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Mastered for iTunes or Original CD?


fritzg

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In general, what do folks think of a comparison of these two formats? I have boxes of CDs I ripped at 128 and was happy to get the iTunes upgrade to 256 with iTunes match and especially so with the new "Mastered for iTunes". However, I am no re-ripping into lossless format and am wondering about the consensus (if there is one) on old CD quality mastering vs. the new 256 Mastered for iTunes for listening through a DAC on a low end audiophile system.

 

Thoughts? Arguments? :-)

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In general, what do folks think of a comparison of these two formats? I have boxes of CDs I ripped at 128 and was happy to get the iTunes upgrade to 256 with iTunes match and especially so with the new "Mastered for iTunes". However, I am no re-ripping into lossless format and am wondering about the consensus (if there is one) on old CD quality mastering vs. the new 256 Mastered for iTunes for listening through a DAC on a low end audiophile system.

 

Thoughts? Arguments? :-)

 

If you can't hear the difference between 128 or 256 kbps and lossless on your system...

The entire raison d'être of this site is to share tips on how to achieve the best possible digital audio SQ, so most folks here would recommend reripping all your CD's to lossless. Not sure what a low end audiophile system is, but should you decide to upgrade your gear later, you'll want the higher-quality files.

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Yeah, I can tell the difference between 128 and 256, that is why I used iTunes Match to upgrade after I ripped my collection to 128K probably twenty years ago. I can also tell the difference between HD files and CD quality and 256. My question is more of a comparison between what many consider to be poor mastering for CDs say 20 years ago to mastering done now for iTunes.

 

As far as my comment about a "low end audiophile system", I bought a Sprout from PS Audio (Kickstarter campaign) and hope to have it delivered in the next month or so, in the meantime I have a Topping VX1 to go with my Mac mini and Synology NAS. My "low end audiophile system will be made for less than $2500. Maybe that doesn't even qualify me as an audiophile, but it's what I am doing.

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Yeah, I can tell the difference between 128 and 256, that is why I used iTunes Match to upgrade after I ripped my collection to 128K probably twenty years ago. I can also tell the difference between HD files and CD quality and 256. My question is more of a comparison between what many consider to be poor mastering for CDs say 20 years ago to mastering done now for iTunes.

 

As far as my comment about a "low end audiophile system", I bought a Sprout from PS Audio (Kickstarter campaign) and hope to have it delivered in the next month or so, in the meantime I have a Topping VX1 to go with my Mac mini and Synology NAS. My "low end audiophile system will be made for less than $2500. Maybe that doesn't even qualify me as an audiophile, but it's what I am doing.

 

Sorry, didn't mean to sound snarky. You obviously know something about computer audio, and your system does not sound too shabby. But, I doubt that many folks here bother downloading music from iTunes at all, so not sure what "mastered for iTunes" represents. It's still lossy.

 

Many of us, myself included, also ripped our music collections at lower bit rates the first time around. My first "digital system" was plugging my iPod into my integrated amp. I thought I had it all going on because I was using the line-level docking port instead of the headphone jack. I now can't think of a reason why I would want to play anything but lossless files, given the choice.

 

I think that a lot of of the CD's mastered 20 or more years ago sound better than the heavily-compressed remasters (and new stuff) released today. Hard drives are so cheap now that it seems foolish not to re-rip everything you can to lossless. Yes, it is a PITA, but you only have to do it again one more time for the forseeable future.

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In general, lossless is the way to go.

 

However, if the 'mastered for iTunes' tracks are indeed remastered, there may be cases where you will simply prefer the remastered edition.

 

IMO

2013 MacBook Pro Retina -> {Pure Music | Audirvana} -> {Dragonfly Red v.1} -> AKG K-702 or Sennheiser HD650 headphones.

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While I would argue that mastering is often more important than the format - I'll take a good master at CD-quality 16/44 than a bad master in DSD or 24/192 - 256K AAC quality is so low that it doesn't even matter. A lossless rip of the CD wins every time.

 

"Mastered for iTunes" does not mean remastered for iTunes either - it simply means that the files were resubmitted and pass Apple's basic quality requirements. And modern remasters are generally worse than old CDs. Any modern remaster that is worth getting, will be available in higher quality outside of iTunes.

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That is generally what I would think, lossless is better. But two things are what lead me to the question I've posed.

 

1. The McGowans at PS Audio talk about how good iTunes files sound over bluetooth from an iPhone on this amp. Maybe this is just because the Sprout is marketed to that group (and maybe that group includes me!).

 

2. And in cases like the Rolling Stones, I have old 1986 ABKCO CDs and a few 1994 Virgin remasters. I wonder how they compare to what is on iTunes. I have heard so many folks criticize the 1986 ABKCO CDs that I wonder if they (and other CDs from questionable sources in that era) are worth re-ripping over their more modern iTunes counterparts.

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1. The McGowans at PS Audio talk about how good iTunes files sound over bluetooth from an iPhone on this amp. Maybe this is just because the Sprout is marketed to that group (and maybe that group includes me!).
People trying to sell you a product might not be the best source of information on the subject.

 

2. And in cases like the Rolling Stones, I have old 1986 ABKCO CDs and a few 1994 Virgin remasters. I wonder how they compare to what is on iTunes. I have heard so many folks criticize the 1986 ABKCO CDs that I wonder if they (and other CDs from questionable sources in that era) are worth re-ripping over their more modern iTunes counterparts.
Better to buy a new CD than an iTunes download. It's often cheaper too.

 

I'd suggest that it's worth re-ripping everything in lossless with a good ripper (dBpoweramp/XLD, not iTunes!) if you only used 128k MP3 twenty years ago. Those old encoders were very bad compared to what we have today.

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Better to buy a new CD than an iTunes download. It's often cheaper too.

 

I'd suggest that it's worth re-ripping everything in lossless with a good ripper (dBpoweramp/XLD, not iTunes!) if you only used 128k MP3 twenty years ago. Those old encoders were very bad.

 

The question is not buying a new CD over a buying a download, the question is 1986 CD or free itunes match remaster.

 

Do I hear you say that one lossless "encoder" is better than another? Aren't they both lossless files?

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The question is not buying a new CD over a buying a download, the question is 1986 CD or free itunes match remaster.

 

Do I hear you say that one lossless "encoder" is better than another? Aren't they both lossless files?

 

The first 5 or six Stones albums were not well recorded in the first place. Their SQ did not start to improve until Aftermath and Between The Buttons. I've owned the LP's, the ABCKO CD's, and the HDtracks 24/88.2 SACD remasters, and my take on it is that you can't make a silk purse from a sow's ear. So, if you can get a free download, why not re-rip a couple of your old CD's, and decide for yourself?

 

iTunes ripper is adequate for some, but lacks the more exacting features and options found in XLD and dbPoweramp.

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can anybody confirm exactly what the technical process is for the "mastered for iTunes" items ?

or is it just marketing ?

 

presumably iTunes have access to the latest catalogue material from each supplier. Do they just rip it at lower-res ? I cannot believe there is any real re-mastering....

 

anybody have solid info/ evidence ?

Aurender X100L > Audiophilleo USB/SPDIF > Devialet 200 > Verity Audio Parsifal Ovation

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So, if you can get a free download, why not re-rip a couple of your old CD's, and decide for yourself?

 

That is what I am doing with those CDs. My initial most and question is kind of an in general one, and I am getting the answer I suspected, and mostly agree with: a lossless rip from any CD is better sonically than anything remastered and available in a lossy format, no matter the mastering.

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Do I hear you say that one lossless "encoder" is better than another? Aren't they both lossless files?
There can be a huge difference between lossy encoders, especially if you're comparing MP3s created 20 years ago to something ripped today at the same bitrate.

 

Lossless is lossless. The format doesn't matter.

 

If you aren't using a secure ripper though (which iTunes is not) then you don't know whether you have a perfect copy of the audio on the CD with your "lossless" rip. It may be a lossless encoding of a bad rip.

 

can anybody confirm exactly what the technical process is for the "mastered for iTunes" items ?

or is it just marketing ?

 

presumably iTunes have access to the latest catalogue material from each supplier. Do they just rip it at lower-res ? I cannot believe there is any real re-mastering....

 

anybody have solid info/ evidence ?

"Mastered for iTunes" is not re-mastering. It means they supplied iTunes with files which match a minimum spec.

 

https://www.apple.com/itunes/mastered-for-itunes/docs/mastered_for_itunes.pdf

 

The main difference is really just that they are often supplying Apple with a high-res master which Apple converts, instead of supplying tracks which they have encoded themselves.

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In general, what do folks think of a comparison of these two formats? I have boxes of CDs I ripped at 128 and was happy to get the iTunes upgrade to 256 with iTunes match and especially so with the new "Mastered for iTunes". However, I am no re-ripping into lossless format and am wondering about the consensus (if there is one) on old CD quality mastering vs. the new 256 Mastered for iTunes for listening through a DAC on a low end audiophile system.

 

Thoughts? Arguments? :-)

 

My intuition tells me the old CD's would be the best. Once in awhile there is a new CD that sounds halfway decent.

 

Mastered For iTunes, in my experience, is no different than a regular 256k AAC track. It is an attempt by Apple to get better masters. They can be just as compressed as anything else (such as in the case of Red Hot Chili Peppers - I'm With You, which was a MFiT track that was compressed and loud beyond belief).

 

These days I stick mostly to audiophile CD's, or track down the good mastering on CD. A lot of the old ones you can get dirt cheap too.

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So what I see here is that the difference is "Mastered For iTunes" tracks are coming straight from a high-resolution master, but at the end of the day it's still 256k AAC. I guess I fail to see what the advantage is with MFiT then. What guarantee is there that the standards are followed?

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Every iTunes file I've ever come across always has some weird things done to it. They do modify the file and there is a mid range boost in their files. I've done TONS of analysis between the original CD or Master and what you get off iTunes and not once has the iTunes file sounded better. Unless something obviously was messed up with the CD.

 

Most of the iTunes also seem to have a lower DR rating than the CD version. Which I think is funny that people put up with this...maybe people like brickwalling?

 

But I always pick a version that is not from iTunes...

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Every iTunes file I've ever come across always has some weird things done to it. They do modify the file and there is a mid range boost in their files. I've done TONS of analysis between the original CD or Master and what you get off iTunes and not once has the iTunes file sounded better. Unless something obviously was messed up with the CD.

 

Most of the iTunes also seem to have a lower DR rating than the CD version. Which I think is funny that people put up with this...maybe people like brickwalling?

 

But I always pick a version that is not from iTunes...

 

Not sure if the dynamic range thing is true. If you look up Black Sabbath - Paranoid on the DR Database, you'll find a lossy version there which is from a Mastered For iTunes file. Actually - it's right here - Album details - Dynamic Range Database. This was my submission. I find it to be exactly the same as the HDTracks one in terms of DR.

Admittedly, I have bought iTunes tracks in the past but prefer the CD, especially when it costs less.

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^used, Right?

 

Is this a reply to me? Yes, typically the CD's I am buying are used. But often I can find a CD on Amazon new for under $10. I believe a typical album on iTunes is $10.

 

Nothing wrong with buying iTunes tracks. I prefer Amazon MP3, again, because the cost is lower - if I'm going to buy digital downloads over a CD.

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