Mastered for iTunes: Music mastered specifically for iTunes for increased audio fidelity

Universal Music Group announced today that albums from popular Universal artists such as Madonna, Paul McCartney, Kaori Muraji, U2, John Coltrane and Bon Jovi are now Mastered for iTunes, giving music fans even higher quality audio recordings from their favorite artists. Mastered for iTunes albums are mastered specifically with the iTunes format in mind, ensuring the delivery of the music to listeners with increased audio fidelity, more closely replicating what the artists, recording engineers, and producers intended.

These new recordings are mastered using high-resolution sourced audio to provide fans with an incredibly rich listening experience, taking advantage of the dynamic range enabled by the iTunes format. Music fans can access many of today’s most anticipated albums including Madonna’s “MDNA,” Paul McCartney’s “Kisses On The Bottom” and Japanese Classical Guitarist Kaori Muraji’s “Soleil – Portraits 2.” Other albums on offer include favorites such as U2’s “Achtung Baby,” John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme” as well as Bon Jovi’s “Slippery When Wet” and “Have a Nice Day.”

In addressing her fans, Kaori Muraji said in the press release, “I really enjoyed making my recording “Soleil – Portraits 2″ in Air Studios which was built by George Martin in London. It has wonderful acoustics and a nice atmosphere which you can now hear even better on this high-quality audio version with iTunes. Here in this album you can listen to a number of different styles of music. I hope you will enjoy it.”

More info and music via iTunes here: Mastered for iTunes.

Source: Universal Music Group


    1. Funny you should mention that. According to shadowy sources, a secret U.S. Army project has scientists enhancing the sound of Yoko Ono’s caterwauling to create a mobile armor-piercing sound cannon. It’s said to involve a sophisticated signal processing algorithm that combines sawtooth waves with Yoko’s Double Fantasy recordings.

            1. Guilty.
              (I shouldn’t be Yoko-bored now…please, no…just pull the finger nails)

              Like I used to tell people “that Double Fantasy album ain’t half bad…except for half of it”

  1. Is it the same old bit rate though? Uncompressed or Apple’s Lossless compression at 24/48 or higher would be nice. Of course at my age I can’t much tell the difference anywho’s.

  2. Now would be a really good time for Apple to release lossless versions to the iTunes Store. This would be a pretty big deal since audiophiles would look to the iTMS as a great source for “better than CD” quality music.

    While the audiophile demographic isn’t that large, it’s extremely influential, and a good narrative for iTunes being better than CD quality.

    1. Extremely influential….??? Not quite. While audiophiles may have been a very distinguished bunch in the 70s and early 80s, these days, they are pretty much inconsequential.

      Apple has hit the sweet spot with 256kbps AAC, with portability (small enough size per minute of music), fidelity and convenience. Expect zero effort to improve in order to meet the requirements of an increasingly smaller group of users who continue to treat music listening as a hobby and devote considerable resources to it. While I can certainly appreciate high quality music listening environment, I simply don’t have the time to set up, calibrate and properly enjoy music under such conditions. My music enjoyment is (probably much like most everyone else’s) two-fold: either while doing something else (be it at home, through a home stereo, or on the move, via my phone), or at a live concert performance (season subscription to NY Philharmonic and Carnegie Hall “International Festival of Orchestras” series). Between the two, my music enjoyment needs are met and I have no need for music in “HD”.

      1. “Expect zero effort to improve in order to meet the requirements of an increasingly smaller group…”

        You do realize you’re commenting on an article titled, “Mastered for iTunes: Music mastered specifically for iTunes for increased audio fidelity”, right?

        And yes, influential. Like it or not, audiophiles have jobs, many of them editorial where they specifically call out the audio quality on products and services. People follow this.

        Having iTunes offer, “the best audio quality available, better than CD”, as reported by nose-in-the-air audiophiles with professional industry experience, actually does mean something to many followers.

        I’m not suggesting this should be the case. I’m not suggesting anyone would appreciate the difference. I’m just saying that this is what the market is, and Apple will further increase its (already excellent) brand reputation and (already stellar) sales.

        1. I still disagree. Having been a professional musician for the most of my life, I do remember clearly when audiophiles had influenced others. I remember the times when audio releases were usually accompanied by the critical reviews by such people, and when educated consumers followed these reviews. In today’s market, audiophiles are an anachronism; a concept from a different era, indeed, a different century. Hardly anyone is really even aware of audio quality issues out there — it is all in digital stereo and in high fidelity, and that is more than enough for them all.

          As for this “mastering” effort, I am thoroughly convinced that it is an utter PR-speak, with absolutely no discernible effect on the actual audio quality.

          1. Audiophiles may not have the same influence they once had but we still buy a lot of CDs every year and will continue to do so until Apple starts selling better than CD quality 16/24 bit lossless files. Apple has the source files so there is no reason they can’t do it.

            I don’t want to trade quality for convenience. I’m quite happy to continue buying CDs and ripping them into iTunes as lossless files. I’d rather have the option to buy them directly from iTunes for simplicity but I won’t ever buy compressed AAC crap.

            Please don’t pretend to speak for the rest of us. I grew up in the 70s and 80s when music was cherished. We didn’t have 400 TV channels or computer games or the internet. I can understand that people like you treat music as a by-product. Something to consume rather than enjoy. Bit like a hamburger from McDonalds.

            However some of us still cherish music. I would never buy individual tracks over an album. I often sit and listen to music of an evening. TV is boring, the internet can get tedious but music for me is a real pleasure, something to sit back, relax and enjoy.

            1. OK, so we seem to be of the similar age (growing up in the early 70s here). Don’t get me wrong, I won’t pretend to speak for you and people similar to you (the audiophiles). All I’m saying is that it is unrealistic to expect Apple to make effort (and spend additional money) in order to accommodate a shrinking group of users.

              And make no mistake: for “people like me”, music is most definitely NOT a by-product; for me personally, it is my life (30 years professionally). And for me personally, move to digital downloads (complete with its lossy 256kbps AAC) has been a blessing in every respect. I listen to more music I ever did, I’m able to sell more of my music than I ever was with physical media, I get to share my musical choices with friends (and vice versa) much more than ever before, and the only (fairly insignificant) drawback is that the audio quality of all that music is imperceptibly lower than it used to be with the physical media. For me this trade-off was worth it in every conceivable way.

              For audiophiles it obviously isn’t, and I feel sorry for them, as they will increasingly get more and more frustrated, with music becoming increasingly more difficult to find in their preferred uncompressed form.

    2. I agree with Mr…er…well, I agree.
      This news is all the more ‘cosmically coincidental’ to me on this particular day because my 2010 Mac Mini Lossless music server arrived, tomorrow my Wharfedales should be here, and sometime next month a new integrated amp (Peachtree Audio Decco-65?)

      After almost 20 years since my Sansui QR4500 bit the dust, I am getting back into the ‘real’ world of music listening (or as close as my small wallet will allow).

      The irony in Predrag’s statement is that it is made on a Mac forum.
      (I’ll let that sink in for a moment…..).

      Back in the late 70’s, most cars sucked. They were just plain sh!t.
      Mercedes and BMW (and a few others) were exceptions to this rule.
      35 years later, they are still fantastic cars, but most other cars don’t ‘suck’ anymore. They are more reliable, quieter, and efficient.
      That doesn’t mean people quit buying the expensive cars.

      Now the irony of Predrag’s statement is that the Mac has always been influential, and it is finally coming back, because it is quality.
      It is also less expensive in the long run to own one, so it make more cents than a PC.

      What I am driving at (with the car analogy….) is that I believe great music systems will continue to become more affordable to aficionados, driving the business and demand for more ‘good’ quality equipment at lower cost.

      So if you think that the choices are just between 256 AAC earbuds, a $1,000 dollar googlaphonic TV surround, or a tube-driven DAC to Luxman amp hooked to $20,000 speakers via a $500 cable, you may want to shop around some more.

      1. Concerning the actual story, I went and bought ‘The Goat Rodeo Sessions’ to see what the fuss is about.

        I have to say, it sounds pretty fantastic coming out of my small USB computer speakers. Of course, I have no way to compare it, but I’m lovin’ the recording regardless!

          1. *sigh* Your greater mistake is assuming that it’s more important that people listen to _you_ than enjoy simply finding out for themselves what this new initiative means for their audio. There’s an important difference between stating an opinion and spouting dogma…

            1. I didn’t believe that people ‘enjoy’ finding out they have been duped by paying more for something they can’t tell the difference on. In most cases, we can’t even tell with very sensitive microphones near the speakers in studio conditions when viewed on an oscilloscope. These people who purvey this techno spec ‘one upmanship’ are just charlatans taking advantage of the gullible.

  3. It’s about time we finally started getting better than CD quality music.

    44.1 kHz sample rate and 1411.2 kbit/s bitrate is a rather arbitrary restriction – it’s the highest quality sound you can get while still fitting a full album (80 minutes) on a 700MB plastic disk without MPEG compression. Yet it’s nearly impossible to find any digital audio that goes beyond this, because it’s mostly ripped from CD’s.

    Does anyone know what the sample rate and bitrate is of this new format?

      1. Because your comments are so worthy?
        Followers and proponents of the Scientific Method so frequently come to mimic the dogmatism of Dark Age Christianity that I wonder if any of you are sane – I mean, you destroyed one totalitarian dictatorship and created another…

        1. Thanks for taking the time to respond. I read over your comments several times and have to admit that I can’t make out any meaning from them. You have totally defeated my understanding of science and logic. You win!

    1. I too would like to see better quality files. Specifically, Apple Lossless, and as I mentioned above, I think this would be really attractive for audiophiles both as consumers and as being influential in the narrative “better than CD quality”.

      However, 16-bit 44.1kHz is anything but arbitrary, and has nothing to do with fitting a full album on a CD. In fact, it became a standard for digital audio before CDs were even created.

      The TL;DR version:

      Humans hear roughly 20Hz-20kHz, and the sampling rate must be at least double to match this frequency (sound being the difference in air pressure). Minimum needed is 40kHz.

      Filters are needed so you don’t cut out the sampling directly at each end, but transition out. This bandwidth is 2kHz, doubled is 4kHz, requiring a minimum of 44kHz.

      Digital audio was being used on video equipment, and had to match the frequency ratios of both NTSC and PAL. While this to a handful of common denominators, the only one that made sense was 44.1kHz.

      While 16-bit 44.1kHz was not needed for any specific reason for CD (or other format), it was a format that was already out there and in use by Sony as a standard format. In short, there was no reason for Sony *not* to use it at the time for CDs.

      The original redbook spec for audio CDs called for 74 minutes, but it really wasn’t meant to accommodate a specific recording of Beethoven’s 9th, rather Sony insisted on 120mm discs because Philips already owned 115mm disc fabrication equipment, and Sony didn’t want them to have a competitive edge. The vast majority of albums were either well under 74 minutes or over 74 minutes as double-albums. The Philips’ spec of 115mm at the time made a lot more sense despite this one rare recording Sony wanted to be able to accomadate.

    2. Seriously, there’s nothing in iTunes saying what the sample rate or bit-rate of this is?

      They expect this to appeal to audiophiles because it is “tuned for higher fidelity sound” refusing to put a single number on this easily quantifiable claim? My only option is to buy it, then check the sample rate?

      @3l3c7ro: yeah, I read your “you can’t hear the difference anyway” comment, not very useful. I do have good enough headphones and speaker system where it would matter, and I’ve compared higher than CD quality music to CD quality music before, and the differences were particularly striking in the bass and high frequency parts.

  4. I have read of many top artist complaining of poor audio quality of digital music with the sad state of sound quality that Apple has brought to the common masses.
    Did they know they could bring a higher level of quality to their fans or did they just complain to complain? Sound like some of the artist sitting on arse. If they had been informed and decided not to give their fans better quality, well… Dirtbags!

  5. Upping the bitrate to 320 would be the best compromise between audio quality and space considerations. Above 320 there’s no appreciable improvement that’s audible to the average person. I use in-ear monitors, including UE TripleFi 10’s, and that bitrate’s more than good enough.

  6. For those of you wondering if this is real or just marketing, I own a recording studio, have produced many albums and movie soundtracks, and yes this is real. Mastering is the final steps where you make final decisions on EQ, compression, etc. These final decisions are different if you are mastering for vinyl, 44KHz CD, 96KHz SACD, Surround. Engineers typically listening under several environments as well — small speakers, mono, and various compression formats (usually mp3 and ACC, which is what itunes uses) to make sure you don’t blow out small speakers, or lose the bass due to phase cancellation when you collapse to mono, etc. The guessing game with compression is that there are lots of variables to compressing, so even if you listen to you track under ACC compression, there is no guarantee that when you submit to Apple that they will compress in the exact same way (in fact, they probably won’t), so you might go check out a track you mastered on iTunes and say “hey, the bass sounds thin compared to when I mastered it, if I had known that I would have added an extra db of 60KHz!” So now with “Mastered for iTunes”, what you master is *exactly* what the customer gets. And that’s a *very* good thing!

  7. This seems like an awful lot of effort to go to for a stop-gap measure. Sure, AAC and MP3 are popular now because the amount of space on removable storage (SD, microSD etc.) and SSDs is limited by expense – but when that stops being an issue, surely the most obvious step is simply to produce lossless files that can be sold by any online store, and used on any device.
    The music industry survives because of double/triple/quadruple-dipping, and here’s the trough once more…

  8. This sounds like a nice idea, but the truth is that almost nobody gives a damn about audio resolution; while EVERYTHING else in the digital realm has improved steadily, when it comes to music, we’ve been stuck with the same specs for over 20 years. The public has spoken: convenience trumps fidelity.

    1. I hear what you’re saying, but – if it weren’t for Apple, Inc. most of the public would, more than likely, still be using phones with tactile keyboards, tiny screens and limited web functionality.
      I suppose what I’m trying so say is: if people don’t know what they’re lacking, it’s hard to clamour for it.

  9. One word…the planets. Anyone who listens to and appreciates classical music will tell you how
    Much of the music is lost on mp3 or compressed digital. I downloaded the planets by holst from the ‘made for iTunes’ and you really can here the music ‘as it was played’. No more of that crappy clipping where it sounds underwater or warbled. I’m no audiophile, but I’ve always been a bit disappointed when my classical music doesn’t sound classical!.

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