For a while, Apple has been working with music artists and their sound engineers to offer up the highest encoding practices possible for submissions to the iTunes Store.
Now Apple has now showing the outcome of some of those efforts by launching a new “Mastered for iTunes” section on the iTunes Store.
Apple currently uses the Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) codec for music compression and while, to the average listener, these files may sound great. However, to audiophiles, sound-engineers and the artists who create the music, they are not getting the full array of sound that they intended for you to hear.
Most recently, many artists like Neil Young, Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine, head of Interscope-Geffen-A&M have all gone on record as not being in favor of the sound quality listeners are getting when purchasing music. The AAC codec, that is used by Apple and various other digital media service providers, causes quality loss during the conversion from the 24-bit 192kHz original recording. By the time consumers actually get the file, you are only receiving as little as three percent of the original 192kHz quality.
With the launch of the “Mastered for iTunes” section, Apple is carrying out a transition from their original methods of taking the CD masters and encoding them to the 256kbps iTunes Plus files. Apple is asking publishers to submit the full high-resolution 24-bit/96kHz files so they may be the base file for encoding. To help with the transition for music publishers, Apple has also released a white paper documenting the changes and advising how to go about the process of submissions. Apple is also documenting to provide new mastering tools to go along with it.
The ultimate goal here is to have everyone obtain the highest quality audio files possible from the iTunes Store. Neil Young once said that he had been working with Apple on this change prior to the death of Steve Jobs and since then, there has not been much word from Apple. The latest development in this regard shows that Apple had been working on it behind the scenes.