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iTunes High Resolution Conversion to WAV or AIFF Truncates Bit Depth

I spotted something surprising today, and if you buy and listen to high-resolution files with iTunes, you’ll want to know about this. Personally, I don’t believe the high-resolution music file stuff, but it’s up to you.

As you may know, you can play back high-resolution files in iTunes, if they are in Apple Lossless format. You can convert files to Apple Lossless from FLAC, AIFF or WAV with no loss in quality. You can do the WAV or AIFF conversion in iTunes, or, to convert FLAC files, you can use the free XLD.

But, if you use iTunes to later convert your Apple Lossless files to WAV or AIFF, you may be surprised: iTunes converts your 24-bit files to only 16 bits. Here’s an example: I took a 24-bit, 96 kHz file and converted it to WAV using iTunes. Here’s the original file:

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And here’s the WAV file:

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I’d always thought that iTunes was transparent in lossless encoding and decoding, but this is not the case. The same thing happens when converting to AIFF.

iTunes can play files at a bit depth of up to 24 bits, and with a sample rate of up to 352.8 kHz, assuming you have the hardware to handle that sample rate. But we forewarned that, if you plan to convert these lossless files back to AIFF or WAV, you’ll lose some of the high resolution. (To be fair, there is no reason to do so…)

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iTunes Smart Playlist: Lots of Live Dead

I’ve made a smart playlist to group all of my live Grateful Dead recordings (just official releases). This uses a nested smart playlist, with a number of conditions. The first is Artist is Grateful Dead, and then I nest a number of conditions, beginning with Album begins with 1, since all of the Dead’s concerts took place in the 20th century, and I name them with the date first, like this: 1974-05-14 – Missoula, MT – Dave’s Picks Vol. 9. Here’s what the smart playlist looks like:

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(To add nested conditions, press the Option key and click on the + button to the right of the first condition; when you hold down the Option key, that button becomes a … .)

For other live albums, I’ve just added their names; I could also do this more easily, by adding, say, “Live” to the Comments field of all these albums. But that means I’d need to remember to do this for each new release.

And here’s what I see when I view this smart playlist; this is in Grid view:

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That’s a lot of Grateful Dead!

By the way, if you want a full-size screenshot of the above picture, click here; it’s about 5 MB. You may need to click on the image to zoom to full size; I see I have to do that in Safari.

And how about a wallpaper? I’ve made a 2560×1440 graphic with a lot of my live Dead covers from iTunes. That’s the size of a 27″ Apple iMac, or Thunderbolt display. If you need other sizes, you’ll just have to make them yourself. Grab the wallpaper here (3.4 MB).

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The iTunes Guy Looks at Smart Playlists, Organizing Media Files and More

itunesguy-thum-100004188-gallery.jpgYou can do a lot with smart playlists in iTunes, and sometimes the questions I get from readers make me discover ideas that I had never thought of. In this week’s column, I show you how to create a smart playlist with a certain percentage of songs from different genres. I also talk about organizing iTunes media files, slow syncing of iOS devices, and how to find a lost password for an Apple ID.

Read this week’s Ask the iTunes Guy column on Macworld.

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iTunes’ Genius Isn’t So Dumb Anymore

A few weeks ago, I reported that iTunes’ Genius was getting dumber. Genius wasn’t finding recommendations for a lot of well-known music: things like Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run, the Grateful Dead’s American Beauty, The Door’s L. A. Woman, and many others, including songs by Talking Heads, the Rolling Stores and other well-known bands.

Well, Apple’s looked into this and it seems fixed. I tried all the songs I had flagged, and they all give me Genius recommendations.

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If you still see songs where there are no Genius recommendations – not obscure music, but songs well enough known that Genius should be able to make suggestions – drop a comment below.

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Learn How to Use the iTunes Wish List

The iTunes Store has a Wish List, which, since a recent update to iTunes, is accessible from within your library. In my latest Macworld article, I look at how to use the Wish List to best manage items you want to buy. I show how to use the Wish List in iTunes, on iOS devices, and even how to access it from the iBooks app.

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Apple Adds News Radio from NPR to iTunes Radio

005Apple has added its first non-music iTunes Radio station: NPR News and Culture. Accessible like other iTunes Radio stations, NPR News and Culture will stream a number of live news and recording segments from the US public radio network.

This is an interesting addition to iTunes Radio, and Apple plans to add other news stations in the future. Unlike music stations, which are designed to get listeners to spend money on the iTunes Store, this station is there just to provide content. There will be no ads; after all, this is non-commercial public radio.

If you choose Show in iTunes Store by right-clicking on this station, iTunes performs a search showing the various NPR podcasts available, many of which contain content that will be on this station. For now, there’s no schedule, but that seems to me to be something worth adding, especially if Apple is planning to roll out other talk radio stations.

I’m looking forward to seeing what Apple does with this. While you can stream NPR content via the web, in iTunes as an Internet radio station, and via a number of iOS radio player apps, having it as an iTunes Radio station makes it very accessible. (Though, when listening, you have no idea what program you’re listening to, or who you’re hearing, until the announcers tell you; which isn’t that often.) Perhaps part of the future of iTunes Radio is talk radio, paid for by those who want their streams to be heard.

Tune into NPR News and Culture and check out what’s there.

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The iTunes Guy Looks at Chronological Playlists, Surround Sound Playback Problems and More

itunesguy-thum-100004188-gallery.jpgOne of the best things about iTunes is the ability to make smart playlists to group content according to simple conditions. In this week’s column, I look at two questions about smart playlists: one about listening to different podcasts in chronological order, and another about the Category condition. I also look at how to redownload previous purchases, and how to fix in issue where the Apple TV won’t play surround sound from ripped DVDs.

Read more in this week’s Ask the iTunes Guy column.

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iTunes Tip: See and Edit Upcoming Songs in Genius Mixes

003.pngI’ve never been a fan of iTunes’ Genius mixes. They’re opaque, limited, and you can’t create your own. Genius Mixes are “perpetual playlists” that iTunes creates when you turn on Genius (Store > Turn On Genius). iTunes makes up to 12 such playlists, and puts them in the Playlists list, or in the sidebar, if that’s visible.

What I don’t like about Genius Mixes is that you can’t see what music they contain. Unlike Genius playlists, which you can edit manually, Genius Mixes are the lazy way of setting up genre-based random playlists. (And, yes, I do miss iTunes DJ.)

004.pngBut, you can see what’s coming up in a Genius Mix in iTunes 11. You can also remove tracks from the mix, or change the order of upcoming tracks. All you need to do is us Up Next.

To the right is a Genius Mix on my Mac. If I hover my cursor over the album art, I see controls, and I get an idea of which artists the mix will contain. But I can’t see any more information about the mix. However, if I use Up Next, and check its queue, I can see what’s coming up in the future.

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If you want to delete any tracks from the Genius Mix (this time around; I don’t think this applies permanently), just hover your cursor over a track, then click the X button to the left of its artwork. If you want to re-order tracks, just click on one and drag it to a new location in the list.

005.pngIn the screenshot above, I’m doing this from the iTunes MiniPlayer, but you can also see this by clicking the Up Next icon in the iTunes LCD. This displays a drop-down list similar to the one that the MiniPlayer shows.

I’m still not convinced by Genius Mixes, because there are no parameters; I can’t choose, say, songs with specific ratings, or exclude certain artists, or even choose which Genius Mixes I want. iTunes creates them based on the content of your library.

But this does make them a bit more usable.

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