TuneUp for iTunes Review

Is your iTunes library filled with tracks identified by “Track 01,” “Track 02,” “Various Artists,” “Unknown Album” and so on? Are your eyes sore from looking at all those missing covers when using Cover Flow? If so, then read on; TuneUp might just be the tool you need to clean up your music library once and for all.

TuneUp Logo

TuneUp is a music library management tool for iTunes that will help you identify all your un/mislabeled tracks, find missing cover art and even tell you when your favorite band is playing in town.

Once installed, TuneUp will launch itself any time you run iTunes and dock to the right of the iTunes window. Once there, a simple drag-and-drop from iTunes will get the magic going. TuneUp creates an acoustic fingerprint of each track and uses that to compare it against a massive online database of songs. It then uses this information to fill out the ID3 tags in your iTunes music collection.

So, how good is it? In short, it’s very good – almost magical. Users of the Shazam iPhone app already know what I’m talking about. That said, it’s not automatic, it won’t find every song and it won’t get every song right.

I ran an initial test with 101 unidentified songs. Nine minutes later it was done. On this first test:

  • 30 tracks were not found.
  • It tends to identify songs as part of compilation albums and not the original albums (this has been fixed in a more recent version).
  • It misidentified “Desert Rose (Melodic Club Mix)” as “Desert Roses & Arabian Rhythms” instead of “Desert Rose (Club Mix)” by Sting, from the album Desert Rose.
  • It correctly identified a number of obscure Venezuelan songs.
  • It identified a remix of Don’t Stop by No Doubt as a “Thunderclap” from a sound effects album.

After this initial test, I contacted the TuneUp crew to see what was up.

It turns out TuneUp creates its acoustic fingerprint using the first ten seconds of each song. This can lead to some interesting errors. In the case of the No Doubt song, that particular remix begins with a thunderclap sound – no amount of magic could identify it correctly. Shazam (on the iPhone) uses whatever part of the song you’re currently listening to, so the matches tend to be more accurate. It’d be nice if TuneUp randomized the part of the track it uses for fingerprinting. During informal tests, I found Shazam would give more satisfactory results than TuneUp; unfortunately, Shazam does not integrate with iTunes.

I was told a new version of TuneUp was available that gives you the option to avoid compilation albums so I downloaded it and ran even more tests.

This time I threw 442 tracks at it. It couldn’t find 46 and misidentified about ten.

Once again, it worked quite well, correctly identifying and cleaning most of my tracks. Even though it has a very good undo function, you can’t really use the Save All function. I felt much more comfortable making sure each song had been correctly identified (which of course makes the process a whole lot longer).

Of note during the extended test:

  • It correctly identified obscure groups like the Tufts Belzebubs (Go Jumbos!) and Venezuelan folk songs like “Alcaraván Compañero” (which I highly recommend you listen to).
  • Cat Stevens’s “Peace Train” from the album “Remember Cat Stevens” (according to Shazam) was id’d as belonging to the album “1971 – Das Jahr und seine 20 Songs.” I found that TuneUp’s database has a preference for non-US albums.
  • Several tracks were identified as another track from the same album. This is likely a problem with the database. Among these: “One Fine Day” id’d as “His So Fine” and “Who’s Got My Back” id’d as “Don’t Stop Dancing” by Creed.
  • “Azul” from Cristian Castro was id’d as “Azul Gris” – a different song from a different album by the same artist.
  • Sometimes, the images offered as album art were flagged as non-compatible. Picking a different image from the drop-down list usually cleared this issue.

All in all, TuneUp is an excellent power tool for your iTunes library. Be prepared to spend some time with your music library, though. In the end, you’ll be glad you did and your music library will be much more useful (and all that new album art? it looks great on your iPod!).

If I gave out stars on this blog, I’d give TuneUp 4 out of 5.

Available for Mac and Windows. Go give it a try… meanwhile, I’ve got 1700 tracks with no album information that need cleaning.

(Disclaimer: TuneUp gave me a Gold subscription so that I could perform this review. The free version is limited to cleaning 100 tracks.)

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  2. i love tuneup it took me nearly a week to clean and find album art for over 300Gb of music files now my iphone and ipad look great.

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