Apple looking to offer higher quality 24-bit music on iTunes - report

Posted:
in iPod + iTunes + AppleTV edited January 2014
Apple is said to be 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.



Apple's current downloads are 16 bits, but Apple would like to increase the quality of purchased songs on iTunes, according to CNN. Studio recordings are usually captured as 24-bit audio, but before the tracks are pressed to CD or made available to iTunes, they're downgraded to 16 bits.



Jimmy Iovine, chairman of Universal Music Group's Interscoe-Geffen-A&M record label, revealed Apple's intentions after showcasing new HP products with integrated "Beats Audio" support. Many Macs and some PCs support 24-bit sound, and the iTunes media player can playback 24-bit files.



But a major obstacle for 24-bit audio is the fact that many PCs and most portable devices do not support the high-fidelity audio format. Iovine said Apple would have to make future iPhones and iPods that would be able to play the higher quality audio files.



Apple previously upgraded the quality of the audio files it sells in 2007 with the release of iTunes 7.2 and iTunes Plus. iTunes Plus tracks feature high-quality 256kbps AAC encoding and are void of any digital rights management protection.



After a limited start with participating labels, iTunes Plus eventually became the standard for all music tracks on the iTunes Music Store in 2009. In return, Apple granted labels the ability to price songs at three levels: 69 cents, 99 cents, or $1.29 per track.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 81
    So Apple won't give us Blu-Ray, a huge leap forward in quality over the DVD drives they offer now, but they want to increase song files from 16 to 24 bits, a virtually inaudible upgrade?
  • Reply 2 of 81
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Cory Bauer View Post


    So Apple won't give us Blu-Ray, a huge leap forward in quality over the DVD drives they offer now, but they want to increase song files from 16 to 24 bits, a virtually inaudible upgrade?



    I'm sure they will offer 1080p when either its feasible / movie companies allow them
  • Reply 3 of 81
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by joelsalt View Post


    I'm sure they will offer 1080p when either its feasible / movie companies allow them



    Offering 1080p and offering Blu-Ray is two very different things. Blu-Ray's quality comes from not only being 1080p but also having massive bitrates for both video and audio. Bitrates that result in file sizes no one will be able to offer as an internet stream for at least a decade.
  • Reply 4 of 81
    The iPod I purchased in 2005 has no problem playing 48kHz sampling rate with 24 bit samples. What is not supported, and cannot be played, is the 96kHz sampling rate used in hi-resolution recordings.



    iTunes and AppleTV (1st gen) both can play back 96/24 audio files (alas, not FLAC, though). The AppleTV downgrades the 96/24 to 44.1/16 for the optical output. OS-X outputs 96/24 to the optical output without a problem.



    I think the article makes an error in focusing on the 24-bit aspect, and not the 96kHz aspect of the music files.
  • Reply 5 of 81
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Cory Bauer View Post


    Offering 1080p and offering Blu-Ray is two very different things. Blu-Ray's quality comes from not only being 1080p but also having massive bitrates for both video and audio. Bitrates that result in file sizes no one will be able to offer as an internet stream for at least a decade.



    Except for a very small, very vocal minority, I don't think anyone cares about having, or not having, Blu-Ray in Macs. It's just really not an issue for most people.
  • Reply 6 of 81
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by anonymouse View Post


    Except for a very small, very vocal minority, I don't think anyone cares about having, or not having, Blu-Ray in Macs. It's just really not an issue for most people.



    As opposed to the droves of customers demanding 24-bit songs?
  • Reply 7 of 81
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Cory Bauer View Post


    As opposed to the droves of customers demanding 24-bit songs?



    The numbers probably are vastly greater, but it doesn't exactly require them to install 24-bit song drives in their hardware, so it's not really the same thing at all.
  • Reply 8 of 81
    Why do I get the sinking feeling that Apple would only offer 24-bit audio in a proprietary format?



    I've given up hope that Apple would ever support FLAC in iTunes, but FLAC provides a great possibility for 24-bit/Lossless audio, and is in relatively widespread use and royalty free. Hell, the Beatles' caretakers released all of their material as 24-bit FLAC quite a while ago.



    However, I must say I see no chance in hell of this actually happening. I just can't see Apple making the jump from 16-bit 256kbps. Apple is all about high profit margins, and offering the iTunes catalogue as 24-bit lossless would required quintupling or sextupling their server space and bandwidth... Right now iTunes earns them incredible money with very little overhead. They have no real reason to push higher quality music than their competitors, unless they're worried by what Google will offer or that Amazon is gaining ground in the MP3 market.



    Lots of people have written to them about FLAC support, and they haven't even acknowledged the format exists, so I can't see them jumping on the 24-bit wagon, which few people have even imagined asking for...



    Anyways, 24-bit sound coming from an iPod or iPhone or Macbook would be totally overkill, as the D/A converters Apple uses in their products are pretty much the shittiest you can find (that goes for pretty much the entire computer industry).
  • Reply 9 of 81
    I am not shocked about this possible move. Apple would probably find baby steps easier to achieve.



    But my question is if they will do the reduced priced upgrades again like when they went Plus
  • Reply 10 of 81
    If Apple offers lossless audio in iTunes, I'll buy it from iTunes instead of ripping from a CD.
  • Reply 11 of 81
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Shrike View Post


    If Apple offers lossless audio in iTunes, I'll buy it from iTunes instead of ripping from a CD.



    Same here. 24/96 downloads via iTunes is the only thing that would get me to stop buying CDs and start buying music via iTunes...until then I'll remain old-school.



    Bill
  • Reply 12 of 81
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by anonymouse View Post


    The numbers probably are vastly greater, but it doesn't exactly require them to install 24-bit song drives in their hardware, so it's not really the same thing at all.



    Well the AppleInsider article suggests that new hardware would be required to support 24-bit audio as well. And again, for a difference no one will be able to hear. Especially given the abysmal speakers Apple installs in their computers, displays and iOS devices.
  • Reply 13 of 81
    no need for 24bit if it's gonna be compressed, just offer everything in lossless - that's all i'm asking for
  • Reply 14 of 81
    iTunes and all iPods support this format. Okay the files would be much larger, but the sound quality is noticeably improved. There's not much point in increasing the bit/sample rate if you are then going to throw away a large chunk of the information by compressing it using AAC.



    It makes me laugh to see people spend a fortune on high-end audio equipment (e.g. valve amps) with iPod docks and then play MP3 files through it.



    If Apple made true hi-fidelity recordings available through the iTunes Store I might be tempted to buy more through it. At the moment I prefer to buy CDs (which can often be picked up for less money than the download) and import using Apple Lossless to get true CD quality.
  • Reply 15 of 81
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Cory Bauer View Post


    So Apple won't give us Blu-Ray, a huge leap forward in quality over the DVD drives they offer now, but they want to increase song files from 16 to 24 bits, a virtually inaudible upgrade?



    I love film, studied it and worked in entertainment... that combined with being a gadget freak I probably should be touting BluRay. But I honestly can't understand some peoples unwillingness to let go of BluRay...



    The people still hanging onto this dying technology isn't that bad of a thing considering it'll only push pure-digital to move forward faster...



    But the idea of owning discs, one per film, is just so unappealing. It's such a waste! Have people forgotten how good it felt to give away all those CDs taking up space?



    Com'on Netflix/Apple & co. - Please make some 1080p strides this year! I'm patiently waiting



    p.s. buying physical discs = fail unless you're completely cut off from the internet.
  • Reply 16 of 81
    xsuxsu Posts: 401member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Superbass View Post


    Why do I get the sinking feeling that Apple would only offer 24-bit audio in a proprietary format?



    I've given up hope that Apple would ever support FLAC in iTunes, but FLAC provides a great possibility for 24-bit/Lossless audio, and is in relatively widespread use and royalty free. Hell, the Beatles' caretakers released all of their material as 24-bit FLAC quite a while ago.



    However, I must say I see no chance in hell of this actually happening. I just can't see Apple making the jump from 16-bit 256kbps. Apple is all about high profit margins, and offering the iTunes catalogue as 24-bit lossless would required quintupling or sextupling their server space and bandwidth... Right now iTunes earns them incredible money with very little overhead. They have no real reason to push higher quality music than their competitors, unless they're worried by what Google will offer or that Amazon is gaining ground in the MP3 market.



    I can see a pretty good chance of that happening. Apple will sell those 24bit versions at a higher price point than 16bit files. Thereby justifying the increased overhead cost. People who buy these files will play them on more serious equipments than Apple's stock speakers, so the difference can be heard, and they will think it's great.
  • Reply 17 of 81
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Cory Bauer View Post


    Offering 1080p and offering Blu-Ray is two very different things. Blu-Ray's quality comes from not only being 1080p but also having massive bitrates for both video and audio. Bitrates that result in file sizes no one will be able to offer as an internet stream for at least a decade.



    I wouldn't worry about Blu-Ray. It's not going to be long before the format is established enough that blu-ray-capable drives will be the norm. Once critical mass has been achieved, Apple will have no choice but to offer, at the very least, drives able to read blu-ray disks.



    The biggest obstacle to blu-ray succeeding has been removed. I own a PS3 and regularly purchase blu-rays for a reasonable price, usually below $20 Cdn. I think that the industry is moving towards reasonable prices for regular blu-rays, reserving premium prices for 3D blu-ray titles.



    Digital downloads are problematic. They require more compression and you have to deal with storing the file in potentially unstable ways. A blu-ray disk, on the other hand, will likely reliably hold a movie file for many years.



    If it's going to take years for digital downloads to approach the quality already available with blu-ray, why bother? My blu-ray library is already up to around 30 titles and most of those cost me less to purchase than the cost of an HD digital download off of iTunes. You have to shop around for deals but they are there.



    If this is about Apple rendering optical media like blu-ray irrelevant, it's not going to work. Once Apple realizes this, blu-ray drives for Macs will surely follow.
  • Reply 18 of 81
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Superbass View Post


    Why do I get the sinking feeling that Apple would only offer 24-bit audio in a proprietary format?



    I've given up hope that Apple would ever support FLAC in iTunes, but FLAC provides a great possibility for 24-bit/Lossless audio, and is in relatively widespread use and royalty free. Hell, the Beatles' caretakers released all of their material as 24-bit FLAC quite a while ago.



    However, I must say I see no chance in hell of this actually happening. I just can't see Apple making the jump from 16-bit 256kbps. Apple is all about high profit margins, and offering the iTunes catalogue as 24-bit lossless would required quintupling or sextupling their server space and bandwidth... Right now iTunes earns them incredible money with very little overhead. They have no real reason to push higher quality music than their competitors, unless they're worried by what Google will offer or that Amazon is gaining ground in the MP3 market.



    Lots of people have written to them about FLAC support, and they haven't even acknowledged the format exists, so I can't see them jumping on the 24-bit wagon, which few people have even imagined asking for...



    Anyways, 24-bit sound coming from an iPod or iPhone or Macbook would be totally overkill, as the D/A converters Apple uses in their products are pretty much the shittiest you can find (that goes for pretty much the entire computer industry).



    Why does no one know about Apple Lossless? Aka ALAC.... It is full lossless audio that is the same 24-bit sound and high kbps as regular FLAC. Plus ALAC is supported by all iPods by now. So basically theres no need for FLAC when Apple has its own coding .m4a so if Apple did start selling lossless then it would probably be ALAC and not FLAC. Though you can make the change between the two using the program XLD to how ever you may want.



    Oh and @Superbass this isn't really directed at you but more in general.





    LEARN ABOUT ALAC PEOPLE!
  • Reply 19 of 81
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Jotbolger View Post


    iTunes and all iPods support this format. Okay the files would be much larger, but the sound quality is noticeably improved. There's not much point in increasing the bit/sample rate if you are then going to throw away a large chunk of the information by compressing it using AAC.



    It makes me laugh to see people spend a fortune on high-end audio equipment (e.g. valve amps) with iPod docks and then play MP3 files through it.



    If Apple made true hi-fidelity recordings available through the iTunes Store I might be tempted to buy more through it. At the moment I prefer to buy CDs (which can often be picked up for less money than the download) and import using Apple Lossless to get true CD quality.



    AHHH! an ALAC buddy! haha you beat my post but yeah I totally agree!
  • Reply 20 of 81
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by wgb113 View Post


    Same here. 24/96 downloads via iTunes is the only thing that would get me to stop buying CDs and start buying music via iTunes...until then I'll remain old-school.



    Bill



    I don't think you are legally allowed to used the term "old school" with CDs. That is reserved for audiophiles who think nothing but vinyl sounds good.
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