BitPerfect: The Audiophile’s Dream iTunes Addition

If you’re an audiophile like me, you probably know the pain of trying to use high-quality music files with iTunes. Even though iTunes does a pretty good job of playing your lossless sound files, you’re always left wondering if you’re missing something, not to mention the fact that iTunes doesn’t support FLAC files.

If these things bother you on a daily basis, we’ve found an application that might be able to help you: BitPerfect. It’s an app that’s designed to help you squeeze the best possible audio quality from your sound system, according to its developer. Let’s take that claim for a test and see if it’s worth the price.

Is BitPerfect an iTunes Replacement?

BitPerfect isn’t exactly an iTunes replacement. On the other hand, it is, in fact, just an addition to iTunes. When running BitPerfect, you’ll still use iTunes to create, manage and listen to your music library. BitPerfect will also interface with your existing music, so you don’t have to go through the trouble of transferring your extensive music collection to an audiophile grade iTunes alternative for OS X. Not to mention you can still use iTunes to sync your music and other content to your iPad, iPhone or iPod.

So, What Does BitPerfect Do, Anyway?

Alright–enough chit-chat–what does BitPerfect even do? Simple: it gives you more control over iTunes’ audio playback. You can change a ton of settings which iTunes doesn’t allow you to change by default like upsampling, buffer sizes and dither. You can also control your volume more intimately with BitPerfect, which is perfect if you often find that your music distorts when playing at high volumes. If you’re an audio expert and know what to do with those controls, BitPerfect may help you achieve higher sound quality on high-end audio setups.

BitPerfect is also perfect if you would like to have your iTunes audio play through different speakers other than your default input. For instance, if I’m running headphones through a USB amplifier or DAC but still want my Mac’s system audio to play via my headphone jack on the back of my Mac, I can do so by launching BitPerfect from my task bar and clicking on the “Preferences” button to be taken to my audio output selector. Once I’ve selected an output, my iTunes audio will be streamed through that source while the rest of my system audio streams through my default set of speakers. It’s that simple.

Does BitPerfect Even Work?

BitPerfect Lives On Your Task Bar

BitPerfect lives on your task bar.

That’s a tough one. While I’ve experienced very minor sound improvement when using using the application with 256kbps files in iTunes and, I had to take my time working with the settings. And while configuring these settings may be a breeze for the pro, the rest of us are in for an hour of browsing the web for definitions and optimization tips. I wish that BitPerfect had some sort of audio configuration tutorial for us audio newbies, but unfortunately they don’t yet. BitPerfect’s website isn’t of much help either when setting up the app for the first time. The addition of audio presets could also help with this issue, but they seem to be absent as of now.

The app can make your lower quality music sound pretty good once you have it properly configured. However, it wont help your lossless files. Even though the change in sound quality was minor, I could definitely tell the difference when BitPerfect was disabled. If I had used better audio equipment and was more experienced with the settings, I’m sure the sound difference would’ve been even greater with BitPerfect enabled.

The User Interface

BitPerfect

BitPerfect’s UI is pretty minimal, though it doesn’t have too much to present.

So, if you’re up for the challenge of learning new audio terms, you’ll be happy to know that the application itself is very minimal and lives in your Mac’s task-bar. When you have the application open, you’ll notice a tiny BitPerfect icon on your task bar. You can click on this icon to bring up BitPerfect’s configuration options. Everything in the application is very clearly presented and is pretty easy to access, so you don’t have to dig through layers of menus to find what you’re looking for. BitPerfect lives on your taskbar, so once you’ve set the app to your liking, you don’t have to worry about it floating around your desktop or keeping it open when you want to use it.

Should I Buy BitPerfect?

After “properly” configuring the application to my liking, I have to admit that the sound was pretty good, though I’m not sure it was worth an hour of my time and $10. However, if you’re an experienced audio enthusiast who wants to squeeze every last bit out sound out of your iTunes music, this app is perfect for you. I’d also recommend this app to anyone who wants a small task bar app to control their iTunes sound output, however, it may be a bit pricy for that function alone.

Disclaimer: I tested this app with lossless music files via iTunes 10. I used my custom built home stereo, Sennheiser PXC450 headphones and Palo Alto Audio CUBIX USB speakers to test the audio quality. 


Summary

While BitPerfect is a great way to optimize your iTunes sound quality, BitPerfect's price is a bit high for what the application does. An instructional mode would've been nice too.

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  • Leon

    iTunes is against all scepticism able to deliver a bit-perfect signal.
    You just have to make sure that all these stupid iTunes features such as the equalizer or the sound enhancement are disabled. Also you have to max both the iTunes volume and the system volume.

    BitPerfect is not able to “optimize your iTunes sound quality”.
    I tested this several times and iTunes was bit-perfect both with this app and without.

    Save the money for something that really helps to improve the sound quality such as a better DAC or new speakers / headphones.

  • will

    Leon, you are right, but also slightly wrong. Itunes is capable of delivering bit perfect audio, however, you must manually set what bit depth you want your Mac to output (from sound > midi). All audio sources are then output at that bit rate. So if that bit rate matches the bit rate of your source material, then yes, you will get bit perfect playback. However, if your library contains a variety of bit rate material, you will have to keep manually changing the setting. ‘bit perfect’ is able to dynamically change this setting to match the source materials.

    So you are right, but as a matter of convienienience this app makes good sense.

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