By at 7:10 AM Friday, March 2nd 2012


Apple’s New Era: ‘Hi-Def’ Audio File Format

Apple, Music


Audiophiles & Apple gear-heads – the tech blogosphere is slowly but steadily generating buzz about the impending launch of the reported next audio product in Apple’s new wave of offerings: an improved streaming audio file format. The scheduled March 7th release of the iPad 3 appears to coincide with this new development.

This format ushers in several rumored features: First, as a projected competitor to Spotify, Apple would provide “Adaptive Streaming.” The new service would allow iPhone users with a slower connection to access lower quality versions of songs, thereby saving bandwidth. Alternately, it would adjust to faster connections accordingly, allegedly allowing users access to enhanced versions of songs using iMatch or iCloud.

With the second rumored feature, based on unverified sources reported by The Guardian, iOS device users would be able to have their entire existing iTunes library converted to studio quality. The Guardian goes on to claim that with this new format a user’s entire existing library could be converted to “high-definition” on-the-fly: “All of a sudden, all your audio from iTunes is in HD rather than AAC. Users wouldn’t have to touch a thing – their library will improve in an instant.”

We assume this “instant” improvement will apply only to iTunes files stored in Apple’s iCloud, though it would likely be possible to re-download iTunes purchases at a higher quality, just like we saw when iTunes jumped to 256kbps AAC files. We also have serious reservations about using the term “high-definition” to describe these files that, at least in the near future, will almost certainly be CD quality at best.

With that said, these claims are not completely unwarranted. With the March 7th release date of the iPad 3 seemingly solidified, Apple’s ventures into the realm of streaming music are also getting a boost. As a rumored competitor to Spotify this new service would allow an average iPhone user with a slower connection to access lower quality versions of songs, thereby saving bandwidth. Alternately, it would adjust to faster connections and output audio in high-definition “master” quality. With these new developments it seems Dave Grohl’s recent trumpeting of a return to analog was a foreshadowing of things to come.

Neil Young, another one of the last bastions of authentic rock & roll, has also been outspoken about his dissatisfaction with the quality of digital music, and the tremendous effort it would take to tackle the media on all established digital devices worldwide. In a recent MTV interview and at a panel discussion in Southern California last month, however, he expressed the belief that he had an ally in Steve Jobs.

“Steve Jobs was a pioneer of digital music, his legacy was tremendous,” Young acknowledged. “But when he went home, he listened to vinyl.”

Here, the real winners are the music fans and mastering engineers. In just five months after Steve Jobs’ death we are seeing the emergence of an improved attitude toward the physical act of listening to music. And, although there are many factors at play, the overwhelming lesson is clear: if you want something done right, call Neil Young.


Meanwhile, On The Internet...

  1. Schnapple says:

    Is this different from the “Mastered for iTunes” thing that sound engineers are critical of?

  2. Widdla says:

    Hopefully the days of listening to shitty quality MP3s on shitty quality headphones are behind us soon. Glad to see the demand for high quality headphones like Monster’s Dre Beats increasing, and digital providers like iTunes making a push for higher quality audio.

  3. Skwerl says:

    this new format isn’t hd. it’s not even new. they’re just doing adaptive streaming, and on the high end they’ve developed a new way to rip aac files that supposedly sounds better, but it’s still compressed down to cd quality at best. it’s all hype… until further notice. they are asking for 24bit sources, which could pave the way to true hd down the line.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Connect with Facebook

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>