Apple plans high-res audio for iOS 8 devices

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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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