Rumor: Apple to offer hi-res 24-bit tracks on iTunes in coming months

Posted:
in iPod + iTunes + AppleTV edited February 2015
Following a report that Apple is considering a major overhaul of iTunes, an overlooked rumor from March suggests the company may also be planning an entry into the high-definition music industry with 24-bit tracks.



Citing an unnamed source, blogger Robert Hutton claims Apple will launch hi-res audio sales "in two months" to coincide with the release of three Led Zeppelin remasters.

According to Hutton, Apple will be charging an addition dollar for high-resolution tracks, suggesting the new feature will be offered inline with the usual iTunes track and album purchase options.

Apple currently requires publishers provide 24-bit ALAC tracks with high sampling rates to increase sound quality when transcoded to the lossy AAC format currently available on iTunes. Like the MP3 codec, AAC cuts a good portion of data from the original mastered version, trading subtle nuances in dynamic range, fidelity, detail and other sound quality metrics for smaller file sizes.

Backing up the rumor is Apple's "Mastered for iTunes" initiative, which provides studios with specialized software -- specifically AU Lab -- to check how AAC conversion affects the uncompressed masters. Studios then pass the original 24-bit masters (at varying sampling rates) to iTunes, which creates lossless files and encodes them into 16-bit AAC tracks. This means Apple has a huge repository of lossless music.

Being light on details, however, the blog post, spotted by MacRumors, is somewhat suspicious and Hutton mainly uses known Apple operating procedures to back up his claims. Still, the idea is not out of the realm of possibility given rumblings of a "dramatic" iTunes music store overhaul.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 154
    mpantonempantone Posts: 1,429member
    I sure hope this rumor is true.

    The iTunes Store would then be the place to buy classical music.
  • Reply 2 of 154
    I'm looking forward to experiencing music from the Pono music player. It will be better quality than this alleged Mastered for iTunes product. Pono will use FLAC files and be capable of using other industry standard files of lesser quality.

    I doubt any process will be as good as original vinyl recordings on a good system but Pono will certainly be the top of the line standard for a while to come. They will debut in the summer of 2014.
  • Reply 3 of 154
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 7,311member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Smallwheels View Post



    I'm looking forward to experiencing music from the Pono music player. It will be better quality than this alleged Mastered for iTunes product. Pono will use FLAC files and be capable of using other industry standard files of lesser quality.



    I doubt any process will be as good as original vinyl recordings on a good system but Pono will certainly be the top of the line standard for a while to come. They will debut in the summer of 2014.

    Spare us the drama will you. Pono is already being panned by critics as not worth the money. It’ll be used by a few wacked out audiophiles who live for specs but can’t tell the difference, and priced up there with those granite slab turntables.

  • Reply 4 of 154
    How much will they charge me to "upgrade" the songs I've already purchased this time? Last time it was $.69 per song or $.33 per song I think...

    Then there was the aggravating issue where songs I had purchased were no longer available on the iTunes Store for whatever reason.

    I hope it's a free upgrade if your a current iTunes Match subscriber.
  • Reply 5 of 154
    slurpyslurpy Posts: 5,179member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Smallwheels View Post



    I'm looking forward to experiencing music from the Pono music player. It will be better quality than this alleged Mastered for iTunes product. Pono will use FLAC files and be capable of using other industry standard files of lesser quality.



    I doubt any process will be as good as original vinyl recordings on a good system but Pono will certainly be the top of the line standard for a while to come. They will debut in the summer of 2014.

     

    How much were you paid for that post? Or are you an unpaid shill?

  • Reply 6 of 154
    creepcreep Posts: 80member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by mpantone View Post



    I sure hope this rumor is true.



    The iTunes Store would then be the place to buy classical music.

    Their catalog would be the largest, for sure, but sites like HDTracks have been doing this for a while.

  • Reply 7 of 154
    While this would be a step in the right direction, it is a small step and a few years too late. The file format that is today considered the best is downloading DSD files and DSD Multichannel files. If Apple did that, then they would be back out in front as an innovator again.
  • Reply 8 of 154
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by lkrupp View Post

     

    Spare us the drama will you. Pono is already being panned by critics as not worth the money. It’ll be used by a few wacked out audiophiles who live for specs but can’t tell the difference, and priced up there with those granite slab turntables.




    I understand the crap the digital techno guys spread. I trust the opinions of the musicians who have compared the Pono to other digital music players. I'll side with them. They get to hear the master tracks that they create. When they say that Pono is better quality than other formats they've heard I believe them.

     

    I've seen the video technical explanations about how humans can't tell the difference because of certain parameters and how the rounding of the steps between each digital sample makes digital just as good as analog. It just isn't true. I don't care if people think of me as a "wacked out audiophile".

     

    The hardware used in digital music reproduction does have a huge effect on the quality of the sound. If Apple just adopts a higher quality file it will sound better but it just won't be anywhere near as good as a high end Pono music player.

  • Reply 9 of 154
    drblankdrblank Posts: 3,383member
    Pono was already out done by Astell & Kern, they do DSD now and they have better converters and they can play FLAC, so Pono is just Young's feeble attempt at 24 bit. Once Apple has 24 bit Mastered for ITunes, you probably won't be able to tell much between formats. It's not just the files, it's how good the DAC process is done. Pono will be dead in a couple of years, especially if Apple changes their iDevices and Computers with 24 bit DAC. But external DACs will be typically better than built in DACS due to more expensive components, better noise filtration, power supplies, etc. etc. there question is more about whether DSD is going to survive.
  • Reply 10 of 154
    drblankdrblank Posts: 3,383member

    I understand the crap the digital techno guys spread. I trust the opinions of the musicians who have compared the Pono to other digital music players. I'll side with them. They get to hear the master tracks that they create. When they say that Pono is better quality than other formats they've heard I believe them.

    I've seen the video technical explanations about how humans can't tell the difference because of certain parameters and how the rounding of the steps between each digital sample makes digital just as good as analog. It just isn't true. I don't care if people think of me as a "wacked out audiophile".

    The hardware used in digital music reproduction does have a huge effect on the quality of the sound. If Apple just adopts a higher quality file it will sound better but it just won't be anywhere near as good as a high end Pono music player.

    It all depends on the system and what one is used to listening to and if they can hear the differences. Can experts tell the difference between digital and analog? Well, it depends on the system. I saw a video of someone trying to compare a $150K turntable setup to a $50K digital system and they said it was VERY difficult to tell the difference. Now, most people can't afford either. So if you bought a VERY nice DAC that was priced the same as a turntable/tone arm/cartridge/phono pre amp/cables to a similarly priced DAC/Player, I think it is possible to get something that sounds pretty damn close of the same amount of money if you 're listening to well mastered files (24 or 16 bit or even DSD). Bt you still have to spend a little money on each setup. I'm sure within a $5,000 price point it's pretty close. just getting a decent cartridge costs $500+, a decent turntable costs $1500 to $2500, a decent phono pre amp costs at least $500 for something of decent quality, so the numbers add up fast. one can get a kick ass USB DAC for less than $2000 that will play anything.
  • Reply 11 of 154
    paxmanpaxman Posts: 4,613member
    An interesting review (of sorts) and good comments on the Pono and audio quality generally.
    http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/apr/05/pono-neil-young-24bit-192khz-review
  • Reply 12 of 154
    woochiferwoochifer Posts: 365member

    24-bit or not, if this means that those tracks will get transferred without dynamic range compression and without the levels constantly hitting up to the distortion/"digital zero" point, I'm all for it. While those issues also afflict a lot of CDs, the lack of attention to detail with many of the tracks I've purchased on iTunes is all too audible.

     

    Just looking at the volume adjustment levels when playing back tracks purchased on iTunes, most of them compensate at -4 db or more. By comparison, with most of my high res analog transfers from vinyl (or SACD analog playback) where I set the levels manually to just below clipping, the level compensation is right around 0 db or within 1 db +-.  If I set the input level 4 db higher on those transfers, the clipping would occur early and often. And that's what I see in the iTunes Store, and that's why I don't purchase Apple's tracks unless it's something out-of-print and/or exceedingly difficult to find on CD or vinyl.

     

    With SACD, DVD-A, and Blu-ray audio, the transfers aren't generally done with maximum loudness in mind, despite the extra headroom that those formats allow. If the 24-bit iTunes files are done in the same manner, they'll be well worth the extra cost. It's too bad that consumers have to pay extra just to get better mastering practices. But, more often than not, that comes with the territory with music released in high res formats.

  • Reply 13 of 154
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    I'm looking forward to experiencing music from the Pono music player. It will be better quality than this alleged Mastered for iTunes product. Pono will use FLAC files and be capable of using other industry standard files of lesser quality.

    I doubt any process will be as good as original vinyl recordings on a good system but Pono will certainly be the top of the line standard for a while to come. They will debut in the summer of 2014.

    1) I can't decide which is more overpriced, Pono and a Tolberone at an international airport terminal gift shop.

    2) Saying their music store will sell you FLAC files doesn't actually tell you anything about the source content. I can take an iTS song and turn it into Apple Lossless or FLAC but that doesn't mean the quality will be better because of that. Has there been any proof that the record company will be using masters that will Pono's use of a lossless codec to be fully recognized? To me that sounds like something that would be hard to negotiate.
  • Reply 14 of 154

    I'm insufficiently well-heeled to be purchasing Pono, but I'm appreciative to Neil Young for pursuing it.  There is no need for disrespectful comments I might add.  

     

    Do I correctly understand the upgrade rate quoted as a dollar per song?  Seems a bit steep for my budget, although I'm glad for the opportunity to upgrade the tracks I've already purchased.

  • Reply 15 of 154
    mr. hmr. h Posts: 4,740member
    makes digital just as good as analog. It just isn't true.

    You're right. Digital is better in every conceivable way. Except that some people who don't understand it convince themselves that it must be worse than vinyl and go on to perform poorly or not-at-all controlled comparisons which - surprise, surprise - reinforce their original viewpoint.
    woochifer wrote: »
    24-bit or not, if this means that those tracks will get transferred without dynamic range compression and without the levels constantly hitting up to the distortion/"digital zero" point, I'm all for it.

    This.

    This can quite often be the cause of vinyl sounding better - whilst it is worse in every way as a medium compared to CD (dynamic range, frequency response, wow & flutter, distortion) vinyl masters do not usually have their dynamic range compressed into oblivion.
  • Reply 16 of 154
    dasanman69dasanman69 Posts: 12,985member
    mpantone wrote: »
    I sure hope this rumor is true.

    The iTunes Store would then be the place to buy classical music.

    And jazz
  • Reply 17 of 154
    paxmanpaxman Posts: 4,613member
    mr. h wrote: »
    You're right. Digital is better in every conceivable way. Except that some people who don't understand it convince themselves that it must be worse than vinyl and go on to perform poorly or not-at-all controlled comparisons which - surprise, surprise - reinforce their original viewpoint.
    Music never really sounded great in the vinyl days unless it was played loudly (probably the same now). The thing is that audiophiles in those days (probably same now) spent a shocking amount of money on their gear. I had a teacher whose record player cartridge alone cost a couple of grand. No wonder it sounded better than some $200.- Bluetooth speakers.
  • Reply 18 of 154
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post





    1) I can't decide which is more overpriced, Pono and a Tolberone at an international airport terminal gift shop.



    2) Saying their music store will sell you FLAC files doesn't actually tell you anything about the source content. I can take an iTS song and turn it into Apple Lossless or FLAC but that doesn't mean the quality will be better because of that. Has there been any proof that the record company will be using masters that will Pono's use of a lossless codec to be fully recognized? To me that sounds like something that would be hard to negotiate.

    You're still being a turd SolipsismX. Go to the Ponomusic.com site and read about the music sources that will be used for the Pono approved files. The music player will have a special light that will appear on the screen when the highest resolution files are playing. 192 kHz/24 bit FLAC files are very different than Apples codex.

     

    The Astell & Kern AK 240 probably sounds awesome but how many people can spend $2500 for a portable music player? The Pono will cost $399. The Fiio X5 gets good reviews too for the same money. I'm eagerly awaiting the comparisons.

  • Reply 19 of 154
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    You're still being a turd SolipsismX. Go to the Ponomusic.com site and read about the music sources that will be used for the Pono approved files. The music player will have a special light that will appear on the screen when the highest resolution files are playing. 192 kHz/24 bit FLAC files are very different than Apples codex.

    The Astell & Kern AK 240 probably sounds awesome but how many people can spend $2500 for a portable music player? The Pono will cost $399. The Fiio X5 gets good reviews too for the same money. I'm eagerly awaiting the comparisons.

    1) Am I "turd" because I asked a question about negotiated master access or because I made a joke about PonoPlayer looking like a Tolberone, a design I find to be quite horrid for sliding in or out of one's pocket. Call me crazy but I happen to think a portable music player should actually be portable.

    2) Again, a "special light" appearing on the PonoPlayer when 192kHz @ 24-bit files are playing has absolutely no barring on the source it was taken from. Or are you saying that PonoPlayer actually can tell if the source if the original source or sources were 192kHz @ 24-bits, not just the file on the PonoPlayer itself.
  • Reply 20 of 154
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

    Apple currently requires publishers provide 24-bit ALAC tracks with high sampling rates to increase sound quality when transcoded to the lossy AAC format currently available on iTunes.

     

    Here’s an idea: JUST SELL THE ALAC TRACKS.

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