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Article: High Resolution Audio Isn't Coming Soon From Apple


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Interesting article, I've been skeptical of the hi-res move from Apple myself. They can't even get together the iWatch or iTV that have been talked about for years in the rumor mills. I just personally don't think there is enough interest, everyone I talk to about hi-res literally knows nothing about it, only on audio circles like this or Head-Fi is it even really understood, most people could just care less unfortunately and will buy whatever is cheapest, whether it's streaming services like Spotify or cheaper lossy iTunes downloads.

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Chris, thanks for the well thought out article. I think that it is very interesting (maybe telling) that SO many web sites just jumped on this rumor or iTunes providing lossless content. I can't think of one article other than this one that presented any analysis on why this move did not make sense. Too many bloggers/writers/media personnel rush to the alter of Apple when there is any rumor out there trying to be the first to break it or leak it. As you said, your position could be completely wrong but it's good to see somebody choose to swim upstream on this one.

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Some tech sites will do anything for an attention-grabbing headline, even if it means citing another site who cited a blogger with no credibility.

 

“The problem with quotes on the internet is that you never know if they’re true. -Abraham Lincoln”

 

—@Lecrae, the hip-hop artist and record producer.

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I tunes are thieves, you upload your songs to I tunes match and I tunes say they will find a better copy if yours is not the best quality.If you lose your songs or albums hey presto just download it from icloud.

Only problem is it comes in low resolution.

If Apple offered a premium for hi res files for customers who use match, of whom they have songs which they may never have found or new existed.

At worst they should offer the red book standard that us the public gave to them in the first place when we uploaded to I cloud

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“The problem with quotes on the internet is that you never know if they are true." - Abraham Lincoln

 

I like it! (LOL)

"Relax, it's only hi-fi. There's never been a hi-fi emergency." - Roy Hall

"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted." - William Bruce Cameron

 

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I write about iTunes as my day job, and I've been saying this for ages, but I think a lot of audiophiles want this to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Chris is right when he says:

 

Not Enough Apple Customers Care

 

But it's not just Apple customers; it's customers everywhere.

 

Apple only has high-resolution files because they use them to create Mastered for iTunes files, which, unfortunately, are often not as good as one would like. My sources have long told me that they have no interest in selling high-resolution files, at least in the years to come. It would complicate things on the iTunes Store, and for the end user.

 

This said, I do believe we'll see lossless files sold in the near future. They could be sold at a premium, and it would set Apple apart from the big online retailers who only sell compressed files.

 

I disagree with one point above:

 

Wireless Carriers Don't Want High Resolution Downloads (Or Lossless CD Quality Streaming)

 

If Apple were to sell lossless files, they probably wouldn't do so for streaming, but only for home use. I would imagine that streaming would still be in 256 kbps, as would iTunes Match. Apple doesn't care about wireless carriers; if they did, they'd never have introduced iTunes Match, or they'd have limited the bit rate. On the contrary, the carriers are actually happy, because most people don't have unlimited data plans, and those who want to stream a lot of music spend more for plans with more data.

 

Kirk

I write about Macs, music, and more at Kirkville.

Author of Take Control of macOS Media Apps

Co-host of The Next Track podcast.

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I write about iTunes as my day job, and I've been saying this for ages, but I think a lot of audiophiles want this to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Chris is right when he says:

 

Not Enough Apple Customers Care

 

But it's not just Apple customers; it's customers everywhere.

 

Apple only has high-resolution files because they use them to create Mastered for iTunes files, which, unfortunately, are often not as good as one would like. My sources have long told me that they have no interest in selling high-resolution files, at least in the years to come. It would complicate things on the iTunes Store, and for the end user.

 

This said, I do believe we'll see lossless files sold in the near future. They could be sold at a premium, and it would set Apple apart from the big online retailers who only sell compressed files.

 

I disagree with one point above:

 

Wireless Carriers Don't Want High Resolution Downloads (Or Lossless CD Quality Streaming)

 

If Apple were to sell lossless files, they probably wouldn't do so for streaming, but only for home use. I would imagine that streaming would still be in 256 kbps, as would iTunes Match. Apple doesn't care about wireless carriers; if they did, they'd never have introduced iTunes Match, or they'd have limited the bit rate. On the contrary, the carriers are actually happy, because most people don't have unlimited data plans, and those who want to stream a lot of music spend more for plans with more data.

 

Kirk

Hi Kirk - Currently the Apple Podcast iOS app doesn't allow downloads if the file is over 50 MB and the user in using the wireless carrier data network. I listen to Leo Laport frequently but can't download a few of his shows unless I'm on WiFi. I believe this is AT&T working tightly with Apple to not allow this larger use of bandwidth.

Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing The Audiophile Style Podcast

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Hi Chris,

 

I agree with all of your points. When it comes to lossless streaming, I think it was you who said that the founder of MOG said he would have had to charge $30 per month to satisfy the studios. This is pretty much what Qobuz and WiMP get when converted to US dollars. Apple would never do this. The market would be too small, it would have to be limited to home high-speed connections and it would cannibalize Beats. I think they will just leave it to Qobuz, WiMP and a few others until they see real money in doing it. Pono should be doing it on a limited basis to drive purchases from their store. One thing we have to remember is that to the majority of listeners out there, CD quality is hi-res. Great article

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Chris

I hope you are wrong but your analysis makes a lot of sense to me. Apple is apparently on its way to becoming a supplier of small phone like devices and its legacy products i.e computers are semi-persisting out of sentimental reasons.

The distribution of digital files through wireless means has very limiting bandwidth (and for me that is presently my only option). Maybe computers will become a fringe market as analog is now.

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I doubt you'll see hi-rez files because the vast majority of music is not even available in that format. I highly doubt Apple is going to put money into that market when probably less that 1% of music is even available in that format.

 

I do see them doing CD quality lossless files from iTunes though in the near future. That's what I would I'd, position Beats streaming as a convenient and great discovery tool and tie it into iTunes where you can download lossless high quality versions of your favorite albums.

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Hi Chris

Your 7 reasons are all very well thought-out, every one of it has a bit of truth in it , and if Apple would be a normal computer/music/mobile company you maybe could have nailed it. But if Apple would be that kind of company they wouldn't have made a lot of things they did, and would not be in the rile they are today . Carries want this , record labels want that. Apple has proven already so many times that they don't spend a lot of times caring about what potential business partners want to save their bucks. The Beats thing is quite a complex matter, but I assume it does not relate to high Definition sound for now as their headphones and streaming quality has proven. Could come later in the reasoning , even bigger is better plays some role here . Which leads us to specs and the technical support in apps. Yes I agree that Apple has never been a spec company, but even so they have to coop with a market that demands bigger and better from time to time . Nobody has really experienced the speed difference between 2.3 and 2.5 Gigahertz CPU , but it plays a role in deciding if it does not cost too much more. Nobody may really hear the difference between 16/44 and 24/96 (if everything else is same !) , but it just feels better to be on save side with some higher resolution. And this is feeling and emotion , and suddenly it makes sense to go for HD even logical it does not.

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Hi Kirk - Currently the Apple Podcast iOS app doesn't allow downloads if the file is over 50 MB and the user in using the wireless carrier data network. I listen to Leo Laport frequently but can't download a few of his shows unless I'm on WiFi. I believe this is AT&T working tightly with Apple to not allow this larger use of bandwidth.

 

Yes, and the App Store has a limit as well. I think this is more to protect users from burning up their data than to protect the phone companies. If a user accidentally taps to download a few big podcasts, not knowing their size, and burns up their data limit, they'd be upset with Apple, and it would cost them money. I found a podcast recently that had an episode in AIFF, for about 450 MB. I don't see this often, and this was clearly a mistake by the podcast provider, but it does happen.

 

There have been limits like this for a while, and they were increased about a year ago. For apps, it's 100 MB. But you can always stream podcasts, rather than download them. There's no limit on that, as far as I know. (I've never tried with big podcasts, because my phone plan only gives me 500 MB.)

 

Kirk

I write about Macs, music, and more at Kirkville.

Author of Take Control of macOS Media Apps

Co-host of The Next Track podcast.

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I doubt you'll see hi-rez files because the vast majority of music is not even available in that format. I highly doubt Apple is going to put money into that market when probably less that 1% of music is even available in that format.

 

Yep. It's only been a couple of years that Apple has asked for high-resolution files, and not every label provides them. For anything older than that, Apple would have to make a request for older files to be re-submitted in high resolution, and that would take a very long time, and lead to a spotty catalogue.

 

However, they do have lossless files (in a huge FLAC library), and those could be exploited.

 

Kirk

I write about Macs, music, and more at Kirkville.

Author of Take Control of macOS Media Apps

Co-host of The Next Track podcast.

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Hi Chris

Your 7 reasons are all very well thought-out, every one of it has a bit of truth in it , and if Apple would be a normal computer/music/mobile company you maybe could have nailed it. But if Apple would be that kind of company they wouldn't have made a lot of things they did, and would not be in the rile they are today . Carries want this , record labels want that. Apple has proven already so many times that they don't spend a lot of times caring about what potential business partners want to save their bucks. The Beats thing is quite a complex matter, but I assume it does not relate to high Definition sound for now as their headphones and streaming quality has proven. Could come later in the reasoning , even bigger is better plays some role here . Which leads us to specs and the technical support in apps. Yes I agree that Apple has never been a spec company, but even so they have to coop with a market that demands bigger and better from time to time . Nobody has really experienced the speed difference between 2.3 and 2.5 Gigahertz CPU , but it plays a role in deciding if it does not cost too much more. Nobody may really hear the difference between 16/44 and 24/96 (if everything else is same !) , but it just feels better to be on save side with some higher resolution. And this is feeling and emotion , and suddenly it makes sense to go for HD even logical it does not.

 

Apple used to be a spec company, and they touted the speed of processors for new Macs for years. They still highlight processor speed for all their Macs.

 

But around the time that the iPhone started being a substantial part of their revenue - which is also when processor speed stopped mattering for most users, because the speed was more than enough to do most tasks - Apple started highlighting other features.

 

Kirk

I write about Macs, music, and more at Kirkville.

Author of Take Control of macOS Media Apps

Co-host of The Next Track podcast.

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Some tech sites will do anything for an attention-grabbing headline, even if it means citing another site who cited a blogger with no credibility.

Of course many tech sites post attention grabbing headlines on their sites... without making it clear what they are posting is an opinion piece not fact.

 

I agree with many of your points ... but some are red herrings (IMO).

 

One. Wireless Carriers Don't Want High Resolution Downloads (Or Lossless CD Quality Streaming)

High resolution in iTunes Music Store ≠ lossless streaming. There is a valid argument that Beats streaming MAY be an opportunity to upsell high resolution audio.

 

Two. Record Labels Want Control And Revenue Again

At the end of the day I think the record labels want to make money more than they want to have control. Have you never heard of the argument it's better to have 25% of a £1,000,000,000 business than 100% of a £1,000,000 business?

 

Three. Beats

See response to point one

 

Four. Apple Has The High Resolution Content Only Because It Can

Come off it Chris ... this is pure speculation!

 

Five. Apple Isn't A Specs Company

Which is why they will sell this as higher quality audio or iTunes Plus Plus; rather than selling it as 24/96 audio downloads.

 

Six. Not Enough Apple Customers Care

True enough. But I thing this was an argument used as to why Apple will never release a phone.

 

Seven. iTunes Doesn't Support Native Automatic Sample Rate Switching

The default on a Mac is 24/96 though (IIRC).

 

Sorry Chris ... you have some interesting points and I'm not sure I disagree with you overall ... but you have really no more than all those "headline chasing tech sites" you talk about in your first paragraph. A "preeminent source for computer audio" ... NO ... random speculation!

 

Eloise

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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Macs default to 16/44.1, but you can change this in the Audio-MIDI Setup app, which most users don't even know exists.

Okay ... my mistake. But the point is the same as Apple could easily change the default. Certainly up-sampling everything to 24/96 rather than down-sampling 24/96 to 16/44.1 would be a good default for most (non-audiophile) purchases of 24/96 from iTunes.

 

At the end of the day I think Chris is right - there won't be High Resolution Audio from Apple ... but because most music listeners outside of the small audiophile community don't hear the need for it. That is the only point which is valid from Chris' 7. And yet Chris thinks Pono will be a success (I hope I'm not misquoting him)...

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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