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Apple Digital Masters

Matthew Gray is on Apple's official Apple Digital Masters Providers List.

What does Apple Digital Masters really mean?

Apple Digital Masters 4xIn an effort to improve the quality of music digitally distributed through the iTunes music store, Apple have responded with Apple Digital Masters (known until August 2019 as Mastered for iTunes [MFiT]). Apple's aim is to ensure that the masters produced by approved Apple Digital Masters engineers maintain the highest fidelity right up to the point of the AAC encoding process.

For Matthew Gray Mastering this means supplying Apple with 24-bit files with sample rates up to 96kHz that meet Apple's standards. Apple supplies the 'Apple Digital Masters mastering tools' to check that the levels of the audio won't compromise or distort the AAC codec and to ensure that the audio supplied to them meets the Apple Digital Masters standard.

The result is a 256kbps M4A file which marginally exceeds the audio fidelity of the traditional CD format, i.e. 16-bit 44.1kHz PCM, and far exceeds its MP3 counterpart regardless of the MP3 codec or bit rate. The icing on the cake is that the 256kbps AAC (M4A) file is approximately six times smaller in file size compared to the equivalent 16-bit wave file, making it ideal for digital distribution and streaming over the internet.

Not all digital distributors can accept Apple Digital Masters files; those who do treat the Apple Digital Masters files as a separate release and charge accordingly.