Apple introduced iTunes 2 yesterday - a "significant" upgrade to its digital-music application - which introduces new features and improves on existing ones.

Like its predecessor, iTunes 2 can rip MP3s, search and create play lists, burn custom CDs and access Internet radio stations. The new version improves the CD-burning feature – offering double the speed supported before – and can recognize and burn MP3 CDs, which can hold up to ten hours of music on a single disc. MP3 CDs will play on Macs, PCs and an increasing number of consumer CD players.

MP3 encoding takes place at a maximum compression setting of 320Kbps - the highest quality MP3 setting possible. iTunes 2 has 160Kbps as its default setting.

Equalizer Responding to user requests, Apple has added an equalizer to iTunes 2. This ten-band equalizer has 22 presets, and users can customize audio settings to fit any style of music. The cross fader creates transitions between songs, providing smoother playback of songs mixed from different albums, with a sound enhancer to add depth and richness to sound output.

The application also features new unicode support for Japanese, Korean and Chinese characters - even in the same interface.

The software has been built to run seamlessly with
iPod, which Apple also announced yesterday. When iPod is first connected to a Mac running iTunes 2, all the songs and play lists from it are automatically downloaded into iPod, and this information is updated whenever iPod is plugged into the Mac.

iTunes 2 will be available as a free download from Apple early next month - the company has already distributed six million copies of iTunes 1. It will also ship with iPod. iTunes 2 requires Mac OS 9.2.1, or Mac OS X 10.1 or later. The company yesterday confirmed that iDVD 2 will ship next month.