The iTunes Store Boosts Audio Quality


Apple made a breakthrough this week with word it would sell songs from one record company, EMI Group, without copy protection, freeing them from the confines–admittedly comfortable, but confines nonetheless–of the iPod. But also intriguing was that the iTunes store would sell the music at twice the audio quality of its other offerings.

Even I can hear the difference between music I've ripped at full quality from a CD and the compressed music I've bought from iTunes, and I'm no audiophile and don't have a top-quality sound system. It's enough to have slowed my music buying from iTunes and other online stores.

For downloading music, I've also used a service that offers full CD-quality sound, MusicGiants. Maybe not as broad as the iTunes offerings, MusicGiants' library is extensive, and the songs arrive at full CD quality. Meanwhile, a British record company that specializes in classical, jazz–and Celtic–music, Linn Records, recently started offering even higher-quality downloads that are the equivalent of Super Audio CDs.

The prices are higher–Linn typically sells CD-quality tracks at $1.70 and up, though they also come without copy restrictions. MusicGiants sells tracks at $1.29, but they're restricted by Microsoft copy protections and won't play on an iPod, so that has limited my interest in them.

MusicGiants' price, interestingly, is the same price that Apple will charge for the higher-quality EMI music. MusicGiants' tunes download at perhaps four times the quality, and I'm still hesitant to invest in a music library that won't also sound the best at home. Yet, even I might be swayed by the removal of confounding copy restrictions at iTunes.