iTunes 11 (Albums)

Rumor has it that Apple is considering taking drastic measures to reverse declining music sales. Billboard says the company is looking into several options, including giving its iTunes store a ‘drastic’ overhaul, opening up iTunes to Android users, and launching an on-demand streaming music service.

Apple may also be planning to add high-resolution audio to its digital library soon as part of its turnaround efforts, according to music blogger Robert Hutton. Citing sources familiar with the company’s plans, Hutton says the iPhone-maker could launch new hi-res music downloads as early as WWDC

Here’s more from Hutton’s blog post (via MacRumors):

For several years, Apple have been insisting that labels provide files for iTunes in 24 bit format – preferably 96k or 192k sampling rate. So they have undeniably the biggest catalog of hi-res audio in the world. 

And the Led Zeppelin remasters in high resolution will be the kick off event – to coincide with Led Zep in hi-res, Apple will flip the switch and launch their hi-res store via iTunes – and apparently, it will be priced a buck above the typical current file prices. 

That’s right – Apple will launch hi-res iTunes in two months.

Hutton doesn’t name his source, and we aren’t very familiar with his track record, but we do know that Apple has long been interested in adding higher quality music to iTunes. In fact, it’s been reported that Steve Jobs was working on hardware to store and play back “high-quality audio” before he passed away.

Consumers seem to be interested in higher-res digital music as well—just take a look at the Pono Music Kickstarter, led by musician Neil Young. With 4 days left in the project, over 17,000 backers have pledged nearly $6 million to bring the 24-bit music player to life. It’s expected to begin shipping in October.

So there’s obviously a market for 24-bit music, and Apple’s obviously interested. But the big question is, are they interested enough to make a move?

  • disqus_gI40aFty0t

    Is the analog output on any apple phone able to reproduce hi res audio ?
    Leaves alot Q n A ……
    What is the spec on analog out of the current phone
    Signal to noise / harmonic distortion etc ….

    • Melvco

      yes current hardware capability/future product capability are both huge question marks in this scenario. i.e.: would I have to buy a special iPod to play 24-bit music?

      Coincidentally, this could make the iPod line slightly interesting again.

      • disqus_gI40aFty0t

        90% of people I know run their ipod into a stereo ( not a hi fi )
        And they pump it with the volume on the ipod at 100%
        This is already not using the quality already offered

      • Melvco

        excellent point. I often listen to music from my iPhone over bluetooth.

      • disqus_gI40aFty0t

        Had not even thought about Bluetooth

      • The iPod and the iPhone are already capable of playing 24-bit files at any frequency rate (from 44.1 to 192 kHz).

        Apple has just made iTunes forbid to sync music to these devices at quality over 24-bit, 48 kHz — maybe because of relative battery drain.

        When I use a 3rd-party tool, like iTools, to send music in ALAC 24-bit, 96 kHz to my iPhone, the music app is able to recognise and play them without any problem, and I don’t notice any battery drain.

        3rd-party players, like Golden Ears, are able to play high resolution files to any quality too.

        For sure, it’s stupid to send such a high resolution music to a non-audiophile decoder like the iPhone, but I’ve got a very large audio library and I’m simply too lazy to make a lighter version of a song before sending it to my device.

  • jack

    Afaik cd quality is as high as humans can perceive

    • disqus_gI40aFty0t

      But not dynamic range !
      I.E the loudest and quietest sound cd can reproduce

    • disqusted

      Humans can hear generally, at their best years (very young child) from about 20Hz to 20,000Hz. Per Nyquist’s theorem, to reproduce any given sound, the bandwidth must be at least double the frequency (Hz) of the sound range you want to produce. So, given that the best a human can do is 20,000Hz, we need at least 40,000Hz of bandwidth to reproduce that sound without loss or distortion. Curiously (though not coincidentally) CD quality is 44,150Hz (per channel). That extra bit is them adding an extra 2,000Hz per channel to pad any superhuman hearing of 22,000Hz. Some people have super hearing and can pass an ABX listening test at 22kHz. MOST people cannot. In fact, by your later teen years or so, your hearing high end has likely dropped to 18,000Hz or less. High frequencies go first in hearing loss (generally).

      So even the CD’s frequency of 44.1kHz is overkill for most. Sampling rate is how often or how small the rate of time between samplings of the current frequency of audio. This is how often on the X(horizontal) axis of a waveform. But at some point it’s all smoke and mirrors and a gimmick. What that point is depends on the listener, the equipment used to reproduce the sound, the environment, etc. Too many to say any definite thing but I think to say 196 sampling rate is ridiculous is pretty safe. There’s one thing I can say for certain, apple’s current crap will make these pointless. Their earbuds cannot even faithfully reproduce what they’re already using. It doesn’t take a master’s degree in audio acoustic engineering to figure that out…

      • oralarts

        Thanks for taking the time to explain this in such great detail.

  • disqusted

    Also don’t look past the fact that DIGITAL music is an unnatural, synthetic translation/representation of a natural phenomenon. Music or sound in general in the real world isn’t digital or binary. It is an oscillating frequency, much like the digital waveform, but it is frequency (pitch) combined with amplitude (air pressure) and direction. These are all modeled after each other in a digital system, but not perfectly. For instance, “direction” (of the source creating the original waveform) was not even modeled or attempted to be reproduced until recently via multiple channels and an algorithm of passing a real time waveform across some (again, some recreated false model) of distance (15′ in your living room?) to create the illusion of movement and direction of sound. Still, even though it’s cool and is a good illusion most times, it will never be able to truly reproduce the same natural phenomenon faithfully. It is limited by numbers of speakers and their spatial positioning.

    Don’t get me wrong, it’s fascinating and an amazing accomplishment to create a synthetic 3d sound environment but it’s still exactly that. Synthetic and only a best representation of the real thing.

    You can apply this limitation to our digital representation of sound through digital waveforms but even more so. In music, short of a very rudimentary representation of “direction” in sound by STEREO and allowing a sound to be HARD PANNED to left or right channels/ears… there’s no up-down representation allowed for… And there’s no real direction on any other axis short of psycho-acoustic modeling in effects such as soft-panning to simulate the sound slowly moving from one side of the channel to the other over time.

    We can add echo and reverb and the like to emulate sound bouncing back from nearby objects— and we do all of these things. But just remember that sound in “reality” is three dimensional, always is and always will be. (Don’t go quantum physics on me here, please). Sound/waveforms do not move on a single, perfect 0° horizontal axis. They move in 3 dimensions or axes, what we’d call height, depth and width or x,y,z on a graph such as using a Cartesian plane. Time isn’t a dimension; a dimension is spatial. That’s why we say time AND space. A fourth dimension isn’t time, the two are separate concepts. Now. You’re asking what’s the point mr. Philosophical idiot? Well, nothing in particular. Sometimes it’s just good to think about things from new perspectives. Keeps you from becoming (or at least remaining) ignorant of things. Just learn something or think about something sometimes. People do it because it makes them more aware of what’s in or around them. Point, if I had to make one, is that even if they do something to say they improve sound, it’s still never going to be much but a half-assed pseudo-recreation of the real thing. It’s like virtual reality sex. Never going to do justice to the real thing. So get out and support your local live music scene!!! (Jk, thought I’d given it some hackneyed, clichè “purposeful” aim). Sorry. It’s just thought. Pointless, as long as you feel it is so… or full of good points, if you decide to absorb the suggestions rather than give it a cursory, superficial glance over.

    • ChildishGambinoGotThatSwagger

      I like high quality music too….

      • disqusted

        LOL. I love it.

      • ChildishGambinoGotThatSwagger

        The length of the entire post was intimidating but I see what you are saying.

  • Sean Clark

    Buying a song in the early 2000s was new and exciting. We were no longer forced to buy an entire album just for one song. It saved us money and delivered what we wanted almost instantly.

    With the rise of subscription music, we are seeing that all over again. Spotify is winning exactly why iTunes won before. We didn’t want to buy an album to hear a song, and now we don’t even have to buy a song to hear a song.

    iTunes is going the way of the record store. Record stores argued that their medium sounded better and people wanted to own a physical copy. iTunes is arguing that their medium sounds better and people want to own a digital copy. I sure hope they have more to offer than that, because they have already proven the argument wrong.

    • disqusted

      My reason to this day for buying CDs is just that. I’m an old schooler. I’m in my early 30’s. I grew up buying CDs and was used to the fun of having that physical collection with the liner notes and lyrics, etc. To me, if they’re the same price, why WOULD I buy the digital version? I like having something physical to show for my money not some vapid concept. Plus, it keeps me honest. In a fully digital world I can’t promise I would buy a lot of stuff cause it’s literally easier and faster and without ties to a certain account (that I can’t fkn change, that pisses me off that you can’t change the account name/email your purchases are tied to. How is that not a form of drm?)

      Plus, I can do a lossless rip of the cd when I buy it then any format/bitrate I can transcode to on the fly. Where’s the downside? And all apple is doing is taking uncompressed CD quality wave files from the CD and encoding them into a LOSSY AAC/MP4/M4A format. Anyone think a 256kbps m4a lossy audio file is BETTER than a 1411.2kbps uncompressed WAV file? Not to mention psychoacoustic fake outs like interpolated stereo channels that combine true stereo streams into 1 mixed stream that emulates stereo as needed to save bits by not having to encode two separate channels with similar audio? Sounds like a neat idea. Can you tell the diff between true stereo and the modeled? Probably not. Point is only that the argument that standard iTunes Plus m4a files are superior to CDDA+CIRC encoding by anyone, as said, is stupid. If anyone ever says that lol. I don’t know that anyone did. The possibility stirs me up though. Big Pharma does this spin all the time to convince people that SoonExpiringDrugPatent drug is inferior to their new BrandNewPatentDrug XR! It’s a gimmick. If you understand pharmacokinetics and all this, the company tells you themselves the new drug is no different than taking the old drug 2x a day at 6hrs apart. Bioequivalent. The only real benefit is you only have to take it once a day vs twice. Oh wow. Also, they extend their drug patent and manufacturing exclusivity for years and years more without incurring any real R&D overhead – the real incentive. That makes the new one all profit. As if $300 a month for a medicine wasn’t high enough. Never trust a company that makes billions of dollars a year, ok? They’re not making billions of dollars a year by being honest and moral and fair. That just doesn’t work. If you won’t lie your competition is more than willing to, to get the upper hand. It’s sick and wrong but it’s the real world. Time to wake up everyone. It’s not *your* best interest any company gives a f*** about.

      • disqusted

        You’re awesome! I agree with you 100%! It’s like we share the same mind! You didn’t go into the most excessive detail possible and I’m a bit let down by that. You didn’t point out that Apple’s audio format, the M4A is merely a bastardized version of the MP4 container. They added bits of metadata called “atoms” in which they store hidden info like your account email, purchase details like time and date and a unique identifier, often further hidden since these atoms can include XML data streams. In fact, they had to get the ISO board to grant them (Apple) their very own version of the MP4 container, an offshoot of the one everyone else uses (.MP4).

        So .M4A is the same thing as a
        .MP4 container file, just with a few changes Apple wanted to make.

        Inside of the M4A container is an AAC encoded audio stream. It is a compressed/lossy format of audio.

        The WAV files on a CD are uncompressed LPCM audio streams at 44,100kHz per second @ 16-bit (x 2), because it has two independent stereo audio channels.

        If you want to know about bit depth and sampling rates, you may want to look into what they call quantization, and branch out from there. Find out for yourselves what is true, what is BS… and most importantly, WHY… so when ignorant people challenge your statements, you will be able to back them up. They likely will have no idea wtf they’re talking about, and they’ll look like an ignorant jackass who just says things because their cousin Rodney told them so. And he works for the Pest company that sprays for roaches so he knows a lot about acoustic engineering and what not and has always been reliable when it comes to the technical aspects of, well, anything and everything. If it’s technical, he’s technic-able.

  • Sandy Cook

    24/192 is counter productive. Just give us FLAC

    • disqusted

      FLAC is GOD, don’t get me wrong, it’s what I use for lossless. But it’s old as sh*t! They haven’t updated it in soooo long. Not that the codec is flawed, but it has limitations, such as only being able to encode using a single core (fact). Being open source, there have been some experimental guys who have come up with things like FLACudda (which uses the much faster graphics card threading model to encode at much higher speeds) and several others like FLaKe (same dev I think)- who ended up abandoning them in beta I think for whatever reasons. But yes, though awesome, it could use an update for this decade. If for nothing else to speed it up a bit, though even for me encoding an average length song using -v8 (highest compression) only takes a minute, maybe. Full cd like 8-10 minutes and that might even be too long. It’s not even a real problem at all. Just saying. It could be improved in the aspects that do not affect audio quality (it couldn’t anyways because it’s lossless. It can’t affect audio quality by very definition).

  • disqus_gI40aFty0t

    At the end of the day
    Everyone wants better cars ( are they good drivers )
    Everyone wants better tvs ( what do they look at )
    Every one wants better audio ( what do they hear )
    Over n out