Apple is reportedly looking to improve the sound quality in music tracks downloaded from the iTunes Store, by moving from the current 16bit format to 24bit. CNN is reporting that Apple has approached major record companies in order to begin offering the high quality tracks.
Last month we suggested that it was time for Apple to consider enabling iTunes support for more media file types than it currently does, including lossless file types such as flac. The report from CNN indicates that Apple could be starting to take steps to improve the quality of music in iTunes, but in a more roundabout way than we had suggested. A 24 bit recording is the original audio standard that a studio will record music to, before downgrading to 16bit for CD burning or distribution through iTunes. Tracks can then be compressed further for online streaming services.
The move could potentially increase sales of music to consumers who prefer to listen to high-quality uncompressed tracks. However, it is unlikely that Apple is planning on migrating their entire iTunes library over to 24 bit, rather offering the premium recordings at a higher price in addition to the 16bit files. In addition, it’s unlikely that this move would affect the long-rumored iTunes music streaming service as high quality 24 bit file types would take up a large amount of bandwidth.
However, if this does indeed emerge, it’s a great move for Apple, reaffirming iTunes as the market leader in both quantity and quality of recordings. However, as CNN notes, while many Macs with iTunes have the capability for playing 24 bit recordings, many mobile devices do not. It will be interesting to see the if audio capabilities of the next generation iPad and iPhone are improved in order to support the 24 bit recordings.