One of the issues that people initially had with streaming music was its inferior audio quality compared to CDs. With relatively slow internet connections, it was necessary to encode music at lower bit rates which meant better streaming, but also lower quality. But as time has gone on, bandwidth is much less of an issue for most people. And now it turns out Apple has been improving things behind the scenes - news which has only just come to light.
The good news is that this means your music on Apple's stores and services, as well as your music library, will likely sound better without you having to do anything. But what exactly has been going on? Here's the official statement.
Apple Music revealed that it has been slowly rolling out Apple Digital Masters, an initiative that combines the company's highly lauded "Mastered for iTunes" offering into one global catalog with unrivaled quality, for Apple Music and the iTunes Store.
Apple Digital Masters provide uncompromising studio sound, virtually indistinguishable from the original master recordings. With less noise and higher fidelity than ever, this is world-class audio for everyone. Apple Digital Masters combines cutting-edge technology, industry-wide best practices, and the best available artist master recordings to bring listeners an unrivaled streaming audio and digital download experience.
"The audio quality is incredible! The piano is the hardest instrument to get right and this sounds amazing." - Lang Lang, world-renowned concert pianist
"Amazing. The sound is incredible. I cannot hear any difference! Fantastic!" - Gustavo Dudamel, Music & Artistic Director of LA Philharmonic
Listeners want quality and they are increasingly discerning in their choice of streaming services, as well as their audio hardware at home or in their cars. Apple Digital Masters delivers on all fronts.
By encoding from high-resolution masters, Apple music engineers are able to capture all of the detail of a recording in a size that is convenient for streaming and downloading. Using 24-bit files means less noise and higher encoding efficiency. Apple has distributed our industry-leading encoder for free to mastering engineers worldwide and by using these software tools engineers are able to create "test pressings" of exactly what the audience will hear. The result is music that is virtually indistinguishable from the original hi-res master recordings.
Apple Digital Masters provide premium quality audio without any additional cost on Apple Music and the iTunes Store. All former Mastered for iTunes songs will continue to be available under the Apple Digital Masters program.
Most of today's top releases are from Apple Digital Masters. About 75% of the Top 100 songs in the US and 71% of Top 100 globally are created from Apple Digital Masters.