I have some very large, high quality music files that I have downloaded from other services (e.g. Beatport) and these files are 1411 kbps, or about 10 MB per minute of music.

I have been considering iTunes Match, but am somewhat confused about the upload process.

Would the service irreversibly degrade my tracks to 256 kpbs?

Will there be a limit on how many of these large tracks I can keep in the cloud?

  • I think it uses the highest quality available on a device for playback. For example, if that HQ song is on your Mac and you are using iTunes Match, it will play the HQ version. You don’t have that HQ song on your iPhone, so it will stream the iTunes version.
    – duci9y
    Oct 8, 2012 at 9:02

2 Answers 2


Apple covers this in their FAQ: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT204146

Refer to the about file formats section:

  • Songs encoded in ALAC, WAV, or AIFF formats will be transcoded to a separate temporary AAC 256 Kbps file locally, before they're uploaded to iCloud. The original files won't be changed.
  • Songs encoded as MP3 or AAC that have been matched to the iTunes Store will be made available for download as 256 kbps as AAC from iCloud.
  • Matched songs in your local library won't automatically be transcoded to 256 kbps AAC. To get a higher quality transcoding, download the matched songs from iCloud.

So - your local songs won't change unless you delete them. The cloud will have at max, 256 AAC versions of the matched or uploaded songs. If you were to download the songs (after deleting your copy), you'd lose out in terms of bitrate for those songs greater than 256 (and win on saving storage space). Similarly, any songs less than 256 would win in terms of quality if matched and lose in terms of space needed.

Apple limits you to 25,000 songs that were not purchased from the store. Since they only upload a max of 256 AAC - that limits their storage commitment but there's no set size restriction other than max of 200 MB per track or 2 hours per track.

  • The linked FAQ page no longer says that, in 2023; it doesn't mention it. The page Access your music library on all your devices - Apple Support says the cloud library will have: "Matched songs (songs available in the iTunes Store, whether or not you purchased them there) at iTunes Plus quality (256 kbps DRM-free AAC) and other songs at their original quality". Has there been a change? Jan 27, 2023 at 13:36

A little googling makes me think thar duci9y is spot on in his/her comment.

According to this. iTunes Match will downgrade your music for the cloud if the format and size is right. So your original files will be available to you on your local mac, but will not be in the cloud. There will be no backup/cloud sync of your big files. Not even a copy if the file is bigger than 200mb. If it were me I would backup all my big files before I try Match even though they should not be changed by Match.

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