TuneClone Audio Converter
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Full user review
"1.30 works w/ iTunes 8, but sonic drop off is obvious"
More convenient than burning DRM audio content to actual physical CD-R or CD-RW. Relatively fast conversion times.
Significant fall off in sound quality even when compared to MP3s reripped from an actual physically burned CR-R. Fully operational version seems pricey given the mediocre results. No Windows Logo approval for PC boxes.
Only tested the trial version. Installed quickly; aside from warnings from XP about the installation not having an approved Windows Logo authentication, it otherwise went smoothly. Burns to the virtual CD-RW drive was relatively quick, as was TuneClone's conversion to MP3 and writing of file to the computer hard drive. Used one iTMS m4p file as the test subject, burning both to an actual CD-R and to TuneClone's virtual drive.
The MP3 rip from TuneClone was to a bitrate of 256k CBR, twice the rate of the original 128k of the m4p AAC original source file. The MP3 rip from the physical CD-R was done several months earlier using an iTunes7 version (exact build unknown) for the burn and re-rip to VBR MP3 at a bitrate of 192k. Comparison listening was done using iTunes build 220.127.116.11.
There was noticeable loss of detail with the TuneClone copy from the original, with the virtual re-rip sounding relatively flat and lifeless in comparison. The song had a brief harmonica intro that in the virtual re-rip lost most of its depth and definition, and an accompanying run on the drummer's cymbals was altogether muddy and incoherent when compared to the m4p original. The physical re-rip also had noticeable falloff in quality as well, but the CD-R rip was generally better sonically detailed and sounding closer in timbre and quality to the original file's sound.
The only supposed difference between this trial version and the full, licensed version is that the 3-minute limitation per song is removed. That being the case, the mediocre SQ of the TuneClone output makes it extremely hard to recommend this method and program, especially in light of the almost $35 price tag. A good idea, but it needs improvement, particularly in regards to quality of sonic output.