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Rumor: Apple considering entry into high-definition music? [u]

updated 10:18 pm EDT, Thu April 10, 2014

Might accompany rumored overhaul of iTunes Store

[Updated with Apple hiring details] Following on the heels of a claim that Apple is planning to "dramatically" overhaul the iTunes music store in the near future, a previous rumor that the company was considering offering "high-resolution" 24-bit music tracks has gained new currency. Apple has been reported to be looking for ways to boost digital music sales, which have seen a slump as users spend more time listening to on-demand streaming services like Spotify. The higher-quality music files would likely be offered in a lossless format.

Blogger Robert Hutton has pointed out that Apple already has all the infrastructure in place to offer high-quality music files, since it has been requiring studios to provide 24-bit uncompressed music masters to use as part of its "Mastered for iTunes" initiative. In addition, the company already has an open-source, lossless format that iTunes supports, called ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Codec) that can handle up to 24bit/96kHz. Unlike most other lossless formats, ALAC can save up to 50 percent in file size compared to an uncompressed file and remain lossless.

Hutton speculates that Apple would charge an additional $1 over the normal price of the track to offer it in the lossless format, potentially helping to offset the roughly 5x increase in bandwidth needed to deliver the larger ALAC files (compared to a typical MP3 or AAC file, which broadly takes one-tenth the size of an uncompressed copy). Citing unnamed sources, Hutton says Apple will time the high-resolution music launch to coincide with the remastering of three Led Zeppelin albums, expected in late spring or early summer.

[Update] Fueling the current wave of speculation about iTunes, Apple has posted four new job listings on its website that reinforce the notion that changes are coming. The company is looking to hire a team of iTunes Software Engineers to "build and enhance features driving the iTunes Store, App Store and the iBookstore"; a Senior Software Engineer for iTunes Radio, and iTunes Recommendations Platform Software Engineer to help handle features related to music discovery, such as iTunes Genius and iTunes Match.

There has been speculation that Apple is planning to move iTunes Radio to its own app for mobile and Mac, and it has been expected that the company will soon announce expansion of the Radio service into additional countries. Dubious rumors have even suggested that Apple might consider building an iTunes app for Android, or create another, more on-demand streaming service to compete against rivals like Spotify and Rdio.



By Electronista Staff
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Comments

  1. ljmac

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 11-07-10

    About time! I've never bought anything from iTunes, as I feel paying for anything in a lossy format is false economy - instead I've used MP3s to allow me to audition potential CD purchases. To be able to purchase lossless, high definition music from a music library the size of iTunes' is a music lover's dream come true.

  1. JeffHarris

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 10-11-99

    @ljmac...
    Yep, same here. I've never bought anything from the iTunes music Store because I refuse to buy low-res recordings. Also, my musical tastes tend toward the obscure, or what a Deutsche Grammophon rep called "specialist" music, so it's difficult for me to find much of interest, or recordings I don't already own.

    Hopefully Apple will do the right thing and go 24-bit or at least Apple Lossless, which is what I rip my CDs at. If iTunes started supporting FLAC, that would be cool, too.

    Also, I'd love to see a high-capacity, solid state iPod in the 256GB realm for those of us who care about sound quality over sheer numbers of "songs" in low-bit rate recordings.

  1. msuper69

    Professional Poster

    Joined: 01-16-00

    Now all I need are replacement lossless ears; age makes high-resolution music moot.

  1. Spheric Harlot

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 11-07-99

    Originally Posted by msuper69View Post

    Now all I need are replacement lossless ears; age makes high-resolution music moot.



    That is false.

    It makes high sampling rates moot, but not higher bitrates.

  1. Spheric Harlot

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 11-07-99

    Originally Posted by JeffHarrisView Post

    Hopefully Apple will do the right thing and go 24-bit or at least Apple Lossless, which is what I rip my CDs at. If iTunes started supporting FLAC, that would be cool, too.



    Use XLD to convert to Apple Lossless, while retaining full metadata.

  1. JackWebb

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 08-31-07

    In my experience it is difficult to come across anyone who can notice the difference between 256 AAC and Lossless, let alone more obvious bit rate differences that I'm actually able to notice. And even then people don't seem to care, use crummy earbuds that negate any advantage, etc. Some can be educated but many still don't care. Also as is pointed out in the comments here, the space ceiling has remained at 160GB since 2009 since we were all being pushed more and more to the cloud. So this would be good but I'd say it i would be a niche and add little to offsetting the slump of purchases.

  1. tehwoz

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 12-19-13

    I'd much rather have my hi-rez music on SACD. First, because SACDs provide not only hires PCM, but also hi-res pure DSD ... which is as close to analog as you can get with a digital format, and which most audiophiles consider to be the ultimate in natural warm sound. SECOND, because downloads are sunk costs that retain zero value, so it's just money down the drain if you don't like it. By contrast, many SACDs sell out, and become rare and collectible ... and if you don't like them, you can sell them and get some mullah back. Third, the latest SACD players (e.g. Marantz, Luxman etc) let you play all your SACDs and of course all your CDs, but also let you use them as a hi-res DAC to play downloads from your computer. So it kinda captures all bases for me.

  1. tehwoz

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 12-19-13

    ljmac wrote: "To be able to purchase lossless, high definition music from a music library the size of iTunes' is a music lover's dream come true"
    ==================================
    Ah - but in fact, there are relatively few recordings out there that (a) were actually recorded in true hi-res, and (b) that were not then edited using CD resolution editing software. Most of what is available is ripped from hi-res SACD discs ... and even in the SACD repertoire, you have to be very careful that the recording is really a hi-res recording to start with. There is a lot of naughtiness going on, which you can often check for by doing a frequency spectrum analysis on the recording ... if it has been edited using CD resolution software, you will see sharp cut-offs at 22kHz etc Caveat emptor!

  1. Spheric Harlot

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 11-07-99

    Just having whatever the original resolution is in a lossless format (and everybody has been working in 24 bits for at least a decade now, while 2x and 4x sampling rates have been mostly deemed "not worth it") would be fine and offer the kind of future-proofing I'd desire from purchased media: the ability to transcode at zero loss into whatever future format may become ubiquitous/required eventually, from a full-resolution master.

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