What Is the Gapless Album Tag in iTunes For? (Update)

Update: I’ve reposted this article because with the release of iTunes 11, the Gapless Album tag is no longer available in the program. However, many people don’t understand this, and think that the removal of this tag means that iTunes no longer plays music without gaps. This is incorrect. Read on and understand what this tag was for.

Following a comment from a Twitter friend, asking how to find which of a number of albums require gapless playback, I pointed him to an old article on this website. (I won’t link to it, as it was written in 2006, and addressed the problem of gapless playback on the iPod.) I realized that many people don’t understand what that Gapless Album tag is, so here’s a brief explanation.

If you select a number of tracks in iTunes, then choose Get Info, and click on the Options tab, you see this:



And if you choose a single track, you see this:



That tag at the bottom of the first screenshot, Gapless Album, or at the bottom of the second, Part of a Gapless Album (thanks for being consistent, Apple), has one, and only one usage. This tag only matters if you have Crossfade Song turned on in iTunes (Preferences > Playback), and it only affects playback from iTunes. All gapless albums are automatically detected and played as such on iPods and other iOS devices. You may even see iTunes “Determining Gapless Playback Information” when you add new files to your iTunes library; this is simply to find whether the music ends at the end of the file or not. (Not actually at the end, in fact; there’s a brief bit of silence no matter what, but it’s a set length, so if the silence is that length, iTunes knows to ignore it.)

So, unless you use Crossfade Songs, you never need to worry about this tag.

See Apple’s technical note about gapless playback.

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20 replies
  1. Tim Lawson says:

    I thought the gapless album attribute was also handy for allowing live show recordings to flow as played rather than with a discernible gap. Seems to work for me with my jam band recordings, or am I imagining it Kirk?

    Reply
  2. Tom says:

    I’ve always used the gapless album tag when loading my opera CDs into iTunes. I think you are saying I didn’t have to do that and that dropping this feature won’t change anything when I input operas in the future. Is that right?

    Reply
    • Will says:

      Without the ability to tag the tracks of that Opera as being part of a gapless album, the beginning and end of each song will be blended together as they overlap for however many seconds you have set iTunes’ Crossfade setting set at, if you have iTunes’ Crossfade turned on.

      Like Cover Flow, iTunes ability to Crossfade songs had once been touted as a good thing. Now Apple has decided that Crossfading is a bad thing, so iTunes 11 installs with Crossfade turned off.

      If you turn Crossfade on, there is now no way to play back that Opera, or any live album, correctly – except by turning Crossfade off while you listen to that particular album.

      Reply
      • Will says:

        Nevermind – if you google around, you may find some people are saying that iTunes now looks to see if there are gaps when you are importing the CD. If there are no gaps, iTunes will automatically guess that it is a gapless album.

        I don’t know how well this works on albums where some songs have gaps and others do not (Ziggy Stardust for example).

        Reply
  3. Gary says:

    I just imported an album with crossfade turned off. The album should be a gapless album (one song flows right into the next would out any gaps), but there is a small blip of silence between each of the songs which is incredibly annoying. If iTunes is supposed to automatically detect whether or not it is a gapless album it seems to have failed in this case.
    Previous versions of iTunes worked great when I checked the “gapless album” box, but now it seems as though I have to live with annoying silence blips between songs.

    Reply
    • Gary says:

      I just remembered that the album I imported was actually a cd that someone had burned for me. I’m not possitive, but this may very well be causing the problem if the cd was not burned properly.

      I will try a store bought cd to confirm and let you all know.

      Thanks.

      Reply
  4. randynchicago says:

    I just got off the phone with Apple Support…

    They have eliminated gap-less playback of albums, so now EVERY song on a mixed DJ set or Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon or The Wall (or millions of other albums) – each track will have a 1 second gap between them. Completely ruining the way the album was meant to be listened to.

    They reverse-engineered and went back to crappy playback like Android and Windows OS phones USED to do. Doesn’t make much sense does it?

    I repeat – do NOT upgrade to iTunes 11, you will be severely disappointed.

    For those that have already upgraded and lost gap-less playback, submit a Feedback request and demand for gap-less playback to be brought back into iTunes ASAP!!! Fill out the form here (things do NOT change, if you don’t leave feedback):

    http://www.apple.com/feedback/itunesapp.html

    Reply
      • Joe says:

        Doesn’t that mean that if cross-fade songs is on, then a gapless album will cross-fade too? I thought the point of the “Gapless Album” checkbox was so that if you had cross-fade switched on, it would be ignored on gapless albums.

        Reply
        • kirk says:

          Have you tried it? My guess is that they managed to find a way to detect gapless tracks and not cross-fade them (which is what happens).

          Reply
          • Joe says:

            Actually, scrap that… It does work! I had shuffle turned on by mistake. Doh.

            Looks like iTunes does indeed detect somehow… Perhaps it won’t cross-fade if the tracks have audio over a certain dB at the end of the track, and if the next track it’s playing is sequentially the next track on the same album. Clever!

            Reply
          • Joe says:

            Off-topic, but don’t you wish that iTunes had a tag to separate albums from singles? I have a lot of singles and so my Albums view shows 4277 albums… Probably 70% of those are singles!

            Reply
            • kirk says:

              I just tag each one as though it were an album, with the name of the two (or more) songs. I don’t have many, though.

  5. Michael D. Yaeger says:

    Any way to burn a mixed playlist to a disc and keep gapless only between the songs that are gapless (i.e. CD1, tracks 1-5; CD2 tracks 34-40, CD3, tracks 17-22)? It works fine in iTunes, but not show much when burnt to disc.

    Reply

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