The New iTunes High-Bit-Rate Tunes: Can Anyone Hear the Difference?

The New iTunes High-Bit-Rate Tunes: Can Anyone Hear the Difference?

Apple's recent deal with EMI to offer tunes without DRM (digital rights management) restrictions allows those songs to be played on digital music players other than the ubiquitous iPod, thus pleasing "information wants to be free" partisans. (Non-DRM tunes also cost more, at $1.29 per song rather than $0.99, but we digress.) Audiophiles also welcome this development, seeing as how the DRM-free tunes come encoded at 256Kbps, double the 128Kbps rate of the iTunes Store's restricted tunes. Double the bit rate should mean double the audio quality, eh? Or, at least, noticeably increased quality, right?

 

Maybe so ... but maybe not.

 

To answer this burning question, the intrepid geeks at Mac|Life's sister publication, MaximumPC, slipped into their lab coats and ran a carefully conducted - scientific, one might even say - listening test. In a double-blind study, they compared the same tunes encoded at both 256Kbps and 128Kbps played through both cheapo $29 Apple earbuds and high-end $400 Shure SE420 earbuds. The results they obtained from their test jury of 10 Future US staffers (all perspicacious, highly cultured, and devastatingly attractive, we hasten to add) might surprise you.

 

What were those results? Well, you'll just have to read their report to find out.

 

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