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Hi-Res Albums vs. Mastered for iTunes (or Apple Digital Master) Albums - Which is Better??!

Discussion in 'Computer Audio' started by RockStar2005, Dec 5, 2017.
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  1. RockStar2005
    Hey voxie!

    Thanks. I always TRY to keep it civil up in here. lol

    That's cool! I'm sorry he had passed on though.

    Yeah CD and esp mp3 don't always do it justice, but a CD version is great when there is no Hi-Res version available. Though at this point I might be in favor of MFiT over a CD if it in fact uses the SAME master as a "regular Hi-Res" (aka 24/96, 24/192, or anything off HDTracks or Acoustic Sounds really) album. Have you ever listened to a Hi-Res track and its MFiT counterpart? If so, please elaborate here.

    I plan on comparing a few remastered Led Zeppelin MFiT tracks to my Hi-Res 24/96 versions sometime very soon to determine 1) If they utilize the same master or not (aka they sound the same) and 2) If one sounds better than the other. I am choosing Zep b/c Page did a FANTASTIC job on remastering the Hi-Res releases, and also, there's only ONE (regular) Hi-Res version available, 24/96. So that makes comparing easier than if there was also a 24/192 version. I would a lot more respect for Apple if they were engineering/processing these 24-bit albums they're receiving from the studios in a superior way vs. the way the regular Hi-Res versions get engineered. And to charge LESS for it too would be incredible. But I've been getting mixed (though mostly positive) reviews on MFiT.
    voxie likes this.
  2. voxie
    Hey Rockstar good to hear from you, always a pleasure. Do be very honest I haven't listened to a HI - Res track via its MFIT equivalent but will. Re Apple, just don't know.. Have to check out MFTIT can you direct me on this?
    RockStar2005 likes this.
  3. RockStar2005
    Hey voxie,

    Yeah sure.............basically you wanna compare a Hi-Res track NOT from Apple (MFiT IS Hi-Res cuz it's based on 24-bit masters Apple gets directly from the studios) to the Apple MFiT one to see about the two criteria I mentioned in my last post.

    Not every album Apple sells is MFiT, just like how not every album out there comes in a Hi-Res version. In the iTunes Store, you will see a blue "Mastered for iTunes" stamp or icon on the right upper side of the screen of an album that is MFiT (see attached screenshot). Simply then purchase the album or single tracks and then compare them to the regular Hi-Res version. It's probably best to buy both versions if they came out the same year, which means increased likelihood that they also come from the same master, though I'm not sure that's not always the case 100% of the time. Apple also apparently still lists the original release date of the album, even when it's a remastered version, so this makes it harder to determine the MFiT release date. I dunno. lol

    Again, I think it's also best that the regular HR version only has ONE version and not 2 or 3 (i.e. only a 24/96, not a 24/192, or even a DSD). But I mean, if there is more than one regular HR version, I'd say 99% of the time it will sound the same as the other version(s) do anyway, based on my own experience.

    Lemme know if u have any questions.

    Screen Shot 12-08-17 at 02.36 PM.PNG
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2017
  4. voxie
    Hi Rockstar , really appreciate this. Your a gold mine for info,
    RockStar2005 likes this.
  5. RockStar2005
    No problem. Lemme know what comes of it if you do it. Please offer as much detail as possible.
  6. RockStar2005
    Ok so I decided to 3-4 days ago to download TWO MFiT songs that I also owned in (regular) Hi-Res. These songs are only available in one resolution of Hi-Res, 24/96. Given that MFiT albums & tracks are actually submitted to Apple in 24-bit format, they meet the standard for Hi-Res as well (again, b/c they are 24-bit). Of course they are eventually downsampled to 256 kbps AAC, but my theory was that because what Apple ORIGINALLY receives from the studios is Hi-Res that they are also getting those superior masters that are directly associated with "regular" Hi-Res releases as well.

    The two MFiT songs were: 1) The recently remastered Hi-Res version of Led Zeppelin's "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You" (originally released in 1969, but this was remastered again by Jimmy Page in 2014; see Post #18 above for a visual) from Led Zeppelin (aka Led Zeppelin I) and 2) Wolf Parade's "Lazarus Online" from their brand new album Cry Cry Cry (2017).

    Before continuing, I'd like to quickly recap what actually happens when a 24-bit album is submitted to Apple by a studio as it undergoes the MFiT dual-stage encoding process:

    These days, more engineers are creating mixes and masters in high bit rate, high sample rate formats such as 24-bit 96kHz. In response to this, Apple has come out with a dual-stage encoding process. Stage one involves very high grade Sample Rate Conversion (SRC) which brings the master down to a standard 44.1kHz sample rate, but outputs it in a 32-bit floating file. This is important because it is common, when downsampling audio, to have peaks well above 0dBFS, causing distortion. By using a 32-bit floating file, Apple is preventing that from happening.

    Stage two is to take that 32-bit floating file, and encode it into Apple's AAC format without any additional dithering. This means that the compressed AAC version that makes it to the iTunes library will contain all of the dynamics that existed in your original 24-bit master, with no noise added. Granted, dither levels at 24-bit are extremely low, but it's always best to prevent added noise at any stage of any audio process.

    So I listened to select parts of each song in both versions back & forth SEVERAL times over and over again. Initially I thought I could hear a difference, so I do what I always do when
    auditioning new headphones and wait a day or two then do another listening session. The second time around, I could not hear any differences anymore after doing several more comparisons of the same select parts.

    From what I can tell, the masters that the "regular" Hi-Res albums (that are found on sites like HDTracks, Acoustic Sounds, 7digital, etc.) are given and those that undergo the MFiT process sound EXACTLY the same! Some people in this thread (or others) have indicated that in some cases the MFiT version sounds better. In the intro to "Babe" it seemed like the background noises/parts were more clear on the MFiT version than on the 24/96 version I had initially, so I can see how some might interpret it differently than others. It's also possible that with more samples my opinion might change, but that's only a possibility, not a certainty.

    The really BENEFICIAL part of this conclusion is that at the very least, MFiT albums & tracks sound JUST AS GOOD as "regular" Hi-Res albums do, but are typically much cheaper to buy! So from now on, if I see the MFiT logo on an album on the iTunes Store that's also available in "regular" Hi-Res, I'm going to buy the MFiT version EVERY time! This will definitely result in substantial savings over time. Another benefit of buying the MFiT versions is that with "regular" Hi-Res, many times you are only given the option to buy the entire album, not individual singles. But I have yet to see an MFiT-stamped album that only allows you buy the album in full. The option to buy singles is apparently always there! This is really great for when you only want 1 or 2 songs on an album vs. all of them.

    So what do you all think about these findings?
    voxie likes this.
  7. Whazzzup
    Get a quality external server running roon core. Then it doesn’t matter. I’ll take cheap plentiful iTunes any day once it’s dropped on the server it sounds excellent regardless of CD, high res, or iTunes. Each are equal once you control for the quality of the master
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2017
    RockStar2005 likes this.
  8. RockStar2005
    Hi Whazz,

    What's roon core?
  9. Whazzzup
    Roon is bit perfect software and roon core is the core that’s loaded on your Linux external server like my antipodes. Game changer . I’m great with iTunes now because I don’t use iTunes except to buy tunes and drop them on my server through my network
    RockStar2005 likes this.
  10. Whazzzup
    But of course I will preface that the master quality rules regardless of the format even through roon core
    RockStar2005 likes this.
  11. RockStar2005
    Ok cool!

    So you have to have the Linux OS in order to run Roon and/or Roon Core?
  12. Whazzzup
    You do with antipodes audio but there are quite a few different brands and don’t now what others use. Antipodes software is well regarded but so is innous etc...
    Roon itself can be loaded on a Mac or pc but it’s much better running on dedicated external server, then your Mac, iPad, or iPhone are used as a remote

    Here is my rabbit hole

    Last edited: Dec 21, 2017
  13. RockStar2005
    This article further confirms that MFiT albums ARE Hi-Res-based.
  14. RockStar2005
    So I had a talk with a supervisor named Brian over at the iTunes Store earlier today. Got some pretty good news regarding the music available on iTunes Store that relates to this thread. Below is a summary:

    1) With regards to MFiT albums, we have already established that they are sourced from 24-bit Hi-Res masters. Given that these seem to get released at the same time as they do on Hi-Res competitors like HDTracks, Acoustic Sounds, 7digital, etc, it's reasonable to believe that they are coming from the same source/master, aka they are the same album, but typically available at HALF the price! But what about the other NON-MFiT albums on there? Where are they sourced from??

    I asked Brian and was delighted to find out that those albums/songs (which are ALSO released in the same 256 kbps AAC format) are sourced from 16-bit/44.1KHz (or CD-Quality!) masters as well. There was some concern that they might be coming from mp3s, but that is not the case, typically. What that means is, as long as the artist isn't some small-time act recording out of a garage, which is fortunately NOT the case most of the time with most bands, then there is no reason to assume the songs are coming from anything less than a CD-Quality master. Nothing I personally listen to falls under the "small-time act" category. Even the indy bands I love like The National & Interpol I know for a fact only record in professional studios, which means the masters they submit to Apple/iTunes Store are most definitely CD-Quality. I was VERY happy to hear this and will probably be buying even more songs from iTunes Store from now on!

    2) I then asked Brian about the rumors going around that the iTunes Store is set to phase out and will be replaced by Apple Music (aka streaming-only service) by 2018. Brian responded to this question by saying he believes that to not only be 100% FALSE, but that me bringing it up was the FIRST he'd heard about it. He said Apple makes way too much in profits from iTunes Store download sales for it to make any sense for them to close it down. He also said that Apple Music doesn't have anywhere NEAR the size library of music that iTunes Store does. Also, once your subscription ends with Apple Music, you lose access to all that music (which I already knew, but he was saying this to make a point), and that sucks. lol I personally would want to have it downloaded. Plus when streaming if you don't have great reception, that will likely affect the sound quality of what you're listening to, where if it's downloaded, then it won't matter.

    So in summary, non-MFiT albums are pretty much 100% sourced from CD-Quality masters (unless it's someone small-time recording in their garage, which is rarely the case anyway), and the rumors about the iTunes Store being phased out in place of Apple Music (streaming only) are not true at all. All in all, VERY good news!

    And lastly, Happy New Year everyone!
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2019
    voxie likes this.
  15. voxie
    Great share RockStar thanks..Happy new Year to you and yours.
    RockStar2005 likes this.
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