Better late than never: iTunes Match arrives

It’s a couple of weeks late, but Apple’s launched its iTunes match service, allowing users to add high-quality versions of the music they’ve ripped from CDs.

The service, which forms part of the new iTunes 10.5.1, lets users access their music collection from the cloud on up to ten devices and costs $25 per year.

As its name implies, it matches the user’s collection of songs to its own, high-quality, master versions and then automatically downloads those that it doesn’t already have as DRM-free, 256Kbps AAC files.

Because only those tracks that aren’t already in iCloud are uploaded, says Apple, it’s much faster at creating a music library than other cloud music services – taking just minutes, the company claims.

Users can store up to 25,000 tracks, as well as any purchased through iTunes. Once a subscription lapses, though, all the non-iTunes tracks disappear in a puff of smoke.

“ITunes determines which songs in your collection are available in the iTunes Store. Any music with a match is automatically added to iCloud for you to listen to anytime, on any device. Since there are more than 20 million songs in the iTunes Store, chances are, your music is already in iCloud,” explains the company.

“And for the few songs that aren’t, iTunes has to upload only what it can’t match. Which is much faster than starting from scratch. Once your music is in iCloud, you can stream and store it to any of your devices. Even better, all the music iTunes matches plays back from iCloud at 256-Kbps AAC DRM-free quality — even if your original copy was of lower quality.”

It seems the delay in launching the service has got users excited, as the service was immediately over-subscribed as it opened. It’s currently only available in the US.