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Apple Lossless format coming to iTMS?

post #1 of 96
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A new version of Apple Computer's iTunes Producer software suggest that the company may begin to offer tracks through its iTunes Music Store that are encoded in its higher-quality lossless compression format.

Apple introduced the format in 2004 as part of QuickTIme 6.5.1, saying it offered CD-quality audio in "about half the storage space." The company later added support for the format to iTunes 4.5.

In a private release of iTunes Producer 1.4 this week, Apple said the software "now encodes music in Apple Lossless format, which produces larger audio files and will increase upload time."

iTunes Producer is distributed to record labels by Apple as a tool for prepping and submitting their content for inclusion on the iTunes Music Store. The iTunes service currently serves up tracks in only the Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) format.

Although the ACC format also produces tracks with a quality rivaling that of uncompressed CD audio, it does so to a lesser extent than the Apple Lossless format.

It's unclear what role the Apple Lossless format will play on the iTunes music store, if at all. Unlike AAC, the format does not presently utilize a digital rights management (DRM) scheme to assure copy-protection -- though popular speculation is that DRM could be applied to the format in much the same way as other QuickTime file formats.

The iTunes Producer 1.4 release also improves stability of uploading playlists and displays upload progress, sources told AppleInsider.
post #2 of 96
I'd buy Apple Lossless songs!

Especially if you can downconvert them later. Even the burn and rip a CD method would be fine, as there would be no quality loss- it'd be the same as ripping from the original CD. Plus that would allow you to get DRM free music without a lossy transcoding step.

I hope this happens!
post #3 of 96
I think this would be agreat idea, considering a lot of what keeps me from downloading most of my music from iTunes is the somewhat low audio quality. Instead of (or in addition to) putting lossless files for sale, they should just do AAC, but at a higher quality, like 320 (where I rip all my CDs).
post #4 of 96
I guess that new content may be in Apple Lossless (with a Fairplay wrapper), but it will take a longer time to transition the older content (the millions of songs) from 128kbps AAC to Apple Lossless.

If they're distributing it now, it might not be in effect until later this year, or even next year.

I would have been happy with 256kbps AAC, which would have been practically indistinguishable from CD quality for 99.9% of people. I actually only rip my CDs to 160kbps VBR AAC as it is now, it's good enough on the iPod.
post #5 of 96
What record company has a big mouth,AI?
post #6 of 96
Great news.

Either Apple could start selling Lossless, or they could be using these files as the basis for an allofmp3-style system, whereby you set in iTunes prefs what bitrate you'd like, and the Music Store automatically down-converts the Lossless files before they are sent to you.

It would take a bit longer, surely, but it would be a wonderful feature. That way, if you're happy with 128k and the quick downloads, cool. If you don't mind putting up with longer downloads, you can go for higher bitrate or Lossless.

A+ news (if true).
post #7 of 96
I see it as Apple being able to have a "master" copy of the record that they can convert to whatever format is being utilized at the time. For example, a new format comes along that rivals AAC. So Apple automates the process of converting the lossless files to this new format.
post #8 of 96
Hey,

Crees! has it right by my book. I have always assumed that Apple uses Apple Lossless as the master database of ALL their online music. if and when the iTunes music store moves to a new encryption standard (whether it is AAC 2.0 or just a higher bandwidth version, or, as suggested above they allow multiple formats by user choice) it is these lossless masters that would be the source for the new format.

This new feature in Apple Producer allows all music producers to provide lossless source files for apple's music masters.

You know that at some point be it 2 years or 10 years from now, there will be a new format that is significantly higher quality at 128 kbps than AAC or provides same quality as AAC at 32 kbps and Apple will choose to move to it. They just turn a rack of Macs loose 24/7, and a few days later, they are done.

100 macs compressing at 20:1 speed could do 5 million 4-minute songs in 7 days. With a modest investment, the entire library could be converted in just days.

Jim
post #9 of 96
Quote:
Although the ACC format also produces tracks with a quality rivaling that of uncompressed CD audio, it does so to a lesser extent than the Apple Lossless format.

How on earth could a lossy compression scheme rival uncompressed CD audio?
post #10 of 96
Umm...if Apple didn't do this right from the start...I'd be very disappointed. If it didn't keep a master lossless file somewhere, it's in deep shit since it'll have to go back knocking on every label's doors.

I don't think Apple is *that* stupid.
post #11 of 96
Quote:
Originally posted by vmardian
How on earth could a lossy compression scheme rival uncompressed CD audio?

I read that too, and was thinking, "WTF?!" Maybe in file size, but definitely not in audio quality. The best part is that it seems to imply that Apple's lossless format will have even better quality. What is wrong with this picture:

Apple Lossless > Apple Lossy > Uncompressed CD Audio

post #12 of 96
Quote:
Although the ACC format also produces tracks with a quality rivaling that of uncompressed CD audio

Laughable.
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post #13 of 96
Quote:
Originally posted by kim kap sol
Umm...if Apple didn't do this right from the start...I'd be very disappointed. If it didn't keep a master lossless file somewhere, it's in deep shit since it'll have to go back knocking on every label's doors.

I don't think Apple is *that* stupid.

Why is that?

1) Apple allows labels to provide them with lossless masters
2) Apple gets enough lossless masters
3) Apple requires all new submissions to be lossless. (optional)
4) Apple starts offering higher quality downloads.
5) If labels want to keep up with their competition they will have to start offering higher quality version on iTunes Music Store. This means that they now need to resubmit tracks in lossless format to Apple.

If Apple skips step 3, then they just have to require that any label that wants the higher quality versions on iTunes needs to submit a lossless master instead of just a higher bitrate lossy version.
post #14 of 96
Quote:
Originally posted by vmardian
How on earth could a lossy compression scheme rival uncompressed CD audio?

Re: http://www.apple.com/quicktime/technologies/aac/

"AAC provides audio encoding that compresses much more efficiently than older formats, such as MP3, yet delivers quality rivaling that of uncompressed CD audio."

Those are more Apple's words than our own.

Best,

K
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post #15 of 96
Quote:
Originally posted by Kasper
Those are more Apple's words than our own.

That doesn't mean you have to repeat them as if they are gospel. At the very least, phrase it like "Apple claims..."
post #16 of 96
Quote:
"AAC provides audio encoding that compresses much more efficiently than older formats, such as MP3, yet delivers quality rivaling that of uncompressed CD audio."

Those are more Apple's words than our own.

Don't believe what you read. They are wrong.

Rival means to meet or exceed the competition. AAC is lossy and by definition cannot rival CD audio.
post #17 of 96
Looks like Apple is taking a page from the George Lucas playbook.

Release content. Sells like crazy. Re-release higher quality content. Repeat...

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post #18 of 96
This might be one way to give value-added to albums, if they are downloaded in optional lossless. This might allow artists and labels to have the album sales they desire and give iTunes an air of audiophilia.
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post #19 of 96
You folks are being a little picky. In the scheme of things, 128 AAC certainly "rivals" CD quality. The term 'rival' is used to mean "close but not as good." The vast majority of people don't notice much difference or at least aren't bothered by it. I know a lot of people in music - I'm an amateur jazz musician - and I don't know a single one who gives a crap about the difference between 128 AAC and ALC or CD quality.

Sure, there's a difference, and anyone can hear it if they compare. But it's just not that big of a deal to most people, including, in my experience, people who have probably the most sophisticated knowledge and musical abilities of anyone in the world. The only people who seem to care are the self-professed "audiophiles."
post #20 of 96
Quote:
Originally posted by kim kap sol
Umm...if Apple didn't do this right from the start...I'd be very disappointed. If it didn't keep a master lossless file somewhere, it's in deep shit since it'll have to go back knocking on every label's doors.

I don't think Apple is *that* stupid.

You'd be mistaken. Apple gives producers iTunes Producers. They're solely responsible for converting uploading the files. They can use a different bitrate, or even a completely different codec (some songs on iTunes are LAME-MP3).

Now, Apple is adding an option for Lossless.

Yes, this means that all current songs are lossy on Apple's server side.

Yes, you can call this "stupid" on Apple's part.
post #21 of 96
Quote:
Originally posted by vmardian
Don't believe what you read. They are wrong.

Rival means to meet or exceed the competition. AAC is lossy and by definition cannot rival CD audio.

That is NOT what rival means... it means 1) One who attempts to equal or surpass another, or who pursues the same object as another; a competitor. or 2) One that equals or almost equals another in a particular respect.
post #22 of 96
Quote:
The term 'rival' is used to mean "close but not as good." The vast majority of people don't notice much difference or at least aren't bothered by it.

I'm sure everyone agrees that the difference between AAC and CDA is small (and even non-existant with mediocre hardware) but that is not the issue. The issue is with the use of the word Rival, which means to meet or exceed, both of which are impossibilities in this context.
post #23 of 96
Quote:
Originally posted by vmardian
I'm sure everyone agrees that the difference between AAC and CDA is small (and even non-existant with mediocre hardware) but that is not the issue. The issue is with the use of the word Rival, which means to meet or exceed, both of which are impossibilities in this context.

But rival doesn't mean meet or exceed. It means compete with well enough to be meaningful. It suggests an attempt to meet or exceed but doesn't inherently claim success in that attempt.

And "meet" is certainly possible despite a technically lossy compression if the loss is in a range that is not noticeable or meaningful to the target audience.
post #24 of 96
Unless you have a really good HiFi system, I HIGHLY doubt you'd hear a difference in CD Quality and 128kbps AAC. I think that a lot of people THINK they hear a difference, but its all in their head. I certainly don't hear a difference, and I bet that most of you all that say you CAN hear a difference, if you were put to the test, you wouldn't be able to tell. Whoever said, "AAC is lousy" is totally ridiculous!!!!!!!
post #25 of 96
This is exactly what I've been waiting for. Some of us have high end systems and actually hear the difference.
post #26 of 96
Quote:
Originally posted by turtlebug
This is exactly what I've been waiting for. Some of us have high end systems and actually hear the difference.

I know, I think only the ones with High end systems CAN hear the difference, even then I think its a small difference, and not worth complaining about. I've got a decent system myself in my car, I'ts not major high end, but it's pretty good. But how many of the people who do claim to hear a difference actually have the capability of hearing a difference?

There was a show on television that dealt with the same thing. People that were obsessed with Gourmet food, only the best! Then their friends took them out to eat and they were served TV dinners on fancy plates, and they thought it was the greatest thing in the world, because they were TOLD it was the greatest thing in the world. Only one guy was able to tell, everyone else was fooled.
post #27 of 96
Quote:
Originally posted by AppleInsider
In a private release of iTunes Producer 1.4 this week, Apple said the software "now encodes music in Apple Lossless format, which produces larger audio files and will increase upload time."

This is disappointing to hear -- not for the future, but for the past. I had hoped that Apple had been archiving everything in its collection losslessly all along from the start (not necessarily in Apple Lossless format per se), so that at any given time they could choose to take advantage of higher bit rates and/or improved codecs.

This makes it sound like up until now Apple has been having content suppliers compress their content first, and then hand it over to Apple for distribution. If true, Apple has to go back to every supplier for better quality sources for anything in its current catalog it wishes to upgrade. That probably means there will be plenty of old content that never gets any better than 128 kbps AAC.

At any rate, if Apple does sell lossless content, will they take away CD burning? With lossless content the trick of burning your online purchases to CD, and then re-ripping the CD. will provide you with DRM-free music without any tradeoffs except the extra effort of the burn/re-rip cycle.

I'm all for that, but it seems it would make more sense to use lossless sources as a base from which to offer, at some small premium, higher bit rate AAC options in addition to 128 as the default rate -- say one or more rates like 160, 192, 224, or 256 kbps. (I'd be happy with 192 kbps if there are only two tiers and no lossless choice, or if lossless is a third tier but a lot more expensive.)
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post #28 of 96
Quote:
Originally posted by DeaPeaJay
Unless you have a really good HiFi system, I HIGHLY doubt you'd hear a difference in CD Quality and 128kbps AAC. I think that a lot of people THINK they hear a difference, but its all in their head. I certainly don't hear a difference, and I bet that most of you all that say you CAN hear a difference, if you were put to the test, you wouldn't be able to tell. Whoever said, "AAC is lousy" is totally ridiculous!!!!!!!

Actually the difference is often quite obvious, even on an iPod. There are well compressed songs at 128 and poorly compressed. Some sound downright lousy. I would prefer 1) better compressed at whatever rate 2) Higher rate (192!).

As for RIVAL, I understand it to mean that those who judge the competition view the contender (rival) as in the same league, to be taken seriously (not better or worse... that is to be determined by the judges or competition). In this case I feel the definition is being expanded somewhat.
post #29 of 96
Well, I'm referring to iTunes AAC encoder at 128
post #30 of 96
1 minute of audio:
Uncompressed 16 bit 44 KHz stereo = 10,2 MB
Apple Lossless = 6,7 MB
AAC 128 kbit = 1 MB
AAC 256 kbit = 2 MB (ta taa)
AAC 512 kbit = 4 MB? (eh...)

I think the bottleneck of today's poor digital audio quality is the 16 bit 44 KHz. Offering downloads in CD quality will not create a revolution, it will just sound exactly like a damn CD, which is far from as good as it could be.

It would be much better to make a next generation compressed audio format based around a higher resolution audio. And make it possible for people with high quality needs to play back the songs in higher quality.. like 24 bit 96 KHz. A compressed format that could be based on AAC but offer up to 24 bit 96 KHz high quality sound. Playback quality could be scalable and in synch with the listener's audio card/equipment. On an iPod in battery savings mode it could play normal 16 bit 44KHz. On an iPod in "better audio quality mode" it could play 24 bit 44KHz... something like that.

I think the Apple Lossless format is just a preparation for a model where it'll be possible for Apple to introduce higher audio quality dynamically. The files will then be encrypted and compressed on the fly into AAC format.
post #31 of 96
I disagree with the people who are saying there is no audible difference between CD quality and 128 AAC. There is a noticable difference, when listening on better equipmet, especially good headphones. I personally use a couple different pairs of high-quality phones, and I can't stand listening to music encoded at 128--it has to be at least 256 (but I prefer 320). The jump from 320 AAC to Apple Lossless isn't noticable, I've tried it.
post #32 of 96
This thread discussion RIVALs all others in the realm of stupid irrelevancy over defining the term "rival." To meet or exceed .... jeesh, let's talk about the connotations vs. denotations of the phrase "waste of time."

AAC does NOT rival CD quality with respect to specs and bit rates.
AAC DOES rival CD quality with respect to the music experience of the average consumer.

As for what Apple owns, digital masters vs. lossless clones vs. lower bitrate copies of the music it sells, this is a big question. My assumption is that it does not own a lossless master of 2 million songs. What record label in their right mind would sell such a thing?!?!? Why do you think Apple is selling such low res video too? It isn't allowed to send anything else, is my guess. That is what the DVD market is for.

Also if this is true and if Lossless was really that much better, the labels would have let Apple play around with AAC iTunes and then said, "Thank you for modeling the business plan, we will now sell our own stuff in lossless, good-bye." They aren't and I've never heard of them discuss it.

So

#1 AAC rivals CD quality in customer satisfaction.
#2 Apple does not own its entire catalog in digital master form.

I hope #2 is incorrect, but it would seem to me to be the one ace in the record company hand.
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post #33 of 96
Lossless huh? If this is the case, and any DRM can be circumnavigated, iTMS will finally make a customer our of me.
post #34 of 96
Nice signature MacGregor.
post #35 of 96
I think that this enables a couple options

* Apple can encode all iTMS content. This means it can be done consistently rather than dozens of people doing it who don't know the ins and outs of audio encoding. (Yes, people at the labels are dumb dumb dumb.)
* Apple can deliver alternate encodings in the future, albeit high rate AAC or lossless.
* More options for Apple.

Who knows what the main goal is, but I think this is a good step.
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post #36 of 96
Quote:
Originally posted by BRussell
You folks are being a little picky. In the scheme of things, 128 AAC certainly "rivals" CD quality. The term 'rival' is used to mean "close but not as good." The vast majority of people don't notice much difference or at least aren't bothered by it. I know a lot of people in music - I'm an amateur jazz musician - and I don't know a single one who gives a crap about the difference between 128 AAC and ALC or CD quality.

Sure, there's a difference, and anyone can hear it if they compare. But it's just not that big of a deal to most people, including, in my experience, people who have probably the most sophisticated knowledge and musical abilities of anyone in the world. The only people who seem to care are the self-professed "audiophiles."


The fact that most people don't hear the difference between compressed and uncompressed files doesn't mean there isn't one. I am no sound engineer and I can very much hear a difference. 128 AAC sounds nowhere near as good as a CD. Especially one that hasn't had crappy mastering with compression but let me not open that can of worms...There's a reason people are returning to vinyl for sound quality.
post #37 of 96
Quote:
Originally posted by DeaPeaJay
Unless you have a really good HiFi system, I HIGHLY doubt you'd hear a difference in CD Quality and 128kbps AAC. I think that a lot of people THINK they hear a difference, but its all in their head. I certainly don't hear a difference, and I bet that most of you all that say you CAN hear a difference, if you were put to the test, you wouldn't be able to tell. Whoever said, "AAC is lousy" is totally ridiculous!!!!!!!


I can hear a difference with my modest $170 Harman Kardon Soundsticks when I pump my iPod to them vs the cd player. I can hear a difference with my portable cd player versus my ipod with the same $200 earphones. I would not consider either high end.

Crappy rental car sound system? No difference whatsoever.

I think it's worth mentioning that the ipod tends to make the most of the aac format and makes it sound nice thru quality earbuds/headphones. Especially with the treble booster setting in the EQ bringing out more detail. It's when you amplify the ipod to other speakers or when you play a burned aac cd in a decent stereo that you really notice a big difference.

I also wouldn't say "aac is lousy" since it is a much better format than mp3. I just would never say it's as good as a cd.
post #38 of 96
Apple Lossless is simply a lossless way of encoding audio using the AAC format. It uses VBR to a massive extent to allow the use of as much bandwidth as needed to retain 100% of the audio quality. It is lossless, not lossy in any way. The audio cd file format does not utilize any form of compresson or much more importantly it does not utilize VBR, meaning that a large percentage of the space used by a song encoded for an audio cd is wasted space that is not used.

It is I feel important to note that just because compression is used that does not mean that there is a reduction in quality if you're careful and put quality before file size. Most DVD's are a good example of this while Digital Cable is not. Also just about every bit of content televised today is compressed to some extend, especially in the HDTV area. Except in those cases they use industrial quality codecs such as DVCPRO, HDV, MP2, H.264, etc. Don't even get me started with radio, I mean my god...

AAC is hardly lousy. Yes, 128 might not sound perfect on hifi equipment but generally it works just fine with most computer speakers and It's a good replacement for 192 MP3. Besides, for all you HDTV folks out there AAC is I believe the audio compression format being used with the next generation HD-DVD, Blu-ray, Satellite, and Digital Cable systems. It's also used currently for Satellite radio.

Also, to weigh in I believe the record labels will likely try and charge more for the higher quality Apple Lossless versions of the same song/album. This may be the concession for leaving songs at $0.99...
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post #39 of 96
Quote:
Originally posted by Chucker
You'd be mistaken. Apple gives producers iTunes Producers. They're solely responsible for converting uploading the files. They can use a different bitrate, or even a completely different codec (some songs on iTunes are LAME-MP3).

Now, Apple is adding an option for Lossless.

Yes, this means that all current songs are lossy on Apple's server side.

Yes, you can call this "stupid" on Apple's part.

I would be interested in seeing the proof that some songs on the iTMS are MP3's or are a different AAC bitrate than 128.
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post #40 of 96
I don't think Apple is going to give us lossless (for the reason mentioned above - CD burning) and because it would not be in their best business interest.

They are going to charge more for higher encode rates as time goes by. It's how they can justify increasing the price etc.

Cheers,
Ashley.
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