Beats is now part of the Apple organization. Pundits and professionals have been trying to sort out why Tim Cook and the Apple board decided to spend just north of $3 billion dollars on a second rate set of headphones, a streaming music service, and the expertise of Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine. I don’t think Apple is looking for the “cool” factor as some writers have claimed and I know they’re smart enough to know that the headphones suck. But they do recognize where the music industry is going. Apple made the Beats purchase so that they could set themselves up once again as the end-to-end solution for music delivery. It’s in their DNA and it guarantees that Apple can define the user experience (keep things simple) and in the case of audio…the fidelity of the final listening experience.
For the past several years, iTunes Producer (the piece of software that labels use to prepare and interact with the Apple site) has been demanding higher quality masters from all of the label partners. It’s more than just “Mastered for iTunes”, this is a mandate to accept nothing less than 96 kHz/24-bit stereo PCM masters from Warner Brothers, Universal Music, and Sony Music. All of the independent labels have also been delivering “better quality” masters. However, the delivery format and specifications of the files on iTunes have steadfastly remained AAC files at 256 kbps. But that going to change…as early as next week (click here to read my post of the HD iTunes site and new HD iPhone 6).
The new iPhone 6 will have a substantial upgrade for audio starting with a high-resolution capable DAC (sample rates up to 192 kHz and word lengths to 24-bits…although I think they may limit the sample rate to 96 kHz since that’s more than enough and what they’ve been collecting). Apple has already talked about their plans to connect devices digitally to headphones. They call it MFi and it uses a Lightning port to send digital information to a pair of headphones. And I think that’s one of the new strategies that will allow fidelity enhancements in a portable audio world.
The analog port will soon become a thing of the past. Meridian and several other makes of high-end speakers have been delivering digital audio to their reference speakers and doing things like crossovers, amplification, and other processing in the digital domain before converting to analog at the last possible moment. Apple is pushing this type of thinking for its portable devices. It won’t surprise me at all if Tim Cook announces that the iPhone 6 and a new set of Beats headphones will be using the MFI Lightning enabled connection. All sorts of cool things can happen if the headphones have additional power, a DSP chip, and controller for “personalizing” the sound. Why bother building in a bass boost when you can allow the end user to custom tailor their sound to mirror a specific model of headphones or even a room of JBL M2 Studio Reference Monitors?
There are big changes in store for music delivery. Apple is about to change the paradigm again. Now if we could just get the music producers and artists to “return to the soul of music”.
5 thoughts on “HD-Audio Headphones”
Good luck with getting the producers to return to the soul of the music. Their employers just want LOUD and compressed so it sounds great on the radio and everything else.
I do hope it forces change to better quality audio as well because if Apple says so the industry is like to follow, maybe kicking and screaming, but they will be forced to.
CD’s don’t even sound as good as they could and folks still buy them so lets hope real HD audio eventually wins out with much less compression and tricks played with the sound.
I really don’t hold out much hope that things are going to change dramatically…or at all.
Maybe if 96/24 goes mainstream, the producers will care enough to push musicians to be cutting basics live again. Finally we could get back to the days of really knowing the material cold before going in, and running a track down with magic and pure excitement, mistakes and all.
You write pretty wel.
Easy reading and seemingly balanced, by warnig me the reader for say-so’s and jumpers.
Up to the point that you yourself state that some figures mean all, and that a paradigm will be changed “again”???.
To continue on with an appeal: Now if we could just get the music producers and artists to “return to the soul of music”
Apple is still and continuely trying to create a situation wherin they, and they allone exclusivly decided what will go and for how much.
In fact, most of the industry in america and worlwide only believe in monopoly’s, were as the consumer does not want that.
So marketing one on one, meaning what does the consumer wants, tels everybody, the consumer does not want to be restricted to one for all.
You speaking on behalve off the consumer, or att least trying to inform him/her, in what best way to spend its hard earnded cash, advocate an monopoly.
Even if apple would offer 4x beter specs, it still is an monopoly.
Then there is this little problem, that a whole lott of people have choosen to use android telephones.
And not the itunes webstore in that effect.
Do you suggest that android phones are not allowed to build and sell mobile phones with the same specs or even better then apple?
Lett me end, with the paradigm.
The inverstors have dropped apple of the prime posistion of making money for them.
So why are you sugesting that they are fools?
The shareholders and some other guys are trying to get apple back in that position, as in a gamble,
and you are helping to make that happen.
So it has nothing to do with giving the best to the consumer, that is a mere trinket as compared with the hooked and adicted apple-believers and followers that do not dare to go anywere else, if this scheme of apple will suceed.
Controlling distribution, is were the money is, by any means.
My regards, Raf van Bossum.
It will be very interesting to see what happens tomorrow.