Hey all. I wanted to get some input on this as it's been boggling me a bit. Let me first explain that I know how digital audio works, I know the formats, I know what lossy and lossless is, I know how they encode, how they work..all that stuff. I am highly biased towards AAC for lossy implementations but I know that AAC is the successor to-and simply performs better than mp3 in more ways than a few. AAC is also supported on almost any audio platform you can imagine just about now. So nice to see mainstream finally realize that the change was welcome. Before I continue with my post and what it's really about, I'm NOT bashing Apple or the iTunes store, I'm just curious and would like to point out that there are a few songs that seem to be affected strangely with poor mastering or a bad transcode rather than a full lossless to AAC re-encode. Ok now I'll continue. ----- I'm not happy with a [small handful] of songs on the iTunes store. iTunes Match really woke me up to this, but I already knew it with a song or two. On my computer... If I listen to an Apple Lossless song in it's original super-quality glory - I enjoy it. Being so biased to the best lossy format on the other hand, I can listen to songs as low as 128kbps on AAC only and still pick out how superior it is to mp3 and notice how audibly close it is to lossless or average to good equipment, but I prefer AAC 192 and usually settle with 256 for lower capacity mobile devices like my iPod. What does this have to do with the iTMS? Technically speaking of course - We know that the iTunes store is supposed to offer music in the form of digital audio files encoded at 256kbps AAC. When apple made the change, they said they were offering music at a higher bitrate (or "iTunes Plus" to make it sound grand to less technologically-knowledgeable folk) and that it would satisfy users with a song that was closer to the original recording than the previous 128kbps AAC files from before. What I want to know is why do the songs in my library at ALAC or 128-320 AAC still sound better than the affected song from the iTunes store? Even more simply put, 256 vs 256, they still differ and mine still wins. I can compare only a few more (less than 5 of my library's songs were affected) songs now because of iTunes match. I can encode an ALAC to 256kbps AAC, and pull a [matched] 256kbps AAC from the one available on the iTunes store. Now even though I've noticed the difference even in riffs out of the song preview from the iTMS, the difference is still obvious here too when compared side-by-side. What you have to do convert both to WAV and put them in an audio editor and then invert one. If there is ANY sound, then the audio files differ. This was done before by a user I can't remember the name of on ethier Mac Rumors or a different forum, but credit goes to him, if he reads this, he knows who he is. He did it to determine if a FLAC/AIFF/WAV and ALAC were the same. They were. You can also compare a lossy to the original lossless this way to determine how much data is thrown away. I didn't need to perform this test with out subject songs because it doesn't take a rocket scientist to hear bad compression artifacts in an audio file. The iTMS version if it's a song that was affected (which is supposed to be "closer to the original recording") aka. CD to 256 AAC sounds like it has major wet/swashy artifact sounds all over it. Vocals, cymbals, guitars.. it's all affected. Why? Was this an accident, or did apple justify that some songs (namely the metal genre) do not need to be re-encoded from lossless because they are already swashy enough? Yes, the affected songs are rock/heavy metal etc... The artifacts are still an obvious sound between the two but even for non-audiophiles like myself, the obvious artifacts ara put-off and to listen to the affected songs on my ipod (and soon my new 4s) I had to put my versions in an app like Goodreader if I wanted to listen to them without crappy artifacts. After re-downloads the first time around, I've deducted enough evidence to know that it wasn't a botched download. Some of the songs even sound this way in the previews. Overall though, the amount of songs I've noticed affected was less than 10, it's HIGHLY negligible. It has to be an oversight on Apple's end. As big as Apple is and has amazing services for their user's, I hardly, HARDLY imagine that Apple botched and transcoded songs so only the bitrate would show higher but never re-encode from Lossless. There are too many hardcore audiophiles to get on Apple's nerves for them to crap on music enthusiasts like this.