iTunes corrupts mp3s

iTunes corrupts the mp3 files. I’ve had this problem ever since I first started using iTunes a couple years ago, but I hadn’t really bothered reporting it before, because I was unable to find anyone else who had the same problem. Google searches didn’t turn up much. But now I’ve found out that there are other people out there who have experienced the exact problem as I have.

Describing the problem is a little bit tricky. Basically, I have some mp3 files, which I can play fine in any media player including WinAmp, Foobar2000, Windows Media Player, Media Player Classic, VLC, Audacity, etc. I import it into iTunes. Usually at first, it will play fine in iTunes as well. But after a couple of weeks, the mp3 file will become corrupted, in that the first few seconds of the song repeats, like an old vinyl record skipping. It’s not a driver problem or anything like that; the audio data in mp3 file itself has been modified. The exact same skipping problem occurs in all media players from that point on, and if I open the mp3 in a waveform editor, I can see that the waveform has the first few seconds duplicated.

I had known for a long time that the problem was related to iTunes, because sometimes I could trigger this bug simply by editing the ID3 tags within iTunes. For example, I’ll rip a CD into mp3 files (it doesn’t matter whether I use iTunes to do the ripping, or some other program), and then try to change the album name using the iTunes ID3 tag editor on all of those newly produced mp3s. Usually one or two of them will end up being corrupted, so I’d have to re-rip them again. If I edit the ID3 tags with another program, e.g. Foobar2000, no corruption will occur. So the problem seems to be that iTune’s ID3 writing code, or mp3 writing code is buggy.

But recently, I’ve noticed this same bug occuring for files for which I have not edited, but simply played or synced to my iPod. It seems that iTunes is rewriting those mp3 files automatically without user intervention. Perhaps it’s trying to insert album art, perhaps it’s trying to record the average volume level, or record gapless playback info or something. Whatever it’s doing, it’s corrupting my mp3s!

Now when it corrupts mp3s I’ve ripped from CDs, this is merely an annoyance: I can re-rip the mp3s from my CDs. But when iTunes corrupts mp3s for songs I myself have composed, and there are no other copies in the world, this is extremely upsetting.

Unfortunately, as much as I’d love to switch to another media player, I can’t. Apple’s monopolistic practices have locked me into iTunes because it’s the only program which will interoperate with my iPhone.

I’m going to copy the discussion thread indicating that other people have had the same problems as I have had, because it took me a long time to be able to find it, and I’d be upset if that site disappeared and the discussion was lost. (I’m eliding the posts which are irrelevant, or by people who are giving poor advice (e.g. try turning off “crossfader”) because they misunderstood the problem.)

fubarduck:

MAJOR problem: iTunes 7.0 destroyed 90% my MP3 Collection!

That’s right, see topic. After upgrading to iTunes 7.0 which scanned all my MP3s for Gapless Playback, 90% of my collection has been virtually rendered useless.

The tracks all do the same thing; the first 1 to 2 seconds of the track repeat themselves 2 or 3 times before playing the actual song. Words cannot describe how annoying this is; when I’ve just got it on shuffle and trying to skip tracks to find a song I like, it makes my ears hurt like a broken record. I have looked around forums and Google but haven’t seen anbody else with this problem and the extreme degree to which it has permenantly damaged my 30 gig collection of music that I’ve been collecting and archiving for over 10 years.

I have tried playing the damaged MP3s in every other piece of MP3-playing software on my PC—they all do the same thing. The ACTUAL MP3 files on my hard drive and iPod are damaged, not just iTunes.

Is there any possible way to salvage my MP3 collection without spending weeks to re-rip and re-download all of my MP3s?

I am seriously never going past 6.0 iTunes again. Upgrading to 7.0 was the worst computer-related decision of my life.

fubarduck:

The MP3 files were modified by iTunes; it is not a PC issue. The damaged files play incorrectly on all devices—iPod, PC, CD Player, etc.

fubarduck:

I repeat: the actual MP3 files were modified. The files played the same way on every PC.

I’m back on iTunes 6 with a fresh start, I deleted my entire 30 gig collection. One of the saddest moments of my life.

phronk:

I just want to confirm that you’re not alone - the same thing has happened to me.

I heard the beginnings of songs repeating a few times on my iPod and wrote it off as a temporary glitch on a few songs. But recently I noted which songs were doing it, then went back to my PC and tried playing them with different software. To my horror, it is indeed the files themselves that have been corrupted, and not the software playing them.

So far this has only happend on CDs I ripped with iTunes…I was hoping it was an error in the ripping process. However, if iTunes messes up my irreplacable downloaded music, that would be even worse. So yeah, I feel your pain.

This is definitely a serious problem. It’s the equivalent of buying a CD player that mangles any CD you put into it. Perhaps we should be in contact with Apple directly about this. I’m not one to complain, but permanently damaging my (digital) property is sorta unacceptable.

Sartre:

Before you toss them all, open one of the mp3s in Foobar 0.83, right click on the file and choose “Fix MP3 header”, then play it. Sometimes header problems can cause faulty playback.

phronk:

OK, I tried this with a few of the songs that were having the problem. Unfortunately, it did not have any effect.

I used the latest version of Foobar though, not 0.83…I’m not sure if you recommended 0.83 for a particular reason, Sartre. Thanks for the suggestion, though.

I’ve noticed that this seems to happen by album. For example, I’ve most recently had the problem with almost every track on Our Lady Peace’s “Spiritual Machines”. This indicates to me that it probably has something to do with a fault in the gapless playback mechanism, since an entire album should be gapless, and both this problem and gapless started with iTunes 7.

Hmmm, but I just check, and “part of a gapless album” was not checked on the problem songs. The thing is, it SHOULD be gapless. Maybe this occured when iTunes went “checking for gapless playback info” when I added my entire library to iTunes 7.

I’ll keep poking around, and probably get around to contacting Apple about it eventually.

studogvetmed:

So far these are the only two reports of music collections being modified in this way by iTunes. I don’t think that either person affected has yet contacted iTunes customer service about it yet, so apple may not even know about this latest strange and devestating affect of iTunes 7. The original poster has already completely erased their collection so one set of files that could be tested to see how things were modified and how one might, if possible, recover the files to their original situation is gone. This report is still too new and too strange to discover the underlying situation. Two removes it from isolation, but it’s not an epidemic yet.

[Rest of post elided, as it was criticizing a troll who was bashing Apple]

jpeter1093:

I just had this happen to me last night to 2 songs that aren’t part of any gapless playback. One isn’t even part of an album, just a standalone MP3.

huyi:

what version of itunes have you got? i think people should be reporting this to apple so they fix it in the next build hopefully

jpeter1093:

I have 7.02.16. I’ve searched the Apple discussions forums and see mention of skipping/stuttering but I don’t see it mentioned that the stuttering is a PERMANENT change to the MP3 file. Like the original poster, if I play the song in Windows Media Player, it stutters in the exact same way.

I think I’ll cut/paste some info from this thread over to Apple’s forums.

Alpenflower:

I downloaded iTunes 7 and have noticed that many of my songs now skip/stutter for the first few seconds of playback. I have a 60GB music collection and this is scaring the heck out of me. I see nothing has been posted in this forum for alomst a month about this. What can I do at this point? I am running iTunes on a Windows PC.

huyi:

i have no idea, there was no solution and it’s still unsolved. this same topic was posted on the official apple forums aswell but no one seemed to care that much

Caorach:

The first logical step is to find some audio that stutters in iTunes and then play it in another application to see if the problem is confined to iTunes. If it is confined to iTunes then it is probably related to the database issues that I documented in the “eating disk space” thread.

If the audio also stutters in another application, and there have been some users reporting this, then it would seem possible that iTunes has corrupted the actual media file. In this case I would suggest that you uninstall iTunes and hope for the best that it has corrupted only a few files.

I have discovered that there are plenty of other applications out there, such as Winamp and MediaMonkey, that don’t have the bugs of iTunes but which will synch with your iPod etc. It is even possible to export your iTunes playlists into them so the changeover should not be too painful and certainly not as painful as having all your media destroyed.

Of course if all your media is already destroyed then there is little i can do other than offer sympathy, it must be exceptionally frustrating that the traditional Apple tactic of ignoring the users in the hope that those with problems will just install some other software is coming into play. While this tactic works well for a software house with a very tiny market share once you start getting a bigger share, as with the iPod, then it just leaves you in deep trouble. Other software houses would be documenting this bug, providing a timescale for a fix, beta testing the fix with small numbers of users and then resolving the problem. All of this would happen in the public domain with recognition of the problem and the users would know where they stood. Apple just shut up in the hope that it will go away, actually in the past they have hoped that you would go away and buy something else but that isn’t so easy now.

studogvetmed:

We are up to four people who have had potential corruption. two are confirmed to have problems with the files outside of iTunes. The two new users need to check the files in other programs to see if it is an isolated iTunes issue (and if so, search for “iTunes windows playback problem” on apple support website) for the Quicktime articles to check quicktime settings that may fix the problem (if it’s not a corrupted file issue. I think I linked the article on the first page).

If this is a file corruption issue, people affected need to report the problem to apple at their feedback site. http://www.apple.com/feedback/ipod.html (I found that the iTunes feedback page only is for music requests….).

This needs to get reported in some direct manner to apple, just posting here and in the apple discussion forums isn’t enough, especially if it is isolated.

I won’t make excuses for Apple’s secretive way of handling bugs, but if they can confirm the issue they often post a knowledge base article about it. That hasn’t happened for this particular issue yet.

I know it’s frustrating, we can only take heart that it’s isolated issues. of course if it was only more widespread perhaps finding the fix would come much quicker.

phronk:

I’m one of the original people who reported this issue.

I’ve now had a few months to observe the problem a bit more. It is still happening quite frequently. I cannot be sure, but a larger percentage of my files seem to be corrupted as times goes on - though I have not confirmed this (e.g. by a file being fine one day then corrupted the next). So far, it has still only happened with files that I ripped from CD with iTunes itself. I am praying that it is a ripping issue, and not actually corrupting the files that are imported to iTunes. However, singles purchased seperately from ripped albums are rare in my library, so I may have just not come across one that’s corrupted yet. Have the other people experienced this with files that were not from CD? Purchased music?

I can confirm that it is probably the files themselves. This happens in any program I use, and even on different computers, and on both Macs and PCs. File playback, I mean…I ripped and I sync with my music on a PC, so it is likely the PC version of iTunes that is actually doing the corrupting.

Contrary to my original suspicions, it does not seem to be correlated with gapless albums. I do wonder, though, if iTunes alters the music files in order to allow gapless playback (and does this alteration whether “gapless album” is checked or not). That would seem drastic, but given how long it’s taken to get gapless playback there, maybe it was their last resort. Does anyone here know how iTunes does gapless?

What I’ve done is set iTunes to copy all my music to its own directory on a separate hard drive (“keep files organized” and “copy to iTunes folder” options checked). I’m really really hoping that if it screws up files, it screws up the copies and not the originals. I’m reluctant to switch to another program, since I have everything set up around iTunes (e.g. syncing with Last.fm, playcounts, smart playlists, etc.), and it’s a decent program when it isn’t destroying my music.

I will be contacting Apple - thanks for the link, Stuart - but perhaps if we share information here, we can discover a fix (or at least a cause) before Apple gets around to acknowledging then finally fixing the problem.

 
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