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iTunes Match - Best Tools for Vinyl 'Match'

3878 Views 15 Replies Latest reply: Feb 3, 2012 8:49 AM by Michael Allbritton RSS
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mracole Level 4 Level 4 (1,075 points)
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Jan 30, 2012 8:24 AM

What are the best tools for ensuring a good outcome with iTunes Match for Songs ripped from Vinyl?

 

It would be helpful to know for both Mac and Windows 7 PC - please include any sequences if known to work well.

 

Persumably a great sound card is needed to take source feed from high quality audio equipment - but beyond this what works best?

iTunes 10, Windows Vista, iMatch giving inconsistent results
  • roebeet Level 2 Level 2 (430 points)
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    Jan 30, 2012 6:20 PM (in response to mracole)

    Jim and I have done some testing, but honestly we have not found any pattern.  Mostly we have only theories.

     

    I don't think the tools really matter -- as long as you have a clean line-in you should be OK.  I personally use Audacity on Ubuntu, but it should work fine on Windows / MacOS as well.

     

    As for the theories:  Mastering, first and foremost.   iTunes Match seems to be about waveforms, so if your needle drop is a completely different master versus what's in iTunes, that's a strike against you.   I've also found that silence (before and after) is pretty important, but the hard part is figuring out how much silence is correct (Spotify might be able to help, if they have the song there).   And pitch is pretty critical, at least in my case - my turntable has a quartz lock for pitch, and I've found if I changed the pitch 2% in either direction, a previous Match would subsequently fail.

     

    Overall, it's a lot of trial and error. I've had a few albums match 90%, at least two match 100% and quite a few Match only 20 or 30%.  All with the same setup.   

  • Michael Allbritton Level 6 Level 6 (16,140 points)
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    Jan 31, 2012 6:52 AM (in response to mracole)

    It's been years since I've imported a vinyl album to my Mac, so robeet and Jim will have the most up-to-date info for you, but I'd just throw in the suggestion that you would save the album as either WAV or AIFF and use iTunes for converting those files to ALAC or a lossy format, just to ensure compatibility.

  • roebeet Level 2 Level 2 (430 points)
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    Jan 31, 2012 3:44 PM (in response to mracole)

    As far as we know, the Matching process does not use metatags.  My own personal belief is that it's not used at all, but obviously there's no way for me to prove that.   Although it couldn't hurt to tag them correctly, I wouldn't expect better results from doing it.

     

    WAV versus lossy?  Again, I don't think it's a factor.  I actually tested clipping my files and thus adding digital distortion, and it took a lot of distortion before my Matched test vinyl song failed.    But it only took the addition (or reduction) or a second or two of silence at the beginning of the same song to break Matching.  Or a small change in pitch.   That's why I mention those as bigger factors, imo.

     

    I would not get so hung up on the inputs, unless of course you wanted the needle drops to just sound good on their own (as I do).  But if Matching is the goal, then the vinyl needs to sound as close to what the waveform is in iTunes, which is not easy to do if you have no reference point - again, that's why I suggested a tool like Spotify to listen for the silence at beginning / end, song length and pitch to see if your rip matches up.

  • JiminMissouri Level 2 Level 2 (465 points)
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    Feb 1, 2012 11:59 AM (in response to mracole)

    You might want to search for the thread robeet and I contributed to as we began working on matching vinyl (as well as working to keep it from matching if you want your rip to upload instead).

     

    Most of it is pretty common sense and you've hit on it, but I'll add one potential factor that could make a difference.  If you have a turntable that introduces any rumble, you may want to work with filters to remove it before you finalize the rip.  A rumble filter in a pre-amp might help, but the one I've got hardly touches the noise problem I have. I'm using the Apple lowshelf filter in Audacity to get rid of it.  I've yet to see if it improves my matching, but really, if it colors the waveform enought that I can see it, I have to think it could muck up the matching process.

     

    I bring this up for another reason.  Several times I've read postings by people who swear what they have is an excellent rip, but I get the feeling they're using their ear to come to that conclusion.

     

    I wanted to add that as robeet said, being spot on with your speed is critical.  I don't have quartz lock and in the past have used a strobe, but that assumes I've got a true, constant 60hz power supply and sorry, but I don't accept that's what they're feeding the house, so until I get a proper power supply for the TT, I've gone to pitch matching.  I have several test records with tones on them, so I run those while playing the same tone from a WAV.  Unfortunately while this works very well, it's also going to let you know the hard way if you've got any wow and flutter to contend with.

     

    Message was edited by: JiminMissouri

  • JiminMissouri Level 2 Level 2 (465 points)
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    Feb 1, 2012 12:15 PM (in response to mracole)

    Here's the original thread on vinyl matching

     

    https://discussions.apple.com/message/16783085#16783085

  • roebeet Level 2 Level 2 (430 points)
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    Feb 1, 2012 2:13 PM (in response to mracole)

    I personally own a Furutech GT40, btw.  It's not cheap ($525 USD retail, although you can find a deal if you look).   I use this not only as a DAC, but also for its phono-stage as well as a headphone map, and an ADC to do needle drops - so it has multiple uses.   Most of my earlier tests with iTM were not done with this tool,    I was using a cheap Sherwood receiver phono amp, but it was likely inferior to what I curently use.  But so far the GT40 setup has not given me better Matching results (generally my results have been worse, but it could just be the records I've tested so far).  I do try to Match just out of curiosity, more than anything else. 

     

    The GT40 has a USB interface into your PC, and does true 24/96 input.   I'm not using this for iTunes Match because, quite frankly, I find my needle drops to sound better than what Apple offers (sorry Apple!).   I also find ClickRepair to be the best $40 I've ever spent, as it really does a fantastic job with reducing pops and clicks without distorting the overall sound.  I usually use it lightly at setting 20, unless I have a really messy record.   My DAP is a Cowon D3 which does support 24/96 FLAC files, so I can use this with my GT40 for playback.   iPods / iPhones do not support 24/96 playback yet, and I don't believe the iPad does either (except with a third-party tool, possibly).

  • roebeet Level 2 Level 2 (430 points)
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    Feb 2, 2012 11:52 AM (in response to mracole)

    Good points as well -- as you upgrade hardware, the need for lossy AAC's provided by iTM deceases.  But that's not to dismiss why others are attempting this - for low and even mid-range systems, I would argue that 256kps AAC's are excellent sources for playback.   It's probaby even fine for my own hardware, but i actually prefer vinyl needle drops for the increased dynamics versus the CD-based lossy files from iTunes.  Vinyl, especially contemporary vinyl, generally has better dynamics than the comparable CD release, and thus the iTM AAC file derived from that CD.

     

    Btw, I just matched my latest needle drop - Jellyfish's "Bellybutton", which is a new vinyl-only remaster.   Got 6/10 tracks Matched, which considering its a remaster AND a vinyl remaster at that, was a pretty good Match.  So I don't think my Matches are any worse with my new setup, I just think I haven't done enough of them yet to get a good baseline.

  • JiminMissouri Level 2 Level 2 (465 points)
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    Feb 2, 2012 2:22 PM (in response to roebeet)

    Good points as well -- as you upgrade hardware, the need for lossy AAC's provided by iTM deceases.  But that's not to dismiss why others are attempting this - for low and even mid-range systems, I would argue that 256kps AAC's are excellent sources for playback.   It's probaby even fine for my own hardware, but i actually prefer vinyl needle drops for the increased dynamics versus the CD-based lossy files from iTunes.  Vinyl, especially contemporary vinyl, generally has better dynamics than the comparable CD release, and thus the iTM AAC file derived from that CD.

    I might as well chime in here.  Roebeet generally listens via headphones and my guess (from having spent a little time working in a sound booth) is that he's going to hear a whale of difference in things like dynamic range, much more than I will through my setup .  My MBP feeds into a Yamaha preamp and from there into a Denon AVR-990 which biamps a pair of Klipsh RF 82 IIs and a Klipsh 10" sub that's really not very musical.  But really, nothing beats a good set of cans.

     

    Since I'm in the process of evaluating my workflow to determine if I'm losing anything going from 96/24 Audacity to 24 AIFF into ClickRepair, then back into Audacity and finally using iTunes to do a 256 AAC for Match (mostly now for use on the iPhones and Apple TV), I was all set up to listen to a few original Audacity rips from vinyl of varying quality and compare them to their 256 counterparts via iTunes - directly out of iTunes on the same MBP I'm using for Audacity.

     

    I can say there is some difference if you've got some pretty special source material, but on my setup the difference isn't so obvious I'd just give up on 256AAC for the purposes of getting tunes on the phones and being able to run Match via AppleTV all day while I'm working around the house.  Sitting in a room just listening to the music, sure, 96/24 is going to be better, even for me.  Really for anyone wondering, it's going to depend on your gear, so if you can run a test like I did, by all means check it out.  96/24 is undoubtedly better, but through standard Apple earbuds jacked into an iPhone, well I kind of doubt it.

  • Michael Allbritton Level 6 Level 6 (16,140 points)
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    Feb 2, 2012 3:25 PM (in response to mracole)

    I'm not nearly as geeky as you guys about my music, but I agree with the sentiment. That's why I first rip all my CDs to ALAC files before creating the lossy version. And sometimes I don't even do that. Since all my listening is done via wireless streaming to my home theater system via my Apple TV and on my iPhone I do try to start with the highest quality file I can get. Hence the ALAC. My HT speakers really could be better, as well. I'm very jealous of your Klipsch's Jim.

  • JiminMissouri Level 2 Level 2 (465 points)

    mracole - I really think there's a good rationale for considering the 256 AAC format a "sweet spot" for the purposes of iTunes Anywhere, which basically is what iTunes Match is.  You can get plenty of music onto your iPhone at that file size.  You're probably at the high end of when it comes to buffering/playing while downloading, based on posts I've read by people who have tried it on 3G.  You can download quite a bit in a short time on wifi.  So even if the hardware is capable in some configurations of playing back higher quality files, you move to anything that increases file size from the 10-20Mb range and you lose a lot of flexiblity, which is what I think most people who use things like iTunes really want and expect.

     

    Michael - You'll laugh.  The Klipshes were a compromise.  My front room has only one spot where I could put the bigscreen, man amp, L/R speakers and the Klipshes aren't as wide as the old Infinity set (which weren't nearly as good as the Klipshes either).  I needed the extra few inches.  To make matters worse, the left speaker was so close to a floor heating grill that a few months ago I re-routed the duct just so I could shift the vent over one bay.

     

    Really for vinyl, the biggest improvement came from getting the preamp.  Not only because its just got a better phono stage, but because it allowed me to use a 2" cable from TT to preamp. It was a lucky craigslist find.

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