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I have in my iTunes library some songs that, years ago, I ripped from CDs at bit rates of only 128kbps. Storage is cheap now and I'd like to replace those songs with higher-quality versions (e.g. 320kbps for the MP3s.)

I do intend to re-rip some of my source material (the music I listen to most often) at the higher bit rate. I don't use iTunes itself for my ripping; I use another ripping tool.

Is there a way in iTunes for me to replace the lower bit rate version of a track with the new higher bit rate version, without having to re-add the track to playlists already containing it? Could I just slip in the new version of the MP3 (assuming same name) with a filesystem copy, or is that liable to cause problems in iTunes? How can I avoid having to manually copy metadata or manage playlists affected?

p.s. I already know about iTunes Match. Please assume (for the purpose of this question) that I'm not interested in the automatic upgrading it can provide. Looking for a solution that will work without Match, or when Match can't upgrade a track. Thanks.

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Not totally sure if this will work for what you're asking, but check out this Doug's script. – da4 Oct 8 '12 at 15:58
up vote 5 down vote accepted

You can just replace the file in the filesystem.

Unfortunately, iTunes is too clever for it's own boots and registers for Finder events. So renaming a file in Finder will update it's location in iTunes if iTunes is open!

So here's one way I've tried that works.

  1. Quit iTunes (actually quit, not just close window);
  2. Locate the file in Finder:
    • This could be done in iTunes (before quitting) by right-clicking and choosing Show in Finder;
  3. Replace the file in Finder with one with the exact same filename;
  4. Open iTunes

iTunes will then use this file when you attempt to play it. Note: if any of the ID3 tags differ they will be updated in iTunes too (which is probably what you want). This means if you replace it with a file with the same file name but with less information in the metadata, you'll have less information in the iTunes browser.

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but I was just wondering with this method, if the old mp3 files had album art in it, would the new file have the old album art as well? – user40757 Jan 30 '13 at 21:39
It will use the metadata in the new file I believe. You'll have to try it, but I think the new file will not have album art (unless it happened to from the source you got it from). Normally it's just a case of clicking Get Album Art though. – CraftyThumber Jan 31 '13 at 9:20

I wrote a python tool named replica that automates the task of replacing file while keeping id3 infos of the old file. pip install replica to install.
My use case is that I often download upgraded versions (bitratewise) of my favourites mp3 albums and am particularly interested to keep my ratings (that i duplicate in the grouping tag).

Usage :

If you replicate full albums, please make sure that tracks filenames are similarly ordered in both source and destination folders.::

$ replica -u Library/Sam_Cooke-Ain_t_that_good_news-128kbps-2003
Cloning id3 metadata... Done  
Renaming files......... Done

In addition to id3 cloning, replica can handle files renaming too so that upgrading mp3 files becomes a no-brainer.
Consider the -u option to remove the source files and replace them by their upgraded version. Preserving filepaths enables you to migrate id3 metatags to new files while keeping the information stored by your music player (such as ratings or play counts) valid.

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Upgrading iTunes files to higher quality without losing metadata

Turn off iTunes Match.

Rip higher quality version to iTunes.

Go to higher quality file. Right click - Show in Finder

Go to file to be replaced. Right click - Show in Finder

Quit iTunes

In Finder delete lower quality file - move to trash - empty trash

Drag higher quality file to where lower quality one was

Open iTunes - play track from location of old file

Song could not be found - locate


Now you have duplicate images in iTunes. To delete these you need to follow these next steps.

Highlight all the redundant tracks in iTunes. Delete. Delete Songs. Keep Files.

Turn on iTunes Match.


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Or you can briefly change the date on your computer to the date that the song was added, that way it won't interfere with your recently added playlists, etc.

However, this requires extra steps:

You must re-sort your recently added to be descending by Date Added rather than sorted by the left hand side numbers. Then sync your iPod.

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For re-ripping your CD collection to a higher bitrate without losing all your ID tags, dates, plays, etc. use this Copy Track Info to CD script.

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