The Next Track, Episode #212 – Caoilfhionn Rose’s Second Album, Truly

We’re happy to welcome back Caoilfhionn Rose to discuss the recording and release of her second album Truly. Caoilfhionn is a young singer from Manchester, and continues the lineage of great music from that city.

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Kirk’s Picks No. 3 – Robert Fripp, Music for Quiet Moments [Music]

Robert Fripp’s Music for Quiet Moments is a series of soundscapes he has released every week for the past year. I link to an Apple Music playlist of all 52 of these tracks, lasting nearly nine hours.

Theme music: Honest Labor, composed and performed by Timo Andres.

If you enjoyed the podcast, follow it on Apple Podcasts or in your favorite podcast app. For show notes and links to my pick, go to kirkville.com/picks. You can support this podcast by purchasing items via my affiliate links, or you can sign up for my Patreon and donate a few bucks a month.

Why Hi-Res Lossless Music from Apple Music Won’t Sound Different when Played on Macs (Unless You Change a Setting)

I haven’t written much about Apple’s new foray into lossless, high-resolution, and Dolby Atmos music. I’ve written about high-resolution music plenty over the years, and it’s clear that, for the vast majority of listeners, it’s just marketing and won’t make a difference.

But Apple has added music formats that can’t even be played back on Macs, without changing a hidden setting. Here’s why.

I started playing this album, which is marked Hi-Res Lossless. High-resolution music has both bit depths and sample rates that are higher than the standard 16-bit, 44.1 kHz. So to play it back correctly, your Mac has be able to play the music at those settings. And it won’t, at least not out of the box.

Open the Audio-MIDI Setup app, which is in /Applications/Utilities. You’ll see the sample rate that your Mac is using.

Audio midi

The Music app doesn’t cause this to change automatically, so you’ll need to change it. And while you can probably leave it set to 96,000 Hz all the time, this could cause problems if you’re playing back music at other sample rates.

Audiophiles who have libraries of high resolution have been complaining about this for years, and because of this setting, alternative music player apps, which can adjust for sample rates, have become popular in that niche. I would have expected that Apple would have resolved this issue when they started offering high-resolution music.

Note that there’s no way to know the correct sample rate of the music, if you’re streaming it from Apple Music. Even if you’ve added an Apple Music track to your library, select a track, press Command-I, then check the File tab, it won’t dispaly the sample rate. In fact, it doesn’t even say that it’s high resolution.

No sample rate

These files don’t display their bit rate, so you can’t even calculate backwards from the file size to know what the actual resolution is. In this example, the file is 37.2 MB, which, according to this audio file size calculator, fits the size for a file at 1040 kbps. That’s quite low for a 24-bit, 96 kHz file, so it’s clear that it’s hard to figure this out.

Don’t worry if you don’t understand any of this; it’s not meant for you. Those who understand what I’m talking about will know what it means. As for the rest, just enjoy the music.

Update: As a correspondant pointed out, you can see the bit depth and sample rate if you don’t have Dolby Atmos on in the Playback preferences of the Music app. Click the Lossless icon in the LCD to see that information in a popup.

Bit rate lossless

But if tracks have Dolby Atmos, you can’t see that information.

Lefsetz Letter » Spatial Audio

I got the following e-mail from a producer/engineer:

“I just want to try and alert you to the potential seismic scam happening with this Atmos roll out.  Atmos catalog remixing is being done by the truckload in a handful of Nashville, LA, and NYC rooms right now and has been for a couple of years, and almost none of it is being overseen or approved by the artist or original producer or mixer.  And these versions- according to Apple- will be the new standard versions, superseding the original versions, now designated by Apple to the dustbin of history.

I have heard some Atmos mixes which were indeed an improvement.  However, most are not.  

[…]

In the rush to make content for Apple, labels are jamming this crap out with little QC and -again- almost no input from artists.  This format has real potential but if they continue to try and tell us that shit like this ‘new’ version of ‘What’s Going On’ is better than then original, then it will be seen as a counterfeit and a fraud, and will go the way of the Home Pod.   I know how you feel about catalog being remixed and this has potential to be a worst case scenario.”

And then my inbox filled up with more, and iMessage started to ring from other professional engineers.

Bob Lefsetz discusses Apple’s spatial audio, wendering whether this really is the future of music.

I compared Spatial Audio tracks to their HD equivalents on Amazon Music and I found exactly what one writer said: the vocal gets lost. Instead of being up front and in your face, it’s buried more in the mix.

His opinion of the concept is quite clear:

Actually, the more I listen to these Spatial Audio cuts, the more offensive they become. Kind of like those Beatles remixes. These are not the original records, they’ve been messed with, they’re not even facsimiles, they’re bastardizations.

As many are saying, if a record is produced for spatial audio, then it could be a good creative tool. Just imagine Dark Side of the Moon in Dolby Atmos. But…

So, maybe there’s a future for Spatial Audio…if it’s mixed that way to begin with. But as demonstrated now, it’s a hell-bent drive in the wrong direction.

Source: Lefsetz Letter » Blog Archive » Spatial Audio

The Next Track, Episode #211 – Changing Music Forever

Apple has introduced lossless, high-resolution, and spatial audio on Apple Music, and claims that the latter will “change music forever.” Will it?

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The Next Track, Episode #210 – Emma Swift on Her Album of Dylan Covers Blonde on the Tracks

Emma Swift has recorded a beautiful album of covers of Bob Dylan songs. We spoke with her about what Dylan’s music, and what it takes to record an albums of his songs, and partly in lockdown.

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The Next Track, Episode #209 – Sean Latham, Director of the Institute for Bob Dylan Studies, on Bob Dylan at 80

Sean Latham, Director of the Institute for Bob Dylan Studies, talks about the Bob Dylan archive, the Bob Dylan Center, and about Bob Dylan at 80.

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The Next Track, Episode #208 – Jeff Slate on Bob Dylan at 80

Musician and journalist Jeff Slate has written about, and for, Bob Dylan, and has recently released an album with one disc of Dylan covers. We discuss Dylan at 80, and choose our top five Dylan albums.

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The Next Track, Episode #207 – Yes. I mean, no, really, but Yes.

Setting out to discuss the 1971 album by Yes, The Yes Album, Doug and Kirk end up discussing all of Yes’s core output, released over a period of a couple of years, that the band – or what’s left of it – still plays 50 years later. Sort of.

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The Next Track, Episode #206 – Two Guys in a Pub Rambling about Audio Gear

We offer a free-form episode, where we ramble about audio equipment, music, and more.

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