I won’t blather on once again about how much I detest our willingness to make do with substandard digital audio. What most people listen to today is vastly inferior to the audio enjoyed by music fans back in the 70s, 80s and 90s when consumers spent billions of dollars annually on speakers, amplifiers, CD players and other high-end gear in order to experience the best sound possible.But in many ways, we haven’t had a choice.
But in many ways, we haven’t had a choice. Going digital brought about an entirely unexpected host of unintended consequences.
MP3s have long been the lingua franca of music compression while iTunes and other online stores have stubbornly stuck with lossy compression codecs like AAC. That made sense when bandwidth costs were high and storage space, especially on portable devices, was at a premium.
Meanwhile, people became more and more accustomed to listening to music through computer speakers (hardly a substitute for the honkin’ sets of Cerwin-Vegas that were sold by the boatload in previous decades) or cheap earbuds. “Good enough” was the mantra and as a result, millions from an entire generation of music fans have never, ever heard all the details and nuances of their favourite music. They may be fans of music but they’re certainly not fans of audio. But again, what were the options?
Now, though, there’s no good reason why we have to squish the crap out of our music, stripping out much of the fidelity and sonic quality in the process.
The good news is that the audio industry is coming around. Hi-Res Audio is getting a boost from audio equipment manufacturers, record labels and sites like HD Tracks. LG recently became the first mobile phone manufacturer to included a Hi-Res Audio player in a handset. Some streaming sites, Deezer and Tidal among them, offer much better sound quality than their rivals. Technologies like MQA are starting to come online. And surveys are starting to dribble out, purporting to prove that consumers are aching for better-sounding music and are willing to pay for it.
The biggest speedbump? Apple. Both iTunes and iPhones are incapable of offering anything about 320 kpbs music files. You want something lossless like FLAC? Forget it. And yet they have the gall to offer up the iPhone X–the most expensive mass production phone ever–without the capability to play lossless audio.
But it’s time. C’mon, Apple. Start offering music that offers a full-fidelity experience. Here’s more from 9to5 Mac.
Music has been part of Apple’s soul since the launch of the iPod almost 16 years ago. Launched with the slogan ‘a thousand songs in your pocket,’ it’s no exaggeration to say that the device transformed the way we listen to music. It also transformed Apple into a major mobile device manufacturer, and laid the ground work for the iPhone.
Fast-forward to today, and Apple still places a huge emphasis on music. Its largest ever acquisitionwas the $3B it paid to buy Beats in 2014. The Beats Music service became Apple Music, a streaming service which has grown to 30M paid subscribers.
But there’s still one odd omission from the company’s music offerings …
Lossless audio downloads from iTunes.
Sure, you can rip CDs into lossless formats, and that’s the solution most audiophiles adopt when they want to have their music collection available in iTunes, but the last MacBook with an optical drive was the non-Retina MacBook Pro, last updated in 2012. Apple discontinued sales of the 15-inch in 2013, and the 13-inch last year. You can still buy an external drive, but Apple’s view is clearly that this is outdated tech. If we buy music at all – rather than stream it – Apple wants us to download it.