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Does "Mastered for iTunes" matter to music? Ars puts it to t, Article about Apples "Mastered for iTunes" program
post Apr 30 2012, 11:29
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Thought this might be interesting, and did not find it mentioned in other posts:
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post Apr 30 2012, 15:47
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I would be interested to know the actual problem solved by "Mastered for iTunes". To me it seems this hasn't been well understood by those using the process.

The gist of Apple's PDF on the subject seems to be:
  • Give us your hi-res masters and let us do the SRC to 44.1kHz/32 bit float. This way you can not mess up the SRC (introducing aliasing and clipping) and no additional (dither) noise is added, making the files easier to encode.
  • Consider making your tracks less loud, since tracks which are too loud may introduce clipping on playback. They offer oversampling as one source of clipping and conveniently avoid talking about decoder side clipping.

In other words, some mastering engineers (maybe even Rick Rubin?) were sending Apple badly resampled and clipped material, which when put through the codec resulted in even more clipping. I believe that in the end, this may (in some cases) actually result in AAC files sounding worse than the original hi-res master. But apart from those two factors, the PDF does not indicate any detrimental effects of the encoding process on the perceived sound in any way. In fact they say (emphasis mine):

By using this highly accurate file directly from our SRC and taking advantage of its clean signal, our encoder can deliver the final product exactly as the artist and sound engineers intended it to sound.

Whatever you decide—exquisitely overdriven and loud, or exquisitely nuanced and tasteful—we will be sure to encode it and reproduce it accurately. We only ask that you avoid clipping the signal.

The people over at Apple must be pulling their hair when reading about how their toolchain is being put to use.
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