Apple Really Is Developing a New Streaming Audio Format

By Sam Gibbs on at

It seems Neil Young wasn’t talking a load of old cobblers after all – Apple is developing a new audio format according to UK-based sources, but it’s all about streaming music from iCloud.

According to the Guardian's source, Apple’s asked a London-based studio to prepare new audio file masters for a streaming format, which is presumed to be tied in with iTunes Match:

“All of a sudden, all your audio from iTunes is in HD rather than AAC. Users wouldn't have to touch a thing – their library will improve in an instant."

Earlier this month, Neil Young was quoted as saying that he and Steve Jobs were working on a new type of “high resolution iPod” before his death. Speculation points to this new Apple-developed streaming music format to enable both high resolution (or high fidelity as we used to call it) audio for things like your desktop or for fast connections, and a smaller, lower resolution file for streaming in low-bandwidth situations, like when you’re trying to stream over a struggling 3G network. HTTP adaptive video streaming does precisely that for video content already, adjusting the quality automatically depending on your bandwidth, which Netflix, Apple and others already use.

Apparently Apple’s been encouraging producers to submit song files in the better-than-CD 24-bit/96KHz standard, which could mean digital downloads might finally outstrip the CD in quality as well as convenience.

I’m all for a new format that enables me to stream music quickly, but at the same time allows me to grab super-high quality versions for the desktop or over Wi-Fi/LTE. Knowing Apple and it’s lossless format though, it’ll end up being proprietary, locking you into Apple’s ecosystem even further.

Then again, if it works like iTunes Match does right now, you’ll be able to buy bog-standard MP3s from the likes of Amazon or 7-Digital and get Apple to “upgrade” them when you import them to Match. Sounds great to me; the best of both worlds in fact, if you happen to use iTunes or an iDevice. [The Guardian]