Apple wants 24-bit audio, unlimited re-downloads for iTunes

By on March 4, 2011, 8:30 AM
Apple is currently in negotiations with major music labels to give iTunes users more flexibility in how they access their music library by allowing "unlimited" downloads, according to a report on Bloomberg. This isn't the often rumored iTunes subscription service, where you'd get unlimited song downloads or streaming for a monthly fee. Instead, the iTunes Music Store would have the same model as iOS apps allowing re-downloads of previously purchased songs.

Itís only logical: if you buy an iPhone app and accidentally erase it, or buy a new iPhone, you can download it again. But currently you do not have the same flexibility with iTunes music and Apple is looking to change that. The move would allow downloads to iPads, iPhones and iPods linked to the same iTunes account, Bloomberg claimed, adding that it would also put Apple a step closer to offering universal access to content centrally stored on the Internet.


In other iTunes news CNN reports that Apple is in talks with record labels to improve the quality of song downloads available from the iTunes Music Store, making them available in a 24-bit high-fidelity format instead of the now standard 16-bit compressed format. This would certainly be good news for audiophiles looking to experience music the way it's supposed to sound, but such a move will require big changes in hardware and software to happen.

Many PCs and most portable devices do not support the high-fidelity audio format and getting the whole industry on board won't be an easy job considering the majority of people can't really tell - or don't care enough about - the difference between compressed and high fidelity audio. Then again, Apple has pushed for better quality before and led other major changes in the music industry like the elimination of DRM. Maybe high fidelity audio will give iPods a new lease of life.




User Comments: 21

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Burty117 Burty117, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

This would certainly be certainly good news

Slight issue there

Lurker101 said:

Good luck to them on that. With any luck, this could force an industry wide push towards 24-bit audio.

Guest said:

AAC and MP3 audio are floating-point audio. They just mean that they want higher quality source files before encoding.

nazartp said:

Unlimited re-downloads -- definitely commendable.

24-bit encoding - not sure it will be noticeable to the majority of end customers listening for music on their computers/mobile devices. I'm all for better quality, but how many people not only have the computer hardware supporting 24 bit properly but also speakers good enough to reproduce the difference. If we are talking mobile device, how expensive the headphones would be.

MrAnderson said:

Yey Apple. This is a good thing for customers. I hope this can come to pass.

The 24 bit thing... I think people can notice the difference, it is more about do they care just as they did not care about the down grade from Redbook Audio of CDs when MP3s were out. Nevertheless, this is more about moving the tech along too. Apple wants there products to shine bright and move the quality line with the experience. It is a good way to stay relevant and stand out (or diversify) amongst the (growning) competition.

Guest said:

24 bit is meaningless if it is still a 256K bit rate. What we need for decent quality is at least a lossless format download which is generally around 1M. CD is redbook and that is 16 bit and it sounds better than all the lossy crap on the internet. How about sacd / dvda downloads ? That's audiophile.

yRaz yRaz said:

Kudos to Apple. I mainly associate Apple with overpriced stuff and trying to rip people off. I hope this makes an industry wide movement to cheaper music, if this happens then it will be hard for others to remain competitive. I'm happy with my zune pass and guitar for now. Now all i want to see is albums for $3-5 and songs for $0.50.

mario mario, Ex-TS Developer, said:

I mainly associate Apple with overpriced stuff and trying to rip people off.

Yeah specially because they have the cheapest 10-inch tablet on the market. it's not their fault they don't want to make crappy products.

yRaz yRaz said:

marioestrada said:

I mainly associate Apple with overpriced stuff and trying to rip people off.

Yeah specially because they have the cheapest 10-inch tablet on the market. it's not their fault they don't want to make crappy products.

How many things does apple make and how many of them are overpriced relative to the iPad? They can make the cheapest tablet because they don't need a retailer to sell it for them. There is also a shortage of LCD displays for handheld devices because Apple decided to buy all of them. I'm sure that wouldn't have anything to do with the production cost of other tablets. And don't get me started on Apples crappy products, their whole OS is like someone violently threw up on unix.

So, aside from the iPad, what does apple make that is reasonably priced?

Raswan Raswan said:

yRaz said:

marioestrada said:

I mainly associate Apple with overpriced stuff and trying to rip people off.

Yeah specially because they have the cheapest 10-inch tablet on the market. it's not their fault they don't want to make crappy products.

How many things does apple make and how many of them are overpriced relative to the iPad? They can make the cheapest tablet because they don't need a retailer to sell it for them. There is also a shortage of LCD displays for handheld devices because Apple decided to buy all of them. I'm sure that wouldn't have anything to do with the production cost of other tablets. And don't get me started on Apples crappy products, their whole OS is like someone violently threw up on unix.

So, aside from the iPad, what does apple make that is reasonably priced?

^ agreed. Though I will have to wait until I enter the next tax bracket before I feel comfortable calling a 10-inch, 64gb, requires-a-forty-dollar-cable-to-use-hdmi, non-usb, non-flash facebook checker and e-reader for $830 reasonably priced. Not that Xoom or Galaxy Tab or G-Slate are any better.

mario mario, Ex-TS Developer, said:

@yRaz besides the Cinema Displays, Apple Accesories and Mac Pros. I find every other product reasonably priced, including their software:

- OS X $29-$129, Lion will even include the Server version

- iPods from $49

- iPhones from $49 (3GS)

- Apple TV $99

- Macbook Pros $1199*

- Macbook Air $999**

- iWork/iLife $19 per app

- Aperture $79

* I know there are some low-end laptops at ~$500 but Apple products are top-notch high-end quality, beautiful displays and aluminum unibody enclosure.

** Similar laptops cost ~$1600 (Samsung Series 9)

So basically when competitors try to compete with Apple in build quality and components they end up costing at best the same.

Apple does not sell overpriced stuff, they just make great products while maintaining a very profitable business[/ul], so great for them.

yRaz yRaz said:

marioestrada said:

@yRaz besides the Cinema Displays, Apple Accesories and Mac Pros. I find every other product reasonably priced, including their software:

- OS X $29-$129, Lion will even include the Server version

- iPods from $49

- iPhones from $49 (3GS)

- Apple TV $99

- Macbook Pros $1199*

- Macbook Air $999**

- iWork/iLife $19 per app

- Aperture $79

* I know there are some low-end laptops at ~$500 but Apple products are top-notch high-end quality, beautiful displays and aluminum unibody enclosure.

** Similar laptops cost ~$1600 (Samsung Series 9)

So basically when competitors try to compete with Apple in build quality and components they end up costing at best the same.

Apple does not sell overpriced stuff, they just make great products while maintaining a very profitable business[/ul], so great for them.

[link]

[link]

[link]

who would EVER use Apple TV?

[link]

princeton princeton said:

marioestrada said:

@yRaz besides the Cinema Displays, Apple Accesories and Mac Pros. I find every other product reasonably priced, including their software:

- OS X $29-$129, Lion will even include the Server version

- iPods from $49

- iPhones from $49 (3GS)

- Apple TV $99

- Macbook Pros $1199*

- Macbook Air $999**

- iWork/iLife $19 per app

- Aperture $79

* I know there are some low-end laptops at ~$500 but Apple products are top-notch high-end quality, beautiful displays and aluminum unibody enclosure.

** Similar laptops cost ~$1600 (Samsung Series 9)

So basically when competitors try to compete with Apple in build quality and components they end up costing at best the same.

Apple does not sell overpriced stuff, they just make great products while maintaining a very profitable business[/ul], so great for them.

[link]

9Nails, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Does 24-bit mean different hardware, larger storage? Or can I just take advantage of it with existing MP3 players?

But unlimited downloads should have been available from the first day the iTunes store opened. I'm glad to see that they're getting around to it. And a victory there would be for the consumer. I'm looking forward to hearing more news about this.

princeton princeton said:

9Nails said:

Does 24-bit mean different hardware, larger storage? Or can I just take advantage of it with existing MP3 players?

But unlimited downloads should have been available from the first day the iTunes store opened. I'm glad to see that they're getting around to it. And a victory there would be for the consumer. I'm looking forward to hearing more news about this.

24bit mp3's are slightly larger. And no you won't need a new mp3 player.

It doesn't matter because FLAC sounds infinitely better.

SNGX1275 SNGX1275, TS Forces Special, said:

1234 posts princeton!

I'm glad they are pushing higher quality. I think it can be fairly sucessfully argued that the switch from 16 to 24 doesn't really do much for 99% of the people. But, you know, probably a pretty high percentage of us could get by doing things on much older/slower hardware with older versions of software. Sometimes progress just has to be made whether it seems we need it at the moment or not.

I wish Apple would just support flac in their softwares/hardwares.

Lurker101 said:

Princeton said:

It doesn't matter because FLAC sounds infinitely better.

I'll agree with you there, but even FLAC is encoded in either 16, 24 or 32 bit samples.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

Oh Canada......

Loreena Mckennitt offers her albums in FLAC format at her "Quinlan Road " website; [link] That said, I realize that this is trivia. Still, I believe it's worth observing that Ms McKennitt charges a premium of $1.00 CD (or USD) to step up from 256bit MP-3 to FLAC downloads! Be warned, Ms McKennitt's brand of traditional Celtic music, and middle eastern synthesis recordings, are not for everyone.

With that out of the way, how does FLAC compare with WMP "loss less rips" from CDA discs? Being the fossil that I am, I still buy CDs and use WMP to produce mix CDs from them, for playing or a separate home audio system. I have noticed that the WMP doesn't record as "hot" as the original CD.

Anyway, audio format wars aside, I've noticed that most of the damage done to sound quality, is by the current crop of ****** at the recording console. The recordings levels are set way to high. This results in either clipping, or the necessity of too much compression being applied, destroying sound quality and available dynamic range. In fairness, I suppose there's plenty of blame to go around, since I'm sure a great deal of responsibility goes to those who do the actual mastering of the CD.

Lurker101 said:

captaincranky said:

With that out of the way, how does FLAC compare with WMP "loss less rips" from CDA discs? Being the fossil that I am, I still buy CDs and use WMP to produce mix CDs from them, for playing or a separate home audio system. I have noticed that the WMP doesn't record as "hot" as the original CD.

Unlike WMP rips, FLAC sounds just as good as the CD you've ripped from. For ripping and playing music, I'd heavily suggest migrating from WMP to Foobar 2000. It might not initially be as "pretty" as WMP but the GUI can be changed without any real difficulty or skill any unlike WMP, which does both video and audio, Foobar only does music and does it better than anything else out there.

DokkRokken said:

Loreena Mckennitt

Someone give this man a medal for his exquisite taste in music.

champmanfan said:

lurker101 said:

Princeton said:

It doesn't matter because FLAC sounds infinitely better.

I'll agree with you there, but even FLAC is encoded in either 16, 24 or 32 bit samples.

I'm not sure what sample my CD collection has been using when ripping to FLAC format but it uses 44,100Hz @971KBp/s and sounds amazingly clear and punchy. I know every normal CD uses 16-bit so it won't matter that much. Depends on what your intention of the format is; 320KB/s Extreme MP3 quality which is what I use for my 160GB iPod in my car and sounds perfect. Apple using 256KB/s is quite poor when they really should offer you more options depending on how much storage your Apple product has.

Anyone who appreciates music will just get a bluray disc of their fav. band/artists that is already of much better quality than both CD+DVD. Format examples: DTS-HD, DTS-HD M.A., PCM (either 16-bit or 24-bit uncompressed), and Dolby TrueHD.

As with the FLAC and blu-ray example, the amount of space needed is quite big - 435MB FLAC for a typical 10-track album. If Apple or anyone else is offering higher bit-rates, be mindful of the filesize.

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