Beta

×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Master Engineer: Apple's "Mastered For iTunes" No Better Than AAC-Encoded Music

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the ask-the-master dept.

Music 312

New submitter Stowie101 writes "British master engineer Ian Shepherd is ripping Apple's Mastered for iTunes service, saying it is pure marketing hype and isn't different than a standard AAC file in iTunes. Shepherd compared three digital music files, including a Red Hot Chili Peppers song downloaded in the Mastered for iTunes format with a CD version of the same song, and said there were no differences. Apple or someone else needs to step it up here and offer some true 'CD quality downloads.'"

cancel ×

312 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Hey, the pirates can help (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39187049)

You want CD quality downloads? Yeah, magic keyword "FLAC".

Piracy: giving you for free what the market won't since the first bestiality video was filmed.

Re:Hey, the pirates can help (2, Insightful)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187203)

Um, all "Mastered for iTunes" does is allow producers to preview how the final file will sound when placed on iTunes, so that they can make changes to the master file. Not sure what the point of the story is, and it definitely has nothing to do with CDs or FLAC.

Re:Hey, the pirates can help (5, Insightful)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187489)

Um, all "Mastered for iTunes" does is allow producers to preview how the final file will sound when placed on iTunes, so that they can make changes to the master file. Not sure what the point of the story is, and it definitely has nothing to do with CDs or FLAC.

If you are selling it as "Mastered" for a purpose and the quality is identical than it is only "Mastered" for hype and profit.

I've got some LP singles, which were intended for radio play, back in the day, which are of an improvement over the usually horrible 45 RPM mass productions, possibly better than mass produced LP versions as well. But consider Apple's source is unlikely in most cases to be original mastering materials (who in their right mind would turn over digital originals to Apple?) for them to manipulate for their product (iTunes). Odds are, 95% of their market can't tell anyway because they're hardly audiophiles and are listening through headphones with absurdly limited range and reproduction quality.

Re:Hey, the pirates can help (4, Insightful)

vought (160908) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187595)

But consider Apple's source is unlikely in most cases to be original mastering materials (who in their right mind would turn over digital originals to Apple?)

Your values are not the same as those looking to make money by reselling audio content. I can assure you that various music distributors would have no problem at all working in the studio with their own or third-party engineers to produce "Mastered for iTunes" versions of a catalog if that's what they think will lure more buyers. Whether or not "Mastered for iTunes" involves a substantively changed version (for example, engineered toward smaller drivers with more bass cutover, increasingly popular these days).

Regardless of your opinion about how something should work, this kind of collaboration is an every day occurrence in the industry and never relies on "turning over" anything to Apple.

Re:Hey, the pirates can help (0)

DeathFromSomewhere (940915) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187241)

FLAC is not inherently CD quality.

Re:Hey, the pirates can help (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39187271)

FLAC is not inherently CD quality.

But it generally is, or the ripper is inherently stupid.

Re:Hey, the pirates can help (4, Interesting)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187321)

The day they start selling lossless music at CD or better quality, without DRM, is the day I will start buying music online.

Otherwise, I'll keep buying CD's and ripping as needed for my lessor listening environments (gym, car...etc).

Then again...maybe not...the compression wars are killing me. I just got the latest "remastered" edition of the Stones Some Girls album...I have tried twice to listen to it on my home stereo, and it just is painful to the ears. For some reason, however, the 2nd disc that came with it of outtakes/unreleased stuff..sounded pretty good.

Why they have to ruin a good album....grrr....I wish the cheap ipod earbud had never been invented. Too much crap being mixed for those, instead of quality listening environments....

Oh well....back to work...and get off my lawn!!

Re:Hey, the pirates can help (5, Funny)

NatasRevol (731260) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187449)

Then again...maybe not...the compression wars are killing me. I just got the latest "remastered" edition of the Stones Some Girls album...I have tried twice to listen to it on my home stereo, and it just is painful to the ears.

That's because you're not using Monster® cables.

Re:Hey, the pirates can help (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187661)

That's because you're not using Monster® cables.

Nah...no need for those, my system I've been building for decades sounds great with WELL recorded music. And my speakers [klipsch.com] aren't the weakest link either....

Actually, the problem I'm running into, especially remasters of older stuff..is that my system reproduces too well.....and I can hear the flaws with badly recorded stuff. The overcompressed crap coming out due to the loudness wars, just physically hurts to listen to.

Re:Hey, the pirates can help (5, Funny)

NatasRevol (731260) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187819)

It's still obvious you're not using Monster® cables, because not only do they transmit perfect sound, they even remove flaws in badly recorded sound.

Re:Hey, the pirates can help (2)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187649)

If you want to listen to popular music, you'll need to deal with mastering for popular listening conditions.

It's an unfortunate truth these days.

Re:Hey, the pirates can help (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39187383)

Maybe I'm missing something... but which part of "Lossless" did you not understand?

Re:Hey, the pirates can help (2)

Ryxxui (1108965) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187425)

You can convert a 128Kbps MP3 into a FLAC file. It doesn't magically restore the information that was removed when you converted the WAV file on the CD into a 128Kbps MP3. Converting to FLAC is a lossless operation, but just because something has a FLAC extension does not mean it was created from a lossless source.

Re:Hey, the pirates can help (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39187507)

That's not the argument they were making though... or if it was, it was a huge stretch. If you convert a CD audio track into a FLAC-compressed file, it will be exactly the same as the original file.

Re:Hey, the pirates can help (4, Insightful)

1u3hr (530656) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187525)

but just because something has a FLAC extension does not mean it was created from a lossless source.

The whole idea is to use an uncompressed source. If you're an asshole, you can use a crappy 96kB MP3 and blow it up into a FLAC file. Same as people upload cam videos as DVD rips. In both case, it gets noticed fairly quickly.

Re:Hey, the pirates can help (4, Funny)

greg1104 (461138) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187719)

If you're an asshole, you can use a crappy 96kB MP3 and blow it up into a FLAC file.

As an asshole, I'd like to point out you're not giving us enough credit. I would never use greater than a 64kbps rate for my source files when claiming they're CD quality FLAC.

Re:Hey, the pirates can help (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39187555)

Did you know planes don't necessarily fly?

Re:Hey, the pirates can help (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39187481)

Implying FLAC has to be CD quality is preposterous. If you take your 192kHz 24bit/sample studio file, you get exactly that when you encode it to FLAC.

Re:Hey, the pirates can help (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39187407)

FLAC is 100% CD quality.

Re:Hey, the pirates can help (3, Informative)

Millennium (2451) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187509)

As others point out, it's as good as the source, but only as good as the source. A FLAC file encoded from the original CD track will indeed be 100% CD quality. If you instead encode it from, say, a 96kbps MP3, then it can only be as good as the MP3 was.

FLAC is very good. It is, however, not magic.

Re:Hey, the pirates can help (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39187435)

-1 overrated isn't the same thing as "I disagree".

But it is the same as "I disagree, because you're provably wrong".
I'm not saying you are in this case, but that sig of yours angrys up my blood.

Re:Hey, the pirates can help (-1, Offtopic)

DeathFromSomewhere (940915) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187497)

If someone is wrong then you should reply explaining why instead of moderating. The moderating system on slashdot isn't there to tell people what's right or wrong; it's to filter useful comments from trolls. -1, Wrong is intentionally missing.

Re:Hey, the pirates can help (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39187833)

If something is plainly incorrect but modded informative, I don't see a problem with then modding it Overrated. It seems like we have the option for a reason... to indicate that a post is less "useful" (in your language) than others previously thought.

As a rule, I wouldn't apply this to any matters of opinion (political, religious, or otherwise). I'd only consider doing it for blatantly incorrect statements of fact that were modded up in err, then corrected by someone else.

Though I can't even remember the last time I cared enough to do that instead of modding up something else.

Re:Hey, the pirates can help (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39187843)

If someone is wrong then you should reply explaining why instead of moderating. The moderating system on slashdot isn't there to tell people what's right or wrong; it's to filter useful comments from trolls. -1, Wrong is intentionally missing.

I agree and would like to mod you up, but you just convinced me not to

Re:Hey, the pirates can help (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39187439)

Oh for sure it can be better, if you rip to FLAC files Dvd-Audios or SACDs. ^_^
But for 99% of people out there FLAC files are simply lossless CD rips.
It is beyond stupid in this day and age where hard drives are measured in terabytes for itunes or other shops that sell music to insist on crap mp3 even high bit rate mp3. Lossless all the way baby.

Once its done we've won 50% of the war. The other 50% is getting back music that actually is enjoyable to listen to, no more loudness wars. That is going to take what 20 years of lobbying ? lol.

Re:Hey, the pirates can help (4, Insightful)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187597)

Inherently FLACs dont have to be CD quality* but in most cases they probbablly are.

Music is usually realeased by artists in CD quality. The MP3 and AAC files sold on digital distirbution services and distributed on pirate networks are a result of applying lossy compression to the "CD quality" files the artists release..

I would expect the FLAC files released by any self respecting release group (whether legit or pirate) to be a lossless encoding of what the artist released.

Of course it is possible to produce a flac file from a downsampled version of the original audio and it is also possible to produce a FLAC from a file that has already been through lossy compression and then decoded but frankly i'd expect such files to be pretty rare even on open sharing services. Those who know about and use FLAC are mostly those who care about audio quality AFAOCT.

You can also have FLAC files in better than CD quality but only if the artist has released the music in such a form which afaict most don't.

* That is 44.1 kHz, 16 bit no lossy compression.

Re:Hey, the pirates can help (5, Insightful)

rinoid (451982) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187737)

CD quality is not at all high audio quality ... if you ask audiophiles.

Re:Hey, the pirates can help (2)

Russ1642 (1087959) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187817)

There's also nothing that says a CD needs to be recorded or mastered with any attention to quality. Big deal. The facts are that FLAC files available online are almost always a direct rip from a CD, which is almost always recorded and mastered by professionals who know what they're doing.

Re:Hey, the pirates can help (1, Insightful)

GWBasic (900357) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187493)

Mastered for iTunes is better then CD quality assuming that the producer encodes directly from the 24-bit master. AAC is totally floating-point; its compression process arguably creates a more accurate sound then decimating 24-bit to 16-bit.

If you're going to ask for FLAC, at least make sure it's 24-bit. Otherwise, you're just wasting space to carry around the distortion created when decimating to 16-bit sound.

Re:Hey, the pirates can help (4, Interesting)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187665)

Lets be honest. The only thing you end up losing when going to 16-bit is lost below the noise floor anyway. You use 24 (or better) in the mixing process because that's when it matters.

When lossless isn't really lossless (5, Funny)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187531)

I know many friends who have used higher compression on their FLAC files and, with my gear, I can clearly hear the artifacts. I realize most people won't but I've got mostly high end stuff, and I always burn in both my audio and network cables before using them and mark them with directional arrows (only with pvc-free tape and audio-grade markers) so that the don't get installed backwards after they've been burned in.

I'm amazed at how many people can't seem to grasp the fine points of lossless compression for audio work. I find most non-audiophiles expect that lossless means that what you put in exactly matches what you put out. I can tell you first hand, though, that when you spend as much money on gear as I have, you recognize that perfection comes from not just the bits, but the purity in which the bits are delivered. They may be the same ones and zeros, but a discerning ear can always tell the difference in the various lossless formats when listening to the color and soundstage of the reproduced performance.

Re:When lossless isn't really lossless (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39187793)

Ehh, it's a losing game really. If you spend thousands of dollars on audiophile gear, The shit is going to sound better, period. Most people don't have those kinds of set up's and more importantly, an acoustically treated room.

Re:When lossless isn't really lossless (2)

greyblack (1148533) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187799)

Hahah! beware of Poe's law...

Re:Hey, the pirates can help (4, Insightful)

smcdow (114828) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187535)

If you want to put those FLAC downloads on your iOS device, keep in mind that FLAC to ALAC is easy-peasy using ffmpeg [wikipedia.org] . It even preserves the tags.

Re:Hey, the pirates can help (0)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187581)

You want CD quality downloads? Yeah, ...

Don't start with the Red Hot Chili Peppers ... :-)

No difference or no discernible difference? (3, Insightful)

Kenja (541830) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187091)

While I agree that its all bunk, I would be interested in knowing if the two files where bit for bit the same or just sound the same to the listener?

Re:No difference or no discernible difference? (2)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187171)

Somewhere in between. From the fine article he reversed the phase on one and added it and listened to what fell out, which wasn't much. Essentially a lot of complicated analog foolishness to figure out the delta between two files. Would seem you could do a lot simpler version of this digitally, decode both into raw / wav files, then calculate the diff between the two raw files.

Re:No difference or no discernible difference? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39187223)

The problem with computing the digital difference between two files is that sound, and especially music, is an inherently analog experience. All the digital douchery in the world won't change the fact that your ears are not made of robot.

Re:No difference or no discernible difference? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39187451)

Total bullshit.

"Digital douchery" (otherwise known as "analysis") is accurate, where as your ears are imperfect perceptions interpreted by your imperfect brain. If you want to deliver useful information to people, you do it digitally and present the results.

So take your hipster nonsense and piss off. Any real audiophile would care about what's accurate and useful.

Re:No difference or no discernible difference? (1)

Millennium (2451) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187557)

All the digital douchery in the world won't change the fact that your ears are not made of robot.

Neither, however, does all the analog sweetness in the world change the fact that your ears are not made of god. "Digital douchery" for things like this does not have to be perfect, as long as it can outstrip the limitations of human hearing.

Re:No difference or no discernible difference? (1)

goncalopp (1335123) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187693)

From the fine article he reversed the phase on one and added it and listened to what fell out

Would seem you could do a lot simpler version of this digitally, decode both into raw / wav files, then calculate the diff between the two raw files

Isn't that exactly the same?

Re:No difference or no discernible difference? (2)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187837)

Depends how you do the diff.

Though experiment. Take a 1 KHz tone sampled at 10 KHz, phase shift it 180 degrees as described in article, thats 5 samples phase/temporal shift. On the other hand in the 100 hz band you need to shift 50 samples for the same degree phase shift.

The alternative is no phase/temporal shifting which is not how it was described in the article, but you just take two binaries and diff them, essentially.

Think of how white noise and pink noise at a given frequency have the same power, but white noise has the same power per Hz across the band and pink noise has the same power per octave across the band, two different concepts if you handle multiple frequencies.

Re:No difference or no discernible difference? (4, Informative)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187807)

That's exactly how one is supposed to determine if a signal is identical (flip the phase on one and add them).

This is coming from an amateur producer/mixer and a radio guy... for what it's worth.

Re:No difference or no discernible difference? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39187179)

He's not "listener" - he's sound engineer.

Re:No difference or no discernible difference? (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187209)

While I agree that its all bunk, I would be interested in knowing if the two files where bit for bit the same or just sound the same to the listener?

Probably not. Expect some renoberation and bit twiddling to have taken place in the "Master" process. Perhaps they did something like Dolby noise suppression or changed equalizer settings.

Re:No difference or no discernible difference? (3, Insightful)

phayes (202222) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187551)

The sample size is ridiculous: One song was compared between CD/AAC/AAC (Mastered for iTunes), not even one album just one song!

This may be just another tempest in a teacup because somebody uploaded the wrong file to AAC (M4iT) & people are making wildly erroneous extrapolations from it.

So... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39187105)

You buy music files?! That suits you well, morons.

Re:So... (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187753)

Compared to what? People who buy what could be described as music files on a plastic disc?

hurp (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39187115)

Summary is incorrect. Article says that there was a significant difference between the Mastered for iTunes and CD version, while there was no difference between Mastered for iTunes and a standard AAC track.

Re:hurp (2)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187381)

Exactly. All "Mastered for iTunes" does is provide the supplier of the music with a PDF document describing best practices and an AAC encoding tool so that they can preview how the file will sound when available on iTunes. A supplier may already be using best-practices, or they may sign up for the program but ignore the PDF. Apparently this is the case with the example track he uses (Red Hot Chili Peppers).

Re:hurp (1)

adisakp (705706) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187797)

AAC is a lossy format. That said, it's much better than MP3 for the same data rates if you use a good encoder -- and if you start with a high-bitrate high-quality source, it can sound as good as a CD to 99% of listeners.

You do have to follow a number of guidelines or experiment with variables to get best results from what you are using as source to how you compress things (two-pass / filtering / vbr /cbr / etc).

I've done objective testing using the "best" recommended settings with professional audio guys in our sound department (listening but not knowing the format) for a game about to be released using AAC audio compressors from Quicktime (iTunes AAC), NeroAAC, and FFMpeg, At lower bitrates, Quicktime's AAC encoder was light years better than anything else. And at higher bitrates, it was indistinguishable from NeroAAC in my objective testing. FFMpeg's free AAC is sadly quite lacking. I have heard that FAAC is getting better for a free AAC codec but I did not get a chance to include it in my testing.

RHCP? C'mon! (1, Insightful)

arth1 (260657) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187129)

To test with Red Hot Chili Peppers is rather pointless, I would think - they're one of the most compressed bands there is, probably not using more than the top 4-5 bits out of 16. So yes, it's going to be fairly similar no matter what the format, unless you can get ahold of the sources to the original masters.

Re:RHCP? C'mon! (1)

Terrasque (796014) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187229)

Or get the LP version [hometheaterforum.com] of the album :)

Re:RHCP? C'mon! (1)

arth1 (260657) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187511)

Or, for one of the albums, you can get the MFSL version [discogs.com] .
The gold plated CDs and ultra-heavy LPs may be a gimmick, but they do know how to mix masters.

Re:RHCP? C'mon! (1)

stewbee (1019450) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187309)

While you are probably right about the RHCP (as well as any other CD released lately) about the gain compression, there is no reason why you still cant do quantitative analysis to see differences between the two different compression schemes when they are decompressed. It would just be a matter of comparing the bytes of decompressed files to the original, never compressed (ie from the CD) data. Compute the variance of the errors in the two different schemes referenced to the CD and the check to see if they are statistically significant. There you go, you have just tested to see if the compression schemes are different.

That being said, you would probably have a better indicator of errors if you did use a source that was not heavily gain compressed before data compression, but that is another debate.

Re:RHCP? C'mon! (1)

arth1 (260657) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187783)

That being said, you would probably have a better indicator of errors if you did use a source that was not heavily gain compressed before data compression, but that is another debate.

No, that was actually my point. If you use the CD as a master, and the CD is heavily compressed (as is the case here), there will be far less difference between different compressed versions. You're not going to get anything that sounds better than the master you use, cause the bits that are gone are gone. And in the case of RHCP CDs, that's unfortunately most of the bits.

tl;dr: GIGO

Re:RHCP? C'mon! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39187331)

agreed. Listen to "a love supreme" and tell me that it doesn't sound amazing. The point of mfi is not just the encoding process. the producer must also increase the quality of the recording significantly for it to be considered for mfi.

Re:RHCP? C'mon! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39187363)

RHCP would be great for the purpose. Or Metallica "Death Magnetic" (or whatever the world champion of compression is nowadays):

To qualify for the "Mastered for iTunes" label, Apple says that files should be submitted in the highest resolution format possible, and remastered content should sound significantly better than the original.

Bad summary (5, Informative)

tooyoung (853621) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187133)

The summary implies that the CD version was identical to the Mastered for iTunes version.

Shepherd compared three digital music files, including a Red Hot Chili Peppers song downloaded in the Mastered for iTunes format with a CD version of the same song, and said there were no differences.

Here is the actual relevant part of the article:

After his comparison of the three digital music files, Shepherd says there was a sonic difference between the Mastered for iTunes waveform and the CD waveform. He says the Mastered for iTunes and AAC-encoded files didn't reveal any differences

Re:Bad summary (2)

FTWinston (1332785) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187205)

Mod parent up, summary makes a completely incorrect statement. Additionally:

Apple or someone else needs to step it up here and offer some true 'CD quality downloads.'

I think what we have here is TFS contradicting itself when it contradicts TFA. Presumably he wants "better than CD quality downloads."

Would like to hear the other side. (2)

erick99 (743982) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187137)

I am not an Apple fan, and, actually, dislike the company. However, I wonder if they are truly making claims that are not true or if their claims are simply carefully worded to convey, well, nothing. Apple seems to big and way too self-important to risk the scandal of an outright lie. It reminds me of how they handled the antennae problem with the iPhone. It would be interesting to hear Apple's response but my guess is that they will simply not respond and their fans will be fine with that.

Re:Would like to hear the other side. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39187233)

I would definitely say that it does seem worded to convey nothing.

Unless Apple is planning the option for higher quality formats in the near future, which the rumor mill is starting to rumble about. In which case it may actually represent music that will have better fidelity in this higher quality format.

Random musings are random.

Re:Would like to hear the other side. (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187769)

I'm wondering if the sound engineer got an AAC demo file or the actual mastered for iTunes file. Since he never says how or where he got the file from, how can we be sure.

If he had a test AAC file, then the results he found would be perfectly reasonable.

Here's his actual blog:
http://productionadvice.co.uk/mastered-for-itunes-cd-comparison/ [productionadvice.co.uk]

Lets just add a badsummary tag to the /. article (4, Informative)

VGPowerlord (621254) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187141)

From the /. summary:

Shepherd compared three digital music files, including a Red Hot Chili Peppers song downloaded in the Mastered for iTunes format with a CD version of the same song, and said there were no differences.

That'd be a good thing if there were no differences between the CD version and the audio versions. However, what the article actually says is

After his comparison of the three digital music files, Shepherd says there was a sonic difference between the Mastered for iTunes waveform and the CD waveform. He says the Mastered for iTunes and AAC-encoded files didn't reveal any differences, adding that this proves to him Apple's Mastered for iTunes isn't any different than a standard AAC file from Apple's iTunes store.

In other words, the Mastered for iTunes version is basically identical to the standard AAC version, and both are different from the CD version.

Re:Lets just add a badsummary tag to the /. articl (1)

dbet (1607261) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187369)

HOW different though? I am willing to bet that people tested on very good stereo equipment can't tell the difference between a 320k MP3 and redbook audio. With their ears - not with waveform equipment.

And I mean a real blind test, not just playing both and having them claim that one sounds better.

Re:Lets just add a badsummary tag to the /. articl (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39187441)

HOW different though?

He will need additional funding to explore this aspect.

Reminds me of scams of the past (4, Funny)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187161)

Those wonderful color screens people could put on their TV's to impreove the picture -- you can't get more out of something than you put into it. If the lossy music process has lost data you can't put it back (but you can always convince the gullible that you can!)

Now, buy my Slashdot Post Converter, which placed on your screen turns each of my posts into a fantastic media experience! Zowie!

Re:Reminds me of scams of the past (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39187281)

Well it certainly doesn't turn your posts into +5 insightfuls!

Re:Reminds me of scams of the past (3, Interesting)

Lt.Hawkins (17467) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187343)

I'm not an iTunes fan at all, nor an audiophile, but I believe the idea of remastering for itunes is not to put back lost data, but for account for it.

This is me making it up: "Oh, it looks like AAC will reduce sounds in the 18 KHz range, but that makes the bass too powerful and affects the voice. I can reduce the bass a bit and up the voice frequencies to compensate and now it sounds better than pure AAC applied blindly."

(This is what I understood from my reading here: http://arstechnica.com/apple/news/2012/02/mastered-for-itunes-how-audio-engineers-tweak-tunes-for-the-ipod-age.ars [arstechnica.com]

I make no claim as to its accuracy - just that its background information relevant to the article at hand.

Summary wrong on key point. (1)

GiantRobotMonster (1159813) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187169)

Summary says: "Shepherd compared three digital music files, including a Red Hot Chili Peppers song downloaded in the Mastered for iTunes format with a CD version of the same song, and said there were no differences." Emphasis Mine. If there were no difference, then this new format sounds great; what's the problem. Oh right, slashdot.

TFA says: "Shepherd says there was a sonic difference between the Mastered for iTunes waveform and the CD waveform."

Ugh.

What's wrong with WAV? (2)

Grindalf (1089511) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187197)

Put an end to over compressed music and squeaky sub base encoding with WAVE files! Uncompressed WAV files are super, you can make them as big as you like bits and Hz wise! Need 8.1 channels? NO sweat ... that's 4 stereo and 1 mono! Works great with other uncompressed formats too! Compression is for tiny old handheld gadget weenies, to summarize ... :0)

I'm not bothered (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39187211)

Most of what's called music sounds like crap in the firs place. Enhancing mastering quality won't do any good anyway.

well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39187243)

The guy running the tests is also implying that Apple takes an off-the-shelf CD (like he did) and uses that as a source for their music, which may OR MAY NOT be true.

Loudness War Makes It All Irrelevant (4, Insightful)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187251)

This "mastered for itunes" stuff is pointless crap as long as we are still fighting the Loudness War. [wikipedia.org]

The Red Hot Chili Peppers are a particularly bad test case because all of their albums have massive loudness-compression. And the same guy responsible for that travesty has started to do the mastering on recent Metallica albums [youtube.com] so their stuff is going to be all suck too.

Re:Loudness War Makes It All Irrelevant (4, Funny)

thisnamestoolong (1584383) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187625)

I don't think Metallica needs help from a shitty mastering engineer to suck...

wait, what? (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187255)

first:
  "Mastered for iTunes format with a CD version of the same song, and said there were no differences. "

then
" Apple or someone else needs to step it up here and offer some true 'CD quality downloads."

Isn't no different then the CD version CD quality?

Link to actual article (4, Informative)

Mr 44 (180750) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187265)

The summary link just goes to a (slow loading) blog post, the actual article being discussed is at:
http://productionadvice.co.uk/mastered-for-itunes-cd-comparison/ [productionadvice.co.uk]
And more specifically, the 11 minute youtube video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kGlQs9xM_zI [youtube.com]

Questionable methodology (1)

drfourier (2584723) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187277)

I can't agree with Shephard's methodology here. Why is he using RHCP to guide these comparisons? These are notoriously poorly mixed & mastered tracks - repeat offenders in the Loudness Wars debates that consume the audio engineering industry. Start with a record that is mastered to audiophile standards (say, RATM's debut) and then let's see if there's a difference. A piece of shit is going to sound like a piece of shit no matter what. Especially when the original (CD) master has digital clipping...

Further: "No differences" between CD and downloaded quality is a GOOD THING: The "Mastered for iTunse" AAC format is a compressed version of the audio data found on a CD (both are 16 bit, 44.1khz) so no discernible difference would mean that the encoding is transparent, does not result in a loss of dynamic range, and that the auditory masking effect does not leave artifacts.

The whole premise is wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39187287)

The Mastered for iTunes tools creates a iTunes Plus file as its output, just check the docs:

http://www.apple.com/itunes/mastered-for-itunes/

From the PDF:
"Master for iTunes Droplet. The Master for iTunes Droplet is a simple, standalone drag-and-drop tool that can be used to quickly and easily encode your masters in iTunes Plus format."

The PDF is a good read for people wanting to publish to the iTunes store with regards to making sure the best audio quality is sent to them and what to watch out for. But the problem with the whole article is the assumption that Mastered for iTunes != iTunes Plus. They are in fact the same thing, so its no wonder that they test out the same. Add to this the potential differences of quality of the original masters before conversion and of course some details will be lost compared to the master or CD, its lossy compression.

Viva Lossless (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39187293)

Sadly enough Apple is one of the major forces behind the proliferation of very bad music quality. Not sure why with current advances of storage and processing power we should focus on "true CD quality". There are much better alternatives - Sony SACD (1-bit compression, I guess as close to analog as you can get) or at least 192-24 bit. Most of the materials are recorded in much better quality, and it is shame we are facing low quality offerings only. Unless we steal:)

What the hack is difference for the average Joe?? Very simple, many music styles (baroque, folk, jazz, modern classic) just cannot be appreciated without either live listening or high-quality recording. In my humble opinion, this is one of the reasons great number of people don't even know what many of the genres are.
And - no you do not need to spend $$$ to appreciate good recording.

Maybe it's just the track? (3, Interesting)

rograndom (112079) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187329)

I can't speak for the RHCP tracks, but I downloaded a dozen or so tracks I already have on CD and exist as both FLAC and LAME MP3s on my computer on the day of the announcement to see what the difference is. I could immediately tell a difference with the Master for iTunes tracks, better or worse, I'm not sure yet. They are easy to pick out in A/B testing, the most glaring difference is in the mid-bass area 80-120hz is noticeably boosted in the rock tracks I downloaded.

Not what Apple intended (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39187335)

Pretty sure the Mastered for iTunes is not trying to rival CD quality, but rather increase the quality of the current AAC rips by using a better source and providing better tools to do so. A better test would have been to compare the original iTunes AAC with the new Mastered for iTunes AAC and compare those to the CD. Hopefully showing that the new rips are closer in waveform than the old.

Post Steve iTunes? (2)

milbournosphere (1273186) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187337)

Here's Apple's mixing guide for sound engineers. It contains some more technical guidelines and specs: http://images.apple.com/itunes/mastered-for-itunes/docs/mastered_for_itunes.pdf [apple.com]

It's interesting that this sudden focus on compressed music as opposed to uncompressed (iTunes Plus) has cropped up so soon after Steve's demise. IIRC, Steve was a music nut and was always pushing for DRM-free, higher fidelity digital downloads through iTunes. My foil-hat says that this might be an attempt to sell shitty quality music at a higher price. However, it could also ease network burden when streaming audio on the go. That said, one should still have access to high quality, uncompressed music for when you want to pump up the volume on your home system.

Re:Post Steve iTunes? (1)

JazzHarper (745403) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187841)

Specifically, under "Best Practices", the guide says, "An ideal master will have 24-bit 96kHz resolution. These files contain more detail from which our encoders can create more accurate encodes. However, any resolution above 16-bit 44.1kHz, ... will benefit from our encoding process."

Which implies that encoding from a CD, which is only 16-bit/44.1kHz, will NOT benefit from the MfiT encoding/compression technique.

If the RHCP tracks were encoded for iTunes from a 16-bit, 44.1kHz source (which they probably were), one should expect that the "Mastered for iTunes" encoding process would not produce anything different from conventional AAC compression. Not surprisingly, the article found that to be the case.

CD quality is the best? (1)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187375)

Is CD quality really the holy grail of audio quality? I thought DVD Audio [wikipedia.org] with up to 24-bit bit depth and 192kps sampling rate was supposed to the the best in audio quality - far beyond the human ear's ability to hear.

Or is CD Quality "good enough", even for audio engineers?

Re:CD quality is the best? (1)

therealslartybardfas (2495594) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187593)

"far beyond the human ear's ability to hear." What is the point in getting something that is far beyond your ability to hear. CD Quality is good enough for 99% of the people out there. In my opinion, a large portion of the 1% who can hear a difference are the same people that pay $300 for a $1 power cable and tell you there is a huge difference between the sound quality when using them so I wouldn't trust their opinions.

Re:CD quality is the best? (1)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187815)

I was hoping for a more detailed explanation than "Anyone who says they can hear beyond CD quality is stupid." That's the same argument that many people use to argue that 128kbit MP3 is equivalent to CD quality.

Are there any studies that says that CD quality is the highest quality that 99% of people can detect? I found lots of comparisons to various bitrates to CDs, but little justification for holding CD's up as the "gold standard".

Content is king (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39187393)

Would I rather listen to an uncompressed 96bit 100kHz sampled (made up spec for effect) recording of Justin Beiber or a scratched 78 rpm recording of Leadbelly (for example)?

No fsckin' contest - tech spec wars are for onanists.

It's just guidelines (1, Interesting)

GWBasic (900357) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187397)

"Mastered for iTunes" is just a set of guidelines that ensure that the resulting AAC file is the highest quality possible when encoded directly from a 24-bit master. It's higher quality then most FLACs because they are usually 16-bit, whereas AAC is essentially 24-bit when the source material is 24-bit. In essence, compressing 24-bit audio to 256kbps AAC sounds better then going to 16-bit uncompressed audio.

If you're going to go FLAC, at least make sure that you're getting 24-bit.

Re:It's just guidelines (1)

Skapare (16644) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187667)

If you are ripping a CD, then 24-bit gains you nothing. Just be sure to not modify the audio, which FLAC accomplishes just fine. Of course, if your source is 24-bit at a 192k sample rate, you preserve it best by encoding FLAC at the same number of bits and same sample rate.

BTW, the Nyquist limit that says you can encode at twice the sample rate applies when encoding a single sine wave. A mix of multiple sine waves requires more to get them accurate. And I have not heard any music recently that is made entirely of pure sine waves. This "CD quality" thing is not really all that great. 24@192 is better (of course, if you don't destroy it along the way).

"Mastered for iTunes"? Sign me up! (0)

DogDude (805747) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187445)

Brilliant marketing! Apple is primarily a marketing company, so branding specific digital downloads as "Mastered for iTunes" is really smart. As with their other products, that "iTunes/Apple" brand is permission to print money, so they can charge whatever they'd like for these downloads. People will buy them no matter what the price. AND, they can also apply the label selectively, steering consumers to whatever Apple stuck their name on this week. Labels will pay a LOT for this.

I gotta give it to Apple. They are really incredibly smart at manipulating consumers for maximum profit in a way that few other brands can do.

Say it ain't so! (-1)

Chas (5144) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187461)

What? Apple engaging in dodgy, dishonest practices to make an extra buck based on some flawed perception of a "premium" product? NO WAY!

It's not like this wasn't their entire friggin' business model.

CD quality sucks. (1)

JustNiz (692889) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187573)

I want Vinyl quality.

Re:CD quality sucks. (1)

Skapare (16644) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187715)

Record once, play once, technology. After that, the recording is modified (generally for the worse, except in the case of Justin Bieber).

Re:CD quality sucks. (1)

zerosomething (1353609) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187727)

I want Vinyl quality.

No actually you don't. You want analogue reel to reel tape quality.

NAother pointless Apple attack (1, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187591)

This completely misrepresents what the 'Mastered for iTunes' represents.

If give the producer the tools and options to create CD quality files.

If a producer is putting a mastered for iTunes stamp ion the song that hasn't been improved beyond the most filmiest technicality, then it's on the producer.

There are a lot of issues regarding Apple products, and how Apple runs it's business. Lets not try to make some up, m'kay?

Usual Audio Confusion (1)

Rougement (975188) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187607)

"Apple recommends to mastering engineers not to compress a track. Owsinski says there’s a feature called Sound Check in iTunes that lets users hear all of their music files at the same level. He says a highly compressed track will actually sound less impactful because of the Sound Check technology. Moving beyond some of the technical aspects of mastering he adds that compressing is becoming less relevant because file storage is becoming less of an issue for consumers. This is why he theorizes that Apple is pushing its AAC Plus lossless high-resolution format (The existence of AAC Plus Lossless could not be verified)."
Audio compression during the mixing and mastering process has nothing to do with compressing a digital file to make it smaller. The first is a way of limiting dynamic range which is useful for several reasons such as creating a perceived loudness, making audio levels more consistent, or changing the character or transients through attack and release time settings. The other is taking a .wav file and turning it into an mp4/AAC/Ogg/pick your poison. The second falls within Applke's domain as it addresses the type of file and it's size as delivered to consumers. The first has nothing to do with Apple. I'd love to see an Apple employee try and tell Bob Ludwig how he should be using his racks of high-end tube compressors and limiters. That would be a short conversation.

auditory psychophysics? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39187663)

Anyone know of peer-reviewed studies looking at these claims about audio quality? (forgetting about the compression artifacts for
now just considered raw wave forms) For instance, human
hearing tops out at about 22khz which is why the standard has been 44.1khz & 48khz sampling to get up to 22.05khz or 24khz
playback. Young people have hearing in this range but it falls off with age so I'm not entirely clear why 96khz is needed.

According to the nyquist limit you need to 2x samples of the waveform to reproduce the original. Maybe I'm misunderstanding
something? For instance if you have a pure tone of 100hz sampled at 200hz or 1000hz is there an obvious difference is sound quality
when played back? Similarly 16-bit allows ~65k possible amplitude levels whereas 24bit gives ~16.7million. But in terms of perception
I haven't the foggiest idea how much the human auditory system can actually distinguish. Anyone well versed in auditory perception want to
chime in? As a techie I'm all for bigger numbers to put on products, but is this the case of the psychology of audiophiles thinking they can tell
a difference when in actuality its pretty unlikely except for perfect audio conditions (i.e. in a sound isolated lab) and a prime auditory (young ears)

No difference? (1)

MikeMo (521697) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187755)

Isn't that the point? This is confusing: " no difference from the CD " ... "someone needs to offer CD quality downloads..." .

The point for "Mastered for iTunes" is not to make it different from the CD, it's to make the compressed, lossy AAC file as close to the CD as possible. It sounds like they've done that.
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?
or Connect with...

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>