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What is wrong with iTunes 11.0 sound quality?

12859 Views 55 Replies Latest reply: Nov 26, 2013 8:15 AM by abneyville RSS
  • Mark Block Level 2 Level 2 (270 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    Mar 9, 2013 12:14 PM (in response to cworkman1)

    cworkman1 wrote:

     

    dear mark,

     

    thanks so much for your reply.

    ...

    again, i'm shocked that apple would release a product that cut the output in half and sincerely hoping that someone pursues this thread with a fix ( i have no 3rd party plugins) other than a complete re-install.

     

    thanks again mark.

    Hi Cindy. Not to be an apologist for Apple, but Apple didn't release an iTunes update that cuts the volume in half. The volume is exactly like it used to be for millions of iTunes 11 installations. The problem you're having seems to be very rare, so it's not clear what the solution is. As a professional video editor using Macs since 1992, I've learned that the solution to almost all unusual problems -- no matter what the software -- is a reinstall. It's not worth trouble-shooting this kind of thing until you've tried a reinstall. http://www.apple.com/itunes/download/

     

    It should be quick & easy. I would run Onyx and use the Mainentance scripts or the Automation scripts just to make sure your computer is OK before the install. Besides a reinstall, the other "usual suspects" involve the preference (.plist) files.

     

    In terms of trouble-shooting, the three places where volume can be messed up are: the Sound preference pane, the Audio Midi Setup control, and iTunes itself (through the volume slider, the Airplay controller just to the right of it, and the Sound Check preference). There are a couple of apps that actually take over all these controls so that the volume out of iTunes is disabled. I use one called Pure Music on the Mac Mini in my music system, but it's still running 10.7. I have 11 installed on my laptop, and I've done measurements to determine that both systems output the same volume digitally from iTunes.

     

    Of course, lots of people have reverted to iTunes 10.7. Many threads about that, but it's a bit of work. https://discussions.apple.com/message/20791469#20791469%2320791469

     

    Good luck -- Mark

  • cworkman1 Calculating status...
    Currently Being Moderated
    Apr 5, 2013 8:14 AM (in response to Mark Block)

    dear mark,

     

    once again thanks for your reply.

     

    i actually fixed the problem via a suggestion from a friend in london who had the same issue.

     

    before i post the resolution, if anyone's going to try this i suggest you back up your library to another HD in case of issue.

     

    this is for a mac:

     

    the fix is quite simple, select all your music at one time, hit command/i (file menu option > get info) - a window will pop up, select the "options" tab and change the volume adjustment to 100%. your music will now play at normal volumes.

     

    you can also adjust the equalizer presets for an even greater boost but i found that any adjustment here introduced noise so i chose the "flat" option  - which as i understand it - is the levels at which the music was originally recorded/released. so at least for me "flat" has no distortion.

     

    hopefully this will help someone else reclaim their music!

     

    cheers-

     

    cindy

  • Mark Block Level 2 Level 2 (270 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    Apr 6, 2013 2:37 PM (in response to cworkman1)

    Cindy:

     

    That's great! Glad to know your sound is back to normal.

     

    As I've said all along, iTunes provides bit-perfect playback "out of the box," but that means all signal processing must be defeated: EQ, Sound Check, Sound Enhancer, etc. I hadn't thought to mention the per-song volume adjustment feature because I couldn't imagine that could happen globally to an entire library. Thanks for reporting your cure for the problem! I'm sure it will help others who run into this.

     

    So the question I have: Why did iTunes think your songs had -50% volume adjustments after the update from 10 to 11? I assume you didn't put those volume adjustments in your song library, but had you ever used Sound Check or a third-party plugin such as iVolume, or was this just a weird update glitch? The fact that it happened to a number of people (but a small fraction of total users) tells me that there is a reason for the glitch -- other than something random like sunspots.

     

    In any case, the iTunes volume control, which operates digitally, will add noise and lower the resolution. Lowering the volume by 50% will take the resolution from 16 bits to 8 bits (I assume). That's a disaster sonically! If it's just low background music, perhaps it's not so terrible, but if you then crank it up in the analog domain at your preamp or receiver, it will sound atrocious (as you and others reported).

     

    BTW, I use a program called Pure Music in conjunction with iTunes. It defeats the iTunes volume control and substitutes a high-resolution 32-bit volume control. In that case, a 50% volume reduction would still achieve 16-bit resolution, but in general I control the volume externally at the preamp.

     

    Take care -- Mark

  • filks1 Calculating status...
    Currently Being Moderated
    Apr 26, 2013 3:46 AM (in response to Mark Block)

    Yes this is not an issue of comparing machines but comparing a song file played on the same machine through Finder or VLC and then comparing that to how it sounds played through the same machine through iTunes. Songs are just drained of their essence through iTunes! In fact the quality is so poor through iTunes that there is a good enough argument to dump it and use something else. What are the other options to using iTunes as a music library?

  • Mark Block Level 2 Level 2 (270 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    Apr 26, 2013 4:38 AM (in response to filks1)

    filks1 wrote:

     

    ... Songs are just drained of their essence through iTunes! In fact the quality is so poor through iTunes that there is a good enough argument to dump it and use something else. What are the other options to using iTunes as a music library?

    I keep repeating: iTunes provides bit-perfect audio output if you configure it correctly. That's a fact. There is no funademtal problem with the sound quality. The bug of unintended l lowered volume is extremely rare, and Cindy seems to have provided the fix above. Have you tried her solution?

     

    There is no sonic reason to dump iTunes, but JRiver has a Mac version in alpha test that can be downloaded for free; the pre-release special price is about $35. JRiver will be the media player to beat once it's on the market.

  • filks1 Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    Apr 26, 2013 5:51 AM (in response to Mark Block)

    Hi Mark

     

    Ok I have to admit that I adjusted all the volumes to 100% in Sound Preferences and on the iTunes slider and that did in fact bring the playback experience equal to that of playing straight though the finder.

    I then followed Cindy's tip of adjusting individual track volumes to 100% in the info section of each track and this has actually doubled the volume compared to that of what I was originally listening to through finder.

     

    So are you sure that the 50% setting which appears to be default on the individual track settings in iTunes

    is not the best. I can't understand why Apple would risk a lower sound quality setting if it knew that making a default setting of 100% instead of 50% was going to give an all round better result. I say that as I'm thinking now that at 100% the sound is just feeling a tad driven.

     

    But anyway, with all that said and done I can't quite believe what a difference is made in clarity to the sound by just raising all the other volmes in Sound Preferences and on the iTunes slider to 100% and running the Equaliser flat.

     

    Thanks for your reply, I appreciate it. I will now keep iTunes but checking out JRiver anyway.

  • Mark Block Level 2 Level 2 (270 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    Apr 26, 2013 6:23 AM (in response to filks1)

    filks1 wrote:

     

    Hi Mark

     

    Ok I have to admit that I adjusted all the volumes to 100% in Sound Preferences and on the iTunes slider and that did in fact bring the playback experience equal to that of playing straight though the finder.

    I then followed Cindy's tip of adjusting individual track volumes to 100% in the info section of each track and this has actually doubled the volume compared to that of what I was originally listening to through finder.

    ...

    Thanks for independently confirming Cindy's fix. Glad the sound is back.

     

    The default setting for the iTunes "per track" volume adjustment is 100%. The 50% setting seems to be a bug that happens (very rarely) when the iTunes app is updated. Only Apple knows what's going on there. Maybe you can submit a bug report to Apple to make sure the iTunes software people do something about it. (I assume they're aware of the bug, but who knows?)

     

    As I said earlier, volume adjustments in iTunes are done digitally, throwing out bits at the rate of 1 bit for every 6dB of level. A 50% reduction in volume will take your 16-bit tracks down to 8 bits, which will be quite bad sounding. To say the sound is drained of essence is putting it mildly!

  • EmperorsBlackTurtleneck Calculating status...
    Currently Being Moderated
    Apr 28, 2013 4:55 PM (in response to cworkman1)

    Cindy,

    Thanks for continuing to research even though most people insist that Apple could not possibly be the source of the problem.  I too have been struggling with this extremely frustrating issue.  I did as you suggested and there is improvement, but the quality is still lacking.

     

    How absurd is it that Apple refuses to respond to an obvious bug with the update?  Other "updates" have totally screwed up issues with iCal and contacts.  I am pretty sick of Apple!

  • filks1 Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
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    Apr 29, 2013 4:27 AM (in response to Mark Block)

    Ok I have to confirm that increasing track volumes to 100% is not the fix. Infact as I mentioned in my last posting (That Mark you failed to include in your reply)  increasing track volumes to 100% does in my opinion create distortion or make the track sound a tad driven. The default setting for track volume is 'None'. Not +50% and certainly not +100%. Bit rate effects the quality when you import the track from a CD or Download, but that as far as I can see is it is it. Highering or lowering volume does not effect it as the bitrate is established on import.

     

    It's like saying a 16 Bit photograph loses quality when you make it lighter or darker.

     

    I think you guys were confused about this so hope this helps.

  • Mark Block Level 2 Level 2 (270 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    Apr 29, 2013 5:00 AM (in response to filks1)

    filks1 wrote:

     

    Ok I have to confirm that increasing track volumes to 100% is not the fix. Infact as I mentioned in my last posting (That Mark you failed to include in your reply)  increasing track volumes to 100% does in my opinion create distortion or make the track sound a tad driven. The default setting for track volume is 'None'. Not +50% and certainly not +100%.

    Correct. Good catch. Big oops there. When people wrote that the volume should be set to 100%, they did not mean to boost it to the "+100%" setting. The "None" setting means the volume is at 100%, no boost and no cut. Definitely "None" is the correct default setting.

     

     

    Highering or lowering volume does not effect it as the bitrate is established on import.

     

    It's like saying a 16 Bit photograph loses quality when you make it lighter or darker.

     

    I think you guys were confused about this so hope this helps.

    Not correct. The photograph analogy is not apt. Digital volume controls lose 1 bit of resolution for every 6 dB of attenuation. This has nothing to do with the resolution of the source file. That's why high-end digital volume controls (and mixing studios) operate at 24 or 32 bits, even if the source file is 16 bits. Here's one explanation, but you can find more technical ones if you Google it: http://www.avsforum.com/t/170414/can-anyone-explain-the-theory-behind-digital-vo lume-attenuation-without-quality-loss

  • Mark Block Level 2 Level 2 (270 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    Apr 29, 2013 5:08 AM (in response to filks1)

    filks1 wrote:

     

    ... It's like saying a 16 Bit photograph loses quality when you make it lighter or darker.

    BTW, here's the correct analogy in photography, when Photoshop has fewer bits to work with: http://x-equals.com/blog/taking-a-byte-out-of-bit-depth-jpeg-vs-raw/

  • EmperorsBlackTurtleneck Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    Apr 29, 2013 7:25 AM (in response to Mark Block)

    So, what is the correct MAC fix?  How do you delete plug-ins? and will that cause problems with external jambox speakers, etc?

     

    This is frustrating that Apple will not address this problem!

     

    Thanks!

  • filks1 Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    Apr 29, 2013 7:38 AM (in response to Mark Block)

    Ok well I'm not a scientist but I'm talking about playback levels here, not altering the waves amplitude. So lightening or darkening an image in 16bit RAW or Tiff suffers no loss of information to the file. Just as I imagine highering or lowering output volume levels does not rid the sound file of any information, you just can't here it quite so well. Well that's my take on it!

    I'll leave at this. I appreciate your help with highering all levels elsewhere as that has solved my problem.

    Thanks for that!

  • pyckle Calculating status...
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    Aug 30, 2013 10:13 AM (in response to filks1)

    was having trouble w itunes v 11.0.5.5 playing much quieter than the rest of system volume...found it was due to a setting on itunes not any of this plugin stuff people are talking about

     

    edit, preferences, playback, 'Bitrate for Audio Playback'

     

    mine was initially set at the lowest setting (44.1khz) but when i put it all the way up to 192 the sound is consistent w rest of system volume

     

    boom

  • Droolski Calculating status...
    Currently Being Moderated
    Aug 30, 2013 2:02 PM (in response to pyckle)

    pyckle, I'm using v 11.0.5.5 and I see nothing for "Bitrate for Audio Playback" in Playback preferences...

     

    Screen Shot 2013-08-30 at 3.56.52 PM.png

    Are you on a Mac or Windows machine?

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