Got a tip for us? Share it...

New in OS X: Get MacRumors Push Notifications on your Mac

Resubscribe Now Close

Apple Had 'Worked On' Offering a High-Definition Music Format

In an interview with AllThingsD, recording artist Neil Young revealed that he had discussed high definition music formats with Apple's Steve Jobs prior to his death.


The interview is summarized by CNet, in which Young claims that MP3s have just "5 percent of the data present in the original recording." Young is concerned that there is no suitable high definition available to consumers.

Higher definition music, of course, would require much larger files. Young reportedly approached Apple and specifically Steve Jobs about it:
When asked if Young had approached Apple about the idea, Young said that he had, in fact, met with Jobs and was "working on it," but that "not much" ended up happening to the pursuit.

Of note, Young made mention that Jobs was a vinyl fan, despite having helmed the company that would spearhead the way people listened to and purchased digital music.
Apple presently offers their iTunes Music store at a quality of 256 kbps AACs. Apple does support a lossless audio format that can be used on their iPods and iPhones, but these files take up considerably more space than standard AAC files, and are not sold on the iTunes store. Based on the interview, it seems there is no present interest from Apple in such an offering.

Top Rated Comments

(View all)

33 months ago
As someone who greatly appreciates high fidelity audio, I've got to say, high definition (aka. lossless) music is rather pointless.

The difference between a 256 kbps AAC file and a lossless file is incredibly minor - especially with the audio equipment that the vast majority of people use. Even to a discerning listener with high quality speakers or a great pair of headphones, the difference will still be very minor. Once you've reached 256kbps, you've passed the point where diminishing returns has taken over any additional data is hardly noticeable - even to an audiophile.

Besides, as long as record producers keep releasing overly compressed, loudness war'd garbage, most music will continue to sound horrible regardless. In most cases, upgrading to lossless music would be like offering a multi-vitamin to someone who has just had his legs blown off. The level of dynamic range compression that exists throughout the music industry is many orders of magnitude more significant in harming overall sound quality than the 256kbps bitrate is.
Rating: 28 Votes
33 months ago
Finally some one that speaks my language. I'm 31 and in remember that in past people used to have an hi-fi system an listen to vinyl and CD. Today people listen to music in crappy pc speaker and ipod headphones. Most people don't have hi-fi system. That's not evolution!:confused:
Rating: 24 Votes
33 months ago



Correct me if I'm wrong, but Apple does offer lossless music on the iTunes Store. As part of their agreement with the Beetles, Apple can only sell their music in lossless.


Sorry, you are wrong.
Rating: 19 Votes
33 months ago

As someone who greatly appreciates high fidelity audio, I've got to say, high definition (aka. lossless) music is rather pointless.

The difference between a 256 kbps AAC file and a lossless file is incredibly minor - especially with the audio equipment that the vast majority of people use. Even to a discerning listener with high quality speakers or a great pair of headphones, the difference will still be very minor. Once you've reached 256kbps, you've passed the point where diminishing returns has taken over any additional data is hardly noticeable - even to an audiophile.

Besides, as long as record producers keep releasing overly compressed, loudness war'd garbage, most music will continue to sound horrible regardless. In most cases, upgrading to lossless music would be like offering a multi-vitamin to someone who has just had his legs blown off. The level of dynamic range compression that exists throughout the music industry is many orders of magnitude more significant in harming overall sound quality than the 256kbps bitrate is.


Over-compression in the mastering stage almost always leads to inter-sample peaks which are highlighted by MP3 and AAC compression. In some ways, well mastered and recorded music will be less affected by the conversion from PCM/Lossless into MP3 or AAC than poorly recorded music.

This argument for more music-per-GB & bandwidth is moot for the majority of people using iTunes nowadays. With the amount of hard-drive space now readily available, there's no need to continue forcing consumers to listen to inferior quality audio.

Lossless DOES sound better than AAC by quite some margin in some ways (front to back imaging, space between instruments etc) and not so much better in other ways. Either way, it's still a step back from where we were ~10 years ago with CDs.

Vinyl -> CD was a step back in sound
CD -> iTunes was a step back in sound
iTunes -> Spotify was a BIG step back in sound

Sound quality has slowly been eroded by each 'advance' in audio technology over the last 25 years.

A lot of the people who are still spending money on music are the cohort who would be genuinely interested in listening to at least true 44.1k/24bit audio.

If most people heard what their parents' 1990s separates system sounded like with a properly set up and maintained turntable or even a CD player, they'd probably be blown away at just how much stuff they were missing out on with all these crappy iPod Docks, computer 'hifi speakers' which are littering the market and the vast majority of headphones (Beats, Skullkandy, even most Sennheisers etc) which seem to be absolutely rubbish...

All I'm saying is, why not give people the option - you never know maybe people will realise everything they've been listening to isn't quite as it should be.

Just my 2c.
Rating: 16 Votes
33 months ago
I've been saying this for years.

I still find it shocking that anyone would pay money for an mp3.

Lossless I will pay for.
Lossy I will never pay for.
Rating: 16 Votes
33 months ago

It's not Open Source in the sense that not as many decoders/amplifiers support it as support FLAC.


That makes no sense what so ever.
Rating: 13 Votes
33 months ago

Well, this was my question - where is the 5% coming from?
And - another question - by those standards, what % is CD?
Is Vinyl meant to represent 100%?


Vynil has worse quality than CD based on the intrinsic nature of the medium. It also loses quality each time you listen to it, unlike CD.
Rating: 13 Votes
33 months ago

Voted Down for the comment about Lossless being Pointless (although I'm definitely an Audiophile AND a Pedant)...Voted Up for the level of DRC being far more detrimental! ;-)

Screw Apple Lossless though...What we need is support for FLAC or some other true Open-Source format on iPod/iPhone.


Apple Lossless is open source under the Apache 2.0 license.
Rating: 12 Votes
33 months ago

MP3s have just "5 percent of the data present in the original recording."


How did he pull that number up? Maybe if the MP3 was @ 64kbps...

And there is a "high-definition music format." It's called FLAC.
Rating: 12 Votes
33 months ago

Vynil has worse quality than CD based on the intrinsic nature of the medium. It also loses quality each time you listen to it, unlike CD.


Sound is Analogue. A Vinyl is a true Analogue reproduction of the sound captured in a Studio (assuming the recording process is also analogue), it therefore the BEST reproduction of sound available.

Any Digital format (including CD, SACD, DVD Audio, DVD, Blu-Ray) is merely a snapshop/approximation of an analogue recording. In the case of CDs, the original Audio is captured at a 44,100Hz Sampling Frequency...it is by definition not as good as the original source.

In Photography/Movies, an Analogue Format (eg. Film) is a better reproduction of the captured image than a Digital Camera. Digital Cameras/Camcorders provide an approximation of the captured image by converting it into data and as such and by definition will always be worse than the an analogue original. When you buy into higher megapixel cameras...you're buying into the idea that a higher number of pixels = a better approximation of what we previously got from good old analogue film.

The advantage of CDs/Digital File Formats is convenience/durability. Vinyl takes a lot of care and attention to keep in prime condition or you will experience the notorious hiss/popping...but the fact is, when they are in good condition...they are a better reproduction of sound than any CD or Lossless Digital format in that they are an exact copy of what was produced in the studio (assuming analogue source). As soon as you go digital...there is fidelity loss (however minor).

The digital age has brought with it many things...but the fact is...what I was listening to in the 80s/90s on my beloved separates is better even than my Lossless Library I have now...providing your medium is in good condition.

Film > Hard Drives/Memory Cards
Vinyl > CDs/Lossless File Formats
Rating: 11 Votes

[ Read All Comments ]