How to Improve iTunes Sound Quality

Get the best out of your digital music library

What to Know

  • In iTunes, go to View > Show Equalizer. Use the Equalizer to boost some frequency bands while reducing others.
  • Go to Edit > Preferences > Playback tab and select the check box next to Sound Check to normalize the songs in your iTunes library.
  • Subscribe to iTunes Match to attain high-quality versions of low-quality music in your library.

This article explains the best ways to improve sound quality in iTunes through the settings that iTunes offers and the iTunes Match program. This information applies to all currently supported versions of iTunes. In late 2019, Apple discontinued iTunes for Macs, but the Windows versions remain.

Best Ways to Improve Sound Quality in iTunes

Many factors influence how you hear your iTunes library. You might have several songs that are so quiet the finer detail is lost and some that play way too loud. It could be that you imported audio CDs into iTunes using the default audio encoder or a low bitrate.

You can optimize audio quality in iTunes in several ways and enhance the songs in your library and your listening experience.

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EQ Your Listening Environment

The room and speakers you use when listening to your digital music library can have a big effect on sound quality.

The overall sound you hear is affected by the acoustic properties of a room and the capabilities of your speakers—frequency response, etc.

To get the best out of your listening environment use the built-in equalizer tool in iTunes. It shapes the sound that you hear by boosting certain frequency bands while reducing others.

These settings are in the View > Show Equalizer menu.

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Normalize The Songs in Your iTunes Library

A typical digital music library is made up of files that have originally come from different sound sources. For example, you might have compiled your iTunes library by:

  • Ripped audio CDs (perhaps using various ripping programs other than iTunes)
  • Digitized vinyl records and tapes
  • Recorded audio streams from the internet
  • Downloaded songs from multiple music services

This mix of different sources often introduces loudness problems in your library.

One of the ways you can eliminate this variation and therefore improve the sound quality of your collection is to use the Sound Check option in iTunes. Once enabled, it works in the background by analyzing the loudness of all the songs in your library and calculating a loudness offset to play them back.

This feature is a non-destructive way of normalizing (like ReplayGain) and is completely reversible, unlike if you used an audio editor to make permanent changes.

Access the Sound Check setting in the iTunes Edit > Preferences > Playback tab.

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Upgrade Low Quality Songs With iTunes Match

If you've got low-quality songs or even ones that are still shackled by DRM copy protection, then you may want to consider iTunes Match, a subscription service that stores your iTunes library in iCloud and upgrades your songs in certain instances.

If iTunes Match detects that songs in your library have Apple's FairPlay copy protection, it will automatically upgrade these to DRM-free versions. Another advantage of using iTunes Match is that low-quality songs in your collection can also be upgraded to a higher resolution (256 Kbps), which further improves the sound quality of your music library.

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Import Audio CDs Using ALAC

Rip CDs at the highest quality you can without giving away too much of your hard drive's storage space.

ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Codec) is similar to other lossless formats (e.g. FLAC, APE, WMA Lossless) in that it compresses audio data without any degradation in audio quality.

If you've previously ripped your collection of audio CDs using a lossy encoder, then it might be worth the effort to re-rip into the ALAC format for sound quality that's as good as the original.

By default, iTunes is set to rip audio CDs using the lossy AAC encoder, but you can change it through Edit > Preferences > General > Import Settings.

Apple iTunes splash screen
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