You may have noticed iTunes trying to entice you to subscribe to their cloud based service called Match. What is it? Why do you want it? Why wouldn’t you want it? Allow me to illunminate.
What is it?
Essentially iTunes Match is a cloud based storage service allowing you to store you itunes music library in the cloud and access it as you desire from any mac or PC running iTunes or any iOS device. Unlike some other cloud based services – Google Music and Amazon Cloud Player, it does not require you to upload your library to the cloud, instead it rather cleverly scans your music and matches it to the vast vaults of the iTunes Music catalogue. If it finds a track or album that is not in the iTunes catalogue then it uploads what is missing for you. Apple keeps an up-to-date register of the music that you own and when you want to listen to Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys your Match account recognises that you own a copy and streams the album to your device.
Why do you want it?
The benefits of iTunes Match are clear as simply a way of keeping a backup of your music collection. If you use it for nothing else this is good to have if a little pricey. But lets be realistic, that is not why you would subscribe to the Match service. If, like me, you have quite a large collection of music that won’t fit on your iPhone, turning on Match gives me access to my entire library so, when drivning home after work if I suddenly feel the urge for Carmina Burana, it’s there. Previously I had to second guess what I might want to listen to and synch those music choices to my phone periodically.
You can register 5 iDevices with your subscription, which if you live in the UK will cost you £21.99, if you are in the States $24.99 I’m currently not sure why it is priced so much higher for the UK market, surely it’s exactly the same service.
Why don’t you want it?
Well, my biggest gripe is the quality. I’ve read a few blogs about how great it is that if you store your music at 128kbps iTunes Match will “upgrade” the quality to 256kbps. Come on! Who stores their music at 128kbps? If you do and you are reading this then SHAME ON YOU! 128kbps is appalling quality and mono. If you need to ask us how to change your iTunes settings then email or call and I will tell you over the phone for free. 256kbps is at least stereo, but you should be using Apple Lossless or any other lossless format that works for you.
Assuming that you have at least a small amount of pride where the quality of you music playback is concerned then iTunes Match playing at 256kbps is a substantial drop in quality to below CD standard (320kbps) and if you have your library stored at lossless then 1411kbps. There is no option to listen at a higher quality.
Clearly Match is a precursor to storing everything in the cloud. A great idea and one that is innevitably going to happen. Our concern is that I am being dictated to when it comes to what quality I can have my media served to me. I tried streaming movies from Love Flim and will not touch it again because the quality was unbelievably bad. I regularly watch films on Apple TV at home and have to promise to keep my mouth shut and not ruin the film for my family by pointing out the awful picture quality. Now I am expected to listen to my music at a substandard too?
The features and functionality of streaming media are an undoubted benefit to our lives, but at what cost if we are forced to accept poor quality replay.