Tour de Front Row

If you count the number of people who watch the Tour de France in person, the race is the most popular sporting event in the world. The playing field encompasses the roads of France, and three-quarters of French people have seen the Tour go by at least once.

From open roads to steep, sinuous climbs, spectators line the roadside to watch the peloton — the pack of riders — go by for just a few seconds. Some people drive up mountain roads in campers and wait for two or three days to catch a glimpse of their favorite riders, and others just walk out in front of their homes.

Its logistics rival that of an army heading off to battle. There are hundreds of vehicles, thousands of people, and a schedule that has to be respected to the minute across more than 3,000 kilometers (1,900 miles) over three weeks, all for a sporting event that attracts about 12 million spectators from dozens of countries. And, best of all, it’s free.

For a dozen years, I lived on the outskirts of a town in the French Alps, on a road leading up to one of the toughest climbs in the race: the Col d’Izoard. The route of the Tour de France changes each year, but the race comes back often to the most spectacular climbs, such as that mountain. In 12 years, the Tour de France came past my house three times; other cycling races, heading to or from the same climb, whizzed by a few times as well.

The big picture

Napoleon Bonaparte said that an army marches on its stomach. The army of the Tour de France, which enables spectators to see the race for a few seconds, consists of 4,500 people, 2,400 vehicles, 198 riders and their retinues, and an “advertising caravan” of 160 vehicles that toss 14 million tchotchkes to spectators lining the roads. A phalanx of daredevil motorcyclists carry camera operators to show the race from inside the pack, and helicopters and airplanes help beam live video to satellites for broadcast in 190 countries.

As for the spectators, the 12 million watchers stay there an average of six and a half hours — though to get a good seat in the toughest climbs, you need to stake out your spot a couple of days ahead of time. And keeping order is no mean feat either; there are more than 23,000 law-enforcement officers involved during the three-week period.

But none of that matters when you’re watching the Tour in your own town.

Read more

How Was Shakespeare Pronounced? Ben Crystal Discusses Original Pronunciation

16.jpgActor Ben Crystal is at the forefront of the original pronunciation (OP) movement, which attempts to recreate the type of accent that was used in Shakespeare’s time. Together with his father, linguist David Crystal[1], Ben has acted in OP performances of Shakespeare plays, and gives workshops on OP. He has recorded a CD for The British Library of excerpts from Shakespeare’s plays and poems in OP.[2] He has also written a number of books, including Shakespeare on Toast[3]. Together with David Crystal, Ben Crystal will be organizing a staged reading of Macbeth in OP at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse in London, in July.[4] I talked to Ben Crystal recently about original pronunciation.

Kirk McElhearn: I first encountered the idea of Shakespeare’s original pronunciation back in the 1980s. There was a series of documentaries on the US public television stations called The Story of English, and there was a book by Robert McCrum[5], which suggested that the English accent of Shakespeare’s time was still spoken in Appalachia.

Ben Crystal: It’s a lovely idea that the accent did indeed travel on the Mayflower and on the boats down to the Antipodes later on, but the idea that they would have cocooned and stayed frozen in time is just not true. When people have gone to these places and recorded the sounds and compared them with the sounds that they now would have been spoken 400 years ago, [they’ve found that] they’ve changed quite a lot.

Me: When did the idea of performing a play in original pronunciation take hold?

BC: There were lots of dabblings in it in the last century. It wasn’t until 2004 when Shakespeare’s Globe said they were interested in an original practices pronunciation experiment. They wanted to but they were afraid that it wasn’t going to be understood. They were eventually convinced because they were worried that if they didn’t do it, a theatre like in Stratford might have done it first. Under Mark Rylance, the Globe was known for its original practices.

So they did Romeo and Juliet, but they did it in received pronunciation for the most part, but they had three performances over one weekend in original pronunciation.

The following year, in 2005, they did an original pronunciation production of Troilus and Cressida, with one performance a week for six weeks [in original pronunciation].

But there still hasn’t been a full month-long production of a Shakespeare play in OP over here.

Read more

Second Impressions: New Mac Pro

You may have seen that I got a new Mac Pro; I wrote some first impressions of it last week. Now that I’ve been using it for a while – well, a few days – I have some more thoughts about this computer.

First, like the Mac it replaced (a Mac mini), it’s essentially invisible. While I have it visible on my desk, between my display and a speaker, I don’t notice it.



It’s so quiet that I can easily forget that it’s there. Not only is the fan quiet, but since there are no moving parts other than the fan – no internal hard drives – it doesn’t even transfer any vibrations to my desk.

But I do need access it occasionally. All the ports it has make it easy to connect peripherals; while I don’t connect and disconnect Thunderbolt cables, I do connect a USB cable from time to time, if I’m syncing or charging something (other than with the Lightning cable, which remains connected to the Mac Pro at all times).



The icons and borders that light up on the panel with all the plugs may seem like a gadget, but it’s actually quite useful when you’re connecting a cable.

While most of my work involves words, the Mac Pro is one fast computer. I sometimes need to convert music files that I’ve downloaded in FLAC; I use XLD, and I used to run it with four concurrent conversions. On the Mac mini, I’d get about 20x for each one. On the Mac Pro, I can run eight, at about 45x. Videos convert very quickly; I’ve already started digitizing a lot of my DVDs, and the Mac Pro is so quiet that I can run Handbrake while I work. With the Mac mini, the fan went into overdrive, making that an annoyance.

This is the first Mac I’ve had on the desktop that has USB 3. While I have a retina MacBook Pro with USB 3, I don’t often connect peripherals to it. But the Mac Pro is where my iTunes library lives, so I connect my iOS devices to sync them. The USB 3 transfer speed is noticeably faster than the USB 2 speed with the Mac mini, though I doubt that iOS devices can use the full speed available. But syncing a lot of content to an iOS device is at least twice as fast as before. Activity Monitor shows read speeds from around 30-45 MB/sec when syncing my iPhone 5s. (It’s likely that older iOS devices won’t sync as fast.)

Activity Monitor001.png

Update: When I wrote the above, I had just assumed the iPhone 5s was a USB 3 device, but it’s not; it’s USB 2. As a commenter points out below, the difference in transfer speed highlights just how much USB depends on the CPU of a computer.

iTunes searches are fast, and, while iTunes has beachballed a few times, I’m pretty sure it’s because I have my external hard drives set to sleep when inactive, and iTunes needs to wake them up. I need to test this a bit more.

I’m having one sleep-related issue: it goes to sleep when I don’t want it to. If I’m downloading something, and I’m not in front of the computer and using it, it will go to sleep, and the download stops; depending on how I initiated the download, I may have to restart it. There are third-party apps that can prevent sleep, but the Energy Saver setting – Prevent computer from sleeping automatically when the display is off – doesn’t seem to work.

System Preferences002.png

The Mac Pro has done exactly what a good computer should: it has made itself unobtrusive. I don’t hear it, and it doesn’t slow me down. It’s a shame one has to spend the kind of money this computer costs to get those features, and I hope that, one day, all computers will be like this. But for now, I’m quite satisfied with this new Mac Pro.

Theater Review: The Rape of Lucrece, at the Royal Shakespeare Company

When attending a Shakespeare play, one generally has an idea what to expect; at least if you’re familiar with the play or its plot. Before attending last night’s production of The Rape of Lucrece , at the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Swan Theatre, I had no clue as to how the performance would be. The Rape of Lucrece is one of Shakespeare’s long poems, not a play, and wasn’t written for performance. Written in 1594, early in Shakespeare’s career, it tells the story, based on Ovid and Livy, of Tarquin’s rape of Lucrece, and her subsequent feelings of guilt. The poem is violent, and contains political overtones, but it also expresses the feelings of a man and a woman in a situation where each has some responsibility and guilt for what transpires.

Performed solo by Camille O’Sullivan, with piano accompaniment by Feargal Murray, this is an astonishing evening of theater. Ms. O’Sullivan alternates between reciting the poem and singing parts of it; all the songs are first-person sections of the poem by Lucrece. She is an arresting performer, able to express a broad register of emotion, while inhabiting both characters.

JS39640179.jpg

The music alternates among a number of styles, starting with a mellow piano accompaniment as Ms. O’Sullivan talks, and changing into songs at times. The songs reflected Ms. O’Sullivan and Mr. Murray’s musical influences: Nick Cave, Patti Smith, Kurt Weill, Jacques Brel and others. But Ms. O’Sullivan owned these songs; they were’t mere copies of other styles.

This is a very physical performance, with Ms. O’Sullivan taking advantage of the Swan’s thrust stage to get close to the audience, striding across the stage at times, looking at nearly every person outside the stage. The set is minimal, just a piano, a few stacks of paper, and some interesting lighting that is used to delineate Lucrece’s bedroom.

The text is essentially that of Shakespeare, with some cuts. About 30% of the poem was cut; mostly a large section about Lucrece contemplating a painting after the rape. There are, said director Elizabeth Freestone, in a discussion after the performance, two lines that they added to the text.

The idea for this production came from the director, who had wanted to stage the poem for some time, and who chanced upon an evening of song by Camille O’Sullivan, and felt that she would be the ideal person in this role. Ms. O’Sullivan explained how scared she was to first perform this in the Swan Theatre in 2011. Since then, they have taken the performance on the road to several countries, and return for a brief repeat engagement at the Swan, before heading to London.

This was a riveting performance from beginning to end. Camille O’Sullivan is a arresting performer, able to dominate the stage for 75 minutes without flagging. Unfortunately, the Swan Theatre was more empty than full; if you’re in or near Stratford-Upon-Avon, don’t miss this production, which runs through July 4.

Should an Authentic Theater Be Uncomfortable?

I had a very uncomfortable experience the other night at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse & Sauna, attached to Shakespeare’s Globe in London. As I describe in my review of the concert I attended:

The theatre holds about 340 people, and one sits on hard wooden benches without backs (though the last row in each section — pit, lower gallery and upper gallery do have backs; the wall), and it’s quite cramped, with very little legroom. One woman left shortly after the concert began, no doubt because of the discomfort of sitting.

In addition, it is very hot inside the theater; I was sweating throughout the performance, even though there was air conditioning on. (At least it was on when we entered the theater; it may have been turned off after that.) It was so hot that one person in the audience fainted as he was trying to leave, about 45 minutes into the performance. He clearly didn’t felt well, but didn’t make it out of the theater and collapsed on the stairs next to me, only to be carried out by some of the staff and other audience members.

The point of this theater is that it’s “authentic.” (This Guardian article discusses how it was built, and why.) But this authenticity comes at a price for spectators: that of comfort.

The Sam Wanamaker Playhouse is certainly an attractive design, but the uncomfortable seats and excessive heat make it such that I won’t be attending any events there in the future. I’d heard from someone who had seen The Duchess of Malfi there recently that it was very uncomfortable; that person was also sitting in the pit, where many of the seats are at a 45-degree angle to the stage. Clearly this design was as much so people could watch plays as talk to each other.

There’s clearly a reason why theaters have changed their seating to make them more comfortable; it shouldn’t be torture to attend a performance in a theater, because when you’re focused on how uncomfortable you are you can’t pay attention to the play or concert you’re watching. Causing audiences to suffer under the name of authenticity is simply foolish.

At a minimum, I’d expect the theater to warn people, when they book tickets, that their seat won’t have a back, and that it’s a hard wooden bench. At the Royal Shakespeare Company, in Stratford-upon-Avon, near where I live, the booking web site tells you even if there are no armrests for your seats. I’ve attended more than a dozen productions there, and I have never once had my mind occupied by my discomfort. But I have been uncomfortable in other theaters in the UK, often because of poorly designed seats or limited legroom. (And the RSC is currently running two programs of short plays in their third theater, The Courtyard, where they have set up stadium seating: benches with cushions, but no backrests. Unfortunately, they don’t specify this on their website, as I think they should.)

It’s interesting to note that in the Shakespeare’s Globe theatre, next door to the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, the seats are wooden benches, but you can rent cushions. So they try to be authentic, yet make a few extra quid by offering some comfort to those willing to pay.

Authenticity is interesting, but if it means that spectators are neglected, what’s the point? After all, this is a working theater, not a museum. Would it hurt too much to have comfortable seats?

Concert Review: Jordi Savall Plays Tobias Hume at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, London

I remember well the first time I heard the music of Tobias Hume. It was in late 1984, and a neighbor in the small French village where I was living, Marie B., played me the LP of Musicall Humors. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK) This disc had 13 tracks of the most astounding Renaissance music I had ever heard; it was the first time I had heard a solo viola da gamba, or viol, and, when I found a CD of this disc a half-dozen years later, I bought it immediately. It has become one of my favorite recordings. He also released a second disc of music by Hume in 2004. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK)

Later, having fallen in love with this solo instrument, I tried my hand at playing it, and played a number of these pieces during my short tenure as a viol player. (I stopped after a car accident made it hard for me to turn my neck, and never went back, having only rented an instrument.) But I’ve always loved this music, and when I saw that Jordi Savall was to give a recital in London, at the new Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, next to the Globe Theatre, I immediately bought tickets.

The Sam Wanamaker Playhouse was opened a few months ago. It’s a reconstruction of an indoor Jacobean theatre, and Shakespeare is believed to have written plays to be performed in this type of theatre. The Globe performs plays, and holds concerts in this theatre, by candlelight.


normal.png

The theatre holds about 340 people, and one sits on hard wooden benches without backs (though the last row in each section – pit, lower gallery and upper gallery do have backs; the wall), and it’s quite cramped, with very little legroom. One woman left shortly after the concert began, no doubt because of the discomfort of sitting.

In addition, it is very hot inside the theater; I was sweating throughout the performance, even though there was air conditioning on. (At least it was on when we entered the theater; it may have been turned off after that.) It was so hot that one person in the audience fainted as he was trying to leave, about 45 minutes into the performance. He clearly didn’t felt well, but didn’t make it out of the theater and collapsed on the stairs next to me, only to be carried out by some of the staff and other audience members.

So the venue had two strikes against it when the show started: absurdly uncomfortable seats, and excessive heat. I was still excited to hear Mr. Savall, but this excitement quickly changed to disappointment as he began playing. While Jordi Savall is certainly one of the finest performers of music for viol, it’s clear that, at 73, he’s way past his prime. His playing was sloppy and discordant, as he kept hitting false notes. Music like this for solo viol uses the many strings on the instrument – Savall was playing a seven-string viol – to create polyphony. There are often double stops, or even chords played by sort of rolling the bow across the strings. Unfortunately, many times that Savall played such chords he ended up hitting notes that weren’t part of the chords, creating dissonant screeches that destroyed the fabric of the music.

Savall also had little control over the tempi of what he was playing. He seemed to rush many of the melodies, not giving them time to breathe, and seemed hurried to be finished. The result was a poor performance, more like that of a student than a professional. I was surprised to read this review of the performance, which found the concert to be “a masterful recital by a unique figure in music.” The reviewer is clearly unfamiliar with the music, and wasn’t able to notice how poorly it was played. Alas, having played this music, I was all too aware of the numerous mistakes.

In addition to the poor playing, it was clear that the heat was playing tricks on the gut strings on Mr. Savall’s viol. He would play three or four pieces, then need to spend a couple of minutes tuning. He played these groups of pieces with little pause between them, making it hard for those unfamiliar with the music to even realize that they were different pieces, and not, for example, movements of a suite. About every 15 minutes, he would stop, stand, and receive applause, before tuning his instrument again.

All in all this was a very disappointing evening. In part, the venue was horrible. I’ll never return there, with its uncomfortable seats and its torrid atmosphere. But above all, Jordi Savall showed that he’s no longer able to perform this music. While it’s not virtuoso music in any way, the polyphonic nature of solo viol music means that playing it without hitting the wrong notes is no simple matter.

I’ll still listen to his recordings of Tobias Hume’s music, though; it’s some of the finest music for solo viol. You should do so too.

Music Industry Shoots Self in Foot, Again, with High-Resolution Music Labeling

High-resolution music is a marketing ploy, but marketing only works when it’s done well. The music industry seems to not have learned from its past errors, and, in its new attempt to market high-resolution music, has created an alphabet soup that will confuse all but the most die-hard consumers.

Andrew Everard reports, on his blog, that the music industry has developed a new labeling system to describe high-resolution music. To begin with, it’s important to note that the “high-res” moniker tossed around willy-nilly covers a wide range of audio formats. It’s generally considered to be anything at a resolution higher than CD; in other words, at a bit depth or sample rate higher than the Redbook standard for CD of 16 bits, 44.1 kHz sample rate. So, a 16/48 recording is high-res; so is a 24/192 recording. And a DSD – Direct Stream Digital – is also high-res. But looking at the numbers, you can see that there’s a big difference. 24/96 is higher res than, say, 16/48, and DSD (2.8224 MHz) trumps them all. (But then there are even higher-res DSD formats…)

Remember the early days of CDs, when we had AAD, ADD and DDD recordings? This was somewhat easy to understand; in order, it was the recording, mastering and pressing formats. All CDs had the third D, but only some were recorded and/or mastered in digital, at least for a while.

Now, with high-res audio, you’ll have MQ-C, MQ-P, MQ-A and MQ-D. Huh? These follow the adoption of HRA (High-Resolution Audio), which consumers simply don’t use.

What do they mean?

  • MQ-C: From a CD master source (44.1 kHz/16 bit content). In other words, lossless CD-quality audio.
  • MQ-P: From a PCM master source 48 kHz/20 bit or higher; (typically 96/24 or 192/24 content).
  • MQ-A: From an analogue master source.
  • MQ-D: From a DSD/DSF master source (typically 2.8 or 5.6 MHz content)

But, as Everard points out:

OK, so at least the new labels will make clear the source of the recording — sort of –, provided the consumer is savvy enough to know the difference between PCM and DSD, for example, or between 48kHz/20-bit and 96kHz/24-bit. However, what the new system looks set to do is legitimise releases upsampled from CD quality to ‘HRA’ as genuine high-resolution: after all MQ-C is still going to be labelled as Master Quality.

In the end, this will further marginalize high-resolution audio, which is already something that only the geekiest audiophiles purchase. Which is probably as it should be.

Filming Shakespeare: Interview with John Wyver, Part 2

This is the second part of a two-part series, the first of which was Shakespeare, from Theater to Cinema: Interview with John Wyver, Producer of the RSC’s Live from Stratford-Upon-Avon Productions

On Wednesday, I attended a production of Henry IV Part 2 at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-Upon-Avon. This was the second time I saw the production (read my review here), and this time I was present as the Royal Shakespeare Company was broadcasting the play live to cinemas in the UK and around the world.

I was given tickets in a position where I could get a good look at how the production was filmed: I was sitting in front of the stage, eight rows back, behind one of the two cameras on tracks. I was to the left of center, and the camera was not in front of my very often, but I could watch how that camera was used, as well as a camera on a crane to its right.

Naturally, seeing a play live on an evening when it’s broadcast to cinemas is a bit different than a normal performance. There were many empty seats in front of the stage: the first four rows on the left were full, but the seats on the right and behind those rows were removed, and only a handful of invited guests were in the sections behind the cameras. There were other empty seats around the various cameras, especially for the other camera on tracks on the left of the stage.

Before the performance began, one of the ushers was walking around, checking empty seats, and asking people if they wanted to move, so all the seats that would be on camera would be filled. And just before the performance began, the director came on stage and “warmed up the audience” a bit.

PARTII 7 541X361

Other than that, though, the performance was exactly the same as any other night. As John Wyver told me, “There’s no sense in which the possibility or the likelihood of a cinema [broadcast] influences the casting, or the productions, or the director, or whatever.”

To prepare for the broadcast, there are two camera rehearsals. The first one is without an audience, and the second with the stalls and first circle filled. “It’s important for the audio. The number of people you have in the auditorium makes a huge difference.” This second camera rehearsal is also used “as a backup tape in case it goes down on the night. At least we have [a recording] available, with an audience, in case something catastrophic happens on the night.”

Read more

First Impressions: New Mac Pro

Note: I know the Mac Pro isn’t really new, but it’s new to me, hence the title of this article…

Yesterday, I took delivery of a new Mac Pro. Replacing a Mac mini, about two and a half years old, this is only the second time that I’ve opted for Apple’s top-of-the-line computer. Back in 2006, I bought the first Mac Pro, and kept it for more than two years. I especially liked that computer because it could hold four hard drives and two optical drives. (You can read my posts from back in 2006, tagged Mac Pro.)

But, today, with Thunderbolt and USB 3, there’s only a small advantage to having internal storage. With an SSD for startup disk, and all my files that aren’t documents – my music and video files – on external disks, I don’t need the speed of internal hard drives.

The Mac pro is a small but hefty device. As always, Apple’s packaging is up to the standards of their design. The compact box contains the computer, and a rolled-up power cord, and a few bits of paper: there’s a brief quick-start document, and some guarantee papers. And, you get black Apple stickers with the Mac Pro:

2014-06-19 14.16.00.jpg

The Mac Pro is small and shiny, and it is indeed made to sit on a desk. You could certainly put it under a desk if you want it out of the way, but, for now, I’ll leave mine visible.

It’s got lots of connectors – four USB 3 ports; six Thunderbolt ports; one HDMI; and two Ethernet. It also has the standard audio input and output ports. And they’re very easy to access, as long as you keep the computer on your desk.

2014-06-19 16.56.04.jpg

When running, the Mac Pro is essentially silent. It makes about the same amount of noise as my Mac mini, which is a very quiet computer, but what impresses me is that, even when the Mac Pro is working hard with all eight cores, the fan noise is barely noticeable. Compare that to the Mac mini, which sounds like an exhaust fan when it’s working hard.

The Mac Pro is also quite cool; it gives off less heat in normal operations than my Apple 27″ Thunderbolt display. As I write this, I placed my hand on the top of the Mac Pro, and it doesn’t feel warm at all; when converting some videos with Handbrake, it’s a bit warm, but less than I expected, and still not much more than my display.

2014-06-19 17.04.34.jpg

Unfortunately, my first experiences with the Mac Pro were not very positive. When I first set it up, after running the Migration Assistant, to copy data from a bootable backup of my Mac mini, it didn’t see my Thunderbolt peripherals. Booting was very slow, and, after unplugging the Thunderbolt cables, re-plugging them, and restarting, it finally saw them. But then booting was continually slow; at one time, it took up to seven minutes. When it did boot fast, it took a tad longer than my Mac mini; about 15 seconds compared to ten. But it would boot slowly at random, so I called Apple.

The Apple support person was very nice, and very apologetic. He said that if a brand new computer – and a Mac Pro – does something like this, they don’t bother to troubleshoot it, but exchange it right away. While I was on hold, I did try a few things – booting without the Thunderbolt cables connected – and, while it did boot quickly at times, it wasn’t consistent.

I also noticed that, overnight, while it was sleeping, it rebooted. There wasn’t a power cut in my house, and I saw a number of Thunderbolt-related messages in Console. So my guess is that there’s something wrong with the Thunderbolt interface on my Mac Pro, and I’ll be getting a new one. (I’ve seen a number of web discussions about issues like this.)

Since it took twelve days from my order until delivery, Apple said they’d expedite the replacement as much as possible. I’ll continue using this as much as I can, but if it becomes unstable, I’ll revert back to my Mac mini.

Aside from the boot and Thunderbolt problem, this is a sleek, attractive, and fast computer. The main reason I want a faster Mac is to digitize my DVD and Blu-Ray collection (or much of it); the Mac mini just can’t handle that. It does more than I need, but what convinced me to go for the Mac Pro instead of the iMac is the fact that I have a Thunderbolt display already.

So, it’s not cheap, but the Mac Pro is one heck of a Mac, and one that will last me several years. I’m looking forward to getting one that works perfectly.

Why Apple Won’t Be Selling High-Resolution Music Files Any Time Soon

I’ve written about high-resolution music here several times, notably pointing out that it’s a marketing ploy to get you to spend more on music. Not everyone agrees, and I’m fine with that. One bastion of high-resolution apologetics is the Computer Audiophile website.[1] Chris Connaker, who founded the site, wrote an interesting article yesterday, explaining why he thinks High Resolution Audio Isn’t Coming Soon From Apple.

Chris makes the following points:

One. Wireless Carriers Don’t Want High Resolution Downloads (Or Lossless CD Quality Streaming)

Two. Record Labels Want Control And Revenue Again

Three. Beats

Four. Apple Has The High Resolution Content Only Because It Can

Five. Apple Isn’t A Specs Company

Six. Not Enough Apple Customers Care

Seven. iTunes Doesn’t Support Native Automatic Sample Rate Switching

I agree with much of his argument, though I think he’s mistaken about some of the points. I’m not convinced that wireless carriers have a problem with this. First, I can’t see a lot of people streaming high-resolution audio; any supposed gain in quality requires expensive equipment, and the ambient noise surrounding listeners when they’re mobile would eliminate any such quality. On the contrary, mobile carriers would love to sell users phone plans with higher data, at a price. Lower-priced plans have limited data, and to get unlimited data, you need to pay a pretty penny. (There are some exceptions, but all signs point to mobile carriers eliminating unlimited data plans.)

The iTunes issue is moot; Apple could add such a feature if they wanted to. And the point about Apple having high-resolution content is merely for their back end; they have this content to create Mastered for iTunes files, but they only have a very small amount of high-resolution content. They’ve only been requesting high-resolution files for a couple of years, and there are decades worth of music where high-resolution masters don’t even exist.

One point Chris misses is the fact that Apple announced a new audio library at the WWDC, which can use an iOS device’s Lightning connector to output music at 48 kHz; that’s not the high resolution audiophiles want; they want at least 96 kHz. If Apple’s developed the software and hardware to meet the specs of 48 kHz – that’s the sample rate for DVDs and Blu-Ray discs – they’re not going to suddenly increase that; they clearly thought about that limit.

But the biggest point is number six: Not enough Apple customers care. I’d go further: not enough music listeners care. High-resolution music looks good on paper, but any potential gains in quality are imperceptible, or require very expensive stereo systems. So it’s pretty much a non-starter to expect Apple to go this route.

On the other hand, I can see Apple selling music in lossless formats in the foreseeable future, as I recently discussed. Even though most users can’t tell the difference between 256 kbps AAC files and lossless, there’s a perception of having something inferior among enough listeners that it might make sense for Apple to sell lossless files as a premium product.

But all that is moot for now. Following Apple’s acquisition of Beats, I think the next place to look is streaming. Apple will surely be focusing their music efforts in that area as soon as the Beats deal is signed.


  1. I mean no disrespect; I think Computer Audiophile is an excellent website, and I recommend it highly.