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    Mastered for iTunes

    Okay, let the frothing and foaming begin.

    http://www.apple.com/itunes/mastered-for-itunes/
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    Quote Originally Posted by [URL="http://www.apple.com/itunes/mastered-for-itunes/"
    [/URL]The iTunes catalog was initially offered in 2003 as 128 kbps AAC files, many of which
    were encoded from the original CD masters. They sounded great—in fact, these
    downloads led the industry in sound quality. More than 100 million songs were sold in
    this format in a little over a year, changing the landscape of legal digital music forever.

    But innovation didn’t stop there. Recently, using the most advanced AAC encoder, the
    iTunes catalog was upgraded to iTunes Plus: a variable bit rate (VBR) 256 kbps AAC
    encoding format. iTunes AAC encoders are now able to transparently encode high
    definition audio, creating files that retain the small footprint, portability, and ease of use
    iTunes is known for. And they sound amazing.

    I didn't read much beyond this point. I believe, Apple's long term goal of controlling the music industry and it's distribution is clear. How long will it be before record producers/bands won't just be "encouraged" to master records with Apple software, but will have to if they want to sell their music via iTunes. 10, maybe 20 years? Every bit of space in that cloud of theirs has a dollar value. People who have grown up only knowing AAC, iPods, and earbuds will undoubtedly be impressed with the improvement. When in doubt, apply software.

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    Senior Member pathfindermwd's Avatar
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    It only makes sense that as an enormous distributor of compressed music and owner of their own format, Apple is getting into the recording quality issue. As long as it's better I say go for it. It could trigger industry competition for better recordings and formats, rather than just creating more monopoly' for iTunes, which of course is evil!

    See how I just did that?

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    Administrator Mr. Widget's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rusty jefferson View Post
    I didn't read much beyond this point. I believe, Apple's long term goal of controlling the music industry and it's distribution is clear. How long will it be before record producers/bands won't just be "encouraged" to master records with Apple software, but will have to if they want to sell their music via iTunes. 10, maybe 20 years?
    Yeah, and during the mid '80s as Japanese businesses bought up much of America it felt like we'd be speaking Japanese by now... their massive economic bubble changed that. Apple will not always be on top. I appreciate their dedication to quality in their hardware. I just hope the American proclivity towards the inexpensive doesn't replace Apple quality (which was driven by Mr. Jobs) with a cheap copy that is only styling based.

    As for iTunes, the store... I have no use for it until they offer 16/44.1 or better, losslessly.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Widget View Post
    Yeah, and during the mid '80s as Japanese businesses bought up much of America it felt like we'd be speaking Japanese by now... their massive economic bubble changed that. Apple will not always be on top. I appreciate their dedication to quality in their hardware. I just hope the American proclivity towards the inexpensive doesn't replace Apple quality (which was driven by Mr. Jobs) with a cheap copy that is only styling based.

    As for iTunes, the store... I have no use for it until they offer 16/44.1 or better losslessly.


    Widget
    I use it from time to time--maybe four or five times a year--to get music I just can't find (legally) anywhere else.

    I get a lot more content off emusic, which is less expensive but limits files to an average 192kbs using the variable bit LAME mp3 encoder.

    If anyone bothered to read all ten pages of the PDF on the Mastered for iTunes page, it's a simple but useful primer for aspiring recordists and masterers who may not encounter any of this information elsewhere. It at least broaches topics that are often lamented on this forum as the foundation of criticism of much current, recorded music.

    http://images.apple.com/itunes/maste...for_itunes.pdf
    In.

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    Senior Member pathfindermwd's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Titanium Dome View Post
    I use it from time to time--maybe four or five times a year--to get music I just can't find (legally) anywhere else.

    I get a lot more content off emusic, which is less expensive but limits files to an average 192kbs using the variable bit LAME mp3 encoder.

    If anyone bothered to read all ten pages of the PDF on the Mastered for iTunes page, it's a simple but useful primer for aspiring recordists and masterers who may not encounter any of this information elsewhere. It at least broaches topics that are often lamented on this forum as the foundation of criticism of much current, recorded music.

    http://images.apple.com/itunes/maste...for_itunes.pdf
    But seriously...

    Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do, I have had to grudgingly use it myself. The more I read, the more I liked. They are such an industry powerhouse they could use their power for good at a time when the industry really needs it.

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    Administrator Mr. Widget's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Titanium Dome View Post
    If anyone bothered to read all ten pages of the PDF on the Mastered for iTunes page, it's a simple but useful primer for aspiring recordists and masterers who may not encounter any of this information elsewhere. It at least broaches topics that are often lamented on this forum as the foundation of criticism of much current, recorded music.
    Why would we... unless we are in the music biz?

    I think it's great that they are suggesting that folks who want to record music and sell it through their "store" elevate their product offering, but I am not sure how that affects me. I doubt I'll be buying any of it. As for the "poor quality of today's music" Scott Fitlin RIP, the new music I buy from Kate Bush, Nora Jones, Mark Knopfler, Herbie Hancock, etc., etc... are all better recorded than the typical offerings from the '70s or '80s. I suppose if my musical tastes leaned towards dance/club music or contemporary pop I might feel differently.


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    Senior Member richluvsound's Avatar
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    I remember from my DJ days in Canada , the import vinyl was always a better recording on heavier vinyl .
    ECM and Bluenote+ and a lot of independent labels release vinyl ,but how wants to pay £30-40 each ? There are more and more HD tracks available from the musicians websites to download these days .

    Rich

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Widget View Post
    Why would we... unless we are in the music biz?

    I think it's great that they are suggesting that folks who want to record music and sell it through their "store" elevate their product offering, but I am not sure how that affects me. I doubt I'll be buying any of it. As for the "poor quality of today's music" Scott Fitlin RIP, the new music I buy from Kate Bush, Nora Jones, Mark Knopfler, Herbie Hancock, etc., etc... are all better recorded than the typical offerings from the '70s or '80s. I suppose if my musical tastes leaned towards dance/club music or contemporary pop I might feel differently.


    Widget
    Yes indeed, why would you? It's not like it's the topic of this thread you're commenting in or anything.
    In.

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    Senior Member pathfindermwd's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Widget View Post
    Why would we... unless we are in the music biz?

    I think it's great that they are suggesting that folks who want to record music and sell it through their "store" elevate their product offering, but I am not sure how that affects me. I doubt I'll be buying any of it. As for the "poor quality of today's music" Scott Fitlin RIP, the new music I buy from Kate Bush, Nora Jones, Mark Knopfler, Herbie Hancock, etc., etc... are all better recorded than the typical offerings from the '70s or '80s. I suppose if my musical tastes leaned towards dance/club music or contemporary pop I might feel differently.


    Widget
    Not that you have to care, or care much, but how the implementation of compressed music/sound files affects you is all around you. You commented on the sound quality of NPR. Whether we like it or not, it all rolls down hill.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Widget View Post
    Yeah, and during the mid '80s as Japanese businesses bought up much of America it felt like we'd be speaking Japanese by now... their massive economic bubble changed that. Apple will not always be on top....

    As for iTunes, the store... I have no use for it until they offer 16/44.1 or better, losslessly.


    Widget
    I don't think the 80's thing is a good analogy.

    Certainly, Apple won't be on top forever, however they, and Amazon, Walmart, Google, and a few other companies are positioning themselves to be in control for a long time to come. If you don't think Apple is striving to be the primary music source for the planet, you're kidding yourself. Not trying to go all George Orwell on ya or anything, but for the near future it is important for Apple to limit the size of music files for portable devices, cloud servers, and cell/wifi networks that would come to a grinding halt if all iTunes users had lossless (actual) files. They have successfully lowered the standard and gotten very rich in the process.

    I agree with your iTunes store philosophy 100%. I currently don't use iTunes at all. I choose FLAC.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Widget View Post
    ....Don't get me wrong, it is both interesting and likely a positive step that Apple is acknowledging improvements made and also acknowledging room for more improvement still.

    I hope that Apple or their successor(s) embrace studio quality. I am not sure what the market is for that level of quality, but I hope a big player steps in to find out.


    Widget
    I don't know if I can give them a pat on the back for the improvements. I'm cynical I know, but they lowered the standard so far to make portability/storage work, I understand that. Now, 10 years in they bump the algorithm a little and introduce special software for the recording industry to use to make recordings sound their best on iTunes? I just don't trust them to do the right thing for the industry/public. I appreciate the average iTunes user will either enjoy or not notice the improvement....er, degradation.

    I agree 100%, but I think it's unlikely we'll see this type of improvement any time soon, or without an exorbitant price increase. The "Audiophile Upcharge" if you will. If HD Tracks or some of the other higher end distributors demonstrate they can be profitable, one of the media giants will buy them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rusty jefferson
    I don't think the 80's thing is a good analogy.

    Certainly, Apple won't be on top forever, however they, and Amazon, Walmart, Google, and a few other companies are positioning themselves to be in control for a long time to come. If you don't think Apple is striving to be the primary music source for the planet, you're kidding yourself. Not trying to go all George Orwell on ya or anything, but for the near future it is important for Apple to limit the size of music files for portable devices, cloud servers, and cell/wifi networks that would come to a grinding halt if all iTunes users had lossless (actual) files. They have successfully lowered the standard and gotten very rich in the process.
    Apple makes the most bread on the hardware not the content. Amazon, by contrast, is willing to lose money on the hardware to make money off the content. I don't care about either model: I want rationally priced, high quality content that belongs to me when I purchase it, whether I store it locally or in the cloud or in some unknown futuristic medium.

    We all have to get a clue, as you've noted, that the infrastructure and the curmudgeonly media companies were the main drags on file size and quality to begin with. Now there's a gradual loosening of both of those strictures, but you can't expect a stilted structure of a century to change in a decade without some sacrifice from those who want to see it improve. Companies follow profits, not aficionado pipe dreams, as does JBL/Harman with numerous iPod docks, entry-level consumer gear, and a very few high-priced, premium products that most here will not be able to afford without sacrifice.

    In the past and to a certain extent currently, the media companies still control the content game and are the ones who've insisted on all kinds of DRM, restrictions, and controls. This is public knowledge, well known, well documented, and freely admitted. Add in associations like the Blu-ray group, and it's a cluster frak of huge proportion. Without reading the entire contract between Apple and the big four media companies, it's mere speculation to assign responsibility to Apple alone for bit rates, file sizes, and bandwidth restrictions. No doubt there were horrendous negotiating sessions with Jobs and the corporate execs, egos on both sides exceeding the available space and air.

    The end result was something that was limited, restricted, and for some people less that the physical status quo, but it was still a step toward a future that Jobs and some other smart people at Apple and elsewhere believed would be a revolution in the making. Eventually, DRM came off. Eventually iTune Plus came to be. Now, there's Mastered for iTunes.

    Perfect, no. Progress, yes. In the same range of time, LPs didn't improve as much; cassettes didn't improve as much, CDs didn't improve as much. Notice I wrote range of time, not "same time period" because none of this happened simultaneously. It happened historically.

    Quote Originally Posted by rusty jefferson
    I agree with your iTunes store philosophy 100%. I currently don't use iTunes at all. I choose FLAC.
    That's a good choice; nonetheless:

    Dylan: But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed You’re gonna have to serve somebody.

    I think FLAC is great. I spent a couple hundred bucks to get the Beatles' USB metal Apple with the remastered FLAC files on it. They sound great; just as good as the 320kbps MP3 files that play in iTunes. Not better IMO.

    There are some pieces of music I like that aren't available in FLAC or other high quality formats. I don't cut off my nose to spite my face. I listen to the lesser quality files that I can get, and I find it easy to enjoy the music rather than fret over the file type or bit rate. Now if a higher quality option is available, I'll take it if it's' reasonable and legal. No worries there, but I'm not going to lose the chance to hear great performances or favorite bits, even if the medium is not 100%. I'm unwilling to pay that opportunity cost.

    Quote Originally Posted by rusty jefferson
    I don't know if I can give them a pat on the back for the improvements. I'm cynical I know, but they lowered the standard so far to make portability/storage work, I understand that. Now, 10 years in they bump the algorithm a little and introduce special software for the recording industry to use to make recordings sound their best on iTunes? I just don't trust them to do the right thing for the industry/public. I appreciate the average iTunes user will either enjoy or not notice the improvement....er, degradation.
    Apple doesn't want a pat on the back from me, you, Widget, or anyone else, so no need to worry about that. They want people to buy their gear and use their content services. I know you know that, but you kind of made me write it. The credit I would give Apple is that it is moving the stake forward. Certainly part of that is to keep selling stuff, but part of it is also to set a higher standard as conditions allow. Apple gets dumped on all the time for relatively conservative upgrades or simply adding things that other vendors already have in their products. IME, other tech companies will throw in anything they can to have the latest gee-whiz technology, whether it works for most people or works at all. I live in the second-largest metro area in the US, and some companies were touting "4G" products and willing to let consumers sign up for expensive two-year contracts for 4G phones on networks that had no 4G service in 90% of the local area. We sure as heck didn't have it here, yet whiners were complaining about Apple not having a 4G device. Uh, well, there's no 4 G here. Now that it's actually becoming available, there's the "new" iPad, when the infrastructure is in place to make it meaningful and they can sell new, high margin products with technical features that can actually be used.

    I see the Mastered in iTunes as a similar step. With the cloud becoming a reality rather than complete vapor (see the pseudoscientific pun there), there's enough storage and bandwidth on the horizon to make it all work. Apple's $25 iTunes match will put all your non DRM music and old iTunes DRMed purchases in the cloud at 256kbps DRM free, even if you originally got it at 128kbps, whether from iTunes, emusic, your own ripped discs, etc. It's incremental improvement, but it is improvement.

    Actually, it's more than incremental improvement for the majority of iTunes users. It's a doubling. For those of us who deign, feign, or complain about needing much higher bit rates, it's at least incremental.

    Quote Originally Posted by rusty jefferson
    I agree 100%, but I think it's unlikely we'll see this type of improvement any time soon, or without an exorbitant price increase. The "Audiophile Upcharge" if you will. If HD Tracks or some of the other higher end distributors demonstrate they can be profitable, one of the media giants will buy them.

    I'm not sure what your 100% agreement is, but I think it's with Widget's "embrace studio quality" comment. If so, I'd like him to give a better comment on what that means. I've been in a lot of studios, including most recently AIX Studios in West LA (along with grumpy and JBLaddict). What's going on in that studio is a lot different than what's going on in some of the more mainstream studios I've been allowed to visit. If Widget means that AIX kind of studio standard, then yes, I'm in agreement. But if he means virtually all of the other studios where I've been, then, uh, pass on that standard. It's mostly retrograde s#!t when it comes to the mastering process. I'm more interested in forward moving approaches, and Mastered for iTunes has that feel to me.

    Neither Apple nor anyone else can take bad studio standard recordings and make them more than what they are. I know in theory some guys have said they could, but they've never proven it to my satisfaction. It appears that Apple is playing to the non-studio standard guys and gals who are mixing their own. The studios aren't going to change. They'll fight the loudness wars for a long time to come. But individuals mixing their own, young artists who want to avoid the studio system, veterans who are tired of being burned by the studios, they can all go around that behemoth and try Mastered for iTunes if they want. They get the tools for free. Apple gets access to the content at a predetermined and well-known price; the artists get hosting, sales, accounting, distribution, access to the largest market, and 70% of the take.

    If a consumer (that's most of us) doesn't want to wade through iTunes, that's fine. There's no need to do that. But if Apple's initiative produces one, then two, then four, then eight, then xx artists who make better mastered products of really good music that would never escape the studio system and we're ignoring the iTunes products out of principle or pretense, we could end up later to the party than we already are. I'm getting too old to miss any parties. I need to keep on dancing till the world ends.

    In.

  13. #13
    Administrator Robh3606's Avatar
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    Why foam ITunes is just portable music for me. I purchase physical media and will continue to do so until the option is gone. At least they are moving in the right direction.

    Do any of you have ITunes? That last revision has the AAC VBR as an option in the encoder. I have been using MP3 VBR for years and the higher bit rates sound quite good. I am going to try the AAC VBR and see what's what.

    Rob
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    Super Moderator jblnut's Avatar
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    I'll toss some coins in the fountain here for what it's worth...

    I have a number of iDevices and have been using them for about 5 years. I like their design and for the most part I am happy with their sound quality. However, I have purchased a grand total of *one* song on iTunes in the past 5 years, and that was because we were hosting a party and someone wanted to hear a song I somehow didn't have in my fairly large collection (2000 LPs, 1500 CDs, 50K+ MP3s). It was a quick and easy process and I can see why it's popular with some people.

    What I can't get past is why this "gotta have it now" generation is willing to pay the same or more for a 128k digital copy of the CD, just to get it ASAP. Wouldn't everyone rather have "all the bits", and the real media in hand if for no other purpose than to have a "backup" ? I know how I'm voting with my money, but I am clearly in the minority. The real reason is of course that no one is forced to buy the whole album any more, and we all know that a lot of albums have only a good song or two at most. Apple clearly knew that, and coupled with the "buy it now" mentality, they hit it out of the park.

    So now, many years later they have decided to up the ante to 256k. Having done a bunch of comparisons myself with MP3's at various bit rates, I know this will make a difference on some music. What I am somewhat interested in is the following:

    1) will they charge more now ?
    2) will they try and get people to re-buy their already purchased iTunes music all over again at 256k? This is a time-proven music industry practice we've all been through
    3) Will they FINALLY act like a decent corporation and KEEP TRACK of what you purchased so that you can download it again at a later date if your computer and mobile device both go kaput at once? Too many of my friends learned the hard way early on with iTunes that it's up to you to do your own backups. And will this be free or will they charge some kind of "cloud" fee for it ? They don't need to re-store all the songs again (a bit for bit copy of your data), they just need to check that you have purchased it and let you download it again.

    Steve's gone...will the money machine continue ? I think the next gen is going to be eyeglass-based with voice and retina scanned control.
    When they all have 100TB internal storage (or 100PB), we'll all look back on this compression craze and laugh....

    jblnut

    (I'm a data storage guy and the time when we're all walking around with terabytes is just around the corner)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Titanium Dome View Post

    Dylan: But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed You’re gonna have to serve somebody.
    True that, my friend.

    I appreciated your detailed response, post #22. Just to be clear, I have no problem with folks that use, like, love Apple/iTunes. I understand the genius and practicality of it. As posted earlier, I currently don't have a need for their system, but I "get" why millions use it.

    To the original point of the thread, I hope you see my concern with the idea of music being mastered with software specific to a low bit rate format to enhance it's playback. I see a potential for a overall loss of quality for those of us who would like to purchase cds/downloads at the "studio quality level". Over time, producers/bands will default to the iTunes "production" as that may be the biggest market, and hey, "It sounds pretty good to me". I would prefer to see music mastered at the highest quality level possible, then have the software applied that gives the best results on iTunes.

    Quote Originally Posted by Titanium Dome View Post
    I think FLAC is great. I spent a couple hundred bucks to get the Beatles' USB metal Apple with the remastered FLAC files on it. They sound great; just as good as the 320kbps MP3 files that play in iTunes. Not better IMO.
    I think this may be a good thread, if you want to start one. There is no way, imo, that the mp3 file should be able to hold up against the remastered 24 bit FLAC file. It should be night and day, if everything in your system is set up properly. I am assuming you mean on your main system, with the K2s, not in the car, or on a secondary system.



    Quote Originally Posted by jblnut View Post
    1) will they charge more now ?
    2) will they try and get people to re-buy their already purchased iTunes music all over again at 256k? This is a time-proven music industry practice we've all been through
    3) Will they FINALLY act like a decent corporation and KEEP TRACK of what you purchased so that you can download it again at a later date if your computer and mobile device both go kaput at once? Too many of my friends learned the hard way early on with iTunes that it's up to you to do your own backups. And will this be free or will they charge some kind of "cloud" fee for it ? They don't need to re-store all the songs again (a bit for bit copy of your data), they just need to check that you have purchased it and let you download it again.
    I think Ti Dome touched on some of these in post 22

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