Apple Blah Blah Blah High-Resolution Audio Blah Blah Blah

It’s that time again. It’s a slow news cycle, so some websites are reporting a rumor that Apple will start selling and/or streaming high-resolution music. Rather than spend too much time deconstructing this rumor, I’ll point you to an article I wrote in June, 2014, which looks it why this is unlikely.

It’s worth noting that, since then, Apple has released a new Apple TV. That device only handles audio at 16 bits and up to 48 KHz. So if Apple were planning to start dealing in high-resolution audio (generally considered to have a bit depth of 24 bits, and sample rates higher than 48 KHz), you’d have thought this device would be able to handle such audio.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple eventually does bring high-resolution audio to the iTunes Store and to Apple Music, but the only way they can do this is if the data doesn’t count against users’ mobile data caps (or static caps too, for those people who don’t have unlimited internet access). Even then:

the ambient noise surrounding listeners when they’re mobile would eliminate any such quality.

It’s hard to understand why the 1% of music listeners manage to drum up so much press, and so many rumors, about this topic. Most people couldn’t care less about high-resolution music. For the most part, it’s a marketing ploy, and hardly anyone can tell the difference between CDs and good-quality compressed audio.

But, hey, it’s Christmas this week, and there’s not much other news…

16 thoughts on “Apple Blah Blah Blah High-Resolution Audio Blah Blah Blah

  1. As is your wont, Kirk, I think you *wildly* underestimate Apple’s financial motivations behind their tech decisions.

    It seems relatively clear to most folks that Apple sees benefit in its relationship with the wireless carriers in *increasing* data usage. It seems relatively clear to most folks that Apple has made tech decisions precisely to increase wireless data usage.

    I’m *not* making a prediction that Hi-Res audio is coming, but I am saying that it’s quite plausible that it will come to the streaming service purely for financial motives. Thus, the fact that it doesn’t make a compelling amount of sense for tech reasons is besides the point…

    • “It seems relatively clear to most folks that Apple sees benefit in its relationship with the wireless carriers in *increasing* data usage.”

      What blathering nonsense. What conspiracy theory poppycock.

  2. Full-Res Audio is DEFINITELY coming to Apples streaming service – see article posted below from yesterday at MacRumors. Wether or not they incorporate it into their store for purchase or upgrade is unclear. But, they have all of the agreements in place with the publishers, they ALREADY have all of the music in Full-Res. There is ZERO chance apple will sit by and let Tidal and other streaming services offer a differentiation in product that would cost them sales. If you want to talk about the difference between full resolution and Hi-Res that is another topic. Unless the music was captured at something higher than 44.1 then you can’t make the file any more hi-res than the original CD quality – Which is definitely fine for 99% of music. If a song was actually intended for 24/192 distribution and it was recorded and mastered as such, then you can truly say it is Hi-Res. Wether on not you can distinguish from 44.1/16 is a matter for your own ears and your own equipment. I doubt either of you can afford the gear necessary to appreciate CD quality let alone Hi-Res. I can though :-)

  3. “What blathering nonsense. What conspiracy theory poppycock.”

    Read the industry trades. Read the industry analysts. There’s plenty that’s not behind paywalls. These folks are neither Apple fanbois, nor Apple haters. They’re certainly not conspiracy theorists. And that statement is completely non-controversial among them.

    If you wanted to take issue with the sentence that *followed* that one, the evidence is much more circumstantial, though I think still quite persuasive and clear. But the sentence you did take issue with is pretty much a consensus position.

  4. Why do we need to jump all the way to High-Resolution? How about we just move up to full bandwidth audio as you get on a current CD? PCM encoded 44.1/16.

    • I would actually expect that before high-res. With Apple Lossless, the files are about 2-3 times the size of current files. But even that isn’t necessary for most people.

  5. Hey now – I object to being relegated to the 1%! I fit in perhaps the 10% of the steady everyday music buying public who prefers to buy in CD or high resolution whenever possible. If iTunes would just do full CD quality, I would be very very happy indeed. And probably spend way more of my budget on music than is good for my bottom line. (grin)


  6. High resolution audio is a joke for most consumers. When the CD arrived in the mid eighties most listeners thought good audio meant no clicks and pops from vinyl or hiss from cassette tapes.

    Even though compressed music sounds bad to audio enthusiasts, the vast majority of the listening population can’t tell the difference from an MP3. And, most music that is released would not benefit from high resolution since compression and other tricks are applied at the mastering stage.

    Audiophile equipment is just crack for dentists with disposable income.

    • It’s funny that you say that: my dentist was recently asking me about playing high resolution audio files on a mac. :-)

  7. “With Apple Lossless, the files are about 2-3 times the size of current files.”

    PERFECT. 2-3x bandwidth takes care of the commercial concerns. And an Apple-derived open-source format is the ideal icing on the cake.

    “But even that isn’t necessary for most people.”

    Again, assuming my theory is the Prime Directive, that’s not the point here…

  8. Is it documented anywhere that these are the specs of the new Apple TV? I’ve been looking for this information since it was announced, but had not been able to find it.

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