Apple launches iTunes Plus: high quality DRM-free music (how to enable iTunes Plus)

Apple iTunesApple today launched iTunes Plus, DRM-free music tracks featuring high quality 256 kbps AAC encoding for audio quality virtually indistinguishable from the original recordings—for $1.29 per song. iTunes Plus is launching with EMI’s digital catalog of recordings, including singles and albums from Coldplay, The Rolling Stones, Norah Jones, Frank Sinatra, Joss Stone, Pink Floyd, John Coltrane and more than a dozen of Paul McCartney’s classic albums available on iTunes for the first time.

iTunes will continue to offer its entire catalog, currently over five million songs, in the same versions as today—128 kbps AAC encoding with DRM—at the same price of 99 cents per song, alongside the higher quality iTunes Plus versions when available. In addition, iTunes customers can now easily upgrade their library of previously purchased EMI content to iTunes Plus tracks for just 30 cents a song and $3.00 for most albums.

“Our customers are very excited about the freedom and amazing sound quality of iTunes Plus,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO, in the press release. “We expect more than half of the songs on iTunes will be offered in iTunes Plus versions by the end of this year.”

“This is a tremendous milestone for digital music,” said Eric Nicoli, CEO of EMI Group, in the press release. “Consumers are going to love listening to higher quality iTunes Plus tracks from their favorite EMI artists with no usage restrictions.”

With the release of iTunes Plus, customers can now download tracks from their favorite EMI artists without limitations on the type of music player or number of computers that purchased songs can be played on. iTunes is also offering customers a simple, one-click option to easily upgrade their library of previously purchased EMI content to the iTunes Plus versions. EMI music videos are now also available in iTunes Plus versions with no change in price. iTunes Plus songs purchased from the iTunes Store will play on all iPods, Mac or Windows computers, widescreen TVs with Apple TV and soon iPhones, as well as many other digital music players.

The iTunes Store features the world’s largest catalog with over five million songs, 350 television shows and over 500 movies. The iTunes Store has sold over 2.5 billion songs, 50 million TV shows and over two million movies, making it the world’s most popular online music, TV and movie store.

More info at Apple’s iTunes Store here.

MacDailyNews Note: The first time you buy an iTunes Plus song, you specify whether to make all future purchases iTunes Plus versions (when available). You can change this setting by accessing your account information on the iTunes Store. To change your account information: In iTunes, choose Store > View My Account. Click the “Manage iTunes Plus” button. Click the checkbox for “Always show me iTunes Plus music and music videos when available.”

41 Comments

  1. Pretty cool, I’m glad the quality is finally better. Too bad most of the stuff I like or have bought is non-EMI. I like what Trent Reznor is doing, releasing the tracks as garageband projects for remixes.

  2. M@c,

    Get a CD. Rip one song at maximum bit rate (320), and rip the same one at 128. Play the two versions back to back. The high resolution one will sound smoother, sweeter, more musical and will be a more esthetically pleasing experience.

  3. What do they mean by one-click upgrade? I hope they give me the choice as to what I want to upgrade. I don’t want a one-time upgrade all option. That might be expensive depending on how many songs are eligible to be upgraded.

  4. Nuge,

    Your statement may be correct if:

    1. You are a professional musician, or a recording engineer/producer with years (decades) of experience, and;
    2. You do the ripping (encoding) Apple’s iTunes software, which is consumer-grade, free AAC encoder, and;
    3. You are listening to your results with a high-quality D-A converters on a studio-quality reference amplifier and studio monitors.

    Apple uses its proprietary software for encoding. The encoding is definitely not quite as fast as in iTunes (3 – 5 x real time on a Core Duo). The resulting AAC file has much better audio quality than what you get from iTunes.

    Bottom line, if you buy AAC from Apple, you will NOT hear the difference between 128 and 256kbps. Especially not on your iPod and its Harman-Kardon earbuds.

  5. I love my iMac but i never wanted to have iPod because the 128 kbs AAC music was not good enough for my audiophile ears. Until Now!

    No DRM, and 256 kbs AAC, WOW !! I am getting ready to get my first iPod !!!!

  6. macDave
    You don’t have to lug 75 pounds to hear SACD just buy a Korg MR-1 and you are set, it weights the same as a small bag of M&Ms; and it is the size of a pack of cigarrettes and you are set. the best sounding gear on earth for $500

  7. Just a note for the non-audiophiles here.

    You’re going to need better ‘phones than the standard cheapo ‘buds to hear the difference. My faves are Koss’ PortaPro headphones and Shure’s E3c in-ear buds. Grado headphones are also killer, though a little bulkier. With good-quality ‘phones/’buds like these, higher-rez files will have a little more sparkle in the treble and a little more bomp in the bass, and vocals and solos will sound smoother and more present.

    Still no contest vs. a CD on good speakers, but a worthwhile improvement in my book. I buy CDs and rip ’em at 320kbps.

  8. there is a very noticeable difference between 128 and 256, especially 320 (if only). I personally try to download all my music at 320 or as high as possible. The listening experience is greatly enhanced especially if played loud or through earphones. I would no doubt pay the extra 30c for 256k.

    If you enjoy to hear the intricacies of music which I especially enjoy since I am into electronic music where there are lots of sublte effects used then a higher bitrate greatly exacerbates them.

    I will avoid 128k at all costs, it is very raw and doesn’t have any warmth to it.

  9. NOTE: Steve Jobs states, “We expect more than half of the songs on iTunes will be offered in iTunes Plus versions by the end of this year.”

    Sounds like more deals are in the wind….

  10. MacNut,
    You’ve always been able to use 256 AAC, or even higher quality Apple Lossless for all your cds. You don’t have to use the iTunes store to get your music for your ipod. Only about 6% the music on my ipod comes from the ITMS.

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