Can you play high-resolution music with Apple iTunes? Despite what you may have heard to the contrary, yes you can! However, if you don’t do a few things first, all you’ll be getting is down-sampled CD-quality files.
Apple’s iTunes is perfectly capable of playing lossless music (aka hi-res music). Out of the box, it will only play ALAC (Apple Lossless) files. It will not natively play FLAC or DSD files. We have already shown that there is no quality difference between ALAC and FLAC files. And, should you have any FLAC files, you can easily convert FLAC to ALAC for lossless playback in iTunes. We’ll get to DSD later on.
Even though you may be playing a hi-res music file, it will only be output from your Mac at the resolution specified in an app called Audio MIDI Setup. The app is located in your Utilities folder, which you can find easily by pressing the “COMMAND” and “U” keys from the Finder. When you launch Audio MIDI Setup, you should see a listing of all your Mac’s audio output options. If you don’t then select “Show Audio Devices” from the “Window” menu.
|If you don’t see your audio devices, select Show Audio Devices from the Window menu|
By default, the Mac has CD-quality or only 44kHz/16bit for output. That means all your high resolution music files—even those prized 192kHz/24bit—are being down sampled to plain old CD. Do you have an expensive, fancy DAC? If you don’t change the sampling rate in the MIDI app, you aren’t able to take advantage of the full potential of your DAC because iTunes isn’t going to send the file in high resolution.
To fix this, you need to go into the MIDI app and change the sampling rate to reflect what the file really is. Once you do this, iTunes will play that hi-res file at full resolution.
|By default, the Mac only plays back files at CD-quality. You need to change the bit depth manually.|
That’ can quickly become a pain, however. Thankfully, there’s a neat little app, called Bitperfect. As its name implies, it will automatically change the system’s bit depth automatically so that you are playing hi-res music files bit perfectly each time.
Bitperfect (download from App store here) costs only $9.99 and is worth every penny. It sits in the background and does takes care of everything for you. You can fine-tune Bitperfect to your heart’s content. You can set up sampling rates and more.
|You can tailor Bitperfect including up-sampling all your music files by default.|
If you have DSD files in your collection iTunes won’t play them. But don’t worry. There is a companion app to Bitperfect called DSD Master ($29.99) that will allow you to play DSD files through iTunes with Bitperfect. You can learn more about DSD Master here.
You’ll be happy to know that Bitperfect works as advertised. It sits in your Mac’s top menu bar and will even show you in real-time what the bitrate of the file is that you’re playing.
|Bitperect will show you the bitrate of the file it’s playing. In this case, a 48kHz/24-bit hi-res music file.|
Best of all, you don’t lose out on all the great iTunes features, such as ease of use, OS integration, mobile sync, and remote control support.
If you’ve been looking at hi-res music and have been told that iTunes isn’t capable of hi-res audio, that’s just not true. With Bitperfect, you can load up your music library with lots of great hi-res music.