We know that the iPhone has been capable of playing some fairly high quality recordings under the Apple Lossless codec for some time, but iTunes only sells AAC files at 256 kbs and only allows for AAC files to be encoded at a maximum of 320 kbps. That said, iTunes used to offer measly 128 kbps recordings and there’s hope for improvements of a similar scale in the future. According to the audiophile blog Evolver.fm, it seems Apple is asking studios and their sound engineers (such as Evolver.fm’s source, Tony Faulkner) for 96 kHz 24-bit WAV files, a far better sample rate than what can be found on audio CDs.
On one hand, the idea of filling a 16GB iPhone with albums that have more data than a 700MB CD seems ludicrous. Even with decent lossless codec (Apple Lossless can get audio to about 40-60% of it’s original size), that’s still around 35MB per track for a CD. On the other hand, given Apple’s move to iCloud and iTunes Match, these “high resolution” audio files may be good candidates for streaming. (Just don’t ever look at your data usage.)
The only downside is that pushing more audio data through your earphones could eat up more of your phone’s battery life–but I’m not entirely sure that’s a concern, seeing as the iPhone can supposedly handle 40 hours of conventional audio playbook. Tripling the bitrate shouldn’t put a huge strain on juice.
It’s also possible, as Evolver.fm notes, that Apple is just using the higher quality audio as a source for “Mastered For iTunes” tracks, as working with higher resolution source files could lead to better results when compressed down to the 256 kbps files that iTunes serves us.
Should Apple be offering higher quality audio samples, or is 256 kbps good enough? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.