Saturday, January 28, 2012

Audition: 16 tools for cleaning your iTunes library


beaTunes 2.1.16
Tagtraum Industries (www.beatunes.com)
Format: Mac; Windows
14-day trial; US$31.95
Rating: 3.5

beaTunes seeks to help you “build better playlists” and it does this through the broadest toolkit of any of these utilities. Firstly, its “Inspect” feature is the best on the market at looking for inconsistencies. It will take you through a wide range of problems it identifies on a case-by-case basis. For instance, if an Album only has one Artist, it will ask you if you want to turn off the Compilation flag. Or if it sees your library has tracks by “Beyonce” and “Beyoncé,” it will ask you which spelling to use.

The beaTunes “Analysis” function will determine an array of characteristics about each song and save the data in ID3 tags, many of which iTunes doesn’t use. These are useful for DJs: as well as Beats Per Minute, it will determine the song’s key and “colour”.

On top of this, beaTunes uses the MusicIP fingerprint database to find missing basic track information.
Written in Java, beaTunes is not the most elegant of apps. While I love its inconsistency-seeking function, the interface for reviewing and accepting changes leaves a little to be desired.

Doug’s AppleScripts for iTunes
Doug Adams (dougscripts.com)
Format: Mac
Donationware
Rating: 5

One of the great features of iTunes (at least under Mac OS X) is that it’s scriptable. This site is a treasure-trove of scripts. It is not always easy to find what you are looking for amongst the 475 plus scripts, but there are many scripts that ought to be part of every user’s arsenal. Start exploring by looking at the most popular downloads.

You can run the scripts from the AppleScript menu or via the free ScriptPal floating script palette.

Dupin 2.4.2
Doug Adams (dougscripts.com)
Format: Mac
Limited demo; US$15
Rating: 4

In addition to his collection of AppleScripts, Doug Adams has written a few iTunes-related apps including Dupin. The app goes through your library and finds duplicates based on the criteria you chose (Name, Artist, Time, Size etc). Recent versions even add some fuzzy matching including around time criteria. Dupin will then select which of the duplicates are “keepers” based on a range of settings such as Kind, Bit Rate and Play Count. Before deleting the duplicates, it will also consolidate the Play Count and Ratings information.

For a duplicate matcher, Dupin is an easy-to-use and effective app.

Hubi’s iTunes Scripts 1.9
hubionmac (http://hubionmac.com/wordpress/2009/12/hubis-itunes-scripts/)
Format: Mac; Windows
€1 Donationware
Rating: 4

This is a small collection of useful AppleScripts including a good search & replace and capitaliser. They haven’t been updated in ages, but are still practical solutions.

iVolume 3.6
mani.de (http://www.mani.de/ivolume/) or App Store
Format: Mac; Windows
Limited demo; US$29.95
Rating: 2.5

This app is one-trick pony. iTunes has a built-in “Soundcheck” function that is supposed to make sure all songs play at a similar volume. iVolume’s trick is to do this more accurately: it algorithmically calculates the volume perceived by the human ear for each song and then adjusts them accordingly.
With a beautiful user interface, iVolume is very configurable. If you are finding that you’re constantly turning you volume up and down with each song, iVolume is the answer. However, for what it does, iVolume is overpriced. It is now also available on the App Store for a slightly cheaper price.


























Jaikoz Audio Tagger 3.8.3
JThink (www.jthink.net)

Format: Mac; Windows; Linux
30-day trial; £20
Rating: 3

Jaikoz is one powerful application that performs a long list of functions. It uses the MusicIP database to help you to find missing info and to correct incorrect details. What’s more, it uses the same acoustic fingerprints to identify duplicates.

Jaikoz also looks up covers and lyrics and allows you to manipulate tags in lots of ways, including a powerful find and replace command. It will also put together a list of albums you have that are missing tracks.

However, Jaikoz is not a particularly accessible piece of software. It has a steep learning curve as you navigate through an array of sub-menus, split windows and tabs. I would only recommend it for power users who have plenty of patience.

MPFreaker 1.9 and Song Sergeant 1.1.2
LairWare (www.lairware.com)

Format: Mac
Limited demo; US$20 each
Rating: 2.5 and 2.5

LairWare has two iTunes tools with similar interfaces but complementary functions. MPFreaker scours your library (or a playlist) and seeks to find missing information from Names through Albums to Genre, Artwork and Lyrics, but not Artists. It is configurable it that you can tell it what to look up and whether it should overwrite tags, but you cannot choose whether to make changes on a track-by-track basis. So, you may end up with wrong info or Artwork.

Because MPFreaker does not use acoustic fingerprinting, it is most effective if most of your data are present.

Song Sergeant is MPFreaker’s younger brother. It deals with four issues: duplicates, inconsistencies, orphans and missing files.

Its “Duplicate” function is similar to Dupin’s. You can tell it which tags to consider, including song length and with a settable threshold variation. You tell it to “automark” one of duplicates to keep based on whether it has the most complete information, highest quality, a particular encoding type etc.
Song Sergeant’s “Inconsistency” function allows you to choose between similar Artists or Albums. While not as thorough as beaTunes, it has a better user interface.

Finally, the “Orphans” feature shows you files in your iTunes Music folder that aren’t in iTunes while the “Missing” function shows you tracks found in iTunes for which the media file cannot be found.
I had problems with Song Sergeant crashing on one of my test libraries. While the developer was able to track down the problem to a bad filename, he couldn’t help me to overcome this problem. So, I would like to see Song Sergeant to mimic MPFreaker and allow you to work on just a playlist, rather than the whole library.


MusicBrainz Picard 0.12.1
MusicBrainz (musicbrainz.org)

Format: Mac; Windows; Linux
Donationware
Rating: 2.5

This app uses the community-maintained MusicBrainz audio-fingerprint database. While not the easiest of applications to use, it does a solid job of identifying the basic information for your music. There’s also a plug-in system for extra tools.

Rapport 0.1.6
Matt Wright (www.sysctl.co.uk)
Format: Mac
Rating: 2

Rapport is closest to MusicBrainz Picard with a more Mac-like interface. It has been in development state for some time, and does not yet have as many features as Picard.

SongGenie 2.1.1 and CoverScout 3.4.1
Equinux (www.equinux.com) or App Store

Format: Mac
Limited demo; €23.95 or A$36.99 each
Rating: 3.5 and 4

This arguably overpriced pair of apps shares a gorgeous interface, displaying all of your albums using a Cover Flow view. SongGenie is charged with fixing missing and incorrect information, while CoverScout looks after Artwork.

SongGenie uses acoustic fingerprinting, specifically the MusicIP database, and corrects Names, Artists, Album, Track Number, Genre and Lyrics. While my tests showed it to be less successful than TuneUp in identifying songs, I do prefer SongGenie’s interface. You can quickly step through each song and selectively apply and ignore its changes—if there are multiple album matches, you can pick your preferred one.

CoverScout is far and away the best choice for fixing your album art. By default, it searches multiple Amazon sites, Google and Wal-Mart, but you can also use its built-in web search. Indeed, it also allows you to edit Artwork with rotate, straighten, crop and scale commands. Or you can use your iSight camera to take a photo.

Both apps are available on the App Store but, depending on exchange rates, may be cheaper direct from the publisher.


Tagalicious 1.1.1
The Little App Factory (http://thelittleappfactory.com/)

Format: Mac
50-track trial; A$22.95
Rating: 3.5

This app comes from a Sydney-based publisher and uses the AmpliFIND acoustic fingerprint technology. Tagalicious sports a great iTunes-style interface. It covers Name, Artist, Album, Genre, Year, Artwork and Lyrics, but surprisingly the current version misses a few tags notably Track Number and Track Count. I’ve also noticed that SongGenie (which uses the same AmpliFIND database) will still lookup lyrics based on Name and Artist, even if the song is not strictly identified based on its acoustic fingerprint.
The main window shows your iTunes playlists on the left with a list of tracks in the middle of the screen and a lookup window on the right that clearly shows your “Old Tags” and your “New Tags”, allowing you to select whether you want to make changes or not. It is a smooth interface that makes Tagalicious a joy to use. If it had Track Number support and used the MusicID database that TuneUp uses, it would probably be my pick.


TidySongs 1.632M
Cloudbrain (www.tidysongs.com)

Format: Mac
US$39

Rating: 2
TidySongs has some very positive reviews across the blogosphere as its website is quick to demonstrate. But it doesn’t stack up for me: in my objective tests, it scored well below similar applications. The core “Fix Your Songs” looks up songs based on the information already in the track. It is fast and shows what ought to be a useful confidence percentage, but I found it to be extremely inaccurate. It would often change correct information to wrong information.
The program’s “Add Album Art” works OK, but only if the other data are accurate. The “Find Duplicates” function is very primitive: like iTunes, it only considers Name, Artist and Album. The one simple function I do like is “Fix Genres” which allows you to select multiple Genres and rename them to something else.
TidySongs is written in Adobe Air’s runtime system and is a little cumbersome to install. My advice is to stay away from this one.

Tune•Instructor 3.2
Tibor Andre (www.tune-instructor.com)

Format: Mac
Donationware
Rating: 4

This is a little gem. Like many other apps out there, it puts a little iTunes control in your menu-bar complete with Artwork and Lyrics pop-up. But that’s not why I love Tune•Instructor. Rather it’s for its library organisation function, which is, unfortunately, somewhat buried. There’s a good set of commands here including a capitalisation, nonsensical space remover and tag copy/swap. The search & replace function is outstanding, particularly as you can save “search-sets” of your regularly used fixes.

There are AppleScripts that replicate many of this app’s functions, but Tune•Instructor is generally easier to use. On top of this, Tune•Instructor has a basic Genre, Lyrics and Artwork finder.

TuneUp 1.8.1
TuneUp Media (www.tuneupmedia.com)

Format: Mac; Windows
US$49.95 for lifetime subscription; 15% discount available through the above link
Rating: 4.5

TuneUp is a little unusual in the way it works: it is a sidebar application that attaches itself to the right of your iTunes window. This distinctive feature has both pros and cons. The pros include that you don’t need to shift out of iTunes. The cons are that it uses up valuable real estate on, say, a 13” screen; secondly, many of the options are buried and so while you have good measures of control, the user interface requires you to make too many clicks.

First and foremost, TuneUp aims to “automagically” fix a range of data including Names, Albums, Artists, Track Number, Genre, Year and Artwork. It does this using the Gracenote MusicID acoustic fingerprint database, which seems to be the best there is. (It is a different to the Gracenote Media Database that iTunes uses to look up CDs). As a result TuneUp is very accurate.

Secondly, TuneUp does a very good job of suggesting cover art for missing tracks. It appears to use Google for this.

Finally, TuneUp’s Tuiniverse looks up a range of information related to the currently selected artist: a biography from Freebase (a Wikipedia alternative), YouTube videos, Amazon recommendations, Google news, eBay merchandise and upcoming concerts. There’s also a way to Tweet about every time you change a song—a sure way to lose followers!

Some of TuneUp’s features aren’t as smooth as I’d hope for but, all up, it is my favourite iTunes tidying tool.


No comments:

Post a Comment