Walt Mossberg reviews Apple’s iTunes Match: Recommended to digital music lovers who want all their tunes on all their devices

“I’ve been testing iTunes Match on several Macs, a Windows PC, and on an iPad and an iPhone,” Walt Mossberg reports for AllThingsD.

“Because of Match, my music collection is now complete and essentially identical on all my computers and on my iPad and iPhone, allowing me to access any of my songs from any of these devices, without manual synchronization via a cable, or paying more than once for the same song,” Mossberg reports. “My Match locker is even accessible from my Apple TV device.”

Mossberg reports, “In all, I like iTunes Match, and can recommend it to digital music lovers who want all their tunes on all their devices. It’s another nice feature of iCloud, priced reasonably.”

Read more in the full review, blessedly free of concocted “positives” for competitors masquerading as “balance,” here.

34 Comments

  1. Can anyone confirm/deny/explain the streaming/not streaming situation? From what I’ve read, on your iOS devices it will actually download the track(s) and on your computer it will give you the option to download the track but simply selecting it to play will only stream it. I haven’t read anything about the AppleTV but I am assuming that it is streaming-only.

    1. Correct on all counts. My family has two Macs, two iPhones, two iPads, two iPod touches for the kids, and an Apple TV. The Macs can stream the tunes on the cloud or you can download. The ATV just streams as well. You can transfer the tunes you have on the hard drive of your Mac to the iOS devices or you can download what you have on the cloud.

    2. I still don’t get it.

      Question: True or False — For iOS devices, you can stream any selected tracks from your iCloud account AND you can download any selected tracks from your iCloud account.

      I ask because some of the chatter and advertising gives you the impression that as soon as you buy a song, the file gets copied to all your devices.

      1. I think it’s two different scenarios. If you have the automatic downloads set-up in iTunes/on your authorized devices, whenever you buy a book or song (and I think movie/tv show) from iTunes, it will download automagically on any authorized device (iOS, OS X and Windows iTunes). That happens whether or not you have iTunes Match and is part of iTunes In The Cloud.
        For iTunes Match, all of the other songs (only songs) that were not purchased from the iTunes Store become available on your auth. devices. On a computer or AppleTV they will show up and can be streamed. On a computer it will show up and can also be downloaded. On your iOS devices they will show up in the iPod app and can be downloaded and then played.

    3. From the article:

      On iPhones and iPads, Apple downloads the whole of any cloud-based song you’re streaming, even if you don’t want it on your device. Apple says it does this for smooth playback, and for playback when you’re offline. It adds that all songs stored on your hand-held devices are now placed in a special cache from which old or rarely played songs are automatically removed periodically to make room for new ones.

    1. Well, I suppose if it’s not for you then it’s not for you… but that 32gig iPod from 10 years ago (?) only gave you access to your music on that 32gig iPod.. not ‘anywhere’… not necessarily on your home computer, not on your work computer, not on your phone, not on your tablet, etc. It was also limited to 32gig. That 32gig iPod from 10 years ago also wasn’t automatically updated with any new songs you add to your iTunes library.

        1. Valid point.. how easy is it to forget it though? Also, that really only addresses one of the three potential benefits I listed. I’m sure there are other ones as well.

        2. Seriously??

          I can’t keep lugging my iPod with me all the time. First of all, it is only 8GB (1st gen. touch), so it can’t fit half of my music; second, it is a superfluous device, as I do have a phone. Third, it is NOT my only portable device (i have a MB and a MBP), plus I use two desktop computers where I also want my music. Vast majority of people have similar scenarios (an iMac in the bedroom, where the library plays directly from iTunes; an iHome docking speaker in the kitchen, where the library plays from a docked touch; an iPad (or MB) in the living room, where the library plays through Airport Express on the home theatre receiver…). Then there’s office computer…..

          1. Don’t know if a 1st G Touch can stream the content, however, the biggest benefit I see with iTunes Match is the ability to stream the music to an IOS device from the Cloud (other than when you fly), rather than fill up the device with downloaded music files.

          2. iTunes match seems to be for people with more than one Mac and one portable device, or whose portable device is too small to hold all their music.

            Me, I have a Mac and a 32GB iPhone and that’s it. All 12+ GB of my music is on my phone, which I have with me at all times. So I’ve looked hard at iTunes Match, and just don’t see any point. I would never use iTunes Match on my iPhone, because I want all my music on it at all times, not downloaded track-by-track when I decide to play it.

            Maybe if I used my Apple TV to listen to music, or if my Mac was a great distance away from said Apple TV, there might be a reason to sign up. But neither of those is the case.

            Don’t get me wrong — iTunes Match sounds like a great idea for folks with many devices to sync. But I don’t think the average iTunes user needs this.

            ——RM

          3. One more thing: If, like me, you gave up buying CDs years ago and buy all of your new music through iTunes, that’s one less reason to use iTunes match. Buy music through iTunes, and it automatically syncs to all your devices via “iTunes in the Cloud”. iTunes Match isn’t required for that.

            So again, I’m wracking my brain as to why the average user would need this thing.

            ——RM

          4. Don’t forget that if you have a large collection of tracks at a lower bitrate, you can use Match for getting a higher bitrate, non-DRM locked track.

            And this also gives you a silent amnesty on any tracks obtained illegally via file sharing.

            For me, not having to bother with syncing all the computers and devices is wonderful.

        3. As stated above, if it’s not for you, it’s not for you–don’t pay for it.

          For those of us with larger music collections, and multiple devices, it’s worth the expense.

          I paid for .Mac, and Mobile Me after that, for every one of those years yet iTools was guaranteed to be free for life.

          The way I see it, I’m now saving money, paying for iTunes Match, v.s. Mobile Me.

    2. So, you have nothing but music on your device? No room needed for apps, books, videos, photos?

      You don’t like getting your <256kbps tracks upgraded?

      I have 62GB of music. There isn't an iPhone in existence that'll hold that. What's the solution for that, genius?

      1. There already is: iPhone 4S 64 GB. Though you will have nothing else on this device besides your music collection. ;))

        iCloud most promising thing is “Documents on the cloud”, which soon will work not only with iWork documents, but very many creative staff which will be always available to no matter whether you are on iPhone, iPod touch, iPad or Macintosh (even, in some cases, PC).

        This is breakthrough thing and Jobs was right back in June taking together all of his powers left to come to Apple’s Developer Conference. (I would wish he would be able to do Siri demo, too.)

    3. It is a big whoop. I have 1.5tb of music, and so being able to access almost all of that [except the hi-res stuff that Apple says is “ineligible” for iCloud] from any device is a huge deal for me. Working from the same core set of files, no need to make copies of what I want, etc. Really, you really don’t get all that? If you cannot see the current benefits of this v.1, let alone where this is all headed, then you really don’t get it. Or deserve it. Son of Ping? You could not be more wrong-headed.

      1. ??? I thought if you had more than 25,000 songs, you were SOL, as iTunes Match wouldn’t let you join.

        (Though I can’t believe they won’t fix that in the future.)

        ——RM

    4. For me, the key part of iTunes Match is not the “cloud” but the “match.” It’s NOT called iTunes Cloud; it’s called iTunes Match.

      Even if I only used ONE Mac, and did not own any iOS devices, it would be worth much more than $25. I have taken my existing music collection with about 6000 songs and easily converted any songs that were of lesser quality to 256 kbps DRM-free AAC.

      Many of those songs came from ripping CDs (at 160 kbps MP3) back when iTunes first came out on Mac OS 9. I still have the physical CDs stored somewhere, but I never bothered to re-rip them. Some came from the 128 kbps DRM’ed AAC songs iTunes Store previously sold, before they changed to “iTunes Plus” (current 256 kbps DRM-free AAC). And some came from “other sources.”

      I can easily convert any or all of those songs that precisely “match” songs in the iTunes Store catalog, just by paying $25, and make them higher quality 256 kbps DRM-free AAC. Just delete songs that are shown as “Matched” from the Mac’s (local) iTunes library and download them from iCloud. THAT is the true value of iTunes Match.

  2. Other than if you have an Apple TV at a different address I never understand why having iTunes Match stuff available to it was of any use when everything streams from your itunes library to start with.

    1. If you have a big house, and the Apple TV is in the basement, and the Mac is on the third floor, and you don’t want to keep the Mac running all the time. That’s about the only reason.

      ——RM

  3. iTunes Match and the whole iCloud service is great. It’s gotten to the point now where I feel I can now get rid of all the “old media” stuff like CDs, DVDs, and books gathering dust and taking up space around the house. It’s also great the entire family can access the same library of media on all of their devices. And when we upgrade to new computers and devices every 2~4 years, the entire library will be available for access.

    The usefulness of the cloud really does depend on the Internet access speed you have. I have Verizon’s FiOS service at home that consistently does 15 Mbps DL and 5 Mbps UL and that makes cloud usage quite useful. I’ve had the entire library backed up on local backup drives as well but now with the cloud, I really don’t see the point of holding onto the CD/DVD collection except for a few for sentimental reasons. I’ve started selling the stuff off on Amazon and the money will recoup a good chunk of what I spent on all the Apple stuff this year.

    My iTunes library has around 6900 tunes and that takes up roughly 70GB. I highly doubt I will even get close to having 25,000 non-purchased tunes to reach the limit. Maybe I will get to 10~12,000 someday but, as far as I’m concerned, there isn’t enough good music out there to reach 25,000. I do wonder if Apple will eventually allow movies to be in the Match as well. It’d be nice but not something that I’d find necessary.

    1. Alexkhan2000:

      The music files you uploaded to the iCloud were (presumably) rips from the CDs you bought and paid for. That is what makes those files legal. If you were to sell the original CDs, you would legally be required to delete any copies you made from them; otherwise, they would be illegal copies (of music you no longer own).

      Apple’s annual fee has been perceived by many as a “get out of jail free” card for their questionably obtained audio files, and they have adopted the “Don’t Ask – Don’t Tell” policy on the issue. However the law is fairly clear on this, and the “Fair Use” doctrine has pretty well defined limitations, one of which is not being able to make copies of content we don’t own.

      While this discussion is purely academic (nobody is ever going to send FBI agents to rummage through your basement, looking for original CDs of your iTunes Match library), there is that thing that Steve loved to mention every once in a while: Karma…

  4. Not sure if anyone’s mentioned it, but the big advantage of the cloud I see is safe storage of the music I’ve purchased. I lost all of my purchased music years ago due to a laptop crapping out. Apple let me re-download all of it for free (thank Jobs). With my music in the cloud I don’t have this fear. Yes, I have time machine, etc., now, but still – I like having these songs stored outside these locale devices.

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