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post #1 of 36 Old 12-13-2011, 01:41 PM - Thread Starter
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iTunes Needs to Improve Quality of Music Downloads
By Robert Archer
Storage is no longer an issue thanks to Apple iCloud, so it's time for iTunes to step up and deliver high-resolution audio files.

It wasn't that long ago that I had to manage the content stored on my iPod and first-generation iPhone. Until I upgraded the hard drive on my iMac, I remember managing the amount of hard drive space my iTunes content took up by prioritizing the content I wanted to keep in tact through the import methods I used.

Now with the introduction of Apple's iCloud and other cloud-based storage services, storage issues will soon be a thing of the past. Music lovers will no longer be limited to the restrictions of physical storage and will no longer need to buy low-resolution AAC or MP3 files.



With iTunes entrenched as the No. 1 music retail service, millions of consumers are accustom to the sound quality (or lack of) associated with iTunes content. In response, a growing number of consumers are turning to vinyl or other high-resolution download alternatives such as HD Tracks and, to a lesser extent, iTrax to get their fix of high-quality music.

There were rumors earlier this year that Apple was in talks with several music labels to bring higher resolution files to iTunes, so the Cupertino, California-based company is aware of the public's hunger for better quality music downloads. But how proactive is Apple in pursuing the delivery of high-resolution music files? It's time for Apple to offer something better than its current best offering of 256kbps files.

Click here to continue.
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post #2 of 36 Old 12-13-2011, 01:48 PM
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That will never happen.

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post #3 of 36 Old 12-13-2011, 02:15 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stepyourgameup View Post

That will never happen.

I agree. I can't imagine this issue being addressed to satisfy a miniscule portion of the public.
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post #4 of 36 Old 12-13-2011, 02:44 PM
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Most people are not listening to iTunes tracks on high end gear, and even if they are, they are enjoying the music, not whether it might have a touch more depth at a higher bit rate, most people are not audiophiles, those that are can spend as much as they want for that gear and HD Tracks to meet their needs.
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post #5 of 36 Old 12-13-2011, 02:52 PM
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It it doesn't affect their bottom line then they won't change anything.

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post #6 of 36 Old 12-13-2011, 02:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Crowe View Post

With iTunes entrenched as the No. 1 music retail service, millions of consumers are accustom to the sound quality (or lack of) associated with iTunes content.

That pretty much says it all right there.
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post #7 of 36 Old 12-13-2011, 03:13 PM
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Can't agree more. Casual listening its fine. Anything else? I can't tolerate it.
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post #8 of 36 Old 12-13-2011, 03:32 PM
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I don't see why not. Particularly if there is no significant cost to them. It is all about marketing. They can sell it as "HD music" or something catchy.
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post #9 of 36 Old 12-13-2011, 07:13 PM
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What I can never figure out are higher-end companies selling iPod docks, who wants to listen to MP3 at home? I rip my legal music to flac for home, MP3 for my phone.

I see dead pixels.......
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post #10 of 36 Old 12-13-2011, 07:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by carledwards View Post

I agree. I can't imagine this issue being addressed to satisfy a miniscule portion of the public.

I disagree. I've heard they've been anxious to do it for some time but the record companies are scared that lossless audio on iTunes, especially with no DRM (ugh DRM music files; they go bad if say Music Giants goes under and you lose anything you didn't painstakingly burn to CD and multiply recapture back to file and RIAA cares not a white how much money you spent that goes down the drain, ironically enough; make it a pain or near impossible to use on all the devices you might want to), would end the last of the actual CD sales.

(I don't really think the record companies are very smart about things myself though (also see how they prevent >16bit>48kHz playback of blu-rays from PC-based platforms without scaling/downsampling back to 16/48 because they claim they are scared people will bus snoop the studio master quality 24/48+ tracks and pirate them all over, hahahahahah, as if the pirating crowd really cares about 24bits vs 16bits or 96kHz vs 48kHz they'll probably just pack the soundtrack in 128kbps mp3 , utterly ridiculous and yet they've made companies go through all these secure HDMI hoops where they make the sound card and OS not be able to be snooped, utterly absurd, most of the people they'd be afraid doing this would listen on some $15 headphone and $5 amp that couldn't even do 16bits close to justice, not to mention many say that even on $$$$$ stuff going above 16/48 doesn't generally do much unless you play to take the house down).)
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post #11 of 36 Old 12-13-2011, 07:30 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kriilin View Post

What I can never figure out are higher-end companies selling iPod docks, who wants to listen to MP3 at home? I rip my legal music to flac for home, MP3 for my phone.

Because you accurate rip your CDs to .mp4 lossless files and transfer them onto your iPod and then when you are home but away from computer in another room, etc. you pop the iPod into a $99 deck like Pure I20 and then SPDIF it to a nice top flight headphone DAC/AMP (Benchmark is amazing, although that's getting pricey for many) and listen in stunning quality.

Even straight out of an iPod .mp4 lossless sounds way better than the old 128 AAC tunes for sure and it probably still would even with the new 256 ones although the new files are world's better than the old ones which were truly awful.
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post #12 of 36 Old 12-13-2011, 09:17 PM
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I'm happy with 256kbps, it's better than the crappy 128kbps songs they use to sell. If I want Hi-Fi I buy the CD and rip it to WAV, all my devices support WAV.
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post #13 of 36 Old 12-14-2011, 10:01 AM
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Robert, storage IS an issue with icloud. Not that easy, its limited, they charge $$$$ for it. Bring back the option of backing stuff up on discs!
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post #14 of 36 Old 12-14-2011, 10:19 AM
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It's difficult to care about lossless and high bitrate formats when the media companies/producers/engineers overcompress much of the music anyway.

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post #15 of 36 Old 12-14-2011, 10:45 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stepyourgameup View Post

That will never happen.

I'm old enough now that I've learned to use the word "never" rarely and with caution.

In my case, 99.9% of my collection are ripped CDs in FLAC format. I continue to buy CDs to this day because it is the highest rez, STANDARDIZED, format available. I stressed the word standardized because this is very important to me. Specifically, I want to know that I can obtain practically any song from any artist at reasonable cost with good quality, and the combination of CD and Amazon.com delivers this. Though I like the idea of online high-rez downloads from distributors like HDtracks, I won't use them for three reasons. The first is the lack of selection relative to CD on Amazon. The second-related to the first-is that knowing myself the way I do I'm not going to be satisfied with only some albums or songs in my collection at high-rez. Put another way, once I experience some content at high-rez, I'm going to want my entire collection that way so I made the decision, logical or not, to settle for the highest resolution I know I can acquire practically any artist in: CD. The third issue is cost though this isn't necessarily a showstopper for me. Using HDtracks as a example, their content does tend to be a bit more expensive than the CD equivalent on Amazon. However, if HDtracks had the depth of selection Amazon did I would still consider them notwithstanding the cost given the benefits of ease of access via download and increased quality.

Though I've been aware of lossy downloads from Amazon and Apple for years, I just recently tried it via Amazon MP3 for the first time a few weeks ago and I have to say the power of its convenience (in terms of ease, speed, and ability to buy individual tracks) was compelling. I tried this for two reasons: One, the download was a free gift from Amazon for other purchases I made from them and Two, because given the nature of the content I wanted (select pop hits from the 80's), it made sense because I don't need to hear into the intricate structure and detail of these kinds of songs. Having said this, if I encounter a 80's pop album where I like most or all of the songs on it, I'll buy the CD for (hopefully-mastering quality?) higher sound quality.

Personally, I think the major music labels and distributors are missing an opportunity by not offering a high-rez, STANDARDIZED, replacement for CD. I'm thinking of something like high-rez DSD with a bias toward soft-storage (files by default but can be ripped to physical media on demand). Let's say for argument sake that a typical, popular CD on Amazon costs $12, and individual MP3s run $1 (based on recent purchases I think I'm in the ballpark in both cases). If Amazon offered their entire music library in high-rez DSD and I felt comfortable that all major (hopefully followed by smaller) record labels embraced the format as their standard going forward, I would absolutely replace a good part of my existing CD-based library with it over time, and I don't think I'd be alone with regard to the course of action either. Further, I think Amazon could justify charging say, $13-$14 for complete albums or $1.50 for individual tracks in DSD based on increased storage costs and transmission bandwidth required versus MP3 plus the main value add of higher sound quality. Given that the idea here would be to completely replace CD over time one would hope that the price would drop back to that of CD albums over time but I would pay $13-$14 per album if necessary to get my entire music library replaced in high-rez. As others here have stated, I don't think it would cost that much in absolute terms for the record labels or distributors to switch to a high-rez, soft-based music format. So from my perspective, the value add for labels and distributors would be more revenue from the combination of increased price versus CD or individual MP3 (at the start anyway) and consumers re-purchasing content. Moreover, the movement to a soft-based format would nicely support the distributor's desire for cloud based storage which they could additionally charge a nominal fee for beyond the content itself (and I could see cloud-based storage being a valuable option for those lacking storage at home-or the desire to personally store/manage it). At the end of the day, I think it's more a matter of will and perceived value proposition more than anything else.

By the way this topic came up, as it has for the past few years during a seminar I attended at the recent Rocky Mountain Audio Fest in Denver on the future of high end audio content. The panel consisted mainly of experienced recording engineers and distributors (including one representing Apple), and they universally agreed that DSD made sense as the best replacement format for CD if this ever comes to pass.
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post #16 of 36 Old 12-16-2011, 09:26 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kriilin View Post

What I can never figure out are higher-end companies selling iPod docks, who wants to listen to MP3 at home? I rip my legal music to flac for home, MP3 for my phone.

It's not as bad as it sounds. I use my dock to play podcasts (Bill Burr deserves a plug here) and also playing FLAC via a FLAC app. My iphone streams FLAC via BT or USB in my F-150's Sync too.
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post #17 of 36 Old 12-16-2011, 12:10 PM
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Haven't paid attention to Apple iCloud marketing but to RELY on the cloud to give me my stuff, ANYTIME ANYWHERE I want to? Not until there is a global guaranteed access, and am too impatience to wait even a minute. NO.

Solution: FREE. Explanation: I will have to charge$ you.

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post #18 of 36 Old 12-16-2011, 12:43 PM
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If SOPA passes it will kill iCloud and all other cloud storage services here in America.

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post #19 of 36 Old 12-16-2011, 04:50 PM
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This is an interesting topic. But what I want is music not recorded loudly and not mixed with every instrument at "11" AND some dynamic range. A lot of music is unlistenable.
Why is it acceptable?
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post #20 of 36 Old 12-16-2011, 08:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by b4z View Post

This is an interesting topic. But what I want is music not recorded loudly and not mixed with every instrument at "11" AND some dynamic range. A lot of music is unlistenable.
Why is it acceptable?

Me too brother.

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post #21 of 36 Old 12-17-2011, 02:17 AM
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for ripping itunes is great, for playback i choose winamp, anything above 128-192k is a waste of time to encode as no-one has released in a higher format considering the source material is 92k or under kind of pointless considering no-one has released equipment to play or decode the format 90% of it is actually down converted anyway...

flac might be the in thing at moment for higher resolution though from a hardware perspective standpoint there very limited options for decoding the higher res format without it been converted 1st anyway.

my guess they are likely another 10-30 years away before no down conversion will be done ...
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post #22 of 36 Old 12-17-2011, 08:59 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mystic_sniper28 View Post

anything above 128-192k is a waste of time to encode as no-one has released in a higher format considering the source material is 92k or under kind of pointless considering no-one has released equipment to play or decode the format 90% of it is actually down converted anyway...



What source material are you using that is 92k? Uncompressed audio as stored on a CD has a bit rate of 1,411k so 128k is 11:1 compression.

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post #23 of 36 Old 12-17-2011, 12:29 PM
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don't matter what the wav file is on the cd uncompressed, the fact is it is compressed down to as low as 48k or 96k in the processor..

while sample listen to encoded at a higher bit rate the fact is there nothing within an avr or current generation processor that samples higher than 96k for processing doesn't matter if you're listening to higher compressed flac file or not the same thing is downconverted anyway.

i encode to 128k for pc listening anything above that is a pure waste of time as there isn't much hardware out that can decode higher bit rates, i'm talking in a processing level.. thats it, so what the processor can read 512+k flac file (as example ) what it does after it leaves flac is a different thing altogether..
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post #24 of 36 Old 12-20-2011, 11:21 AM
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Streaming music services that improve* will continue to put competitive market pressure on Apple's iTunes. ITunes will sooner-or-later offer more or loose market share. Capitalism at work.

* Example: MOG - 1 million+ albums; 15 million+ songs; $10@month for 320 kbps, all music downloadable, if that's what you need/want.
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post #25 of 36 Old 12-20-2011, 12:52 PM
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If capitalism "worked' the same companies that are desperate to plaster the world with unprotected WAV files (aka "CD's").....would not waste time denying the consumer the right to buy those same unprotectedWAV files compressed to FLAC. In fact, they would embrace the opportunity to stop wasting money shipping physical discs all over the planet - and back as returned or unsold product. What exactly is the competitive case for shipping discs instead of bits in an age where the ipod sells like hot cakes and standalone Cd players are an obscure niche product?

So clearly no, we cant say capitalism works, or that the consumer interest is always served by the producer. Sorry.
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post #26 of 36 Old 12-20-2011, 07:40 PM
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We are entering in a new age where everything is becoming much better in sound and video quality. No one wants to see a football game in SD. We all want to watch it in beautiful HD quality. The same thing must be done with music. Music quality needs to improve already. No more need for weak 128k quality music.
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post #27 of 36 Old 12-20-2011, 10:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mystic_sniper28 View Post

don't matter what the wav file is on the cd uncompressed, the fact is it is compressed down to as low as 48k or 96k in the processor..

And what processor would that be?

Perhaps you should try listening to digital music on something better than computer speakers. On my system, there is a HUGE difference between 128k and 256k. There is a somewhat more subtle difference between 256k and 320k.

Or try these:


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post #28 of 36 Old 12-21-2011, 08:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cctvtech View Post

And what processor would that be?

Perhaps you should try listening to digital music on something better than computer speakers. On my system, there is a HUGE difference between 128k and 256k. There is a somewhat more subtle difference between 256k and 320k.

Or try these:

I do listen music outmy ****** as computer speakers. I used my iPod in my Infiniti boss system,if you must know. And I might not be rich, but I do have decent system to enjoy music. And besides this just a forum to express our opinion. I'm sorry if you get offended by what I wrote. But it just that when you really try to enjoy music, you do a little research to find out what's the best sound file available to enjoy the music that it was suppose to enjoy. And by the way, I used q-tips to clean my ears to enjoy my music using my Shure SE-215
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post #29 of 36 Old 12-22-2011, 07:24 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bioandroid9 View Post

I do listen music outmy ****** as computer speakers. I used my iPod in my Infiniti boss system,if you must know. And I might not be rich, but I do have decent system to enjoy music. And besides this just a forum to express our opinion. I'm sorry if you get offended by what I wrote. But it just that when you really try to enjoy music, you do a little research to find out what's the best sound file available to enjoy the music that it was suppose to enjoy. And by the way, I used q-tips to clean my ears to enjoy my music using my Shure SE-215

I wasn't responding to you.

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post #30 of 36 Old 12-23-2011, 09:43 AM
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I haven't bought many iTunes albums (just rare or digital-only scores/soundtracks), but I've found that the albums I downloaded are often encoded in 280-310kbps AAC. This is generally enough to maintain a CD-looking frequency spectrum. It is in the 256kbps range when sharp frequency cutoffs seem to start occurring.
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