It’s hard to discern the difference between the lower quality, compressed 16-bit tracks that are available for download through Apple and other digital retailers and the 24-bit original audio recording so it probably doesn’t make a huge difference for the majority of listeners. For the music snobs who can tell the inferior track from the better one, however, it is a constant annoying factor that has to be dealt with any time one opts to listen to music on an MP3 players. That might change soon: According to CNN, Apple and other online music stores are in talks with the record labels to sell “premium” quality tracks closer to the original recordings,
“What we’re trying to do here is fix the degradation of music that the digital revolution has caused,” chairman of Universal Music Group’s Interscope-Geffen-A&M Jimmy Iovine said at an HP news conference. “It’s one thing to have music stolen through the ease of digital processing. But it’s another thing to destroy the quality of it. And that’s what’s happening on a massive scale.”
Compared to the quality of streaming music, 16-bit compressed files available from digital music retailers are much better, but the come nowhere near the quality of the recordings you hear on a CD or vinyl. Some bands, like Radiohead, have already made the move to sell better uncompressed digital versions of their tracks.
The problem is while Apple computers and iTunes can handle tracks with the 24-bit sound, most portable electronic devices, including current iPods and iPhones, can’t handle the higher quality audio files. Apple would have to revamp their next generations of MP3 players – and customers would have to buy the new products if they want improved sound.
“Paul McCartney can master The Beatles albums all he wants, (but) when you play them through a Dell computer, it sounds like you’re playing them through a portable television,” Iovine said to CNN.
More on TIME.com:
Spotify Signs With EMI. Is It Closer to a U.S. Launch?
Sony Exec: “No Intention” of Ending Partnership With iTunes