While doing some research on audio formats, I came across ALAC, Apple Lossless. I’ve been using it for a few years now but only worked on Apple devices. That is until, it became Open sourced late last year.
This strikes me a bit odd, as this format was developed by Apple in 2003, based on MPEG4 Part 14 standard and was only used in Apple products, its nearest competitor FLAC, Free lossless Audio Codec, was developed in 2001 and doesn’t have the market or wide adoption base.
Why did Apple open source a technology that can be used in over 250 million mobile Apple devices and compatible with iTunes?
My only conclusions is that it has created or is in the processes of creating a new audio format.
The newest audio format is HD-AAC, a lossy compression, but that does 24 bit, and is built upon the MP4 (H.264) / AAC standard that was introduced in 1997. While HD-AAC is vastly superior to AAC, there has been very little adoption because there are no processing chip that can decode it. Yet earlier this month H.265 the successor to H.264 (MPEG 4) was finally submitted as a draft and might lead to a newer format that will be better suited, seeing as the MPEG4 standard is over 10 years old.
If the music industry wants an audio revolution, it’s war-horse will have to be iTunes. The major labels will have to team up with Apple to create the next generation audio format and codec.
There have ben rumors that iTunes will get a revamp later this year, I can see that happening. Final Cut Pro X was the beginning of throwing out all the legacy code and start from scratch. I can see that happening to iTunes. It has gotten too long in the tooth and will need to become more efficient to support newer formats. Maybe even ones that are fully 192kHz at 24 bits. Maybe even something that supports 32 bits (Floating).
But here is that challenge… How do you convince millions of people to re-buy digital music? Most people can’t hear the difference when listening on crappy ear phones. Decoding chips in PMP can’t do it. One solution is iTunes Match.
This has been the down fall of HD-AAC… No one can tell the difference in quality.
This is interestingly, today The Guardian reports that Apple is working on a new high-definition audio format that adapts to bandwidth or hardware capabilities. If this is true, then maybe this might convince more people to buy into iTunes Match. I for one would love to see this format materialize.