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BassTone5 Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

I'm new to the Mac and iTunes world, so bear with me.  I would like to start buying hi-resolution downloads instead of buying and ripping CD's, SACD's and so forth, but I don't want to sacrifice audio quality by purchasing MP3's or AAC's - and yes, I DO have the equipment to hear the difference.  So, are all albums available as Apple Lossless files in iTunes, or only some, and how do I shop for those?  Also, can I save a copy of an Apple Lossless file as something else, like a FLAC file?

Many thanks for the help!

 

Kind regards,

John


Mac mini, Mac OS X (10.7.4)
  • ausairman Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    You can't.

     

    But the encoding on itunes files is quite good. They are typically VBR at around 300kbps average, with very high encoding quality. The sound quality is actually a slight, audible improvement over some 320Kbps LAME MP3 rips that I did.

     

    We did some blind tests with Sennheiser HD598 headphones and an Audigy 2zs using a lossless FLAC from a CD, an mp3 from itunes and some lower quality conversions. The FLAC and itunes file sounded identical, with some slight degradation at 256kbps, becoming more noticable at 192kbps (at which point the song actually starts sounding crud without needing a comparison).

     

    It really depends on what sort of equipment you're sporting I suppose, but unless you've got laboratory conditions in your man-cave I doubt it will really matter...

     

    Anyway, don't be fooled by the low bitrates, the quality is fine as far as I can tell (although I don't purchase much off itunes, so maybe it varies)...

  • Michael Allbritton Level 6 Level 6 (16,785 points)

    Um, no, the bit rate on iTunes Store purchases is 256 Kbps, and they are not VBR. But I agree with you that they are quite good sounding.

     

    To the OP: the track you can buy at iTunes Store are just the same quality as what you can rip from a CD. However, ALAC is not available from the store.

  • ausairman Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    Oh that's embarassing, sorry I just realised everything I said was for amazon purchases... Yeah so ignore all that... The file we blind-tested was from amazon, not itunes.

  • ed2345 Level 7 Level 7 (20,955 points)

    BassTone5 wrote:

     

    I'm new to the Mac and iTunes world, so bear with me.  I would like to start buying hi-resolution downloads instead of buying and ripping CD's, SACD's and so forth...

    Yes you can.  Almost all online music download stores offer lossless files, either exclusively or as an option.  The only exceptions that I have come across recently are the "mass market" retailers, i.e. the iTunes Store (only AAC/256), Amazon MP3 (only MP3/256) and Google Play Music (only MP3/320).

     

    Most others offer lossless (CD quality) or even better than CD quality (sometimes marketed as "hi-def" or "studio masters") downloads.   Take a look at hdtracks.com, itrax.com, eclassical.com, and beatport.com for examples.

     

    Most online lossless downloads are in WAV or FLAC format.  A few, such as livedownloads.com, do offer Apple Lossless as an option.

  • BassTone5 Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    Thanks everyone!

     

    @ausairman:  Thanks, while you might have confused your Amazon experiment with iTunes, it does show that the quality for even lossy files is improving - those are some nice cans, by the way. I've got a pair of HD280 Pro's and AKG K240 Studios, and hand made NSM speakers driven by Cambridge Audio, Thorens and Marantz equipment.  I've carefully A/B'd CD's and their 256k AAC counterparts that I ripped with the Phile Audio app, and while I can hear a slight difference in smoothness especially in the upper register, It's a suitable format for mobil play and casual living room listenning for certain.  Anything further dumbed down from 256k is unlistenable to me on any kind of divice.  Good to know you had a similar experience in your tests, so it's not just me that saw only minor to no difference between the 256k and the CD. 

     

    Idealy I'm looking to purchase new music as hi-res downloads or vinyl from now on, and move away from CD's completely.  I'm ripping my CD library using Phile Audio and making a 256k version for mobil play and FLAC versions for home play (using Clementine for playback on my Mini) and a Cambridge network surver in the future.  So, I've been looking to buy downloads of a higher quality than CD. On that note.....

     

    ....@ed2345:  Thanks for clarifying the auidio quality of the main mass market retailers, I wasn't sure what their story was, in that regard.  I've looked at some of the alternative sites, but right now their catalogue is miniscule by comparison to iTunes or Amazon.  For instance, many artists aren't represented beyond a staple or two that I already have on CD.  I love what they're doing, they just need to do more of it or rather the record companies need to make hi-res files available.  I just read something about Apple advocating for this with the record companies, which is good, but for now the 24/192 stuff is spotty in it's availability.  I will check out itrax, eclassical and beatport, as I've not heard of those.  Thanks!

     

    Again, thanks to all for anwering my question.  I think that if the iTunes albums are at least as good as CD's, I can make do with that when I can't find them at higher resolution elsewhere.  Thank you!  ...though I'd love to see iTunes offer a lossless option too, but my limited research would indicate it's the music industry and not Apple who is to blame for the limitations here.  Oh well....in time perhaps.

  • brorober Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    I'm curious in this age of 10-30Mbps download speeds why Apple does not offer an uncompressed version of albums.  I have a $50 iTunes card that I don't even want to use for music because I don't want to download albums that are compressed.  And yes, when the low notes kick in on certain albums, I can tell the difference between a wav file & a 256 or 320kbps aac or mp3 file.  These compressed files are fine listening to in a car or on computer speakers, but not on a good home hi-fi system.  Maybe everyone at Apple is using Bose speakers so they can't tell the difference, but my Dynaudios know the truth between compressed & uncompressed music.  Until Apple offers wav or another lossless format, I won't be purchasing any music from their store.

  • ed2345 Level 7 Level 7 (20,955 points)

    brorober wrote:

     

    I'm curious in this age of 10-30Mbps download speeds why Apple does not offer an uncompressed version of albums.....

     

    compressed files are fine listening to in a car or on computer speakers....

    You just answered your own question.  That is the market the iTunes Store is targeting.

  • Michael Allbritton Level 6 Level 6 (16,785 points)

    brorober wrote:

     

    I'm curious in this age of 10-30Mbps download speeds why Apple does not offer an uncompressed version of albums. 

    Because the record labels won't let them. Apple does not control the copyrights to the music they sell and can only sell what they negotiate from the rights holders. Also, as ed2345 points out, the market is for compressed audio.

     

    brorober wrote:

     

    Until Apple offers wav or another lossless format, I won't be purchasing any music from their store.

    Thanks for letting us know.

  • brorober Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    That doesn't make sense that the record labels 'won't let them'.  If Apple really wanted to offer uncompressed music, I'm sure they could convince the record labels to let them offer this since they sell so much music through iTunes.

     

    Also, I would prefer this option over buying a physical CD because this would be a more sustainable solution.  That's fine that they target the low-fi market, but maybe Apple could consider the sustainability of offering uncompressed downloads vs. people buying CD's as well.  Every little bit counts and everyone needs to contribute.

  • varjak paw Level 10 Level 10 (169,830 points)

    http://www.apple.com/feedback/itunes.html

     

    The record companies basically needed to be bribed just to get them to allow non-DRM 256kpbs tracks, though (that's why so many tracks are now $1.29 US when before they were all $.99), so don't overestimate Apple's influence in the matter.

     

    Regards.

  • lolplHlfWt Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    ausairman wrote:

     

    You can't.

     

    But the encoding on itunes files is quite good. They are typically VBR at around 300kbps average, with very high encoding quality. The sound quality is actually a slight, audible improvement over some 320Kbps LAME MP3 rips that I did.

     

    We did some blind tests with Sennheiser HD598 headphones and an Audigy 2zs using a lossless FLAC from a CD, an mp3 from itunes and some lower quality conversions. The FLAC and itunes file sounded identical, with some slight degradation at 256kbps, becoming more noticable at 192kbps (at which point the song actually starts sounding crud without needing a comparison).

     

    It really depends on what sort of equipment you're sporting I suppose, but unless you've got laboratory conditions in your man-cave I doubt it will really matter...

     

    Anyway, don't be fooled by the low bitrates, the quality is fine as far as I can tell (although I don't purchase much off itunes, so maybe it varies)...

     

    Oh that's embarassing, sorry I just realised everything I said was for amazon purchases... Yeah so ignore all that... The file we blind-tested was from amazon, not itunes.

    Typical iTunes consumer.

     

    I'm glad your extremely rigorous study of "listening to one song a couple times" paid off for you.

     

    The fact is that if Apple wanted to go lossless, they could - they're (unfortunately) the market leader by a longshot, and Wal-Mart had no problem using its weight to force music publishers to confirm to its particular standards (no cusswords, no nipples on the cover art, Please No Satan For Us, Thanks).

     

    It basically boils down to 1) bandwidth (on Apple's end, not the consumer's - remember that lossless would be about an 800% increase on bandwidth. Doesn't matter for Johnny iPod on his cable connection, but the iTunes server farm is another story) and 2) the fact that the vast majority of iTunes users barely know the difference between mp3 and aac.

     

    Which is why some of us still pirate - just a little bit frustrating in the rare, rare few times when something can only be found on iTunes or on a $40 used CD from some sketchy-as-heck Amazon affiliate.

  • ed2345 Level 7 Level 7 (20,955 points)

     

    The fact is that if Apple wanted to go lossless, they could - they're (unfortunately) the market leader by a longshot, and Wal-Mart had no problem using its weight to force music publishers to confirm to its particular standards (no cusswords, no nipples on the cover art, Please No Satan For Us, Thanks).

    Hmmm, I guess you're not buyin' that old favorite fairy tale about "Little Red Apple Hood and the Big Bad Labels"?

     

     

    Which is why some of us still pirate

    As mentioned earlier in this thread, there are many online music retailers that sell lossless (or in some cases, better-than-CD-quality) tracks for download.  If you are in the market for lossless tracks, please check them out.

  • hermes808 Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    MP3s must to be more louder to give the same feeling.

    I think we have to wait an american lawsuit against

    Apple from someone become deaf

    lets hope it soon lol !

  • Chris CA Level 9 Level 9 (77,475 points)

    hermes808 wrote:

     

    MP3s must to be more louder to give the same feeling.

    I think we have to wait an american lawsuit against

    Apple from someone become deaf

    lets hope it soon lol !

    What?

     

    Apple doesn't sell MP3 files.

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