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Apple plans high-res audio for iOS 8 devices

Apple is planning to enable 24-bit/192kHz high-resolution audio in the next version of its operating system, iOS 8 – bringing high-res music to iOS 8 compatible iPads, iPhones and iPods, according to reports.

Japanese site Mac Otakara suggests high-res audio will be one of the new features on iOS 8, which is set to be launched at WWDC in June. The move will be followed by a redesigned Lightning connector and a new set of Apple headphones.

Software and hardware constraints limit existing Apple devices from playing 24/192 high-res audio.

An update to the Lightning connection could allow for high-res audio docks, while a new set of Earpods fits the idea that Apple is keen to do more with its accessories – one explanation behind the rumoured Apple/Beats deal.

Rumours surrounding Apple and HD audio have circulated for some time. Last month, MacRumours suggested iTunes was in line for an overhaul that could see high-res audio downloads coming to the iTunes Store. Meanwhile, whispers claiming that Apple was investigating 24-bit iTunes downloads began as far back as 2011.

Apple is, of course, always eager to be seen as offering premium products with standout features, not least in a mobile market where products are differentiated by increasingly small degrees. High-res music could fit the bill in this respect.

Both the LG G2 and Samsung Galaxy Note 3 smartphones support high-res audio playback, though neither phone particularly impressed us in terms of general sound quality, somewhat negating the feature.

The combination of high-res downloads and products from Apple could be a far more compelling one, and bring high-res audio to a huge new audience.

High-resolution music is already available from a number of download sites, albeit with a far smaller library than mainstream music stores such as Amazon, Google Play and iTunes.

Neil Young's PonoMusic project aims to change that, and is launching a downloads store and high-res music player later this year after raising over $6 million on Kickstarter.

US site HDtracks was due to launch in the UK earlier this year, but remains US-only for now.

MORE: High-resolution audio – everything you need to know

by Joe Cox

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Joe Cox
Content Director

Joe is Content Director for Specialist Tech at Future and was previously the Global Editor-in-Chief of What Hi-Fi?. He has worked on What Hi-Fi? across print and online for more than 15 years, writing news, reviews and features. He has covered product launch events across the world, from Apple to Technics, Sony and Samsung, reported from CES, the Bristol Show and Munich High End for many years, and provided comment for sites such as the BBC and the Guardian. In his spare time he enjoys playing records and cycling (not at the same time).