The iTunes Monster has taken over the music distribution world and there is no sign of things changing any time soon soon..
iTunes claims to be the biggest and most utilised music website in the world, and who am I to argue. It seems to me that statement is very true given the following interesting nerd facts about iTunes.
- Would you believe iTunes has served up over 16 billion songs to the public to date? That’s pretty amazing stuff.
- iTunes has over 18 Billion songs available for download.
- It has over 20,000 hours of audio books provided by Audible.com.
- It has over 2000 music videos and TV programs (in the US).
- iTunes U content is free to download and was originally set up to facilitate universities educational content for its students.
- iTunes revenue in Q2 2011 was a record $1.4 Billion.
Pretty impressive by anyone’s standards.
Working with Technology
In the course of my work, engaged with the music loving public, I am amazed at the number of people who use iTunes and do not know about certain elements of the software that would benefit them greatly. This information isn’t too hard to find and I’m going to show you how. Now I know I’m what you average Joe Punters will call a tech nerd or a geek or whatever, and that’s fine, but these elements are simple to find and easy to fix once you know how. If you really care about your music quality you need to get on down the page to 4. & 5.
Firstly; At the top of the screen on the left hand side click on “edit” then “preferences” and the following screen will open. (The following relates to iTunes version 10.4, however earlier versions are very similar)
1. Parental Controls
The first change I’m going to show you is critical where young children are using iTunes. In Parental Controls you can disable various elements within iTunes to restrict your child’s usage. These are self explanatory as can be seen below
2. Home Sharing
To create a Home Share go to the top menu and click “Advanced” and then “Turn On Home Sharing” you will then be presented with the following screen where you will be asked to enter your password for your iTunes account to activate it. With Home Sharing you can share your iTunes content with up to 5 computers on a home network. This essentially means you can look at the iTunes content on your Mother’s, Father’s, Brother’s, Sister’s machine and copy it to yours and vice-versa. Just repeat this process on each machine you want on your Home Share.
3. Change where iTunes saves your media files.
iTunes automatically selects a location on your laptop or desktop to save all your media files. But what if you want to save the files in a place where everyone can access them at home? You might reply “Doesn’t “Home Sharing” do that for me already?” Well not quite. With Home Sharing, in order for you to see and/or play the music files on another machine, that machine needs to be on and running iTunes. If you want to access the iTunes files all the time at home then a Mac mini or a Western Digital Hard Drive is the way to go.
To change where iTunes saves your media data click on “Edit” and then click on “Preferences” and the following screen will open;
You can view the location that iTunes saves your media in the open window seen above. If you want to change this click “Change” and you can then select a different location directly on your machine or on your wider network to save your media files.
4. & 5. Bit Rate and File Type
- Bit Rate- Firstly everybody needs to be aware of what ”Bit Rate” means in relation to music files because if you’re not aware you will waste a lot of CD ripping time. When you load a CD into the drive on your laptop, PC or Mac, iTunes will rip the DVD at the default “Bit Rate” set in your preferences. The default Bit Rate can be as low as 160kbps so when you consider a song at CD quality can be as much as 1400kbps you can see that 160kbps is very small, too small as far as I’m concerned. Some people claim they don’t even notice the difference which astounds me! If you are ripping your tunes at 160kbps I’m gonna beat you around the head. There is a very discernible difference in audio quality between a tune played at 160kbps and the same song played at 1400kbps. If you are playing your music on a decent audio system you will see what I mean. Change this to the maximum for MP3- 320kbps.
- File Type- There are many many different audio file types out there and it can all get a bit confusing so because I’m a nerd and you’re not, I’ll keep it simple. iTunes uses a file type of their own call AAC. This is not a universal or open file type so not all music players will play it. MP3 is more widely used so that’s the one we want to use when downloading music from iTunes and ripping CDs to iTunes. By default iTunes uses, as you guessed it, AAC by default.
To change these settings, do the following;
Go to the menu bar at the top of the iTunes window and click “Edit” then “Preferences” and you will be brought to the screen below;
On the “General Tab” Click “Import Settings” and the following window will open;
Next, click the “Import using” drop down and select “MP3 Encoder”
Next, click “Setting” select “Custom” from the drop down menu and the following window will open;
Next click “Stereo Bit Rate” drop down menu and select the maximum 320kbps.
Leave the other settings as they are shown above and click “OK”.
Now you are set as good as you can get when downloading from, and ripping CDs to iTunes. There is an open source audio format called Free Loss-less Audio Codec (FLACC) that is the best to work with but I wont go into that here as the process can be a little more complicated, however I will do a post on this in the coming weeks. If you are serious about your tunes you will need that information. If you are not too serious about your tunes then go with the above process.
You can find more details on the features of iTunes here