Some musicians and record executives have recently bemoaned the fact that what ends up on a fan’s iPod or iPhone is of arguably much lower quality than what is laid down on tape or hard drives in the studio.
Apple has been pushing the limits of song quality on iTunes through a program called ‘Mastered for iTunes’. Chris Foresman, writing for Ars Technica, dives into the topic to find out if it actually makes a difference, or if it’s just marketing speak to push higher priced downloads.
Chris first interviews a number of sound engineers who claim that Apple’s process for ‘Mastered for iTunes’ music is ‘BS’ and ‘nothing more than marketing hype’.
He enlists a couple of sound engineers to do some testing between regular high quality music files and those that follow Apple’s ‘Mastered for iTunes’ program, and concludes that it is indeed possible to improve the sound quality by following a few simple practices to optimize for iTunes AAC files.
Sound engineers often tweak songs for various formats – vinyl, tape, CD, etc. What Ars concludes is that digital AAC files is simply one more medium for which to optimize. So while engineers can get the songs to sound closer to the original feel by optimizing, in the end, beauty is in the ear of the beholder. Some prefer the fuller sound provided by optimizing for iTunes while others would rather have the files without the optimizations.
The article at Ars Technica is a great read for specifics and details about sound engineering and the process that the recordings go through before they end up on your iPhone. But in the end, you should try a ‘Mastered for iTunes’ recording for yourself before you come to a conclusion for your own music library.