How to replace low bit rate tracks with higher quality tracks from iTunes Match

iTunes Match gives subscribers access to 256kbps AAC versions of their audio files, even if they are at lower bitrates and regardless of – ahem – origin.

To replace all of your lower-bitrate songs in your library with higher-quality files from iTunes Match, use a Smart Playlist to replaces only those songs that are lower than 256-bit.

We tested the following instructions which were culled from various reader emails and it worked perfectly for us.

As always, backup your music first.

How to replace low bit rate tracks with higher quality tracks from iTunes Match:

1. Subscribe to and turn on iTunes Match

2. In iTunes on your Mac or PC, create a Smart Playlist (we named ours “Upgrade Bitrate”) that matches the following conditions:
– Bit rate is less than 256kbps
– Media Kind is Music.

3. Hold down the option while clicking the plus (+) button to add a third rule and set conditions to “any” rather than “all” with:
– iCloud Status is Matched
– iCloud Status is Purchased
You now have a Smart Playlist with all of the files in your iTunes Library that are upgradeable.

4. Select all the tracks in the playlist, hold down the Option key and press Delete. Tell iTunes to move the files to the trash, but do not check the checkbox that offers to delete them from iCloud. All the track information (artist, song titles, etc.) will remain in the playlist.

5. Select all of the tracks in the Smart Playlist, Control-click on the selection and choose to Download them. The 256kbps AAC versions will begin downloading from iCloud.

Upgrade bit rate in iTunes Match

UPDATE: 10:01am ET: Macworld.com also has similar instructions here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews readers too numerous to mention individually for the heads up.]

29 Comments

  1. I also replaced all my ‘old’ standard definition TV Shows with better quality SD ones… After checking that they are better (just delete one episode and go to purchased in iTunes Store under TV Shows and re-download)… if better then I delete old and redownload all 🙂

    Due to iPod limitations, old SD TV Shows were limited to what the iPod can play.

  2. As pretty much everything in my iTunes, other than the few free downloads and maybe half a dozen albums, is ripped at 320Kb, this is useless for me. I’ll get a cloud-capable HDD like a Go-Flex and access my stuff with its own app. I won’t accept my music being downgraded in this way. Fine if everything you have is 128, you’re onto a winner, but otherwise, forget it.

  3. This is great, a batch replacement of your local music files. But just to confirm after you delete the lower quality files, and some time in the future you discontinue the Music Match service, will all your high quality files remain?

    I understand your original files are supposed to remain untouched. But if you delete them, will you be left with nothing?

    1. My question is how much metadata do your songs need to contain for iTunes Match to recognize it? If my ancient Napster horked songs have the correct artists and song title, is that good enough?

  4. Nice instructions. It’s also prudent to backup your current library before doing something like this.

    I’m just about ready to jump, but a few questions/reservations:

    * What happens to music libraries above the 25K song limit. Can you select which songs will be matched? I haven’t seen answered yet.

    * I’m not sure I’m ready to only manage music from the cloud. There’s something nice about the manual syncing. Maybe I’m just use to that.

    * I want to hear more about user meta data and tags being maintained. I’m picky about genre’s and other info. I often “correct” the iTunes tags.

    1. Had the same questions…
      1. Not sure about the 25K limit – I’m only at 11K
      2. iCloud doesn’t seem to replace local sync. It seems to be a compliment. I’m still doing manual sync for a few things.
      3. I did a test on a few tracks before I committed “All In” on the bitrate upgrade and found that the local metadata remained intact only the music part was replaced.

  5. And assuming iTunes’ 256k is superior to CD-ripped 256k because it’s straight from the digital masters, you can also replace your 256k rips by omitting the 256k condition from the smart playlist.

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