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Apple set to launch ‘HD’ music files

February 24, 2011

Apple has apparently been in talks with record companies about new ways of ‘enhancing the quality of song files it sells and possibly charging a premium rate for the high fidelity tracks’.

Music is usually recorded in studios in a 24-bit audio format but most tracks are reduced to 16 bits to be put onto CDs. This is still uncompressed ie all the recorded information is still present but at a slightly lower quality.

Mp3s are made smaller still – often they are a tenth the size of the original recording, and although clever algorithms are used to disguise this data compression as much as possible, the sound quality is significantly worse. The public, though, has been trained by the music industry over the last few years to find this crap quality acceptable.

Jimmy Iovine, Chairman of the dinosaur Universal Music Group said recently: ‘We are trying to fix the degradation of music the digital revolution has caused. It’s one thing to have music stolen through the ease of digital processing but it’s another to destroy the quality of it. That’s happening on a massive scale.’

Holy shit. Firstly, there’s the tired old mantra slipped in there about ‘stealing’ of music and then he tries to blame some un-named other person for the fact that mp3s are essentially shit compared with uncompressed audio. Who is selling the mp3s? Oh, yes – his label. Rather than Universal deciding to stop selling this music with its ‘destroyed quality’, they are clearly happy to continue selling it but use this as an excuse to sell the same music again at decent quality but bump the prices up.

Radiohead’s critically aclaimed (but actually predictable and tedious) new album was released in 24 bit format this month. Good for them, though, in one sense. Finally, the public can get hold of music at a quality near to that heard in the recording studio. I see no reason, though, why Universal or Apple or anyone at all should be bumping prices up. Greedy, thieving bastards, the lot of them. A forward thinking label would say: ‘We’re going to release everything at 24 bit and at current prices’. They’d probably make a fat profit for a while before the music industry bandwagon-jumpers followed suit a year later.

It’s still unclear from the limited information whether Apple are planning 24 bit but compressed audio (sort of a super mp3) or 24 uncompressed audio (WAV quality) which would be vastly superior. Let’s hope they make the right decision, selling at a sensible price. Let’s hope the big four fossil record companies don’t scupper it by being as resistant to progress as they always are.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. artyf permalink
    February 24, 2011 4:41 pm

    Every time there’s a technological advance, corporations will try every trick in the book to corner the market… the Listerine Effect! Nice article!

  2. February 24, 2011 4:46 pm

    am I wrong in thinking that it costs the distributor nothing more to retail in 24 bit. That`s how the music comes to them anyway isn’t it? If that is correct then greedy thieving bastards is an understatement, get paid more for doing less ….. hmmm

  3. February 24, 2011 5:18 pm

    That’s about it. A slightly larger storage facility required but that’s negligible finacially. Yep, it’s pure theft. I wonder if they’d even be doing it if someone hadn’t had a bright idea that maybe they could make more money that way. They could have done this several years ago, as soon as broadband made moving large files feasible.

  4. February 24, 2011 6:23 pm

    The difference in storage & bandwidth needed for a 256 aac (itunes) & a 24bit wav is an order of magnitude – hardly insignificant when they operate on such a massive scale. no idea what proportion of their costs that currently is though…

    • February 24, 2011 7:43 pm

      I still think that in the scheme of things it’ll work out to be pennies, as memory is getting cheaper continually.

      • Louis permalink
        February 24, 2011 11:09 pm

        There is a happy medium though where lossless compression could be used so we can get 24b wav quality without having the huge file size. Back in the day mp3 was chosen largely because of the speed and power of the processing required to uncompress lossless audio. I don’t want 24b wav files on my iPod, it’s only 4Gb and creaks as it is, but it wouldn’t be difficult for Apple to incorporate a codec for 24b lossless compression.

        Sure bigger file sizes and bandwidth will cost a bit more but nothing in the scale of uncompressed files.

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