Apple Preparing HD Audio for iOS 8?

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MacRumors is reporting that Apple is preparing HD audio for iOS 8. Based on a story on a Japanese web site, this rumor suggests that iOS 8 will have the ability to play high-resolution audio files (see Music, Not Sound: Why High-Resolution Music Is a Marketing Ploy). It also discusses a new Lightning cable, and new in-ear headphones.

There are a couple of things wrong with this picture. First, let’s look at in-ear headphones. If high-res audio were playable from iOS, it’s unlikely that anyone playing it would use something at that price point. The only difference with a newer in-ear headphones – at least as far as high-res music is concerned – would be the ability to reproduce music at frequencies you can’t hear. It really doesn’t make sense for Apple to roll that into its in-ear headphones; however, if Apple really is buying Beats, then a premium product could provide such a feature.

As for the lightning cable, it’s hard to tell from the Google Translate version of the website, but it seems to suggest that the cable would downsample music from, say, 192 kHz to 96 kHz. Again, this makes no sense; iTunes would do that on the fly, and there’s no need for a special cable.

Finally, adding HD audio, while I’ve suggested that Apple create an iPod pro, which could play back high-res music, it’s unlikely that Apple would roll that feature into standard iOS devices (though the iPhone might be a good candidate).

The whole HD audio thing is a marketing ploy, and it’s especially the case for portable devices. Even if you could hear a difference between CDs and high-res audio, you wouldn’t on a portable device, no matter what headphones you use. The ambient noise is more than enough to nullify any effects of higher bit depth or sample rates in music.




4 replies
  1. Chucky says:

    “The whole HD audio thing is a marketing ploy”

    Again, this is so unfair, Kirk. Don’t you know that HD audio has electrolytes?

    Reply
  2. Martin says:

    The MacRumors article doesn’t talk about the Apple EarPods – they clearly mention (and show) the in-ears from Apple, which are available for around 80 USD/EUR. I have them and they are pretty good.

    Reply
  3. Ezraz says:

    So many people can hear a difference between 16 bit and 24 bit, stop spreading false claims that “no one can hear it”. Audio is the blind spot for most otherwise intelligent tech people. They get it all backwards. Garbage in = garbage out.

    Our ears are capable of much more than modern industrial science allows or understands. No way 16 bits is enough data space to capture everything our ears can in real time, stereo. Do some reading about the auditory system, the cochlea, the organ of corti, the middle ear, the inner ear before making claims about our hearing.

    Anyone claiming a double blind test shows us that we can’t hear something is deaf and dumb to the reality of what junk science that stuff is. Listen to the people who know sound, who know music – they are all pushing 24bit as the new standard for music. http://ponomusic.com has some great testimonial videos to show how people react when hearing their favorites played in HD with quality hardware.

    Your modern video game, Blu-ray player, even cheap sound cards for your PC, all go higher than 16/44. Every recording studio in the world can work at higher than 16/44 (and most do). And you clearly hear loss of quality when downsampling and dithering to 16/44 from a higher quality master.

    The 16/44 ‘redbook’ CD standard was based on 1978 digital capabilities and the overall size of the new optical media.

    The mp3/ogg compression codecs were written in the early 90′s to stream music over dial-up modems.

    Both of these served a purpose but need to be expired. I think there’s a place for lossy compression in mobile streaming, but to buy an mp3, that’s messed up. I stopped doing that years ago. If you purchase, you deserve the full (best) copy, not a photocopy with reduced resolution.

    Reply
    • Kirk McElhearn says:

      Oh, my… Lots of errors in what you’ve said there…

      16 bits is about dynamic range; the sample rate is frequencies. The difference between 16 and 24 bits is broader dynamic range. 24 bits doesn’t add any special sounds that aren’t in 16 bits, it just allows for more distance between the softest and loudest soungs.

      As for Pono, its most visible proponent is a 70 year old man with hearing loss; he has discussed his tinnitus many times, saying that he destroyed his ears from playing music too loud.

      As for blu-ray players, I actually have one that goes much higher than 16/44, but most go to 16/48, because 48 kHz is the standard for audio that’s synced to video. The Redbook standard wasn’t at all based on “1978 digital capabilities,” but rather the Nyquist frequency (and some interesting issues regarding video tapes), which states that the sample rate needs to be twice the highest frequency, which for humans is 20 kHz.

      Reply

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