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Apple iTunes - Mastered for iTunes
mixminus1
post Feb 23 2012, 23:24
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At least the prices are (currently staying) the same - aside from a spot on the "what's new" section at the top of the iTMS home page, and a "This album is Mastered for iTunes" line in the album's description, nothing else seems to have changed from a purchasing standpoint.


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RobertoDomenico
post Feb 24 2012, 02:19
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Having bought an album i honestly can't hear any difference from my bought CD.
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googlebot
post Feb 24 2012, 13:28
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You are experiencing another episode of Apple's marketing genius. Raise just a grain of doubt about lossy compression in preparation for your own lossless rollout. Do it in a way that does not provoke opposition by technical opinion leaders. Get labels into the boat early and not just the big ones (it's 2012).
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RobertoDomenico
post Feb 24 2012, 14:58
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I can't see Apple offering lossless anytime soon, the files are just to big. Try explaining to the majority of idevice users why lossless is better they just wont have anything of it when all they will see is larger files, shorter batter life and wont won't hear any sonic improvements over the lossy.
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andy o
post Feb 24 2012, 17:16
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They would have to be crazy to stop offering lossy if they do offer lossless, I don't think anybody here was expecting that. "Shorter battery life" is not an issue at all though. With an iPod Classic, to me the difference if there's one, is negligible, one wouldn't notice it unless doing real meticulous testing.
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tuffy
post Feb 24 2012, 17:21
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QUOTE (RobertoDomenico @ Feb 24 2012, 07:58) *
Try explaining to the majority of idevice users why lossless is better they just wont have anything of it when all they will see is larger files, shorter batter life and wont won't hear any sonic improvements over the lossy.

Apple: "Looks like your 16GB iDevice no longer has room for additional lossless audio. Would you be interested in a 64GB version?"
Customer: "Sounds like an excuse to upgrade!"

Or, Apple could add an "automatically convert to AAC when syncing to iPods" option to iTunes. Either way, I think they'd manage just fine.
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mixminus1
post Feb 24 2012, 17:39
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I definitely don't see lossless happening in the cloud, and that's where Apple (and everyone else) appears to be headed.

Sure, 4G is "coming", but consuming several hundred kb/s of bandwidth over cell phone networks just to play back a stereo music track? Seems more than a little ridiculous, especially with the current price:bandwidth ratios on data plans.


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greynol
post Feb 24 2012, 20:26
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Unless Apple has determined that they will continue to add to their profits by still offering the outmoded and competing concept of local storage, the iPod classic will be discontinued. It seems pretty obvious to me that Apple is not the least bit interested in pushing lossless to the mobile market.

This post has been edited by greynol: Feb 24 2012, 20:32


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Carledwards
post Feb 24 2012, 21:26
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QUOTE (greynol @ Feb 24 2012, 11:26) *
Unless Apple has determined that they will continue to add to their profits by still offering the outmoded and competing concept of local storage, the iPod classic will be discontinued. It seems pretty obvious to me that Apple is not the least bit interested in pushing lossless to the mobile market.


Yeah, that's exactly how I see it, too.

This post has been edited by Carledwards: Feb 24 2012, 21:27
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googlebot
post Feb 25 2012, 01:01
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I don't see how continuing to serve the mobile market would contradict cashing in on the stationary market.
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Notat
post Feb 25 2012, 01:30
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QUOTE (ozmosis82 @ Feb 23 2012, 12:01) *
Did anyone else notice how the PDF also mentioned that Sound Check can be applied across albums (e.g DSOTM)? This is news to me.

No album normalization in current iTunes. This is either an error or an unintentional announcement of an upcoming feature.
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Notat
post Feb 25 2012, 01:41
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QUOTE (Kujibo @ Feb 23 2012, 15:07) *
I do however hope that Apple is trying to put a system in place to accept high quality masters in the hope that they move to providing lossless at some point. Short of actually providing lossless this whole mastered for iTunes thing seems like yet another way to market a new way to sell the same music, and sadly I don't even see a concrete jump in technology here, I don't really see what it is guaranteeing at all.

As I see it, the main purpose of all this is to address an audio quality problem introduced by lossy compression. The quality problem is not data reduction but the fact that when you run a squashed masters with true peak >0 dBFS through a lossy encoder it can produce some nasty results. Under the guidelines, the crappy overloud masters should sound just as crappy and not quite as overloud when you buy them from iTunes.
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greynol
post Feb 25 2012, 02:14
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QUOTE (googlebot @ Feb 24 2012, 16:01) *
I don't see how continuing to serve the mobile market would contradict cashing in on the stationary market.
It wouldn't. I was specifically speaking about the demise of the ipod classic.

Seriously though, lossless doesn't exactly fit into the new distribution model. As to the stationary market, I'd be surprised if its usage extended beyond the fringe.

This post has been edited by greynol: Mar 29 2012, 05:49


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greynol
post Feb 25 2012, 02:26
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QUOTE (Notat @ Feb 24 2012, 16:41) *
The quality problem is not data reduction but the fact that when you run a squashed masters with true peak >0 dBFS through a lossy encoder it can produce some nasty results.

At least it does on paper.


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Ron Jones
post Feb 25 2012, 03:19
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QUOTE (tuffy @ Feb 24 2012, 09:21) *
Or, Apple could add an "automatically convert to AAC when syncing to iPods" option to iTunes. Either way, I think they'd manage just fine.

Already there. At least on the OS X version — not entirely sure on the Windows version.

EDIT: Windows too, since 9.1.

This post has been edited by Ron Jones: Feb 25 2012, 03:34
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RobertoDomenico
post Feb 25 2012, 03:43
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Why are my songs taking extra long to download? Why is my HDD all of a sudden 3 times fuller? The problem with auto convert is that it's for all songs so ALAC gets converted to 128 AAC so does 160 AAC get converted to 128 aac.
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andy o
post Feb 25 2012, 09:13
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QUOTE (RobertoDomenico @ Feb 24 2012, 18:43) *
Why are my songs taking extra long to download? Why is my HDD all of a sudden 3 times fuller?

I think you give too little credit to the average consumer. Did anybody complain when they raised bitrate to double? And for the really clueless, at least they can read: even facebook has a "high quality photos will take longer" message.
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SHiV
post Feb 25 2012, 13:52
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In principle encoding from a better source produces better final results.
Did anayone already tried to ABX iTunes encodes from master and home encodes from CDs ?
It would be interesting.
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RobertoDomenico
post Feb 25 2012, 14:16
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I have not done any ABX tests but with the one album i bought just a casual listen i could not hear any difference at all through my system from the the CD. Frankly if i need to ABX to spot the difference then whats the point.

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SHiV
post Feb 25 2012, 23:21
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Well.. I think generally speaking ABX is always requested to identify any difference, since are usually slight.
I mean: AAC 256 don't sound bad at all.. maybe different when compared to the orginal source.
I'm just curious to understand if there is or not a real benefit, as I suppose, to encode from a better source when the goal is to stay as close as possible to the CD sound.
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cyberdux
post Feb 26 2012, 01:25
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QUOTE (SHiV @ Feb 26 2012, 08:21) *
Well.. I think generally speaking ABX is always requested to identify any difference, since are usually slight.
I mean: AAC 256 don't sound bad at all.. maybe different when compared to the orginal source.
I'm just curious to understand if there is or not a real benefit, as I suppose, to encode from a better source when the goal is to stay as close as possible to the CD sound.


Having read the "Mastered for iTunes" .pdf, my understanding is that Apple are requesting that recording companies provide iTunes with the best source material possible, not a replication of "CD sound". In this way, if the master supplied to iTunes has had care taken to represent the original intent of the artist, and that artist, producer and engineering team care about quality, the iTunes encodes stand a good chance of sounding very good indeed.
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kornchild2002
post Feb 26 2012, 14:58
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QUOTE (andy o @ Feb 24 2012, 09:16) *
"Shorter battery life" is not an issue at all though.


The reduced battery life of lossless files are still a big issue for people using iPod's featuring hard drives. In my testing (with a 2009 160GB iPod classic), I can encode up to about 256kbps before the battery life takes a noticeable hit since the HDD has to be accessed a lot more. I conducted several battery life tests on my iPod classic just for the hell of it.

128kbps VBR/CBR - 42 hours
192kbps VBR/CBR - 41.8 hours
256kbps VBR/CBR - 40 hours
Mixed playlist - 41 hours
ALAC - 33 hours

Those results are pretty consistent with my other battery life tests on older iPod's as well (specifically the 3G iPod, 4G iPod, 5G iPod, and 120GB iPod classic). ALAC, AIFF, and PCM WAV drastically reduce the battery life for me on a consistent basis. Is it as bad as with the 3G and 4G iPods? Not nearly and 33 hours is still pretty respectable for a device playing lossless content from an HDD. However, it can be an issue for some people who want to attain or pass Apple's battery life estimates.

As for the whole "Mastered for iTunes" topic, meh. I have only downloaded one album so far (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo soundtrack) and a free Alice Cooper song but I am not hearing anything special. I don't have the lossless source to compare the soundtrack to but I have tried to ABX the Alice Cooper song from the lossless source. I failed at that as both releases (the CD and Made for iTunes version) had the same sound quality to me. I kind of think that this might be more of a marketing ploy. Apple might be doing something good behind the scenes, I don't really know. However, it just comes off as being a marketing stunt to try to get people to purchase more content from the iTunes Store since they will see that little "Mastered for iTunes" stamp in the album description.
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MichaelW
post Feb 26 2012, 21:58
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I guess the good sign is that Apple thinks there's a big section of the market that wants good mastering, which might be a portent for the end of over-compression.

Maybe the fashion for vinyl is also a sign of a desire for better sound: misplaced, like 24/96, but at least the Apple route won't do extra harm (rather like the difference between homeopathy and 19th century mainstream medicine).

Apple is really quite successful at reading where the market is going to go, so maybe the loudness wars are drawing to an end. And if one relaxes cynicism a little bit, it would fit for Apple to actually push a bit in this way. The Apple market is largely hipster and wannabe, and it would play into this if they really did begin to offer recordings with a cool new ingredient, dynamic range.
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christopher
post Feb 27 2012, 03:04
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From a label and content provider standpoint, this is between-the-lines instruction to

1) push suppliers of audio to provide as high a quality as possible
2) instil the value of high quality masters
and
3) for labels who supply direct, supply their master mixes from the studio as opposed to CD mixes so Apple can establish market monopoly on having the capability of selling THE highest quality audio down the line, as and when it feels like it

Third-party suppliers (who accept any unsigned artist and for a price will upload their music to iTunes and a bunch of other music stores) are also being effectively told to sit up and take note of the quality of audio coming in. You simply would not believe how variable the SQ of much self-released (self-recorded, self-produced etc) music is, some of it is so cringingly poor it makes your ears spontaneously invert. Many albums these days don't even get mixed well, never mind mastered (Unless you count the "Mastering" preset in Logic or Ozone).

I see this as Apple covering their arse and preparing themselves for a future quality bump. Why not ask for the studio master audio files? Makes perfect sense, they can offer any level of quality on a whim or differ the quality or codec provided depending on platform, even perhaps price point or country... Since late 2008 / early 2009 they've required labels to supply lossless from CD or audio files, which is fine by me (prior to that iTunes Producer encoded the AACs locally!) so this is just another incremental step. It was almost two years before we saw the results (in the form of "iTunes Plus") of them requiring lossless supply of source materials.

If anyone's interested, packages are created in iTunes Producer (which runs on Macs only, the latest version - which includes the "Mastered for iTunes" features - finally obsoleted PPC Macs). This creates a folder full of CAF (AIFFs in Core Audio Format wrapper) with an accompanying XML metadata file and artwork. This is FTPed (or SSHed, haven't investigated which) directly to Apple within iTunes Producer. Larger suppliers of content can use Transporter, the XML-based system for which suppliers have to create their own delivery mechanisms.


For the record, this reply was composed whilst listening to a 1991 Tool tape cassette rip biggrin.gif 13 kHz is overrated.

This post has been edited by christopher: Feb 27 2012, 03:07


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greynol
post Feb 27 2012, 03:19
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QUOTE (cyberdux @ Feb 25 2012, 16:25) *
Having read the "Mastered for iTunes" .pdf, my understanding is that Apple are requesting that recording companies provide iTunes with the best source material possible, not a replication of "CD sound". In this way, if the master supplied to iTunes has had care taken to represent the original intent of the artist, and that artist, producer and engineering team care about quality, the iTunes encodes stand a good chance of sounding very good indeed.

I binned the unproductive commentary that stemmed from this post, but feel that it should not go unchallenged.

What makes you think that a replication of CD sound will be audibly poor than whatever is the best source material possible?

Do you honestly think that record companies are going to create two masterings, one for CD and one for iTunes that will differ beyond sample rate and bit depth? I don't, though I suppose I have my head up my ass. smile.gif

Also the artist, producer and engineering team might have a different interpretation of quality. Some people actually believe they are indeed putting out a quality product.

This post has been edited by greynol: Feb 27 2012, 03:22


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