iTunes Match – Refresh Your Old Tunes With iCloud

4.0 Overall Score
Usability: 3.5/5
Design: 4/5
Value: 4.5/5

Effortless playback on all of your devices | Great value for larger libraries

The match process isn't perfect | A definite hassle to try to reorganize library to match

Apple has finally released iTunes Match, and it’s a new service to breath life into your old iTunes library. Most probably use iTunes to store their music, but a lot of that music wasn’t purchased from the iTunes Store. Luckily, that’s where iTunes Match comes in. It allows you to get the benefits of iCloud music from all of the music in your library even if it wasn’t purchased in iTunes. The service costs $24.99/year, and it works by matching your songs to the 20 million songs in the iTunes Store. You can read our full how to guide on how the service works, but the real question is if it’s worth the subscription price.

After the initial process is complete you will have about 2/3 to 3/4 of your collection matched, and all of the matched songs are then available at 256 kbps. Even if you had a lower quality, you’re upgraded to the higher quality of all matched songs, and then iTunes uploads the rest of your music. The matching process isn’t perfect at the moment, and it’s very strange when part of an album matches, and the rest don’t. For instance I have the full Beatles Help album, and 10 of the 14 songs were matched, and it just seems so odd not to able to match the full album.

Also you can have perfect metadata, and iTunes Match doesn’t make the match, but can match songs title Track 05. The matching is based on listening to the actual song, but the non-matches are even more questionable. The goal of iTunes Match is the ability to have your entire music library with you on all of your devices on demand. The iTunes in the Cloud feature lets you re-download any song you’ve bought, and iTunes Match gives that ability to every song in your library, regardless of where it’s from.

After the process is complete, you can view your whole music library on all your iOS devices and computers, and start playing any of them at a moment’s notice. You no longer need to sync music, or even store huge amounts on your device. The playback is probably the most important aspect, and simply switching between shuffled songs has the same gap as if you were listening on an album, cassette or CD. There’s a three second or less buffer, and it’s quicker depending on your connection if the tracks are matched or uploaded.

It seems the matched tracks render faster because Apple is ready to stream those 20 million songs to all of their users as compared to one uploaded song just for you. Many of the songs in my library are around 128 -192 kbps, so it’s great that all the matched ones were upgraded to 256 kbps. On playback, you can definitely notice the difference when listening to the same track on two different devices between the original, and matched files. The performance is simply outstanding with the system working seamlessly on all devices from 3G to WiFi. You can also store songs once you play them, so that you can listen to some music offline, and you can always delete songs while still having the ability to re-play them iCloud.

The matching process is the most disappointing and frustrating aspect of iTunes Match as we obviously want to have as many tracks matched as possible. Trying to find different versions, editing metadata, or trying to improve the matches on any unmatched songs is an extreme hassle. Updating iTunes Match never seems to match as you would expect, so even making the edits doesn’t guarantee any improved matches. We’ve gone through all kinds of edits to our library, and the improvements are minimal, so hopefully the matching algorithm is improved soon.

The iTunes Match service ($24.99/year) is still a great service from Apple that is well worth the price of admission. The more songs you don’t have from iTunes the better it is, as I have 1,000 songs not from iTunes, and 800 were matched. That’s $800 worth of music for $25, and those songs were all upgraded in the process. It also makes your music extremely portable, and the service works as advertised. You simply press play on any song , and it starts playing just like a streaming service. On iOS devices the songs are stored for offline play, but can be effortless removed and re-downloaded as many times as you want. On a computer it’s true streaming as you can play all the songs without downloading anything to your hard drive.

The iTunes Match service is a should buy that is an even a higher recommendation for those with a considerable library not purchased in the iTunes Store. The matching will hopefully be improved in the future, and that’s the only thing holding it back at the moment.


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One Comment on "iTunes Match – Refresh Your Old Tunes With iCloud"

  1. Kim Martino November 21, 2011 at 8:25 PM -

    I am SO broke!! I lost my job a year ago tomorrow, & unemployment isn’t cutting it. I’d LOVE to be able to afford this…

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