Beats acquisition may be part of a new focus on music quality, suggests Japanese blog


Following the presumed acquisition of Beats, Apple plans to up its music game with support for high-resolution audio files in a revamped Music app in iOS 8, and to offer a higher-quality version of its In-Ear Headphones, reports Japanese blog Macotakara

The source of the high-res audio rumor appears somewhat circumstantial, linked to a Warner Music post about the forthcoming release of a ‘Super Deluxe’ version of three remastered early Led Zeppelin albums in 96kHz/24-bit form – a resolution the current iOS Music app cannot play. It is, however, consistent with a similar earlier rumor regarding iTunes support for higher-quality audio … 

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It’s also suggested that Apple will launch a new version of its rather elderly In-Ear Headphones, offering improved audio quality. Finally, there’s a suggestion of a new Lightning cable designed for MFi audio devices that would support higher-quality audio.

If the rumor regarding the revamped Music app is true, we’re likely to see Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre on the stage at WWDC 2014 to help introduce the new focus on higher-quality music. Check out our earlier roundup for everything else we expect to see at WWDC this year.

Incidentally, there’s an interesting read on why not all hi-res music is equal over at the Robert Music blog.

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  1. Plava (@Zelkhana) - 9 years ago

    i know its rust a render, but please no IN-EAR these things are just not for everybody, the EarPods are perfect, for my music needs, better build on that.

    • Ben Lovejoy - 9 years ago

      It’s not a render – this is the existing product, which has been on the market for about six years.

      • Eric William Smith - 9 years ago

        haha, I know right, Plava’s comment’s hilarious. At least s/he doesn’t have to worry about them coming standard since it’s a premium product.

    • thejuanald - 9 years ago

      Do what I want, and only what I want! As Ben pointed out, this has been out for a long time already and is an option for people. See? Options are good.

  2. I want Apple to focus on call quality as much if not more so. That’s an area still ripe for innovation and hopefully Apple has enough clout to influence the wireless carriers. My co-worker’s Android phone has the worst speakerphone call quality – it sounds tinny and super-compressed. I don’t even use my iPhone’s speakerphone because my ears are too sensitive to noise and the like.

    • Robert Nixon - 9 years ago

      The iPhone already supports HD voice(also referred to as Wideband audio), which quite a few carriers support(though only T-Mobile in the US, I think). They also have Factime Audio.

      They can’t improve the quality of other phones’ audio, though.

  3. Japanese Blog, Genius summation! I never even thought of that!…Alert Apple they just may have something on their hands…(whisper – I don’t think they realize it)

  4. How does Beats, which are horrible sounding headphones, help Apple make better sounding headphones? Beats is a brand known for style, they don’t make the best anything. This is an odd marriage because it doesn’t seem to fit Apple’s core motto to make the best products. I think something Tim Cook said at D11 might be the clue, that you have to get people to want to wear wearables. Beats is the trendy fashion item people want to wear. I don’t know how that fits into the iWatch, but I think this deal is centered on that, tapping into a brand the youth market is wearing.

    • thejuanald - 9 years ago

      Exactly, Beats are not great quality headphones.

      • I’m no audiophile, but they sound pretty darn good to me.

      • Patrick G, you must have never listened with a high quality set of cans like Grado or even some of the better Sennheiser’s. Not picking on you, people just don’t know quality in headphone sound until they hear the difference. Audiophiles and non-audiophiles have criticized Beats from the beginning. They jack up the bass and destroy the mids and treble. Just do a Google search for “Beats headphones too much bass.” There are many far better quality headphones out there for less than Beats sell for.

      • “In terms of sound performance, they are among the worst you can buy,” says Tyll Hertsens, editor in chief of, a site for audiophiles. “They are absolutely, extraordinarily bad.”

      • kid, I understand but have never even heard of Grado. Again I am no audiophile. I love music! but am no audiophile.

      • Tony Tay (@alexades2) - 9 years ago

        Yes, I too was initially stumped when I read heard about Apple buying Beats, but I have since thought about it and there may be some method to the madness. The key phrase here is “Apple buys Beats”, not the other way round. That means Apple CAN and WILL make changes to the headphones. Apple also seems to be getting other things apart from headphones from the (potential) deal. According to reports, the other headphones may be better than Beats, but the Beats command 64% of the market. So which is better for Apple? Take over a company that has premium quality headphones, but 10% of the market and try to build its market share, or take over one that already has 64% and quickly develop what it has to match those with premium quality?

      • Jearld Greg Clifford - 9 years ago

        The Grado and Sennheiser upper lines are way better than anything Beats puts out, but they are also more expensive and dependent on a clean file/ source. I have a set of grado PS1000 and the Senn 650’s and you will hear every flaw of a poor quality file, however when properly fed they have a sound that is like being there in front of the musician. Beats masks lower quality files by shifting the sound curve down and reducing fidelity in the high range.

      • confluxnz - 9 years ago

        Patrick G, do yourself a favour and grab a pair of Sennheiser HD25s. You will never look back. Beats suck donkey balls. Overpriced, overhyped junk. Even a pair of $150 Audio Technica ATH-M50s blows them out of the water.

    • Ben Lovejoy - 9 years ago

      That’s what I suggested in my recent opinion piece: what Beats brings to the table is youth marketing, but it’s also become clear that its Beats Music rep and music industry creds should assist Apple in developing its own on-demand music offering.

    • PMZanetti - 9 years ago

      Beats sound a LOT better than anything that currently carries an Apple logo. So many (authors included) are quick to assume that Apple could make great sounding headphones if they wanted to. So why haven’t they? The answer to that question is yet to appear.

      The Beats acquisition carries with a 1 billion dollar a year headphone business, a fledgling streaming music product (which is just another on the list of streaming music products Apple has purchased), and some music industry experts.

      Great frigging deal. Great frigging purchase.

    • Mr. Grey (@mister_grey) - 9 years ago

      Except “audiophiles” are famous for being immersed in fantasies about what they hear or don’t hear.

      No one here will agree of course, and no one wants to believe it, but science says that Apple’s earphones are actually among the best quality sound. “Audiophiles” say differently. I pick science.

      You can find endless amounts of “audiophiles” that will say that Beats has great sound, and a similar amount of “audiophiles” that say the opposite. This is also true of almost any medium to high end sound product.

      Again, I believe in objective testing. Science. “Audiophiles” reviewing speakers or headphones is just a mutual masturbation society. A circle jerk of jerks and snobs.

      The only thing worse than an “audiophile” is the masses of idiots that read their review and become convinced that brand a, b, or c sounds better and wank on for hours to their friends about how they are idiots for not thinking that brand x is best, when they haven’t really even got a clue (or an ear) themselves.

      • Lars Pallesen - 9 years ago

        “You can find endless amounts of “audiophiles” that will say that Beats has great sound”.

        Ehm no, Mr. Grey, no you can not. Mainly because audiophiles understand that boosting the bass excessively on a pair of $14 headphones does not equal “great sound”.

  5. Hassan Shaban - 9 years ago

    now that apple MAY be improving their headphones, I hope they will bring back music rating in the lock screen. As a music lover thats what i miss most about the old iOS. still don’t know why they dropped it :(

  6. G4Dualie - 9 years ago

    The Beats appeal for Apple is a new generation of music lovers and their following.

    Whatever shortcomings Beats products possess, can be resolved by Apple’s acoustic engineers.

  7. rahhbriley - 9 years ago

    The pictured in-ear earbuds are my favorite ones Apple makes. Little pricey, but they were exactly what I waned at the time. Would I love better sound? Of course.

  8. PMZanetti - 9 years ago

    I for one have been anxiously awaiting Apple’s move into 24-bit 96kHz music. The entire music industry is as well. For those that don’t understand, this THE BIG move that the entire industry has been putting off as long as possible, so that they can do the unimaginable….sell you all the same music all over again at higher prices.

    Most people will not re-purchase a song or album that they own in 256kbps AAC when lossless becomes available, especially if the lossless albums and tracks carry a premium. But plenty of hardcore music fans will.

    The market for lossless audio is not as small or niche as something people think, but it is definitely a minority. If anyone can make lossless audio popular…its Apple.

    But as Jimmy Lovine has said, your audio only sounds as good as your weakest link…No point in listening to 24 bit audio with Apple Earbuds. No point in listening to lossless 16 bit audio with Apple Earbuds, for that matter.

    Further, current iPhone headphone jacks are limited to downsampling audio to 16 bit at 44kHz. Only the USB port can, with some compatible hardware, actually output 24 bit at 96kHz.

    So a lot of “New” is required to make this High-Quality audio push actually happen:

    1. 24 bit tracks on the iTunes Store.
    2. iPhone hardware capable of outputting 24 bit audio through the headphone jack.
    3. Decent Headphones to properly reproduce the sound.

    • Jearld Greg Clifford - 9 years ago

      Looks like the Pono kickstarter music service/ store has really shaken up the industry. 6$ million in 28 days for a $400 player and access to high definition files proves there is a market for wideband super clean music. I wish the author of this article had included this industry disruption as it has directly influenced the movement to higher fidelity music.

    • Martin Robertson - 9 years ago

      24/96 doesn’t sound noticeably better than 16/44.1.

      Yes, we mix and master at 24/96 but that’s for technical reasons, not end user sound quality.

  9. Pretty sure that high-resolution note on Warner’s website has more to do with Pono than Apple.

  10. yudontnojack - 9 years ago

    Wow, really going out on a limb with that one.

    But, if that is true they should have bought a higher quality headphone manufacturer, not a middle of the road one with the cool factor.

  11. kobymac - 9 years ago

    They certainly didn’t purchase beats for their quality. However since 99% of apple users aren’t tech enthusiasts and are largely just suckers for trends, adding “with beats audio” will no doubt be more effective for them than it was for HTC….as these same consumers probably aren’t audio boffins either. Moving to lossless, along with 4k video being the standard in 2014 for phone cams….means more peeps will be pushed to pay those 1000000% premiums apple charges for additional storage. I think audio quality is the forgotten thing with smart phones these days – the quality of the sound chip and packaged ear phones dont affect the reviews at all these days…which is lucky for apple, because the audio from iPods/iPhone and their ear buds have always been amongst the worst.

  12. Pierre Calixte - 9 years ago

    My guess is that they hired them to do what they do best and that’s run a music label. They’ve been speculation for awhile now that itunes would eventually become a label and this takes a huge step in that direction.

    This makes sense to me because with Apple’s music sales dwindling a good way to raise music revenue is to start signing artists directly and cut out alot of the middle men. They could probably offer artists a better deal while still making a ton of money…especially if they get these artists to sign itunes exclusive contracts.

  13. drtyrell969 - 9 years ago

    And then again, it might just be a really really bad idea.

  14. Japanese always leads the world few years ahead in mobile technology. For example while we’re still using SMS and MMS, they’re using email and data plan for messages. They have emoticons as standards in early years, they often use barcodes and AR heavily. Now 70% of phone users uses iPhone. Now they request for better audio quality, it means they’re really into it.

  15. New Class Traitor - 9 years ago

    The missing ingredient in Beats by Dr. Dre is the 3rd speaker, to be placed on one’s groin so the exaggerated mindless (c)rap bass can rattle one’s beitzim as well as one’s ears.
    As for me, I’l stick with my Sennheisers, although I was pleasanty surprised by Apple’s latest generation earbuds (perhaps since my expectations had nowhere else to go).


Avatar for Ben Lovejoy Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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