On Wednesday (August 7) Apple Music announced the launch of Apple Digital Masters, a new initiative by the streaming giant that combines all of its “Mastered for iTunes” offerings into one global catalog. This is the company’s first public acknowledgement of the initiative, which it has been quietly unveiling for some time.
Launched in 2012, Mastered for iTunes created a set of guidelines and software tools (distributed for free) that allowed engineers to optimize their music for the digital download service format by encoding from high-resolution masters. The goal of the program was to create studio-quality sound files virtually identical to the original master recordings (aka “lossless” audio), which were then placed in a special “Mastered for iTunes” section on the app.
Apple notes that the majority of top releases on Apple Music currently are Apple Digital Masters, with about 75% of of the Top 100 in the U.S. and 71% of the Top 100 globally created under the program.
Apple Music isn’t the first streaming service to offer premium audio.
On its 2015 launch, Tidal offered a “HiFi” subscription tier for $19.99 month ($10 more than a regular subscription) that allowed users to stream lossless audio; two years later, the service upgraded its HiFi tier to stream even higher-quality sound files created with Bob Stuart‘s Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) technology. Deezer and Qobuz also offer lossless audio plans for $19.99 a month, with the latter recently unveiling a higher-quality “Studio” subscription tier for $5 more. Spotify has also flirted with a hi-fi tier in the past.