then viewing the Summary tab. The Mastered for iTunes badge below shows you that you have premium files.


If you rip a CD, match it, then download one of the files from the cloud, you don’t ever see the Mastered for iTunes badge. I have a handful of CDs for which only Mastered for iTunes files are available from the iTunes Store (these are new releases where labels only provide files for this format). I added them to my iTunes Match account, matched them, deleted my originals, then downloaded the matched files. I compared them with my original rips (using the methods described below), and saw that these files were not the same; I was clearly getting the Mastered for iTunes files from iTunes Match. But the files don’t display the Mastered for iTunes badge.

Read more

A Year with iTunes Match

Apple introduced iTunes Match one year ago today. To mark the anniversary, I’ve written an article for Macworld, iTunes Match: One year in, where I discuss some of the problems with Apple’s cloud service, and offer some suggestions for improvement.

I also joined Macworld’s Chris Breen and Dan Moren on this week’s Macworld podcast, to discuss iTunes Match, iTunes and the iTunes Store.

So if you’re interested in iTunes Match, check out the article and podcast.

Update: Bad Tracks from iTunes Match: Who Do You Complain To?

A number of people have found that iTunes Match sometimes matches incorrect tracks; not that the songs are wrong, but that the versions might be wrong. This seems to happen especially with music that has been remastered. iTunes may match either an original or remastered track, and the user who matched the track may have tho one that iTunes doesn’t have. This can be a problem, if, say, you prefer an original album over a remastered version, or vice versa.

But I today I found, for the first time, a bad track coming from iTunes Match, one with an audible problem. It’s one of an excellent set of Bill Evans recordings, The Last Waltz, from the summer of 1980, just before his death, made at the Keystone Korner; the song is Your Story, While iTunes matched these tracks, I was listening to some of this music today, and found a bad track. There’s a gap of about a half-second at one point in the track. Looking at it with Rogue Amoeba’s Fission, you can clearly see the missing chunk of music:

If this happens, you’re basically screwed. Who can you complain to? Contact the iTunes Store? I doubt anything will happen. The only way to have a good copy of the track is to take your original and make sure it stays in your library; if you ever have to download it again, you’ll get the track with the gap. It’s worth noting that this track is not available on the iTunes Store. This makes me wonder exactly how they match such tracks; do they match them to tracks that other people have uploaded?

I don’t expect this will happen a lot, but the fact that it happens at all shows the weakness of this system. iTunes Match clearly needs an option for tracks that you don’t want matched, ones that you want uploaded, because the matched version may not be the same as yours.

Has anyone else found matched tracks that have similar problems?

(As an aside: if you like Bill Evans, there are two box sets of this run at the Keystone Korner, in San Francisco, between August 31 and September 8, 1980. The Last Waltz is music from the first sets, and Consecration has tracks from the second sets. Just a week before his death, Evans was playing some of his finest performances. These two box sets, together with Turn Out the Stars, recorded at the Village Vanguard in June, 1980, comprise 22 discs of astounding piano music.)

Update: my son came across a bad track today. It’s a match of Philip Glass’s Witchita Vortex Sutra, from the Minimal Piano Collection box set. There are clicks throughout the track, with one big dropout at 4:25: