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What is wrong with iTunes 11.0 sound quality?

12865 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
    Aug 30, 2013 2:31 PM (in response to pyckle)

    pyckle wrote:

     

    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

    Pyckle, this makes no sense technically, and as Droolski pointed out, there is no iTunes Playback preference related to bitrate. (Although under the CD import settings, some formats allow for customization of the bitrate. For instance, I'm a video editor who uses 48k AIFF files for editing, so I set the preference to 48k if I'm importing an audio file for editing.)

     

    Since this is the Mac support forum, I assume you're on a Mac. The controls for setting the playback bitrate is buried in the Audio Midi Setup app. This is strictly for A/D and D/A processing, and there is really nothing to be gained by using Audio Midi to upsample a 44.1 music file to 192k. It does not affect the volume -- unless the volume control is not set to the max in Audio Midi.

     

    The places the volume can be set on a Mac: 1) the Sound control panel; 2) Audio Midi Setup; 3) iTunes itself via the volume control (or with "Sound Enhancer" and "Sound Check" processing in the Playback preferences); 4) in the file's metadata, via the "per track" volume adjustment.

     

    Some people on this thread have reported that the track metadata got altered during the update so that the per-track volume was set too low. That's relatively easy to fix. The vast majority of people updating to iTunes 11 or 11.0.5 (5) have not experienced any issues with volume.

  • jskiifreeze94 Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    Oct 8, 2013 6:14 PM (in response to Mark Block)

    I followed your suggestion for my iMac 27" (late 2012) and did'nt get any results with improving the sound for iTunes 11. I reinstalled itunes and the problem went away. Now the sound is rich with treble as it was before. Thanks for your post though.

  • Mark Block Level 2 Level 2 (270 points)

    jskiifreeze94 wrote:

     

    ... I reinstalled itunes and the problem went away. Now the sound is rich with treble as it was before....

    I suspect that the weird (and rare) corruption that causes this sound quality issue is due to a bad install. As with most big, bloated, complex software programs, a reinstall is often the solution. Glad the sound came back for you. I guess a reinstall should be the first (and hopefully last) step for anyone who experiences less than perfect sound quality with iTunes.

  • Joseph Corl Level 1 Level 1 (45 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    Oct 26, 2013 8:08 PM (in response to Aufklaer)

    With the original upgrade to iTunes 11.0 the HDCD decoding circuit in my outboard DAC no longer is activated when playing Apple lossless songs.  It had worked flawlessly for years.  Previously, if I ripped an HDCD encoded CD to Apple lossessless it would faithfully stream a bit perfect copy to the Airport Express, as proven by the green HDCD ndicator light on the front of my Camelot DAC and of course the 6dB drop in level.  The least significant bit in the 16 bit word contained the decoding information for the Pacific Microsonics chip to essentially get 24 bit resolution out of the remaining 15 bits.  However, this requires the data to be completely unaltered.  So, turning the volume down in iTunes using the on screen slider would kick off the HDCD because the data would be modified, I assumed dithered.  However, with the upgrade to iTunes 11.0 nothing gets the HDCD circuit to kick in.  Even ripping uncompressed AIFF from the HDCD won't work.  The only explanation is that streaming went to non bit-perfect.  Yet Apple has not documented this or explained why.

     

    This week, with the upgrade to 11.1.2 the sound has again changed.  This time I'm making a subjective evaluation.  But immediately with the upgrade it seems signficantly louder, about 3dB or more, requiring me to use a volume knob position about 1 "hour" lower on my preamp.  And it seems harsh, not just loud.  Switching in Pure Music even on my more modest studio system out of my iMac I hear a much bigger difference than before.  If anyone else has insights on the latest update of iTunes I'd like to know.

  • Mark Block Level 2 Level 2 (270 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    Oct 26, 2013 8:46 PM (in response to Joseph Corl)

    Joseph Corl wrote:

     

    ... with the upgrade to iTunes 11.0 nothing gets the HDCD circuit to kick in.  Even ripping uncompressed AIFF from the HDCD won't work.  The only explanation is that streaming went to non bit-perfect.

    Very interesting. Can't fault your logic. Have you checked your Audio Midi output settings, just to make sure they are set to 16 bit, 44.1k? The settings can be changed within the Pure Music preferences, so it's possible something got altered that has nothing to do with iTunes per se. Dunno. That your HDCD decoding circuit won't kick in is definitley suspicious. (But it was impressive that you could actually stream bit perfect audio all the way through the Airport Express's decoding of Apple Lossless.)

     

    Many months ago I compared iTunes 10 with 11 on my high-end system and thought they sounded identical, but I haven't done the comparison using 11.1.2. Too busy this week to chek it again, but I'll try to get around to it.

  • abneyville Calculating status...
    Currently Being Moderated
    Nov 7, 2013 8:47 AM (in response to Aufklaer)

    iTunes has always been great. Then I upgraded to iTunes 11.1.3 and upgraded to OS X Mavericks at the same time. That's when I noticed the sound quality had changed when playing my music. I then tested my other machines that got the same upgrades & the sound is bad there too. So it is not a hardware issue. It is also not corrupt mp3 files because the same files sound great when played through the Finder.

     

    Funny thing is, on my macbook, iTunes 11.3.1 is installed but not the new OS X Mavericks, and the sound is perfect as it should be. This leads me to believe that either iTunes is incomatable with Mavericks, or vise versa.

     

    Any thoughts out there?

  • Joseph Corl Level 1 Level 1 (45 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    Nov 7, 2013 9:01 AM (in response to Mark Block)

    Mark,

    I too could never tell a difference in subjective sound quality (HDCD issue aside) between 10.0 and 11.0, also on a high end system.  It was this last dot upgrade to 11.1.3 that seemed, at least subjectively to go awry.

     

    On the HDCD, I did do some preference digging when 11 first came out, but the settings in Audio Midi and elsewhere seemed to be set correctly to 16/44.1

     

    I'm going to listen again and see if I still get that same bad impression with 11.1.3 or if it was just me that day.

  • Mark Block Level 2 Level 2 (270 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    Nov 7, 2013 10:34 AM (in response to abneyville)

    abneyville wrote:

    Funny thing is, on my macbook, iTunes 11.3.1 is installed but not the new OS X Mavericks, and the sound is perfect as it should be. This leads me to believe that either iTunes is incomatable with Mavericks, or vise versa.

    I might have time to play with this tomorrow. I have iTunes 10 on my Mac Mini, iTunes 11.1.3 on my MacBook Pro (still running Mountain Lion), and Mavericks installed on an external bootable Firewire drive. The latter was created so I could test Mavericks with important software (like Final Cut Pro 7) before committing to an OS upgrade. I NEVER upgrade to a new OS until it has been updated at lease once -- better still three timesa. The first release always has a few bugs; the second release fixes those bugs and creates a new one; the third release is usually good to go. Also, most third-party app developers release lots of updates immediately following a new OS release. I want to get all those updates installed before moving to Mavericks.

  • TheGuyintheProjectionBooth Level 2 Level 2 (195 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    Nov 7, 2013 12:08 PM (in response to Joseph Corl)

    I have SL with 9.0.2 and ML with 11.1.1 where I am ready to revert to 10.7 (the last great version), then Mvrx with 11.1.3 and there was a difference from 10.7 to 11. I have copies of support files all over and many partitions with several OS's running all different versions of everything, so I can move around a lot. My music is very important to me. The difference I noticed was 11.0-11.1.2 was just plain flatter than normal in AQ and abysmal in UI. If Apple is trying to hit the Windows 8 look, they are well on their way. 11.1.3 seems to be a bit richer in sound, still same DA IU. I wish that in their new DJ/Shuffle mode, when a song changes it would do a Command-L and follow the track in the grids. But with the new "stripped/dumbed" down path that they are on, I doubt we'll see the coolness that made iTunes . . . iTunes.

     

    10.7 the best, 11.1.3 OK.

  • Mark Block Level 2 Level 2 (270 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    Nov 7, 2013 3:04 PM (in response to abneyville)

    abneyville wrote:

     

    ... Funny thing is, on my macbook, iTunes 11.3.1 is installed but not the new OS X Mavericks, and the sound is perfect as it should be. This leads me to believe that either iTunes is incomatable with Mavericks, or vise versa.

     

    Any thoughts out there?

    I was able to do my little tests this afternoon. I could not find a problem with either iTunes 11.1.3 or with Mavericks.

     

    I tested 3 things: iTunes 10.7 on Mountain Lion; iTunes 11.1.3 on Mountain Lion; iTunes 11.1.3 on Mavericks. I listened through my high-end system (speakers were $4500 when new; electronics are all current products from Bel Canto -- DAC 2.5, S500 power amp and M-link asynchronous USB clock). I also used some $425 Cardas headphones as a double check. I'm listing this stuff not to brag about my system, but to simply to make it clear that I'm serious about sound quality.

     

    I used uncorrelated pink noise to check that the volume was the same in all configurations, and I used some of my favorite reference tracks -- all AIFF files, some 16/44.1, but also 24/96 and 24/192. I also tested everything with Pure Music taking over from iTunes, and with iTunes alone, configured with the Audio Midi Setup. The Bel Canto M-link asynchronous clock uses the Mac's Core Audio, no drivers required, so in all cases this tested the Mac's audio output without a third-party driver in the middle, which could concievably create a conflict with the new OS.

     

    With pink noise, I measured the volume from the speakers with a calibrated sound pressure meter. The volume was exactly the same in all configurations -- I didn't touch any volume controls in iTunes or on the Bel Canto. As far as sound quality, I could not hear a difference between iTunes 10.7, iTunes 11.1.3 and iTunes in Mavericks.

     

    That is not to say that other people on the forum here aren't experiencing audible issues. I don't know. All I can say is that I can't duplicate it. Joseph's HDCD issue is interesting, but I don't have a Camelot DAC and I don't play HDCD files. Obviously his system might no longer be compatible with Mac hardware or software. I believe Microsoft acquired the technology some time ago and then discontinued support for it.

  • abneyville Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    Nov 26, 2013 8:15 AM (in response to Mark Block)

    I believe that I have pinpointed the problem to the iTunes equalizer. It sounded great on my laptop because the equalizer was Flat or not used. I see that an update to iTunes 11.1.3 says it resolves in issue with the equalizer, but perhaps it was not fully resolved. For now, I will not use the iTunes equalizer. This solves my problem.

    Thank you to Mark Block for taking time looking into this.

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