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UPDATED: iTunes 8.1 Available Now

iTunes 7Along with the release of their new iPod shuffle, Apple (s aapl) has updated iTunes to version 8.1. New features include improved speed with large libraries, Autofill, a switch to 256-Kbps AAC as the new import default, and more notably iTunes DJ and Genius sidebar for Movies and TV Shows.

For a lot of users, the first two will be more than welcome additions — seriously, who can argue with speed improvements, especially if they apply to networked libraries as well. Also, as I’m sure a lot of other non-shuffle owners will agree, the Autofill feature is one that has been much lamented over. The shift to a higher encoding rate, however, is an interesting move and may cause confusion with some users when they suddenly can’t fit as many songs on their iPods and/or iPhones as they were used to, notable because Apple’s capacity calculations are still based on the 128-Kbps bitrate.

Party Shuffle has been transformed into iTunes DJ which, beyond a more suiting name change, adds an extra layer of interactivity for touch device owners with the Remote app (iTunes link), that was updated last night to version 1.2 to add iTunes 8.1 compatibility. When enabled, you can “allow guests to request songs with Remote for iPhone or iPod touch” as well as “vote to control when songs play.” Access to the DJ playlist is password protectable to limit access, and if you’re so inclined, you can also greet participants with a welcome message.

The update is available now via Software Update and the Apple-released notes for this update are below for your perusing.

  • Supports syncing with iPod shuffle (3rd generation).?
  • Allows friends to request songs for iTunes DJ.
  • Adds Genius sidebar for your Movies and TV Shows.?
  • Improves performance when downloading iTunes Plus songs.?
  • Provides AutoFill for manually managed iPods.
  • Allows CDs to be imported at the same sound quality as iTunes Plus.
  • Includes many accessibility improvements.?
  • Allows iTunes U and the iTunes Store to be disabled separately using Parental Controls.

16 Responses to “UPDATED: iTunes 8.1 Available Now”

  1. Alongside the additions to iTunes are the additional downloads available at the apple website. It is more convenient now that various downloads other than music from the Apple store can be downloaded to iTunes and transferred to an iPhone or iTouch. It is easier than ever to drag video clips, tv shows, and music videos from the downloads section of the apple website to one’s personal iTunes page.

  2. 2 comments. First, all the new iTunes features have been annoying me with every update. I know I’m a minority- but I have a large library and know all of it. I generally have a song I want to hear, or I’ll listen to an album. I’m not interested in having software that tells me what to listen to. Why is this standard and why is it difficult to turn off?

    Second, the bitrate issue. When AAC came out we were told that: 256kb/s mp3 was CD quality, and 128kb/s AAC was CD quality. If we’re ripping from CDs, better than CD quality is a waste of data. Was Apple lying before? Have CDs gotten better? And why would they double it? 196kb/s was a nice middle ground I’ve been using for a while.

  3. KC – your iPod doesn’t care what bitrate your music is. You can mix and match bitrates on your iPod all you want, so don’t worry about that. Your 256 kbps songs will take up more room, obviously, but there’s no reason you can’t have then on your iPod along with 128 kbps songs.

    The difference in sound quality between the two completely depends on the listener. Some people think there’s a huge difference, some people can’t tell the difference at all. I would recommend importing the same song twice, once at 128 and once at 256, and then listening to them side by side to determine if you can tell the difference between the bitrates.

  4. I just had itunes installed for the first time since I’m about to get my 1st ipod (welcome to the 21st century!) – And I didn’t find out about the 256 kbps until I had already imported about 1000 songs and noticed I’m already at over 7G’s (the ipod I’m getting is an 8G nano)…

    The question is I guess, rather than delete & re-import EVERYTHING, can I just delete and re-import SOME content & then have a library mixed with both 128 and 256 kbps? Or do all the songs have to be the same rate? I still have at least another 500 songs or so I want to include.

    One more question, how much different is the sound quality between 128 & 256?

    Thanks from a novice!

  5. You can readjust the bit-rate down to what they call “custom” levels. 128 kbps is still an option, even if the default is iTunes Plus. Apple should have warned us about the changes in the affected default settings. But fortunately it is an easy fix.

    Unfortunately, I’m way in the minority re: Autofill. That should be an opt-in thing—I’ve spent the last couple of hours looking to shut the thing off.

  6. chris – when your iPod is hooked up to your computer, select “Music” from the list that appears in the left sidebar underneath your iPod. You should see the autofill options at the bottom of the window. They should be pretty self-explanatory once you find them.

  7. Certainly faster.

    I listen to Internet Radio while working online. Of a dozen or so regular stations, my two favorites almost always seem to require rebuffering when logging in. Now, not only do they log in faster – JazzFM in Canada and Radio Deliro in France – so far, they’re hooking up without immediately dropping out and needing to rebuffer, as well.

    Rock on.

  8. Import as iTunes Plus really didn’t do anything but add “iTunes Plus” to the drop down for import options. This sets it at 256K AAC VBR, which could always be done manually before. I think they did it because they’re promoting the iTunes Plus thing and wanted an option in iTunes to match.

    The feature I like is the new control over “iTunes DJ” (formerly Party Shuffle). Upgrade the Remote app on your iPhone or iPod touch and you can request a song for the DJ playlist. It queues up right after the currently playing song. You can let guests do this as well, and even vote on the songs.

    Another nice feature is you can completely disable the iTunes Store in the revised Parental Controls.

  9. There is also some big changes that I see in the App Store when it comes to reviews. They have separated out the reviews from the current version as opposed to just grouping them in with all versions. Plus you can rate apps right on the main app page.