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Apple may be about to raise the quality of iTunes music downloads

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iTunes 11
Music to your ears: could Apple be getting ready to significantly increase the quality of iTunes downloads?

Apple is rumoured to be planning to increase the quality of iTunes music downloads.

Such a change would be long overdue. The iTunes music store last changed its quality level in 2009 but it still uses a relatively “lossy” compressed AAC format, which leaves much to be desired, especially by audiophiles.

According to Evolver.fm, sound engineer Tony Faulkner says that Apple asked him for high resolution 96kHz/24-bit WAV files of some of his recordings.

“I was asked to remaster some of our past hi-res LSO [London Symphony Orchestra] Live recordings for iTunes,” Faulkner said via email. “They were originally recorded at 176k4 and iTunes asked for 96k/24 uncompressed wavs. So far they have only appeared as new ‘Mastered for iTunes’ lossy 44k1 downsamples.”

Evolver.fm suggests that Apple could be doing that to make its own “Mastered for iTunes” versions, because having a higher-resolution version to start with makes for better processing. However, it may also mean that Apple intends to begin offering a high-res download option.

Mastered for iTunes

Apple’s iTunes software has contained a lossless audio option for years, but this higher quality format is only available when ripping CDs, not for purchased downloads. There have often been calls for online music downloads to offer better quality formats, as some record labels do, using formats such as FLAC. Of course, they use up more memory storage and can drain the battery charge in portable gadgets quicker due to increases in data handling.

Faulkner added, “There has been regular tittle tattle about both lossless and 96k downloads on iTunes in the future, but the last I heard there were still issues for Apple with battery life of their portable devices. Battery life of a cellphone should not uniquely define the parameters for the quality of the reproduction of music, not in my book anyway.”

Apple is about to release the substantially reworked iTunes 11, although its release has been slightly delayed. Could the company be hoping to make its music downloads sound better too? Tell us what you think on the Trusted Reviews Twitter and Facebook feeds or via the comments boxes below.


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