The quest for higher quality digital music

From The Telegraph:

On Sunday, Blur will headline a Hyde Park concert marking the end of the London Olympics. For fans who want to remind themselves of Blur’s heydey, the band’s back catalogue has been reissued in the Mastered for iTunes format, a new initiative from Apple that promises higher quality digital downloads. Blur’s seven studio albums should sound better than ever.

The music downloading era kicked off with MP3, a data compression format that reduced the file size of audio tracks to make them small enough to download over the internet while retaining as much of the original recording as possible.

The algorithms behind MP3, Apple’s AAC, and other compression formats are designed to remove frequencies that most people won’t be able to hear anyway. But they are still ‘lossy’ compression formats, however, in which some quality is sacrificed so that file sizes stay small.

Mastered for iTunes is driven by a series of guidelines from Apple to help producers make their tracks sound as good as possible before submitting them. One key recommendation is maintaining the highest possible dynamic range and resisting the modern trend for making the quiet parts louder. The theory is simple: start with the highest quality audio before compression and you should get a better sounding file afterwards.

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