Alright, there’s no standard about audio format on Internet, a lot of audio format can be found online, eg. mp3 or wma ripped from CD in different bit rate. People love about original/untouched iTunes M4A (or we call it iTunes Plus), it’s an official format from iTunes which optimized to have best audio quality in reasonable file size. However, due to various reason, nowadays there’s a lot of touched/recoded M4A online, especially recoded M4A, it’s converted from original M4A file and the quality has been degraded. Since there’s so may different kind of touched/recoded M4A (converted by different software), here is the guide to tell how you can differentiate them from original/untouched iTunes M4A:


This type is the most obvious to detect, if Kind is not Purchased AAC audio file, it’s recoded or fake M4A.


This type also easy to detect, if the Bit Rate is not 256 kbps (iTunes Plus standard), it’s recoded M4A. You can compare the file size with the untouched M4A, recoded M4A cannot remain same file size, cause it basically re-encode the entire audio.


From now on are those types which hard to detect. This type have all the info, but missing Account Name and Purchased Date, you can compare the file size with the untouched M4A, it’s been recoded.


This type have “Account Name” caption but without Purchased By, Account Name and Purchased Date, you can compare the file size with the untouched M4A, it’s been recoded.


This type missing Purchased By, Account Name and Purchased Date, you can compare the file size with the untouched M4A, it’s been recoded.

The examples I given above are those RECODED M4A, as a iTunes M4A collector, it’s a BIG NO for me to keep or collect those files, cause to tolerate with degraded audio, it’s no different like to collect MP3. However there’s some exception case. As long as you use the correct software, you can still achieve the purpose to erase iTunes track info, but without recoded the file. Of course this type is acceptable provided there’s no untouched version can be found, cause for this kind of “Touched” M4A, if you accidentally deleted the Artwork, you’ll not able to retrieve it back from iTunes store (no problem for untouch version). So far there’s 2 type of “Touched” M4A can be found:


Purchased By row is missing, Account Name caption there but the data is not there, Purchase Date is there. You can compare the file size with untouched version, no different.


Purchased By caption there but the data is not there, Account Name caption there but the data is not there. Purchase Date is there. You can compare the file size with untouched version, no different.

Viz4U bottom line: TOUCHED album still might be posted, cause it’s no different on quality and file size (will be replaced immediately if UNTOUCHED version been found), but RECODED album will definitely NOT BE POSTED!

Hope this explanation help iTunes collector clear out some doubts about M4A format!

UPDATE (Jan 23 2011): From now on, I’ll only post UNTOUCHED items.

45 Responses to “What Is Touched/Recoded M4A?”

  1. oty Says:

    your site is really grea!!!! tank u for all the info.

  2. CG Says:

    Is there a way to restore the touched version back to its original state?

  3. paco Says:

    CG, no way to restore.

  4. KaiHD Says:

    Good to know, I’ll spread the word! Can I re-post this?

  5. paco Says:

    KaiHD, sure you can re-post it, just mention it’s from Viz4U will do.

  6. Tandy Says:

    i was just wondering why some tracks’ info r missing. thx 4 the explanation.
    how do you think the quality of AAC audio file, which is ripped directly from CD in 256kbps(VBR)? is it any worse than the original m4a? i mean it’s VBR, of course it’s bigger, but the quality should be the same, isn’t it?

  7. paco Says:

    Well, I can’t tell which one is better, but most guest here love M4A.

  8. Tandy Says:

    ok. thx anyway ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. paco Says:

    Nearly all items at Viz4U are untouched, little portion are touched (I have no choice, cause there’s no untouched version can be found). NO RECODED will be posted, report to me if you found any link here with RECODED item and it will gone forever.

    I emphasize quality more than anything.

  10. bam Says:

    i believe in Viz4u, 4ever.

  11. Tico Says:

    Paco, I’m glad I made you aware of this problem no long ago. Thanks for spreading the word.

  12. Jack Aubrey Says:

    Is the quality of a 320kbps MP3 file quality equivalent to a 256kbps ITunes M4A or is it better?

  13. paco Says:

    It depends, all iTunes M4A have is standard quality.
    Personally I think 256kbps ITunes M4A is better than 320kbps MP3.

  14. Tico Says:

    My thoughts exactly.

  15. Aquarius Says:

    Hi Paco.. Thank you for that detailed explanation. It didn’t make sense as to why some of those files did not have account names etc.,

    I have to mention here though, that iTunes is not the only store selling M4A tracks. There is one more online store selling M4A tracks. Perhaps some files are from there, and they contain no details. Have you researched about this?

  16. Tandy Says:

    No matter how much the bit rate is, u should never believe it easily. CUZ there are some 320kbps files sounding like 64kbps ones. that’s because they weren’t encoded from a flawless file, such as wav. the only way we can tell how the quality is, is to compare its waveform with the flawless one. usually, a VBR one is better than the none VBR one, no matter it’s mp3 or m4a. the way it’s encoded is more complex, cuz the bit rate is not always the same. it changes with the complexity of the original file itself. in theory, the 320kbps VBR should be better than itunes plus aac. cuz it’s 256kbps, you know. BUT, someone did compare the waveforms, and surprise, the one of itunes plus aac is better, almost no different from the one of wav. he said it’s probably because of the encoding way apple developed. that’s why we treasure itunes plus aac right? but to be honest, i haven’t do this experiment myself, really should try sometime.

  17. Emma Says:

    Please paco I want the original m4a music , from iTunes store!! Please !! Thanks , gracias!!!

  18. ivan Says:

    Why do people touching songs :C

  19. paco Says:

    Well said Tandy.

    From my personal preference, I don’t encourage to touch the track, touched track kinda become un-original and decrease the value. Recoded M4A is the worst, it should directly send to recycle bin.

    Once Touched/Recoded album/tracks been released online, it will be copied everywhere, and nobody will share the untouched version anymore. That explains why as famous as Shayne Ward album, until now there’s no untouched version can be found – see my WANTED list.

  20. Tandy Says:

    paco, one last thing to ask. why’s some composer category is blank. should all the original ones have the composer info? or it’s because that they are just been touched? really confused about it.

  21. paco Says:

    Yes, some untouched M4A, the composer is blank. Not really related to recoded.
    No concern about the info that is editable, you can always add it anytime you want.

  22. Tandy Says:

    only if i new haha
    thx a lot!

  23. Aquarius Says:

    @Tandy, composer info is generally found on the CD, if you buy a copy as well. Else, you will find it on ASCAP or BMI. You can fill it in yourself

  24. Tandy Says:

    @Aquarius thx very much ๐Ÿ™‚

  25. pvpnova Says:

    paco and you guys just keep amazing me with your info. I have always thought that, ”why do people purchase itunes music? Physical cd is the original and the most quality work, so why?” Now I understand, you say apple has developed a good way for encoding music in aac without losing much quality. And if I just think about it, you know, it’s advanced audio codec (=aac). So you know what I mean. ๐Ÿ˜€
    And paco, I totally agree with you; ”I emphasize quality more than anything.”
    Now, one of the most things I fear about is; if you stop sharing music. :/ I hope you just keep sharing music for a long time. ๐Ÿ˜€ Thanks for all of your efforts. It’s really appreciated. ๐Ÿ™‚

  26. paco Says:

    It seems like more and more difficult to get untouched album nowadays.

  27. Chris Says:

    So that’s why LMFAO’s Party Rock album was deleted.. I no longer saw it..

  28. paco Says:

    Chris, never post that album before.

  29. Chris Says:

    ow, I see.. But one things for sure for noticing touched m4a’s, they do not have the purchaser detail and the account name and the bit rate cuz all iTunes bit rates are 256kbps..

  30. Will Says:

    Is it normal for iTunes to say the Bit Rate is 256 but when you look at it in Properties in Windows the Bit Rate is say 262.

  31. paco Says:

    yes, Windows one always looks different, just refer to iTunes properties will be the accurate one.

  32. Will Says:

    Oh okay I just thought maybe it was iTunes not saying the right information.

  33. Will Says:

    Is there an easy way to tell if the file is Recoded without seeing the Original copy?

  34. paco Says:

    You can only see from the message scrubbing pattern, that’s the reason why I put up those screen shot, no easy way out.

    Oh, yeah, there’s one way, always choose to download from Viz4U, cause I’ll do the checking for you, so you can skip those tedious process. ๐Ÿ™‚

  35. Will Says:

    Oh for now on I will cause You’re probably the only site who cares about Original files out of every other site. Where can I make requests?

  36. paco Says:

    Not really taking new request at this moment, cause already have bunch of files in long queue to post, request priority will given to donor.

  37. Will Says:

    Ahh alright, Then I’ll wait.

  38. Joseph Says:

    Thanks a lot, Paco. However, since you emphasize quality more than anything, it would be great if you could indicate [Touched] on those which are touched, THAT WOULD BE REALLY NICE. (Personal thinkings only, it depends on you.)

  39. Will Says:

    Yeah I Agree with Joseph, It would be nice to know if we are getting a Modified album.

  40. mg Says:

    Ugh I have 3 albums downloaded from another blog, they omitted the original music label thingy in the information and replaced it with their blog site. It’s annoying whenever I look at it, but whatever, it’s free anyways. :/ I just wish they didn’t do that.

  41. Joseph Says:

    Do you mean the copyright information? That should be in the recycling bin!!! By the way, how CAN they do that???

  42. paco Says:

    well, cannot just judge by copyright information (those production company name), cause some recoded still remain copyright wording.

  43. Joseph Says:

    Yeah, I know. But how can websites change that infomation?

  44. Will Says:

    I just recently downloaded 2 Cd’s and noticed that the file size was smaller then the one I originally had, Does smalled file size mean it was recoded?

  45. ccw Says:

    Thank you for sharing so many M4As. And this article is also very helpful. But I have some doubts about how to define a M4A file recoded or not and touched or not. For your examples:
    Recoded 1: It’s clear.
    Recoded 2: Really I don’t know how a non-256kbps M4A file can be displayed as Purchased in iTunes. And the two files in this example have the same Purchase date.

    All other recoded and touched types, I think they can be classified in two types, with and without “Purchased by”.

    If you know how to delete M4A file’s tags with, such as foobar 2000, you will find that after delete, the file size is different and smaller. I’ve done an experiment on the M4A files from Backstreet Boys’ album “This is Us”. After delete, each file will be about 0.4 MB smaller as original. (Exactly same as the examples you’ve given.) And after delete, only “Purchased by” is still exist. Other infos are gone. And of course the delete of tags has nothing to with the audio data. It only delete the tags. In this case, I think this kind of files are better to be called as “Touched” than “Recoded”.

    And for the M4A files displayed in iTunes as Purchased AAC file but without “Purchased by”. Until now I havn’t met this kind of situation. So this type is still unclear.


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