About a month ago, my iTunes installation on the MacBook Pro starting skipping / stuttering inside the first 15 seconds of almost every song. I must say - I have NEVER been so frustrated. It drove me mad. Almost to "FDISK, FORMAT, REINSTALL, DOO DAA, DOO DAA". That's crazy Windows talk right there.
After much digging, I finally found out why - hopefully this is a pointer post to anyone who's experiencing the same bloody frustrating yet really simple problem.
First off. iTunes 7 has many officially reported problems with skipping. There are threads and threads on support forums with barely any answers. It seems like there may be hardware compatibility issues, Quicktime output in 24bit vs 16 bit issues and many others. If my blinding-glimpse-of-the-bloody-obvious solution doesn't work... Make sure you check out these threads.
If you're a wombat like me, just take a little look see at your OSX Dashboard Widgets. I had a particular one, called Sing that iTune!. Now, on the surface this is one helluva widget. It looks up the lyrics of the song currently playing in iTunes and... wait for it... writes those lyrics into the metadata of the MP3.
That was what was causing the intermittent audio skipping / stuttering in iTunes. Every time the widget discovered lyrics for an unplayed song, it would right the lyrics into the file - causing the small pause. The Mac download page should come with a SURGEON GENERAL WARNING. Sheez.
So, I'm a happy chappy. iTunes works like a charm. And if I want the lyrics - well, accept the tiny pause.
Faith in iTunes? Restored.