High-def audio coming to iOS 8 alongside new EarPods

EarPods_derecho

As if the reported $3.2 billion Beats deal isn’t enough evidence, Apple seems to be quite big on this “music” thing.

According to new reports, Apple will introduce high definition audio playback in iOS 8, alongside new versions of its In-Ear Headphones. The iOS rumor corresponds with earlier reports that Apple will announce high-fidelity iTunes music downloads at this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). As it currently stands, iOS 7’s standard Music app can’t play high quality 24-bit audio files which contain a sampling frequency beyond 48 kHz.

While some third party apps are able to play these audio files, users are still limited to onboard playback at a 16-bit rate.

The report also suggests that Apple is working on new In-Ear Headphones designed to accomodate this high-quality audio playback.

Apple is set to introduce the world to iOS 8 at WWDC. While most of the press around it so far has focused on the rumored Healthbook app for fitness and health tracking, the announcement of high-def audio playback would likely be a welcome one for those of us who use our iOS devices as our primary music players.

  • http://www.paolospen.blogspot.com/ Paolo Maligaya

    Finally. But they would have to upgrade their hardware to get the best out of high resolution files (and how about increasing the storage space to at least 128GB for the iPod.)

  • http://www.pro-tools-expert.com/ Russ Hughes

    I’m not sure how anyone can use the words HD audio and BEATS in the same sentence.

    • Luke Dormehl

      To be fair to me, I didn’t.

      • BarryDwight

        I don’t know how old you are, but to be fair to most bloggers and journalists in the over-30 crowd, they generally avoid that. I wonder if Apple will try to steal some Sennheiser engineers :D

      • RyanTV

        But you did say “playbook” instead of playback in the last paragraph. #whoneedsaneditor

    • Jhabril_Harris

      True

  • Yermom

    I get the push for 24-bit, but not the push for anything above 44.1kHz. It makes sense to record and process at higher sampling rates, if you can, but even then, it’s arguable where the margin of diminishing returns lies. Bottom line is that SRC and bit-depth dithering are miles ahead of where they were in the 80s when CDs first came out. I’m fairly certain in most listening situations, even audiophiles couldn’t tell the difference in a double blind test. 24-bit is a little more apparent, especially if the vinyl masters are normalized and used for the high fidelity versions. More bits alone does not higher fidelity audio make, but I do welcome higher dynamic range.

    • TheRealSpark

      Hmm…vinyl masters? Wouldn’t the original master be the tape created at the recording session, or more accurately the final mixing tape? The last analog recording session I saw where a recording was made onto a non-electronic physical medium such as vinyl was on the History Channel. Are recording studios still even using tape?

      • Yermom

        The original mix recording, down to 2 channel stereo would be tape, but that does not mean the the 2-track master for vinyl sounds the same as the 2-track master for CD. Typically a vinyl master is cut from a mastering process that, in addition to not being compressed into a 16-bit volume range, is also well below 0 dB. (I think -6 or -12db). On top of that, vinyl doesn’t seem to have fallen victim to the loudness wars on most releases. This is also true of albums recorded entirely on digital, as long as the mix was done on a workstation/multitrack that does 32-bit/64-bit summing and is bounced down to a 24-bit stereo master.

  • JessicaSideways

    I still don’t understand why Apple would be interested in buying Beats. That’s like if the people who make Dom PĂ©rignon buy the rights to produce Night Train and Thunderbird…

  • monty_mcmont

    What an utter waste of time & storage space. It’s virtually impossible to discern any difference between audio produced at 16bit and 24bit in an acoustically treated room on extremely expensive studio monitors if you have an experienced ear. The average person is never going to be able to tell the difference on a pair of highly acoustically coloured earbuds in an urban environment with loads of background noise.

    The only advantage to higher bit rates is greater dynamic range. That’s only any real use for orchestral recordings with very loud and very quiet passages. Every other genre of commercially produced music is compressed to within an inch of its life, to the extent that it only has a few dB of dynamic range.

    I’m a huge Apple fan, but this is pure marketing BS!

  • Guest

    Now if they’d give us a service that lets us convert every (not totally obscure) song in our libraries to high-definition audio for a flat, reasonable, one-time fee, they’d probably have a lot of iTunes music customers for life – even after they’ve introduced a subscription-based streaming model. Let everyone get the highest quality file available for each song in their existing library and then they’ll more than likely continue to purchase high-definition audio files from you to add to their high-definition library in the future. It’s just good, progressive business in both directions. I believe Steve would have approved.

    All your music in crystal clear, high-definition audio. The way it was meant to be heard. Coming this Fall to iTunes and iTunes Match HD.

    Is there anybody in Apple’s marketing or services department listening? I need a job. Phil? Eddy??

About the author

Luke DormehlLuke Dormehl is a UK-based journalist and author, with a background working in documentary film for Channel 4 and the BBC. He is the author of The Formula: How Algorithms Solve All Our Problems, And Create More and The Apple Revolution, both published by Penguin/Random House. His tech writing has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, Techmeme, and other publications. He'd like you a lot if you followed him on Twitter.

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