Apple Plans to Enhance iTunes with High-Quality Music Downloads

Apple Plans to Enhance iTunes with High-Quality Music Downloads

For a long time, a segment of Apple’s clientele has been clamoring for higher fidelity audio from the iTunes Store. Apple employs AAC encoding, which, while superior to the typical MP3, is still a lossy format. Competing services such as HDtracks are stepping up by offering higher quality downloads. Artists like Neil Young are also advocating for higher quality, with initiatives like his Pono hardware and music download store, aiming to let listeners experience music as it was intended to be heard. These efforts are predicated on the belief that consumers desire better quality than what is currently offered by Apple.

An observant reader recently spotted a new release on the iTunes Store — Knives to the Future by Project 86, labeled as a “24-Bit Master.” This might be a first for the iTunes Store, or it could be that such listings have previously gone unnoticed.

Apple Plans to Enhance iTunes with High-Quality Music Downloads

The 24-Bit mastering suggests a higher quality download than what is typically available. It could also indicate Apple’s ongoing efforts to encourage music producers to provide the highest quality masters for iTunes encoding. According to Apple’s guidelines for producers:

“To optimize our latest encoders, send us the highest resolution master file feasible, suitable for the medium and the project.”

“An optimal master would have a 24-bit 96kHz resolution. These files provide more details, allowing our encoders to produce more accurate encodes. However, any resolution higher than 16-bit 44.1kHz, including sample rates of 48kHz, 88.2kHz, 96kHz, and 192kHz, will enhance our encoding process.”

Most modern studio tracks are recorded in 24-bit.

It’s likely that Apple isn’t yet distributing higher resolution files but is instead receiving them in this format. Apple has maintained in various forums that it believes iTunes downloads currently offer the highest quality that is feasibly achievable. While these may not reach CD quality, Apple contends that the differences are negligible. Audiophiles, however, may disagree. It appears that the album in question was supplied to Apple in a 24-bit master format, which was then re-encoded to AAC.

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Larry is a dedicated writer for TUAW, bringing a wealth of knowledge and enthusiasm to the Apple news community. With a keen eye for detail, Larry covers everything from the latest iPhone releases to in-depth reviews of the MacBook Pro and Apple Watch. His insightful articles help readers stay informed about the ever-evolving world of Apple products. Larry’s commitment to delivering accurate and engaging content makes him a valued member of the TUAW team.