If you have a large collection of digital music, and it’s in a bit of a mess, don’t worry! TuneUp may just be what you are looking for. Using advanced matching algorithms, it will identify your mislabelled tracks and fill in complete details for you, including cover art. It works in conjunction with iTunes and Windows Media Player, and works brilliantly with the iTunes match subscription service. But there’s no need to be tied to either, as you can take your correctly named and covered collection elsewhere.

This article will focus on iTunes integration, so what are you waiting for? Dive in to see if TuneUp matches your needs.


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Ready to begin

In order to bring some order to the chaos that is your music collection, you are going to need to spend a little time following through a three step process. TuneUp provide some good online help to begin your journey here.

The online help for TuneUp is comprehensive, and a good starting place.

The online help for TuneUp is comprehensive, and a good starting place.

From Chaos to Order

There are some old Status Quo CD rips that I have before the days of CDDB and internet lookup sites, so this is a good place to start. I am hoping for a decent success rate from such a mainstream artist. First, I filter the tracks in iTunes, and then drag them from the left of the window into TuneUp‘s Ready to Clean! area.

Beginning with some improperly ripped CD tracks.

Beginning with some improperly ripped CD tracks.

 

You will notice that TuneUp‘s interface has appeared as a right hand side-bar to iTunes. It also configures itself to start every time iTunes is loaded (which did become a little tedious after a while), and if you resize the iTunes or TuneUp window, the sidebar size and shape will match that of the iTunes window. This makes for a truly integrated feel, and is for me a pleasant and thoughtful touch.

Detection begins immediately after the files have been dropped, and after a few moments, TuneUp will have attempted to detect the tracks. If no exact match can be found, Likely Matches will be returned instead. This was not a good first attempt for me, as for my 2 CD collection, TuneUp listed 11 albums of Likely Matches, instead of the one album of matched tracks that I was hoping for.

Likely Matches are suggested if there's no 100% match. You can listen to the tracks from within the results window.

Likely Matches are suggested if there’s no 100% match. You can listen to the tracks from within the results window.

A couple of tracks looked ok to me, so I could click on the tick symbol to the right of the Likely Match album, and these tracks did then update quickly and correctly in iTunes. Just to be sure, you can listen to the tracks from within the results window by pressing on the small black play button to the right of the track.

If at First You Don’t Succeed

Undeterred, I placed my Eva Cassidy “The Best Of ” tracks into TuneUp‘s capable hands.  As the track matching is done by sampling the music to get an audio footprint for comparison, it doesn’t matter how much or how little of the track information is already available. This is simply ignored, and a like-for-like match is made with the actual audio content.

Imported tracks often have a generic "Track" prefix.

Imported tracks often have a generic “Track” prefix.

This is where iTunes match comes in handy. Deleting your original low bit rate file versions, ripped or otherwise, and downloading the iTunes match provision should surely be a better source file to match against. Would it also work going the other way, though? To test this theory, and to prove the point, I have tried to match a ripped CD using Apple’s lossless encoding, and the same CD deleted and re-downloaded as a lower bit rate version, and then the CD ripped at a very low bit rate.

TuneUp uses waveform recognition technology to create an acoustic fingerprint. It then references this against a large database to find a match.

I am pleased to report that for all bit rates for my chosen album, each track was identified by TuneUp, and I was offered a fully Matched list. This Matched list recommendation has, in all of my testing, been 100% accurate too. Whereas Likely Matches are a bit of a hit-and-miss game.

Performance Issues

I continued with my select, drag-and-drop cleanup tasks for a few more albums, often leaving the program to work its magic while I did something else. It wasn’t long before my laptop fan had kicked-in and on closer inspection TuneUp and iTunes were running at 100% of the CPU capability. TuneUp‘s processing was causing iTunes to stop responding altogether. I ended the TuneUp process and restarted the PC.

After a restart all was well again for a couple of albums, and then I had the same issue. It didn’t seem to be related to how many songs I was processing, but more to asking the user interface to do something while it was busy looking up, or analysing.

Unfortunately, the software often maxes out the processor, making the system unusable.

Unfortunately, the software often maxes out the processor, making the system unusable.

To be absolutely sure, I have a brand-new clean build Windows 8 machine, so I installed TuneUp on that machine, and moved the license across (you can only do a limited number of license moves like this). Testing the same track lookups, and random clicking about, I was able to re-produce the 100% CPU utilisation. I have notified the support team of this, and await a response.

One thing you need to get used to when working with TuneUp is the need for it to keep up to date with your collection after changes have been applied. You will frequently see the message “TuneUp has detected a change in your iTunes library and needs

 

Not Very Likely

Sometimes the results that come back from TuneUp are just so unhelpful, you wonder why you bothered. Here I had a track that had been labelled incorrectly as a David Gray song (I think it was a Damien Rice track), and TuneUp thought it belonged to — well, I’m not sure what that is, but that’s no where near:

Sometimes TuneUp disappoints with results like this.

Sometimes TuneUp disappoints with results like this.

Even for audio books, I had the same issue. My one audio book of Richard Branson’s autobiography was identified as individual tracks from 22 albums. One of those albums was the correct audio book title, but only two tracks had a Match, the rest were Likely Matches that were most unlike the book in question.

Adding Edward de Bono’s excellent “Think” audio book gave similar results.

Duplicate Sorting

Duplicate sorting is excellent, although if you choose to accept the recommendations, be sure to set aside lots of time to answer the many iTunes dialogue boxes that appear asking: “Are you sure you want to delete the selected item from your iTunes library?”.

De-duplication within TuneUp is excellent, and matches almost exactly with that in iTunes.

De-duplication within TuneUp is excellent, and matches almost exactly with that in iTunes.

For a neat collection (I had 72 duplicates highlighted), that’s not so bad. If it ran to hundreds, it might be soul-destroying to tick yes, and press OK a thousand times.

Album Art Fix

Lastly, TuneUp augments iTunes album art fix with a flexible solution of its own. Several covers are presented for you to select for each album, and whilst this functionality exists within iTunes, there is a quickness achievable as you scroll, select and tick each chosen cover.

Fixing album art provides pretty covers for all your tracks.

Fixing album art provides pretty covers for all your tracks.

There’s nothing quite like an ordered, properly named music collection to put a smile on your face.

Overall

TuneUp promises much, and at times there are flashes of brilliance as random musical mess is neatly tidied, filed and sorted. At other times, there is much waiting around while it processes your selections. When it dies in a heap, though, it becomes insufferable. I have used it on and off now for the past two months whilst writing this review, and I’m sorry to say that my initial excitement and optimism has been dulled considerably.

Proceed with caution if you are thinking of taking the plunge with this app. There is much that has good, or is potentially great, but it’s not all plain sailing.

 


Summary

Organize your digital music collection by correcting metadata information and cover art, automatically.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/kim.si.3194 Kim Si

    Not exactly the latest iTunes version, huh? 😉