Imagine: An Album Specially Mastered for iTunes

  • Save

If there’s one thing audiophiles hate, it’s dumbed-down digitizations.

And that’s code for things like MP3s and iTunes, whose compressions are deemed sub-optimal for those seeking the true essence of sound. Or, too tinny when compared to the warm glow of vinyl.

But what about specially mastering something for iTunes, instead of watering it down or otherwise converting it?  In that light, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Warner Bros. Records and producer Rick Rubin are now delivering “the first rock album specially mastered to optimize digital sound quality for iTunes Store customers.”  That is part of a broader exclusive with Apple that involved a pre-release album stream (the album, I’m With You, hits on August 30th).

The details on this mastering effort are just emerging, and there are lots of unanswered questions.  This could be part of a broader – and rumored – move by iTunes to dramatically improve fidelity across the iTunes Store.  That is being championed in part by Jimmy Iovine, whose zealotry on fidelity is legendary.

But for now, it looks like the Peppers are working within the existing platform to merely create a version that isn’t simply a compromise of something else (we’re still finding out specifics like encoding rates, engineering processes, etc., so check back.)  “We are excited to work with iTunes to make an even better listening experience for fans,” Rubin explained. “We can’t wait for everyone to hear it.”

All of which marks a another moment of maturity for digital formats, which includes video.  Instead of low-fi lyrics videos, music fans nowadays frequently jump into Vevo-hosted clips, a shift that often boxes out grainier versions.  In fact, the presence of a timely, better version tends to dramatically lower views on lower-fidelity uploads.  It’s a strange sort of ‘first-mover advantage’ that may also be mirrored on channels like BitTorrent or one-click hosting sites.