Apple introduces higher fidelity 'Mastered for iTunes' section

By on February 23, 2012, 11:30 AM

Digital music has forever changed the way people listen to their favorite tunes but many artists and sound engineers have been unhappy with the quality of distributed tracks thus far. Neil Young, Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine have all gone on record to voice their concerns regarding the overall poor quality of today’s MP3s.

Up to this point, publishers have submitted CD masters to Apple for inclusion in the iTunes store. Tracks are then encoded using a “lossy” compression format called Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) before being made available for download. This is primarily done to reduce the overall size of the file which allows more songs to be stored on a single device.

These compression algorithms try their best to exclude data that most wouldn’t notice. And while they may sound great to the average listener, the fact is that the typical MP3 only retains 3 to 5 percent of the data from the original recording. Compact discs only contain 15 percent of the data that artists intend to be heard. The rest of the richness and complexity of the original track is forever lost.

Music icon Neil Young petitioned for Apple to improve the digital standard. Young met with Steve Jobs to discuss this very issue before his passing and it seems his persistence has paid off.

Apple has unveiled their Mastered for iTunes section featuring full albums and individual tracks that have been encoded using a full high-resolution file for improved fidelity. Music fans can now enjoy higher quality versions of albums from the likes of Coldplay, Madonna, Pink Floyd, U2 and Nirvana, just to name a few. Of course, only those with higher-quality audio equipment will likely hear any difference in the new recordings.
 
Cupertino has also published a technology brief (PDF) and new tools for sound engineers to use during the mastering process.




User Comments: 17

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Guest said:

Oh great another way to squeeze money out of dumb customers -.-

Ranger12 Ranger12 said:

Yah for real. The article didn't say anything about prices but im sure it will suck. Why would I want to repurchase all my songs that I overpaid for in the first place? It's like they're trying to get us to pirate music.

Guest said:

My word! iTunes is bloatware. Mac? Lolwut?

davislane1 davislane1 said:

Guest said:

Oh great another way to squeeze money out of dumb customers -.-

If the customer feels the price premium is justified, how are they being "dumb" exactly?

madboyv1, TechSpot Paladin, said:

The guest may be referring to the group of users who will end up thinking that getting the "higher fidelity" files will make it sound better on their phone/laptop speakers or $10 ear buds... It might, but it most likely won't make any difference in those situations.

captainawesome captainawesome said:

Cant wait to listen to some of this on my Sennheisers If I can afford it that is :-|

marinkvasina marinkvasina said:

davislane1 said:

Guest said:

Oh great another way to squeeze money out of dumb customers -.-

If the customer feels the price premium is justified, how are they being "dumb" exactly?

random haters are random, don't mind the guest.

davislane1 davislane1 said:

Hard to argue with your logic, sir. But sometimes the guests bite the hook...Makes for some fun every now and then, so I had to go for it.

Guest said:

But what exactly is different? 96khz? 24bit? Surround? Uncompressed? Or it is just "high fidelity" and that's it?

Guest said:

If it's comparable to wav or flac and if you have good cans then it could be worth it for some.

Guest said:

Doesn't iTunes already offer audio files in ALAC format for this exact reason?

"But what exactly is different? 96khz? 24bit? Surround? Uncompressed? Or it is just "high fidelity" and that's it?"

My understanding from the referenced PDF document is this: 'Mastered for itunes' (AAC Plus) files are "resampled" from XXkhz to 44.1khz from the master. The AAC plus file is not dithered, so it should be 24bit if the master was 24bit.

After the "Sample Rate Conversion" which converts the master to 44.1kHz, the encoding process presumably reduces the bitrate.

Xero07 said:

Guest said:

But what exactly is different? 96khz? 24bit? Surround? Uncompressed? Or it is just "high fidelity" and that's it?

You can hear more cowbell.

Guest said:

it's all marketing smoke and mirrors.

iTunes will still be selling you a piece of crap compressed file.

The only real difference is that the piece of crap is made from a better source.

Nice marketing try Apple, but no cigar.

Mindwraith said:

good, now if we can get companies to realize how crappy 1080p is and start moving on from it..

tonylukac said:

Ever heard of vinyl? Also, this is just why my brother worked all his life and has no money to his name. He bought the vinyl single, the album, the 8 track, the cassette, the cd, and now multiple downloads? He has vhs, cable, dvd, and now blu-ray. He hardly listens to or watches any of them.

Guest said:

You can hear more cowbell.

Yes, but can you hear More Barn!

Guest said:

captainawesome, you're making me salivate! LOL

I too can't wait hear some of that noise! ;)

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