Dr. AIX's POSTS NEWS — 29 August 2014

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This is not a news item or a statement of fact…or even rumor. It is my educated guess as to what Apple might be contemplating as the push for “high-resolution audio” continues AND people like Neil Young and others increase the awareness of better sounding audio. This is what I would do if I was involved in the decision making at Apple…as you know I’m not.

On September 9, 2014, Tim Cook will be unveiling the new iPhone 6, the Apple iWatch, and have members of his team in Cupertino demonstrate the exciting new things that Apple will have to offer this fall and into the holiday season (upgrades to the iOS etec). Rather than let others continue to drive the downloadable music market to better quality sources and playback devices, Apple’s CEO will announce that the new iPhone 6 is capable of playing high-resolution files. The hardware will have the ability to play 96 and 192 kHz/24-bit PCM audio in analog stereo through its on board high quality DAC (Qualcomm…perhaps) and digitally via the digital connector at the tail end. Yep, they will begin producing portable music players that will be compatible with all of the files that the labels have been uploading to Cupertino for the past three years and more. Think “Mastered for iTunes”…

The new iTunes HD will handle those files exactly as it handles AAC files at 256 or 320 kbps…only now we won’t be able to store 10,000 songs in our pockets. Users will have to make a choice about the level of quality that they want on their portable iPhone 6 and a corresponding reduction in the number of tunes in the devices. Of course, the normal $.99 lossy compressed tunes will be available as well as ALAC versions but these same tunes will be offered at “Master Quality” at 96 kHz/24-bits (which is more than enough to capture the fidelity that Burbank has in their vaults). The price of individual tunes will rise by $.25 per tune and there will be some sort of logo and indicator “light” that indicates that the files are indeed “High-Resolution”.

But that’s just the beginning. Apple will sell millions of new iPhone 6s to non-audiophiles. Think Pono made a splash with their dedicated yellow 192 kHz/24-bit FLAC player? They’ve presold around 18,000 of them and are currently struggling to complete the design, tooling, testing, and manufacturing of the first batch of Pono music players. Apple will sell 1,000,000 iPhone 6s on the first day after they’re available. Unknowing non-audiophile customers will instantly have a device in their pockets that will perform as well as the Pono device and be able to do so much more. I’ve seen the future with the HTC One M8 Harman Kardon edition phone that Sprint sent me. This will be the new norm…and Apple will run ahead of everyone.

Why? Because with the purchase of Beats and the slow build of a catalog that is actually better than CDs (not quite HD but close enough), they have a “submarine” solution fully formed at the launch. All they have to do is flip a switch and the “HD Audio” area of the iTunes website will go live. The iPhone 6 will “iTunes Match” all of the tunes you’ve already purchased and replace them with the lossless versions at 96 kHz/24-bits (with or without an additional charge). New customers will start hearing their music at levels of fidelity that they’ve never encountered before and begin migrating to higher fidelity.

Remember you heard it here first…but that’s just the beginning. The entire ecosystem for high-resolution music will change the experience at the consuming end. What about the artists, engineers, and producers that are producing new content…will they up their game too? Tune in tomorrow to see more from my crystal ball.

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About Author

Dr. AIX

Mark Waldrep, aka Dr. AIX, has been producing and engineering music for over 40 years. He learned electronics as a teenager from his HAM radio father while learning to play the guitar. Mark received the first doctorate in music composition from UCLA in 1986 for a “binaural” electronic music composition. Other advanced degrees include an MS in computer science, an MFA/MA in music, BM in music and a BA in art.

As an engineer and producer, Mark has worked on projects for the Rolling Stones, 311, Tool, KISS, Blink 182, Blues Traveler, Britney Spears, the San Francisco Symphony, The Dover Quartet, Willie Nelson, Paul Williams, The Allman Brothers, Bad Company and many more.

Dr. Waldrep has been an innovator when it comes to multimedia and music. He created the first enhanced CDs in the 90s, the first DVD-Videos released in the U.S., the first web-connected DVD, the first DVD-Audio title, the first music Blu-ray disc and the first 3D Music Album. Additionally, he launched the first High Definition Music Download site in 2007 called iTrax.com.

A frequency speaker at audio events, author of numerous articles, Dr. Waldrep is currently writing a book on the production and reproduction of high-end music called, “High-End Audio: A Practical Guide to Production and Playback”. The book should be completed in the fall of 2013.

(7) Readers Comments

  1. Ithat would be the greatest move that Apple can made since the introduction of the iPhone. Wish you were right in your crystal ball prediction. Not very hopeful though.
    Ed

  2. While that would be awesome, Apple is very slow on these sorts of things when it comes to iOS. They still don’t have apt-x in iPhones or iPads like they do in Macs. However, I did see that some 96/24 HDtrack music I have that was previously incompatible with iTunes Match got matched a couple days ago for some unknown reason.

    • Interesting….

  3. Certainly Apple has positioned itself to be the leader in HD content delivery. Actually, if they don’t launch this month you’ve got to wonder why they bothered to collect 96/24 sources from the labels. Recognizing Apple’s strength in integration, it makes sense that the iPhone 6 would be capable of realizing the new content. The irony here is that Pono, while raising awareness, will most likely lose market share to Apple before launch. To Neil Young, maybe restoring the quality of content was paramount.

    • I think Apple is going to do something…but it won’t make any difference. As for Neil, he’s getting plenty of funding via Crowdfunder and should be able to weather the storm. I think he’s going for the money.

  4. Only that the iphone 6 cannot play Hi resolution 24 bit files. Sadly it can only play standard 16 bit 44.1 khz files.

    http://www.audiostream.com/content/apples-new-iphone-6-does-not-do-high-res-audio

    • The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus don’t have a DAC capable of playing 96 kHz/24-bit PCM audio files but that doesn’t mean that they can’t pass a high-resolution digital file to an external DAC through a wire or wirelessly. It’s coming…

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