Apple's current downloads are 16 bits, but Apple would like to increase the quality of purchased songs on iTunes, according to CNN. Studio recordings are usually captured as 24-bit audio, but before the tracks are pressed to CD or made available to iTunes, they're downgraded to 16 bits.
Jimmy Iovine, chairman of Universal Music Group's Interscoe-Geffen-A&M record label, revealed Apple's intentions after showcasing new HP products with integrated "Beats Audio" support. Many Macs and some PCs support 24-bit sound, and the iTunes media player can playback 24-bit files.
But a major obstacle for 24-bit audio is the fact that many PCs and most portable devices do not support the high-fidelity audio format. Iovine said Apple would have to make future iPhones and iPods that would be able to play the higher quality audio files.
Apple previously upgraded the quality of the audio files it sells in 2007 with the release of iTunes 7.2 and iTunes Plus. iTunes Plus tracks feature high-quality 256kbps AAC encoding and are void of any digital rights management protection.
After a limited start with participating labels, iTunes Plus eventually became the standard for all music tracks on the iTunes Music Store in 2009. In return, Apple granted labels the ability to price songs at three levels: 69 cents, 99 cents, or $1.29 per track.