Apple to offer 24-bit audio in the iTunes Store?

According to a report released today, Apple is considering a jump from their current 16-bit audio iTunes Store offerings to a superior 24-bit format. CNN claims that Apple is in talk with music executives to bring super-high quality music to their online service, with a possible two-tier pricing format for those seeking the benefits.

UMG's Jimmy Iovine is fully backing the idea. At a recent HP event, Iovine expressed his dissatisfaction with current digital trends, promoting his joint initative with Dr Dre to improve sound quality. Beats Audio has seen its results implemented in a number of HP's products, and Iovine wants to reverse the effects the digital age has had on our audio expectations. "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," he said.

24-bit audio would bring iTunes-bought music to recording studio standards, but the quality improvement may not be heard by all. While iTunes and most Macs can play 24-bit sound, a wide range of hardware and software currently on the market lacks the capability. A common criticism of the iTunes store is its distribution of relatively poor-quality files compared to the original masters, and audiophiles in the past have called for a lossless option to be available.

Smaller outlets such as Bandcamp offer music in lossless formats, and Apple has been known to adapt its music offerings depending on the wider marketplace. Previously, Apple ditched DRM and boosted quality from 128kbps to 256kbps, dubbing the new format "iTunes Plus". An answer to the call for lossless may not be entirely out of the question, but Apple might decide to hold back from launching a service that benefits a very small crowd.

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