CNN is reporting that Apple is in discussions with the labels to offer higher quality recordings at perhaps a premium pricing in the near future (September-ish?). Music is currently distributed in 16-bit files through CDs and are further compressed when made into MP3s (unless lossless compressors are used).

Professional music producers generally capture studio recordings in a 24-bit, high-fidelity audio format. Before the originals, or “masters” in industry parlance, are pressed onto CDs or distributed to digital sellers like Apple’s iTunes, they’re downgraded to 16-bit files.

It appears that such a change would be a wholesale move for the whole industry.

“We’ve gone back now at Universal, and we’re changing our pipes to 24 bit. And Apple has been great,” Iovine said. “We’re working with them and other digital services — download services — to change to 24 bit. And some of their electronic devices are going to be changed as well. So we have a long road ahead of us.”

This might be Apple’s response/differentiator to the subscription model where Spotify, Sony and others (maybe even Apple and Google soon) are finding success.  While Macs can play the new high quality 24-bit recordings, apparantly iPhones and iPods (and AppleTV/iPads?) currently aren’t built to do so.

To make the jump to higher-quality music attractive for Apple, the Cupertino, California, company would have to retool future versions of iPods and iPhones so they can play higher-quality files.

What does the extra 24-bit sound buy you?

“Most of you aren’t hearing it the way it’s supposed to sound,” Dr. Dre said in a Beats Audio promotional video. “And you should — hear it the way I do.”

“What we’re trying to do here is fix the degradation of music that the digital revolution has caused,” he said. “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.”

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