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Faster iTunes 8.1 with new import and Genius features due soon

post #1 of 65
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Apple sometime later today or this week will make available for download a speedier version of its iTunes media software that will extend the company's Genius feature to more media types and support direct CD imports to iTunes Plus format.

The iTunes 8.1 update was listed among the requirements for a new pair of aluminum iPod shuffles introduced earlier in the day and is now prominently listed as "coming soon" on Apple's iTunes page under the heading "Faster. Smarter. More entertaining."

iTunes Plus import

More specifically, Apple says a new importing feature will let users import songs from music CDs as higher quality, 256-Kbps iTunes Plus files (see how).

"If your songs already exist in digital form on your computer, just drag them into your iTunes library," Apple says. "iTunes also converts unprotected WMA files on your Windows computer to AAC files."

Genius Sidebar additions

Meanwhile, Apple's Genius recommendation engine for music tracks is being expanded to movies and TV shows. When a user selects a song, movie, or show in an iTunes 8.1 library, the Genius sidebar on the right-hand side of the screen will offer recommendations for similar content from the iTunes Store, which can then be purchased directly from within iTunes.



Speed Improvements

Another major push behind iTunes 8.1 is to improve the overall speed of the application when performing various tasks. Apple says the new version will respond faster than previous versions when loading large libraries, browsing the iTunes Store, and syncing your devices.



Other changes

Apple also lists a couple other features as "new" on its iTunes features page, such as more refined parental controls and autofill options. However, there isn't enough information at present to tell what those specific new features are since Parental Controls and Autofill both have existed in previous versions of iTunes.
post #2 of 65
Quote:
iTunes Plus import

More specifically, Apple says a new importing feature will let users import songs from music CDs as higher quality, 256-Kbps iTunes Plus files (see how).

I don't understand this. I already import my CD's using the Apple Lossless Audio Codec. How is this new/better than that?
post #3 of 65
Looking forward to speed increases for large libraries. For the moment iTunes is by far the slowest of all the iApps.
post #4 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by bloodstains View Post

I don't understand this. I already import my CD's using the Apple Lossless Audio Codec. How is this new/better than that?

Totally agree. Makes no sense to me.
post #5 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by bloodstains View Post

I don't understand this. I already import my CD's using the Apple Lossless Audio Codec. How is this new/better than that?

From what I read on MacRumors 256k will be the new default setting, rather than 128k.
post #6 of 65
I am guessing 256kbps will just be the defualt now. Most people don't know that you can import at pretty much whatever bitrate you want and a whole slew of options.

I wonder why they don't use VBR as the standard though. I guess people feel more assured if they see a single number next to all their files instead of a varying number.
post #7 of 65
I have to see this to believe it: is it possible that after I don't know how many iTunes versions they finally noticed that scrolling is slow and jerky on the iTunes Store?!
post #8 of 65
So, does this mean it will no longer take four freaking hours to sync my iPhone?
post #9 of 65
iTunes as it is, is slow quite a lot of the time. Not massively so, but clicking on almost anything will make it takes a second or so to respond... So, it'll be good to have some more snappyness.
post #10 of 65
Could this be related to the 24th march info?
post #11 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

Apple also lists a couple other features as "new" on its iTunes features page, such as more refined parental controls and autofill options. However, there isn't enough information at present to tell what those specific new features are since Parental Controls and Autofill both have existed in previous versions of iTunes.

I'm hoping that the improved Autofill options will allow for you to down-convert the iTunes Plus songs to 128Kbps for all iPods like you can when adding to the shuffle. This would allow a bit more room on my iPod Touch for more music.

I'm thinking this might be unlikely, however, as Apple seems to be sneakily increasing the bitrate, first with iTunes Plus downloads and now with a change to the default encoding bitrate, in order to require people to buy bigger iPods. The average user wouldn't be aware that by encoding their songs at 256Kbps, they can only fit half as many on an iPod as they can at 128Kbps.

Seems to me to be a risky PR move changing all of the standards and defaults to 256Kbps, as it throws off all of their song capacity claims for their iPods (which currently are based on 128Kbps songs).
post #12 of 65
....will that be sped up...??? importing any music takes forever, and the larger the library xml file gets the slower it is to import music or update ID3 info.

I don't understand why this info is kept in an xml file anyways...why not use the CoreData or SQLite? I think the would increase speeds huge, instead re-writing a massive XML file each time a slight change is made, just update the record in the DB.
post #13 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by nli10 View Post

Could this be related to the 24th march info?

No.

The new shuffle needs iTunes 8,1

They ship in 3 to 5 days meaning within 3 to 5 days iTunes 8,1 will be out
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post #14 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by bloodstains View Post

I don't understand this. I already import my CD's using the Apple Lossless Audio Codec. How is this new/better than that?

This has to be a mistake in the article in that I have been doing it at 256 kbs for ages.

256 would actually be "better than (Lossless)" however in that your ears cannot tell the difference and you would save oodles of space. Unless you are purposely creating a digital archive of your CD collection as a backup, Lossless makes little sense as a format.
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post #15 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by Virgil-TB2 View Post

256 would actually be "better than (Lossless)" however in that your ears cannot tell the difference and you would save oodles of space.

That depends on the ears and, more importantly, the speakers or headphones. Some listeners can hear the difference.
post #16 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by Virgil-TB2 View Post

This has to be a mistake in the article in that I have been doing it at 256 kbs for ages.

256 would actually be "better than (Lossless)" however in that your ears cannot tell the difference and you would save oodles of space. Unless you are purposely creating a digital archive of your CD collection as a backup, Lossless makes little sense as a format.

Thanks for the heads up. I'll be sure to adjust my life to fit your needs.
post #17 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by Galley View Post

So, does this mean it will no longer take four freaking hours to sync my iPhone?

Either there's something wrong with the software on your phone, or this is a problem you have created yourself. If it is a software problem you can solve it with a restore. If it is the backup that's taking forever, look to the apps on your iPhone--especially the apps which store large quantities of local data. File storage, picture storage, and other similar apps cause the backup to slow considerably when there are changes while they are backed up on your computer. If you don't have apps like this filled with data your backup should be quite tolerable.
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post #18 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by daniel84 View Post

Looking forward to speed increases for large libraries. For the moment iTunes is by far the slowest of all the iApps.

I find it hard to believe it is slower than the iPhoto (09). Well, I have over 10,000 photos and 300 songs so the comparison is not fair.
post #19 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by xanthohappy View Post

That depends on the ears and, more importantly, the speakers or headphones. Some listeners can hear the difference.

I've seen a ton of blind tests and I've never seen anybody, including studio engineers (who are paid big money to hear tiny tiny tiny blips in sound) who can tell the difference between 256kbps or greater AAC (or LAME encoded mp3) and wav.

I've got about $700 worth of headphones, thousands of dollars worth of speakers, an audiophile external digital to audio converter, etc and I know I can't.

Honestly, I can really only hear a big difference with 128kbps if there are a lot of hard transients.

the psychoacoustic models that are used today are actually very very good. They can come a lot closer to transparency with 128 kbps than they could even 5 years ago.
post #20 of 65
I don't care if they change the defaultApple better continue to allow us to change the default, as I personally do make archive-quality backups of all my CDs.
post #21 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by FJRabon View Post

I've seen a ton of blind tests and I've never seen anybody, including studio engineers (who are paid big money to hear tiny tiny tiny blips in sound) who can tell the difference between 256kbps or greater AAC (or LAME encoded mp3) and wav.

I've got about $700 worth of headphones, thousands of dollars worth of speakers, an audiophile external digital to audio converter, etc and I know I can't.

Honestly, I can really only hear a big difference with 128kbps if there are a lot of hard transients.

the psychoacoustic models that are used today are actually very very good. They can come a lot closer to transparency with 128 kbps than they could even 5 years ago.

Even people that can't tell the difference should encode to a lossless format for the simple fact that if you lose your CDs or the original wav file, you're stuck with a lossy version. If you ever have to convert to another lossy format for whatever reason, you'll be losing even more data.

For example, those poor folks converting from the lossy WMA to the lossy AAC are getting screwed. Convert from a lossy format enough times and you'll be left with a very crappy quality music file.

Of course, not everyone has the storage space for lossless versions of their gazillion music CDs that they never listen to.
post #22 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by daniel84 View Post

From what I read on MacRumors 256k will be the new default setting, rather than 128k.

That's absurd to call changing a default setting an improvement. Arrgh!

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post #23 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by bloodstains View Post

Thanks for the heads up. I'll be sure to adjust my life to fit your needs.

Cool.

Your welcome.
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post #24 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by FJRabon View Post

I've seen a ton of blind tests and I've never seen anybody, including studio engineers (who are paid big money to hear tiny tiny tiny blips in sound) who can tell the difference between 256kbps or greater AAC (or LAME encoded mp3) and wav.

I've got about $700 worth of headphones, thousands of dollars worth of speakers, an audiophile external digital to audio converter, etc and I know I can't.

Honestly, I can really only hear a big difference with 128kbps if there are a lot of hard transients.

the psychoacoustic models that are used today are actually very very good. They can come a lot closer to transparency with 128 kbps than they could even 5 years ago.


I've read that people under the age of around 25 can hear some higher frequencies, but this ability quickly diminishes as you age. Us old fogies certainly seem not to be able hear most of what some claim to be able to.

Back in the tubular tv days and when I was much younger, I could distinctly hear a high pitched buzz coming from the tv. Nobody in my family, who were much older, could hear it.

So, I tend to believe much of what you say that most people simply cannot hear the difference between bit rates and compression levels. There certainly are people with better hearing that others, but those generally aren't audiophiles, and are instead people who have protected their hearing over a period of many years by NOT listening to a great deal of (particularly loud) sound/music for long periods. If anything audiophiles have worse hearing than most, not better.
post #25 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by kim kap sol View Post

Even people that can't tell the difference should encode to a lossless format for the simple fact that if you lose your CDs or the original wav file, you're stuck with a lossy version. If you ever have to convert to another lossy format for whatever reason, you'll be losing even more data.

For example, those poor folks converting from the lossy WMA to the lossy AAC are getting screwed. Convert from a lossy format enough times and you'll be left with a very crappy quality music file.

Of course, not everyone has the storage space for lossless versions of their gazillion music CDs that they never listen to.

I get the feeling that many people tend to think that AAC and mp3 encoders just randomly throw away digital audio information. They tend to think that 256kbps is "twice as good" as 128 kbps, etc

It doesn't really work this way. AAC (and mp3) uses a psycho acoustic model when it converts. 70% of what it ditches is nothing at all. And by nothing, I mean nothing. .wav puts down the same amount of information for pure black silence as it does for a raging guitar solo. mp3 and AAC don't work this way (well, they do if you don't use VBR, but that just means that they throw away less info when less info is required to encode the main audible parts) AAC amd current mp3 encoders throw out a bunch of stuff that's well outside the human audible range. The first thing they do is throw out black silence. There is a surprisingly large amount of pure non-info encoded in .wav. They then dispense with the higher frequencies that are inaudible and then the lower inaudible range (since sometimes the lower inaudible frequencies can be felt, they're cut second). Then it starts cutting out extremely light noises within nano-seconds of very loud noises, since thousands of studies have shown that humans can't hear very quick and large changes in dynamic level (ie it takes some time for the ear to "rebound" after a loud noise). Just these changes alone will often times get you into the 256 kbps range. And if you burned this to .wav and then re-ripped, you'd lose no additional audible information, since it would realize that "hey, I can encode this exact file with just 256 kbps by throwing away all this info that is either black silence or looks exactly like an oddly .wav'd up 256 kbps file."

The problems start when you get much past this point and the encoder starts throwing away information that "the vast majority of people can't hear". THings like the human voice are still almost completely unaffected at 128 kbps. Its things at either end of the spectrum, that are very loud or very soft, that lose a little "definition". cymbals tend to not sound as crisp, bass notes can get "flabby" and lose some of their tightness.

Also, you shouldn't have much of a problem as long as you use the same encoder, which will make the same choices as to what to throw away, at any time. that is ripping to 128 kbps with iTunes, then burning to .wav and re-ripping to 128 kbps won't cause issues, unless you do it thousands and thousands of times, where random errors can start to become an issue.

mp3 was very bad in the early 90's and tends to get a bad rap, because of all the really awful rips that were made at that time and then perpetuated through napster. But programs like LAME are actually quite good these days (if a bit clunky to use for the average music listener) and even the iTunes encoder is actually very good (although it gets some grief from the super audiophile crowd, which tends to be anti-establishment).
post #26 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by dualie View Post

I've read that people under the age of around 25 can hear some higher frequencies, but this ability quickly diminishes as you age. Us old fogies certainly seem not to be able hear most of what some claim to be able to.

Back in the tubular tv days and when I was much younger, I could distinctly hear a high pitched buzz coming from the tv. Nobody in my family, who were much older, could hear it.

So, I tend to believe much of what you say that most people simply cannot hear the difference between bit rates and compression levels. There certainly are people with better hearing that others, but those generally aren't audiophiles, and are instead people who have protected their hearing over a period of many years by NOT listening to a great deal of (particularly loud) sound/music for long periods. If anything audiophiles have worse hearing than most, not better.

Even children can't hear outside of the 20-20000 htz range. And a good encoder can compress a file down pretty good, just by getting rid of info outside that range.
post #27 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by xanthohappy View Post

Apple seems to be sneakily increasing the bitrate, first with iTunes Plus downloads and now with a change to the default encoding bitrate, in order to require people to buy bigger iPods. The average user wouldn't be aware that by encoding their songs at 256Kbps, they can only fit half as many on an iPod as they can at 128Kbps.

Seems to me to be a risky PR move changing all of the standards and defaults to 256Kbps, as it throws off all of their song capacity claims for their iPods (which currently are based on 128Kbps songs).

Sneakily? They advertised iTunes Plus on their website for weeks.

Even if they hadn't done so, I wouldn't have minded being surprised to find iTunes-bought music in higher quality.
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post #28 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by pt123 View Post

I find it hard to believe it is slower than the iPhoto (09). Well, I have over 10,000 photos and 300 songs so the comparison is not fair.

I have just over 7500 songs in iTunes 8 and 5500 photos in iPhoto 09. Running on MBP (late 2006) with 3GB RAM. For me iTunes is significantly slower than iPhoto.
post #29 of 65
Let's throw our hands up and pray they re-instate the option to turn off the links to the iTunes Store that annoyingly pop up in song line items when you select them. Until then, I'll stay with good old 7.7

And I just don't get the whole 256kbps AAC thing. You can already choose as an option for iTunes to convert to that bit rate upon importing a CD.
post #30 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by nli10 View Post

Could this be related to the 24th march info?

Can't wait- hopefully we get HD movies to buy at a reasonable price.
post #31 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by bloodstains View Post

Thanks for the heads up. I'll be sure to adjust my life to fit your needs.

post #32 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by FJRabon View Post

Even children can't hear outside of the 20-20000 htz range. And a good encoder can compress a file down pretty good, just by getting rid of info outside that range.

For music recording, I doubt a competent engineer would allow much (if any) information outside
the 20-20000 hz range to make it through to the master. What would you be omitting with
compression?
post #33 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by dualie View Post

Back in the tubular tv days and when I was much younger, I could distinctly hear a high pitched buzz coming from the tv. Nobody in my family, who were much older, could hear it.

Is your name Carol Anne and aren't you a character from Poltergeist?
post #34 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by quinney View Post

For music recording, I doubt a competent engineer would allow much (if any) information outside
the 20-20000 hz range to make it through to the master. What would you be omitting with
compression?

you generally don't cut 10-20 htz, because you can "feel" those waves, and it makes things sound a touch fuller if you are listening through a very large sound system (think 15 inch subwoofers powered by at least 10k watts). Also, you get harmonics outside of 20k, because engineers don't like messing with harmonics, and they have no real reason to anyway.
post #35 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by quinney View Post

For music recording, I doubt a competent engineer would allow much (if any) information outside
the 20-20000 hz range to make it through to the master. What would you be omitting with
compression?

If sound is that important to you, buy the CD- it's still beats lossless.
post #36 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by teckstud View Post

If sound is that important to you, buy the CD- it's still beats lossless.

How do you figure that? It's called lossless because it doesn't lose any quality.
post #37 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by 7600/132 View Post

How do you figure that? It's called lossless because it doesn't lose any quality.

Look up any test comparison- there are other factors involved. The playback of a CD simply sounds better- sampling rates, D/A converters, etc.
post #38 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by teckstud View Post

Look up any test comparison- there are other factors involved. The playback of a CD simply sounds better- sampling rates, D/A converters, etc.

yeah, I think the one thing about a lot of the people who talk about lossless don't get is that you'll hear the difference between a good external digital-analog converter and your mac's built in DAC long before you'll hear the difference between 256 kbps and lossless.
post #39 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by FJRabon View Post

you generally don't cut 10-20 htz, because you can "feel" those waves, and it makes things sound a touch fuller if you are listening through a very large sound system (think 15 inch subwoofers powered by at least 10k watts). Also, you get harmonics outside of 20k, because engineers don't like messing with harmonics, and they have no real reason to anyway.

Exactly right in both cases. For the highs, even though the harmonic frequency, by itself,
may not be audible, its presence in addition to the fundamental and lower harmonics can
add "coloration" to the sound. I only brought this up, because it seems to contradict your
assertion that people cannot distinguish between compressed and non-compressed
versions of the same music. You even say that you can tell the difference yourself, if
your system is capable of reproducing lows.

Not trying to be confrontational. I enjoyed talking to you.
post #40 of 65
There's a new version of the Remote app for iPhone and iPod touch - the update includes iTunes 8.1 compatibility.
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