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Earlier this year, Apple began revealing more information about its Mastered for iTunes program, requesting that music professionals supply Apple with higher-quality recordings as source material for the compressed tracks made available for sale through the iTunes Store. The higher-quality source material, processed according to Apple's guidelines, is being requested to allow Apple to create better-sounding tracks in the 256 kbps AAC format used for the iTunes Store.

mastered_for_itunes_logo.jpg



Ars Technica takes a thorough look at the Mastered for iTunes program and whether it truly does make a difference to consumers. While the whole article is an interesting read on some of the technical details of audio formats and mastering and the varying perspectives of several music industry professionals, Ars' conclusion is that the Mastered for iTunes program can make a difference in quality of iTunes Store music.
We enlisted Chicago Mastering Service engineers Jason Ward and Bob Weston to help us out, both of whom were somewhat skeptical that any knob tweaking could result in a better iTunes experience. We came away from the process learning that it absolutely is possible to improve the quality of compressed iTunes Plus tracks with a little bit of work, that Apple's improved compression process does result in a better sound, and that 24/96 files aren't a good format for consumers.
Ars worked with a number of audio engineers on test projects comparing various combinations of original 24-bit, 96 kHz master recordings, uncompressed WAV files ripped from CDs, standard iTunes Store tracks, and tracks created by applying Apple's Mastered for iTunes process to the master recordings. In one example, a standard iTunes Store track sounded "boxy" or "muffled" compared to the original CD master WAV file, but after processing through Mastered for iTunes tools, the resulting track sounded significantly better and more "alive" on a subjective basis.

Part of the difficulty in assessing sound quality comes from the emotional response involved in how sounds register to human ears. Some differences in sound quality can be quantified using various tools to analyze the waveforms generated by different audio files, but the ultimate measure of sound quality lies with the human ears receiving and interpreting the sounds.

Nevertheless, Apple markets the Mastered for iTunes program as providing a path for musicians and music professionals to have iTunes Store content more closely match "music as the artist and sound engineer intended", and more and more musicians are taking advantage of the program in attempting to improve the quality of their music available through the world's most popular music vendor.

Article Link: A Look at Apple's 'Mastered for iTunes' Program and its Effect on Sound Quality
 

nuckinfutz

macrumors 603
Jul 3, 2002
5,502
314
Middle Earth
high quality speakers are required but mastering from higher bitrate and word length is generally going to yield noticeable improvement.

It's a no brainer when the price of the song is the same.
 
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iBug2

macrumors 601
Jun 12, 2005
4,224
484
I still don't understand why they are not selling ALAC. The huge datacenters they built should support those transfers easily nowadays.
 
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Consultant

macrumors G5
Jun 27, 2007
13,313
33
Just when you think something isn't possible, Apple makes it work using the same encoding bit rate.

Apple and its customers call it attention to details, haters call it reality distortion field.
 
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Exhale

macrumors 6502a
Sep 20, 2011
506
140
Unfortunately until "Mastering Engineers" stop with the "Loud is good" ********, none of this matters.

Its literally the practice of polishing a turd.
 
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doctorossi

macrumors member
Apr 16, 2008
54
0
I still don't understand why they are not selling ALAC. The huge datacenters they built should support those transfers easily nowadays.

I have the same question. I bought into the iTunes ecosystem only when the iPod started supporting ALAC playback and I expected ALAC content on iTunes to be just around the corner.

Here we are in 2012 and I've never purchased a song from iTunes. If they started selling them in ALAC, I would buy hundreds.
 
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AppleDroid

macrumors 6502a
Apr 10, 2011
631
84
Illinois
I still don't understand why they are not selling ALAC. The huge datacenters they built should support those transfers easily nowadays.

This. All I want is a higher quality master copy of my digital songs. 128-256 is great for my ipod + headphones but there's a huge difference playing lossless files through my 7.1 setup vs compressed audio files.

I realize I'm in the minority but it has always felt wrong buying less-than-cd-quality tracks as my "master copy".
 
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ericinboston

macrumors 68000
Jan 13, 2008
1,919
384
I have the same question. I bought into the iTunes ecosystem only when the iPod started supporting ALAC playback and I expected ALAC content on iTunes to be just around the corner.

Here we are in 2012 and I've never purchased a song from iTunes. If they started selling them in ALAC, I would buy hundreds.

Me too...sell me a NON-APPLE PROPRIETARY LOSSLESS FORMAT (such as WAV, APE, FLAC) and I would buy hundreds of songs a year. I own 0 from iTunes. I have over 24,000 songs...all ripped from my cds that I purchase each week from Amazon below $10 a pop with free shipping and 0 tax.
 
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ghostface147

macrumors 68040
May 28, 2008
3,469
3,360
I still don't understand why they are not selling ALAC. The huge datacenters they built should support those transfers easily nowadays.

Well how big is a 4 minute AAC song compared to a 4 minute ALAC one?
 
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3282868

macrumors 603
Jan 8, 2009
5,281
0
This. All I want is a higher quality master copy of my digital songs. 128-256 is great for my ipod + headphones but there's a huge difference playing lossless files through my 7.1 setup vs compressed audio files.

I realize I'm in the minority but it has always felt wrong buying less-than-cd-quality tracks as my "master copy".

Agree. I regret ripping all my CD's years ago and tossing them. Had I known better I might have better quality tracks. I don't even see CD's for sale any more, it seems all digital now. Are there any online stores that sell better quality tracks? Are CD's/lossless still the best way to go?

(also regret iTunes Match, hot mess).
 
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drumcat

macrumors 6502a
Feb 28, 2008
750
2,034
Otautahi, Aotearoa
This. All I want is a higher quality master copy of my digital songs. 128-256 is great for my ipod + headphones but there's a huge difference playing lossless files through my 7.1 setup vs compressed audio files.

I realize I'm in the minority but it has always felt wrong buying less-than-cd-quality tracks as my "master copy".

Forgive me, but "7.1" is still going to put 2-channel through your 8 drivers. This kinda needs a "Condescending Wonka" image...
 
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iBug2

macrumors 601
Jun 12, 2005
4,224
484
Me too...sell me a NON-APPLE PROPRIETARY LOSSLESS FORMAT (such as WAV, APE, FLAC) and I would buy hundreds of songs a year. I own 0 from iTunes. I have over 24,000 songs...all ripped from my cds that I purchase each week from Amazon below $10 a pop with free shipping and 0 tax.

ALAC is open source now. And I stopped buying CD's not for their prices but for the space they occupy in my home. I can't seem to throw it away after ripping a CD. So the stack kept bigger and bigger and at some point I stopped. I have 28k songs in my iTunes library and probably half from iTunes store. Hoping some day that I'll be able to update all my 256k's to ALAC's, legally.
 
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ghostface147

macrumors 68040
May 28, 2008
3,469
3,360
Me too...sell me a NON-APPLE PROPRIETARY LOSSLESS FORMAT (such as WAV, APE, FLAC) and I would buy hundreds of songs a year. I own 0 from iTunes. I have over 24,000 songs...all ripped from my cds that I purchase each week from Amazon below $10 a pop with free shipping and 0 tax.

Apple open sourced ALAC late last year as well as made it royalty free.
 
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iBug2

macrumors 601
Jun 12, 2005
4,224
484
That would be fantastic! From your lips to Apple's ears.

Well it happened with 128k to 256k but they charged a fee for that. But now that they started offering 1080p instead of 720p, that came free. So both can happen if they offer ALAC upgrades. Hope it happens and hope it'll be free.
 
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Owen Imholte

macrumors newbie
Jan 20, 2012
15
0
Shameless plug for an ABX program

Sorry for the shameless plug, but if anyone wants a handy way to do ABX testing (blind testing of audio files) you can use the free app I wrote called Juxtapose.
 
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tech3475

macrumors 6502
May 17, 2011
311
182
I still don't understand why they are not selling ALAC. The huge datacenters they built should support those transfers easily nowadays.

THIS! I would go on a spending spree if Apple had lossless options on the itunes store.

I just don't like buying lossy music.
 
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Warbrain

macrumors 603
Jun 28, 2004
5,702
293
Chicago, IL
Me too...sell me a NON-APPLE PROPRIETARY LOSSLESS FORMAT (such as WAV, APE, FLAC) and I would buy hundreds of songs a year. I own 0 from iTunes. I have over 24,000 songs...all ripped from my cds that I purchase each week from Amazon below $10 a pop with free shipping and 0 tax.

ALAC is open source now.
 
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lhammer610

macrumors member
Aug 30, 2003
91
43
Lexington, VA
Me too...sell me a NON-APPLE PROPRIETARY LOSSLESS FORMAT (such as WAV, APE, FLAC) and I would buy hundreds of songs a year. I own 0 from iTunes. I have over 24,000 songs...all ripped from my cds that I purchase each week from Amazon below $10 a pop with free shipping and 0 tax.

Hold on to that "0 tax" for as long as you can. The states are slowly forcing Amazon to pay sales tax.

There is another group of people that claim that CD's, which are 16 bit & 44.1 kHz sound significantly worse than master tracks.
 
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drumcat

macrumors 6502a
Feb 28, 2008
750
2,034
Otautahi, Aotearoa
A/B testing

Hello all,

I'm sorry, but you guys who are meow meowing about not having ALAC stuff... while I understand why you guys want it, 99% of customers don't want the huge files, and Apple doesn't want your iDevice getting too full. Both inhibit sales.

Oh, and I bet if anyone took a Pepsi Challenge on 256 AAC vs 96/24, you would be statistically random. I can beat a 320 mp3 every day of the week, but I can't beat 256 AAC. If that's the case, why can't 256 AAC satisfy? It's not like we all run around saying OMG I NEED UNCOMPRESSED VIDEO - usually people are pretty satisfied with BluRay - hell, even 4k is compressed, but you WANT ALL THE BITS in audio? Come on. Are you the same guy that says you want it on vinyl because that's better? Gag.
 
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rjohnstone

macrumors 68040
Dec 28, 2007
3,680
3,887
PHX, AZ.
Apple and its customers call it attention to details, haters call it reality distortion field.
Na... it's just another gimmick to garner sales.
Something Apple is very good at creating.
The average consumer couldn't hear the difference.
Essentially one track will have slightly more treble than the other.

Apple needs to offer "lossless" downloads.
 
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AppleDroid

macrumors 6502a
Apr 10, 2011
631
84
Illinois
Agree. I regret ripping all my CD's years ago and tossing them. Had I known better I might have better quality tracks. I don't even see CD's for sale any more, it seems all digital now. Are there any online stores that sell better quality tracks? Are CD's/lossless still the best way to go?

(also regret iTunes Match, hot mess).

If I can pick up a CD version I usually do through Amazon then rip it to ALAC and use the downsample to ipod option/create a second 256kbps copy.
 
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