I’m not sure why I hadn’t found this program before but it’s listed on Apple’s site as a legitimate plugin for iTunes, it’s called “MultiTunes 1.3″ it is only OS X 10.3+ compatible. It exploits the “feature” of iTunes which requires you to choose your library on startup (in OS X hold down “option” in Windows hold down “shift”) MultiTunes allows you to switch libraries from within iTunes on the fly without having to restart the application.
Why would you want to do this? Well I had another post a while ago about lossless audio and I’m still on the warpath to a better mousetrap. On the drive up to Vermont in the Mazda 3 (which had an 1/8″ stereo auxiliary input jack we plugged our 2GB Nano into) I realized that iTunes and AAC/Apple Lossless .m4a files are all I want. LAME encoded .MP3s albeit highly cross compatible, simply didn’t sound as good as the iTunes AAC encoder even at 320kbps. And I understand we were in an economy car, with an economy car stereo, with a cheap 1/8″ mini cable, but with headphones the difference was clear too, the AAC stuff sounded better. Shocker, maybe the hardware MP3 decoding on the iPod isn’t optimized.
So Apple has tweaked iPods and we have to live with it. I just want to give the iPod and iTunes what it wants (AAC and Apple Lossless files.) Thankfully FLAC to Apple Lossless conversion is pretty straightforward using SBooth MAX or X-LD. The only hiccup with having multiple libraries as I understand it is that the ratings and play-count numbers don’t cross over to the lossy library, obviously. I’m not too worried about this. This is it, I tell myself. This is all there is.
[Edit: It seems MultiTunes 1.3 is shareware and isn't really easier than simply holding down the key combination I've outlined when starting iTunes, so there. Oh well, it was a good thought.]