Ars Technica's Infinite Loop blogger Chris Foresman took a detailed look into the world of modern sound engineering to determine if Apple's Mastered for iTunes program really does improve sound quality of songs that are remastered. The answer to the question of what sounds better ends up being as varied as the opinions of the sound engineers Foresman talked to.
Recording engineer Ian Shepard told CE Pro that the process of mastering audio files for iTunes to make them sound more CD-like was "BS" and that Mastered for iTunes is just "marketing hype." Foresman enlisted the assistance of two engineers from Chicago Mastering Service who were initially skeptical about improving the sound quality of the digital files, but came away with the conclusion that "it absolutely is possible to improve the quality of compressed iTunes Plus tracks with a little bit of work, that Apple's improved compression process does result in a better sound, and that 24/96 files aren't a good format for consumers."
We won't divulge all of the processes that Foresman and the sound engineers went through, but the results were fascinating. In the end, though, it all boils down to how the iTunes listener hears the music. To quote Scott Hull, the CEO of sound studio Masterdisk, "The end consumer doesn't listen like an objective scientist or robot; the end consumer listens one hundred percent emotionally."