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Mac OS X iTunes Replacement


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What are people using on their Macs instead of iTunes. I think iTunes is very good, but there are some shortcomings. I did some research into iTunes replacements and didn't find anything that comes close to iTunes. If anyone has some suggestions please post them here. Also, just post what you are using on your Mac even if it sucks. That can save some of us from having to try it out.

 

- Chris

Computer Audiophile | Turn Down The Silence

 

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

UPDATED: My Audio Systems -> https://audiophile.style/system

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Hey Gonzo - Overall iTunes is pretty good. Version 7.5 has some issues, but that can be resolved by downgrading. It would be nice to have an app with the capability of Exact Audio Copy for ripping and the ability to play FLAC files. iTunes can't play FLAC and I am not sure it is close to EAC for ripping ability. Now I am converting my high resolution FLAC downloads to AIFF and importing them into iTunes. Not a big deal, but still an extra step or two. It is also nice to have alternatives which also bring competition and better products ultimately.

 

- Chris

Computer Audiophile | Turn Down The Silence

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

UPDATED: My Audio Systems -> https://audiophile.style/system

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Hey Chris, right off the bat I can think of one problem with iTunes — that is, unless Apple has made some minor changes to it since I last checked this.

 

That problem has to do with the playback of CD recordings in which there is no quiet break between tracks; some examples that immediately come to mind are various violin and piano concertos where the movements are supposed to merge together. For more contemporary music, there are literally hundreds of recordings I know of — the Steve Miller Band's *Sailor* or any number of Pink Floyd recordings, for example — where there's no silent pause in _some_ of the music... unless you've DAE'd the album to your iTunes library. Of course, you can go into your preferences to eliminate the silent pauses that the software imposes, but then you have to remember to go back and change it back when listening to albums with pauses.

 

Silly as it sounds, using Roxio Toast to play back the albums as they are supposed to be heard (with or without pauses) works just fine, but this is really not an option for a true music server. Maybe this is something that could evolve the application into a more versatile solution.

 

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In iTunes isn't it possible to select the songs and set the break between tracks for a complete album? I don't have my library connected to my laptop right now, so I can't check. Still not as good as the functionality of roxio toast.

 

- Chris

Computer Audiophile | Turn Down The Silence

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

UPDATED: My Audio Systems -> https://audiophile.style/system

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It's easy to cure this habit of Itunes'. Just open the info screen for the album and select "Gapless" down in the lower right corner. I do this routinely when ripping but it can be done afterward.

 

Note that this will defeat crossfading. If you want to crossfade songs you have to turn off gapless for them.

 

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Yes, I know this, L. C., but you missed my point — that this is an "all or nothing at all" fix. You either leave "gapless" on all of the time where you will have all of your music played back this way, or if you turn it off you will get gaps where they're not supposed to be. In Toast you can define the size of the gap between individual tracks, but you can't hear these differences if you play those tracks back with iTunes.

 

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  • 1 month later...

Well, the new Ultramax HD arrived yesterday, and after doing all the necessary preferences setup stuff I began in earnest to start archiving the CDs. Everything went fine yesterday. I got about 35 CDs loaded into the Mini's library, and tested out the sound quality via the iMac. Cool. I was a happy camper. This morning, though, turned into utter frustration.

 

Inserting the first CD into the Mini's drive this morning, you could see the typical Audio CD Icon appear on the desktop for just an instant., then it's gone. Likewise, the disk does not show up in the left hand side of your iTunes window, so, sitting there somewhat befuddled, I thought of the methods for ejecting the CD so that I could see if the disk was unreadable. The very same happened; and again and again.

 

I went to Apple's own discussion forums, and found that this has been a known problem since the inception of Leopard, with, literally, hundreds of posts in at least two threads. This new problem has slowed me down considerably, but I have found a workaround. Over the past 3 hours I've managed to load only 7 CDs. The workaround is simple. Keep Disk Utilities open, and eject the disk from there, then reinsert it and iTunes will let you download it.

 

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Wow, I don't know what to tell you. I've never had the problem fortunately. It sounds like the work around is very time consuming. Do you have a link to the Apple forum threads where thet discuss this? I am wondering if it is just something with the Mini or other hardware & software combinations as well.

 

One thing to test is disconnecting your external drive, then open iTunes and insert a CD. The only reason I say this is because everything worked a short time ago and the external drive is new. Plus, iTunes users with version 7.5, external hard drives, and AIFF files have an extremely slow iTunes opening issue. Just a thought that probably won't help solve the problem though.

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

UPDATED: My Audio Systems -> https://audiophile.style/system

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Itunes has always responded badly to marginal CDs. You put the CD in and the Itunes just keeps trying to read it no matter how often you hit the eject button. Most of the time forcing Itunes to quit will get control of the computer back, but there have been a couple of instances where I've had to force the computer to shut down.

 

I mention this just as something to be on the lookout for. It won't solve the Leopard problem, which sounds like a fault in the OS. Makes me glad I still use 10.3.9.

 

As for an Itunes replacement, I read someplace of some work on this, particularly a program that will play FLAC. Unfortunately I can't remember where I ran into it, as Itunes works well enough that I'm not interested in a replacement.

 

Itunes' major fault, from my practically-minded point of view, is that if a disc has a few minor problems Itunes reports no trouble. I only find out when I listen and hear the skipping. In ripping 1500 CDs I've had this problem three or four times, and have solved it by installing Itunes on my PC that has a Plextor drive. That drive does a better job of reading. I then copy the files to the Mac.

 

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And with links to other threads that discuss this phenomenon.

 

http://discussions.apple.com/thread.jspa?threadID=1279473&tstart=0

 

One other thing. Using Disk Utility to eject the CD that iTunes flashes before your eyes then hides it causes undue wear and tear on your optical drive. Fortunately, there is a MOUNT command in D.U., and if you select the greyed-out CD image there you can click on Mount & it will. I have iTunes set to load any CD that's mounted, and as soon as you mount it from D.U. the CD import to your library begins.

 

BTW, the Iomega Ultramax drive is built like a tank, and well worth the few dollars more it costs over competing brands. One slight disappointment is that the 750GB version I bought actually formats out to 698.51GB — a 51.49GB partition seems a bit large of a chunk to take out of the pie.

 

I am also finding that the data CDDB provides is inaccurate 75% of the time. I am spending on the order of 10 - 15 minutes total to load a single CD. This is not cool.

 

 

 

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I have a couple of mac 'rips' that have this problem, and now (thanks to you) have an avenue of 'attack' to solve the quandry. If I find anythig out, I will certainly post it here - I also have a plextor (HP branded) optical drive in my PC.

 

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Hi Chris - nice site and right on topic for what I am wrestling with.

 

I've used iPod iTunes for years ripping CD's and still want more! What I'm trying to get to is rip using FLAC, stream ASIO to the DAC and then analog out to the stereo, and write to my iPod, internet surf on TV. I'm particular I suppose. I find this much easier to solve under windows rather than a MAC. I have both and am testing a bit.

 

I found your article helpful and it pretty much matched how I would approach the issue using a Mini Mac or MacBook, Drobo feeding DAC (M-Audio Firewire 4-10 for testing), probably Benchmark down the road. The MacBook might suit me best as we move around a bit and I could store some files on that rather than always drag the Drobo.

 

While I find iTunes easy to use and am comfortable with it there, are two things I don't like. First is the lack of support for FLAC. Second are the workarounds to control higher bit rate sampling which come more into play copying my LPs.

 

Stuff I have snooped, (I'm a user, not a software/programmer guru) -

These run under Linux which I probably won't fool with:

Amarok iPod, FLAC

Cmus FLAC, text mode no mouse

Audacious streaming, FLAC, Linux

Daemon FLAC

 

These are more obscure:

Express Scribe FLAC maybe …, looks more text oriented

MacAMP Not sure this one is still supported, but it’s still around

Xmms no FLAC

 

This may not be totally iPod friendly, might need some addon fiddling but it looks great

VLC FLAC OSX, DVD, streaming

 

VLC looks like the best choice for MAC but it requires a separate FLAC ripping program (near as I can tell).

 

For Windows - Winmp, Foobar and Mediamonkey look pretty interesting and are quite popular. A lot of easier solutions here, but then it's not a MAC. If they would just put FLAC into iTunes I'd probably call it a day.

 

Any thoughts or tips on the FLAC ASIO using the MAC? Think I'm heading in the wrong direction?

 

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Let's start with this one:

"While I find iTunes easy to use and am comfortable with it there, are two things I don't like. First is the lack of support for FLAC. Second are the workarounds to control higher bit rate sampling which come more into play copying my LPs."

 

I agree the FLAC support is a bummer and I doubt Apple will change it. What work arounds are you thinking of? The audio midi switching between 16/44.1 and 24/96? Does this really affect you stuff bad? I have mine set to 24/96 so it plays the higher bit rate content prfect and upsamples the 16/44.1. According to Benchmark the sound quality degradation is pretty much inaudible.

 

"For Windows - Winmp, Foobar and Mediamonkey look pretty interesting and are quite popular. A lot of easier solutions here, but then it's not a MAC. If they would just put FLAC into iTunes I'd probably call it a day."

 

I don't think you can underestimate the user interface of iTunes. Some of the other apps are just not going to compete. They may be god, but a bit geeky for most people. I have pretty much called it a day and use iTunes on my Mac for my listening.

 

"Any thoughts or tips on the FLAC ASIO using the MAC? Think I'm heading in the wrong direction?"

 

I am curious about this. ASIO on a Mac? What would you gain by that?

 

 

As usual, if it sounds good to you then it sounds good. No right or wrong around here.

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

UPDATED: My Audio Systems -> https://audiophile.style/system

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Hola Chris,

 

"What work arounds are you thinking of?"

a) Win based. And maybe the ASIO output is more appropriate for a Win system as it can bypass the sound card / processing and go direct to DAC, at least as I understand it.

 

b) I am about ready to use iTunes and just bring everything in as a wav file, 44.1, 16 bit, stereo. LP conversion as high as I can get. I can worry about compression later, if storage becomes an issue. I think that should give me a raw, bit correct file that I can convert down the road, when ...

 

"But a bit geeky for most people"

c) Agreed. when ... better software is available for the Mac in terms of FLAC, ipod, tagging. I think I can get there now, but it will probably take more than one app. Plus, my wife is just getting comfy with iTunes and I do want her to be content. I suppose my bet is everything can hndle a WAV file and I won't worry about it until I'm out of storage.

 

"ASIO on a Mac? What would you gain by that"

Admittedly, this is where I am getting over my head. I definitely admit I don't understand Mac audio processing much at all other than the output ports. I am definitely not clear on what, if any sound processing occurs in a mini or Macbook from disk to dac. I'd say that is a key reason I found and joined here. The topic is dead on for me.

 

Ya know, I don't mind spending the money to get what I want, but I don't want to waste it and I'm not able to make mistakes and keep cycling thru gear piece after piece to get there. I've used iTunes/ipod/pc without DAC for about maybe 7-8 years I'd guess. I'm ready to start over and get it more right'r.

 

I guess Mac just seems like a nicer solution if I can get all warm and fuzzy between the Mac and Dac. I'll read more about, "According to Benchmark the sound quality."

 

Regards

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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OK I got ya. I think I needed a little more background on your situation.

 

I am with you on bringing everything in uncompressed. I currently have all my music as uncompressed AIFF files. Disk is cheap, why import something less than what comes on the CD. Many people think I am nuts for preferring uncompressed over lossless compression, but I think they are nuts for getting all hyped up about it. Enjoying the music is all that matters. You might want to consider AIFF since there is no way to insert cover art from third parties into wav files.

 

As far as ASIO on a Mac goes, I thought you maybe had something up your sleeve. I know of no use for this and haven't even seen an this on a Mac. I never rule anything out because when challenged someone on the Internet will get anything to work. not that getting this to work would matter though.

 

I suggest using a Mac for your audio needs. I have discussed this with many people in the audiophile world and almost all of them suggest this. Please note the word "almost" in my previous sentence :-)

 

I think it is pretty cool your ready to move past the internal computer DAC setup and spend a the money to do it right. I think all of the readers will be interested in your progress. Please keep us updated and post any questions you have or anything you find out along the way. If you have a question chances are many others do too.

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

UPDATED: My Audio Systems -> https://audiophile.style/system

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Chris,

 

Did you ever listen to the differences in sound between versions of iTunes?

 

Gang look it has been assumed that Benchmark has some inherent problem with apple iTunes 7.5 that mysteriously occured. They state in their Detail#1 in the latest Stereophille MC page 135 that when using 441 and iTunes 7.5 that a DSP and truncation occurs that severly limits the quality of sound from any device. They also state that using VLC resolves this issue.

 

I did the following test: PowerMac G5---->USB--->Benchmark====> Prism dScope III Audio Analyzer

 

iTunes 7.5 using a 10K test tone showing the tone and the FFT analysis of the waveform:

 

bmitunesusb.jpg

 

VLC using the same 10K test tone:

 

bmvlcusb.jpg

 

As you can see there is very little difference between these two and there really should not be. As both of them use Core Audio and if they are both running at 44.1 with the correct setting then this should not happen.

 

The test file is a digitally created 10KHz wav file no compression. That is indicated by the FFT spike at 10KHZ.

 

Guys let's face it... I don't see the problem they are stating even with their equipment.

 

NOW if it is because of sample rate adjustment somewhere then ok. But this is the way it has worked on an Apple since day 1. You have to set the correct rate before you enter the iTunes application.

 

Let's face it really the only problem with iTunes is that Lossless appears to work in 16 bit only files. If you want to use 24 then AIFF, WAV or other file is required.

 

If I am missing something please advise.

 

Thanks, back to work have tons of new products to get out. Thanks all for those that stopped by at CES. We had a great deal of fun!

Gordon

 

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Thanks Gordon for providing these details. I'm certainly over my head when it comes to this level of detail.

 

My statement about iTunes 7.5 having problems was written right around the time the Stereophile article came out. I probably jumped to conclusions about the "problem" based on what was written. Since that time I have gained much more info from a few people including yourself. I think seeing it visually in your post is pretty conclusive that there is no problem. Very cool Gordon.

 

It is fabulous to hear directly from those who know and can show us why they know it.

 

One more thing Gordon, I know you have more than a full time job running your business, but feel free to weigh in on the post about jitter. Readers are looking for some remedial information and I don't want to open that can of worms with my limited knowledge. Here is the link: Jitter post

 

Thanks Gordon!

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

UPDATED: My Audio Systems -> https://audiophile.style/system

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I noted, in the "Jenga" thread on Head-Fi, that the Benchmark folks are very sensitive to small errors. They advised people how to use their systems based on differences I never noticed. I don't have the world's best ears, but they're not bad.

 

So, my conclusion is that the Benchmark comments are made from the standpoint of looking for perfection. What Elias calls a "huge problem" in the various Itunes audio settings was to me barely noticeable if noticeable at all.

 

I use my ears. Sounds good to me. I'm using, I believe, Itunes 7.5.

 

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Lord,

 

Actually in the SP article it stated that they saw errors representing problems showing up at -80dB. That's huge errors, but really even 1 bit error here would have shown explicit differences in the output.

 

I just don't hear it.

 

But I think the problem they may have run into is that they seem more PC centric than mac.

 

I think this scenerio is the only one I can determine to give any problem even close to -80dB:

 

If you had the Audio Midi set to say 48K, then you load iTunes and play a 44.1K song iTunes would upsample to 48 and output the results.

 

If then you change the Audio Midi setting to 441 while iTunes was playing the 44.1->48K then CoreAudio would down sample the 48K to 44.1 again and that could look pretty messy.

 

Thanks

Gordon

 

Also I loaded 7.6 today and see no differences there either.

 

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FIRST: I like iTunes, even with its minor shortcomings - thanks for the confirmation of its audio performance, Gordon!

 

THEN: I didn't want to leave any 'ASIO uncertainty' out there, just in case our Windows friends have more questions. I hope this post is inserted at the right point in the forum. --- AND, welcome to the site, Innertuber!

 

In essence: ASIO was created by Steinberg (now AVID? ... dunno, can't keep up with corporations) to get their line of Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) software to perform really well on the Windows platform in a professional and semi-professional audio creation environment. Steinberg's software was originally created for use on platforms other than Windows (NO. Not for Mac OS actually...) , but the bigger market-share for any software is on Windows, so Steinberg naturally wanted to tap that. Problem: Windows' OS software layers have an effect on the timing of the arrival of audio from the source digital bits to the soundcard hardware. This is important for musicians and engineers. Not so important for audiophiles listening to their favorite recording of a Bartok piece - when all things are considered. - Though I could be starting a 'discussion' with that last sentence.... Here is a starter-link for the curious:

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audio_stream_input_output

 

FINALLY: SGB, I know that what you are having to go through right now (disappearing CD's & having to use Disk Utility) doesn't seem minor though. I'm just wondering if it isn't something other than iTunes that is causing it. Possibly an issue with some file-handling done in OS X 10.5. I haven't seen the issue that you and in part, LC report. But then I really am more focused on audio creation, and not-so-much the ripping side. -- I'm stilll keeping my "Leopard" upgrade in it's sleeve for now ..... --

 

markr

 

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markr wrote:

 

FINALLY: SGB, I know that what you are having to go through right now (disappearing CD's & having to use Disk Utility) doesn't seem minor though. I'm just wondering if it isn't something other than iTunes that is causing it. Possibly an issue with some file-handling done in OS X 10.5. I haven't seen the issue that you and in part, LC report. But then I really am more focused on audio creation, and not-so-much the ripping side. -- I'm stilll keeping my "Leopard" upgrade in it's sleeve for now ..... --

 

Thanks markr. Actually I've grown used to the disappearing CD icons, and now routinely make Disk Utility active to mount the CD about 30 seconds after I load it into the drive. I am presently loading about 50 CDs per day. That doesn't sound like much, but in order to have the albums organized the way I want them, I've gone in and standardized composer and artist names so that there is some uniformity to my rather large collection of classical CDs. I've also searched out different sites for cover art, and, when found, I'm loading this at the same time. In all, this amounts to about 15 minutes per CD, so, if you do the math, I'm spending about 12 hours a day on this project. At this rate, I should have my entire CD collection archived in about 50 days.

 

Describing what happens in more detail, the generic AUDIO CD will show up on the desktop, then you'll see iTunes accessing CDDB for the data. As soon as the CDDB progress bar disappears, so does the CD. I earlier reported the frequency of this anomaly to be about 75%, but it's actually more like 90%. What you say about this being a Leopard problem is probably true, inasmuch as once the CDDB data has been acquired, the CD will load properly into iTunes 100% of the time.

 

NOW some other questions for you folks. I am really in love with the Cover Flow view available from the View menu. This actually makes editing the data for any CD much easier, as Cover Flow will take you right to a particular title in your library. What I don't understand is why another user CANNOT use this function. In fact, if you access your library from another computer you will see that ALL of the VIEW options are disabled. Granted, this could easily be remedied by installing VCS on the computers, and then opening the host's iTunes remotely, but before I do something like that, I want to make sure that I'm not missing something.

 

Secondly, I had some apprehensions about using the iPod Touch as the remote once I'd made this discovery, but logic prevailed, and dawned on me that the iPod will actually be controlling the music server, and not just accessing its library. I don't suppose that any of you have fooled around with Front Row either. I actually enjoy using this means of accessing the music, but again, none of the cover art appears to be available to Front Row.

 

Please set me straight if I am missing something.

 

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