Let’s be real here, OK? iTunes has never been a great program where sound quality is concerned. Steve Jobs famously said that music was in Apple’s DNA. That may be, but I wouldn’t call Apple an audiophile company. Despite that, I use iTunes every day mainly because it’s just so darned easy, plus it does sound good enough.
And there lies the problem. We learn to settle for inferior audio either because we don’t know better or it’s too complicated to deal with. But what about the rest of you? It’s not lost on me that each link in the audio chain can be – and often is – not cheap. Sometimes it can be outrageously expensive. Everyone just knows that good audio costs. That’s a given. Or is it?
As it turns out, there is a way to improve audio quality a bit without breaking the bank, or even denting it. If you listen to music on a Mac (sorry, no Windows yet), and use iTunes, there is an app/plugin that can increase the resolution – and quality – of your music. It’s called BitPerfect and it costs a whopping $5 in the Mac App store.
Before I go further, let me state that The Gadgeteer is not an audiophile site, and I am not going to get into charts or esoteric terms to show off. There are other very good audiophile sites where you can get as much info as you could ever want. I’m just trying to provide a little educational nudge towards improving audio.
One of the fun ways to improve your audio is to increase the bitrate of your music (called upsampling) or just start with higher resolution (high res) files. When I say high res, I am not talking about 128k MP3 files ripped from CDs, bought from iTunes or “ahem,” acquired online. I mean files that are at the very least, 256k AAC from iTunes on up to really high res 96khz/24 bit files.
If you’re eyes are beginning to glaze over right about now, what this simply means is that the higher the number, the more music you can hear with less distortion. Everything just sounds better.
Tim Murison has singlehandedly done what Apple has so far refused to do: make iTunes sound better. Tim wasn’t satisfied with what he heard, so he developed BitPerfect. He wasn’t the first. There are other programs that improve the audio quality of iTunes, but they completely take over the player and are prohibitively expensive. BitPerfect works within iTunes. It’s invisible. Once you install it, you can forget that it’s there.
BitPerfect performs a lot of complicated maneuvers behind the scenes to improve the sound right out of the box. However, if you are curious and adventurous, the app allows almost infinite variations. The point though, is that you don’t have to do anything once installed.
Tim has also written an extremely helpful manual that explains in detail what I am purposefully glossing over. I highly recommend reading it before buying.
This is not a review of BitPerfect. I bought it late last year and have used is almost every day when listening to iTunes. I can say that BitPerfect will make your music sound better. How much better depends on your source material.
Note: I also use an external digital audio convertor (DAC) all the time as a headphone amp. A DAC is a very good sound card that bypasses the one in your computer. While a DAC can dramatically improve audio quality, they can also be expensive. However, whether you decide to use a DAC or not, BitPerfect still makes music sound better.
For $5, you can’t go wrong.