According to Robert Hutton, an online blogger, Apple is planning a major upgrade to iTunes that will put all other high-resolution audio download sites out of business. Here’s a quote from his blog (you can read the whole piece at Led Zeppelin and the Future of Hi-Res Audio Downloads):
“In two months or so – beginning of June – the first three Led Zeppelin remasters will be available. They are essentially available on iTunes in low-res form already.
For several years, Apple has 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.”
The rumors say that the cost of a “so-called” high-resolution audio download from iTunes will cost you around a dollar more than the current prices…somewhat near or just over $2.00 per track.
Robert’s correct that Apple has been urging the record labels to deliver their masters as 96 kHz/24-bit uncompressed PCM files. And I’ve been in meetings with the folks from the labels where they explained that more and more of their new artists are getting on board with the new specs. They also tell me that the older transfers are being revisited and remastered at higher sampling rates and using longer words.
However, nothing in the 96 kHz/24-bit files actually adds anything to the over compressed and vintage tracks that are touted as “Mastered for iTunes”. And old recording is still going to be an old recording and bound by the fidelity of the third generation EQ’d master.
I heard today that the project that was produced in the studio for one of the major labels and which was sent back to the mastering room twice is getting reworked by another mixer and will be remastered again. Why? Because the singer wants the project to be louder still. The final track will undoubtedly be output at 96 kHz/24-bits to match the new requirements of iTunes. It might even be available as a “high-resolution” download in ALAC format for those looking for better fidelity. Doesn’t anyone at the major labels or Apple understand that the fidelity has already been engineered out of the files long before iTunes makes them available?
It’s possible that Apple will jump on the “high-resolution audio” bandwagon. The Pono initiative and other less visible efforts are slowly turning the tide…but it’ll all be a myth. Apple’s devices don’t support high-resolution sample rate and longer words. So what’s the point? They’ll crank up their marketing machine and try to make everyone believe that the old standard definition stuff is now the new high-resolution stuff. When nobody can tell the difference…we’ll all settle back into the sound quality of the 1960s and 1970s.
This is exactly the same strategy the UMG is using for the “High Fidelity Pure Audio” Blu-ray titles that they’ve been pushing. Same old standard definition in a new container. Boring.
Apple’s iTunes thinks they’re going High Res, but they can’t without the producers, artists and labels giving them HD audio…and that’s not going to happen anytime soon.