iTunes has been good to me over the years it has remained my primary music consumption service. Providing relatively good quality music at 256kbps using the AAC codec has resulted in many a happy listening experience via various iPhones, iPads and my trusty iMac. Plus, I never really had any issues with the software, unlike most.
But just as the quality of consumer video has increased recently with the advent of 4K, so too has the world of sound. It's a shame then that no one seems to know about Hi-Res Audio, that while in itself is nothing new (just like 4K), its availability and the equipment that supports it is only just beginning to push into the consumer market in a meaningful way.
So why could this be huge? Well, remember when you first saw HD video, or even 4K? Those kind of advancements are more than resolution, the bitrates (how much data exists per second) must increase too in order to retain that amount of image information. In a nutshell, Hi-Res Audio is the same thing for sound, providing bitrates in excess of 5000kbps, rather than the standard 256kbps found on iTunes. So if my calculations are correct, we're talking around 20x the amount of sound information than normal, but please excuse the crudity of my picture.
Hi-Res is also provided in up to 192khz/24bit, versus the 44.1khz/16bit audio of CDs, which are themselves better quality than digital music stores. Before I get too techy, the result of all this is that music is much, much clearer, featuring richer highs and clearer bass, with better separation between instruments across the whole frequency range. All of this adds up to the feeling that the music is being played out in front of you live, rather than through a pair of headphones. It really is that good.
It may sound like I'm exaggerating the effect, but I've heard it myself on the new Sony NWZ-F886. Hearing 'The Dark Knight Rises' soundtrack in all it's Hi-Res glory is simply astounding. It's so much better in fact, that while 256kbps remains just fine, I intend to avoid buying any more music from iTunes. Instead, I aim to purchase all my new music in the Hi-Res format, or failing that on good old fashioned CD.
If you'd like to hear it yourself, HDTracks provides 10 samples on their website here. You'll need a decent pair of headphones to really appreciate it, but give it a go. Any self-respecting music fan should be suitably impressed.