Before Canceling iTunes Match

If, like me, you subscribe to both Apple Music and iTunes Match, you’ve probably contemplated canceling iTunes Match. Apple Music doesn’t exactly replace iTunes Match, but it does replace the key reason that I was an iTunes Match subscriber - the ability to listen to a wide selection of music on all of my devices.

Note: For a more detailed look at the deferences between the two services, see Serenity Caldwell’s explainer on iMore, “Apple Music vs iTunes Match: What’s the difference?”.

But before canceling iTunes Match, I decided to do something that I’d been putting off - upgrading lower bit rate songs to 256kbps AAC versions. I had a bunch of low bit rate songs on my Mac from the 128kbps days of the iTunes Store and from trying to save disk space during the "Rip. Mix. Burn." era. As it turns out, you can use iTunes Match to upgrade those songs to 256kbps AAC versions. How? Read on.

How to upgrade lower bit rate songs to 256kbps AAC versions using iTunes Match

First off, a huge tip of the hat to Jason Snell’s Macworld article, “How to upgrade tracks to iTunes Match, fast”. I’d simply point you to his article, but a couple of changes need to be made to his 2011 process.

Step 1 - Back up your Mac

You know the drill. No excuses.

Step 2 - Create two Smart Playlists

Create a Smart Playlist containing the songs to be upgraded, by using these criteria:

  • Bit Rate is less than 256kbps
  • Media Kind is Music
  • Any of the following are true (option-click on the last plus button to get the “Any” rule)
    • iCloud Status is Matched
    • iCloud Status is Purchased

Create a second Smart Playlist that will be used to download 256kbps AAC versions of the songs, by using these criteria:

  • Location is not on this computer
  • Media Kind is Music
  • iCloud Status is not Apple Music

Step 3 - Test your playlists

Delete a song from the first playlist, and it should show up on the second playlist. If not, go back to troubleshoot.

Step 4 - Remove low bit rate songs from your Mac

Select all the songs in the first playlist, press option-delete, and select “Remove Download” (do NOT select “delete song”).

Step 5 - Download 256kbps AAC versions of the songs

In iTunes, click on the second playlist. In the upper right corner of the window, click on the download icon to download all songs in the playlist.

iTunes will likely take a while to complete the downloads. I upgraded nearly 3,000 songs, so it took several hours. But I think the small effort and the resulting higher quality files makes this process worthwhile.