Okay, so I have had it with iTunes.
After deleting significant portions of my library on two occasions (see other thread about the 8-bit character 'Keep iTunes Music folder organized' bug), iTunes has decided to mess with me again.
Since getting my new amp I have been listening to the bigrig a fair bit, playing old favourites and new stuff and getting used to the new sound. Mostly I have really liked what I heard, well up to my expectations, but some tracks have seemed strangely flat and uninvolving. Mentally conditioned to expect the best from my megabux upgrade I put it down to tiredness or listening fatigue. Isn't it amazing how one can ignore that little inner voice? Anyway, not expecting a problem I didn't look for any pattern and therefore completely failed to notice that it was only my latest purchases that were sounding flat and that the older stuff was fine.
So last night, with the family out in the country but too late to crank the bigrig (even though all my neighbours are probably out in the country too - it's that time of year here) I sat down for a nefarious little headphone orgy with my K 701s. On teeing up Bobo Stenson Trio's War Orphans on the playlist in foobar I noticed something absolutely horrifying. 128kbps!!!!
Somehow, and I strongly suspect in conjunction with some recent automatic upgrade, iTunes had reset itself to the importing default of 128-bit AAC and everything I had ripped in the last month-or-so (some thirty-odd discs) turned out to have been ripped at that rate. Not being able to think of a quick way of saving the tags and album art but deleting the horribly mutilated audio I just deleted everything in disgust. A good two-or-three hours' work down the drain. I am in the process of reripping and straightening out the tags (gotta love some of the garbage in Gracenote: Ludwig van Beethoven as 'Artist', e.s.t. listed as 'S.E.T.'...) as we speak.
Well you can call me cloth-eared for not immediately noticing this screaming deficiency and I could come up with a thousand excuses but there it is. Mea culpa!
I used to really love iTunes, before it started deleting portions of my library that is, but this latest prank just drove me crazy! I have also noticed that iTunes sporadically resets the iTunes folder location to the default (I have changed mine to point to a network drive) although this is much easier to fix. So I strongly advise any of you using iTunes for ripping and library management (no idea if my problem is PC- or Vista-specific) to regularly check that all your preferences are what you think they are.
A timely reminder that computer audio is still not for the faint-hearted!