"Mastered for iTunes" is an invalid disambiguation

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So I decided to make sure a release was copasetic. What I found is this.

So are you telling me that “Mastered for iTunes” is an option vs iTunes? Well, it is not. You might as well just say “iTunes”, because it is either one or the other, not both.

Let me explain: you have a release that is either MFiT or not. It is not both, it is one or the other. For a crowd that cares not for the actual intricacies of digital files, this inaccuracy is, well, uneducated.

I actually don’t understand the question / issue. When I follow your link I see two releases that have a disambiguation of “Mastered for iTunes” and “Mastered for iTunes , clean lyrics”. Both are linked to different releases on iTunes. What exactly is the problem here?

Ok, so what does this mean for the above releases? Are they “Mastered for iTunes” or are they not? If not then this would be wrong and you should change it.

Side question: Where / how can I see if a release qualifies as “Mastered for iTunes”? Or are all newer releases on iTunes mastered by Apple’s guidelines?


Why is “mastered for iTunes” even there? If it is iTunes it is either mastered for or not. Nothing is avail in both MFiT and non. It is one or the other.

MFiT is a method of which Apple is prefacing a new generation of 24 bit audio, to come soon. They have raised the bar a bit which provides the end user / listener an audio file of less distortion and clipping. There is some free software for Apple users (I do not use Apple) that can show you this as a music producer, but otherwise the concept is rudimentary. Do not make it “hot”, keep the dynamic range.

EDIT: I failed to address a portion of the query. There is a “tag” that gets placed on those releases meeting the criteria. To meet said criteria, you need to have your audio mastered by an Apple certified individual and must submit it for approval.

It is obvious that the same release cannot be mastered two different ways. But if it can be Mastered for iTunes what makes it wrong to say so?

Or do you mean the entire release group can only have a certain mastering? That’s maybe the case, but there often are different masterings for different mediums.

Edit: For the why it is there you probably have to ask the original editor.


I mean not to get into mastering as MB discards that. But the same release can and is mastered in different ways. For example, should one add an Amazon and iTunes release together, those masterings are NOT the same. This is especially relevant with MFiT. I mean not to get into the mastering techniques, but at the simple and rudimentary stage, a MP3 and M4A file are NOT the same at all. Said methods of compression of audio are different, so one can accommodate accordingly. But at MB … a digital recording is all the same. That is the issue.

EDIT: The mentioned release was only released in certain formats. ie, there is no cassette, so we do not consider. There is a release of a 24 bit “sort of ready” that iTunes used, but why do I care as it is only avail in that way? It is not like buying a Camaro Z28 or a SS, it is only there in one format.

Sorry, I totally fail to understand the point of this entire post. You simultaneously indicate that the releases in question are actually Mastered for iTunes, but that it is wrong to state this in the disambiguation.

So in order to make this thread actually productive instead of just a wordy ranting: What concrete changes would you propose to the releases and the release group?


I think I can clear this up:

Recordings that are mastered differently are still the same recording in MB, but differently mastered releases are different releases.

I don’t know if all releases on iTunes are mastered, but in general: releases mastered for iTunes should be kept separate while iTunes releases that are not specifically mastered for iTunes could be merged with identical digital releases from other shops.



FWIW, @thwaller, I have linked those two MFiT releases to the MFiT series.

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I will try and explain better. Yes, MFiT is technically correct. What I am suggesting is that such a disambiguation really serves no purpose. Currently in MB, a release from Amazon and a release from iTunes/Apple are considered just a different reference/source for the same release.

In the past, I have tried to differentiate releases by mastering and was met with some strong opposition that matering does not make a release any different than others with different mastering … unless there is a difference that you can hear while listening to the different releases.

Under this logic, a MFiT release is no different than any other iTunes release, thus it needs no differentiation. Marking them clean or explicit is obviously important, as well as marking the specific recordings as such.

EDIT: after reading other comments, it should be noted that as time goes, all iTunes releases will be MFiT. It is simply a first step in a change to how iTunes creates their releases. This step is similar to the former 128 AAC files to the 256 AAC “iTunes Plus” files… but there is no differentiation there. It is simply just another step in improving the quality of the product.


Just to add what I think I understand about this ‘Mastered for iTunes’ badge:

Technically it is a guideline for mastering engineers, so that if the uncompressed audio (the source) is encoded to a lossy format such as mp3 or AAC later on, the chances of an extra loss of sound quality that would be a result from too high mastering levels is reduced.

So it has absolutely nothing to do with the sound quality of the original master, nor with the sound quality of the lossless end-product.
It might perhaps only affect the sound quality of lossy encodings.

My (strictly personal) opinion: it’s a clever BS Apple marketing ploy.

If somebody with more technical knowledge believes I am wrong about it’s workings, please feel free to correct and educate me.


Well said. It is for that reason(s) that I was stating that such a differentiation is not needed. Given the current rule set at MB, the MFiT designation has no impact on the release itself or its recordings, given the MB guidelines as they are today - agree or not.

Yep. There is more to it, and I would like to add my strictly personal opinion, following the lead of hiccup. Having the MFiT badge is more targeted to the engineers/artists/labels/etc. Apple has raised the bar on the standards for its product, but is not forcing everyone to follow them. Instead, if you do follow them, you get a nice badge applied to your product. So the producers of the product want this, no one wants to be listed at a lesser quality than others, and the consumer also sees it which gives it more appeal.

I, personally, think it somewhat laughable as this should have been done in the first place. Hiccup said it well, this standard is simply telling the mastering engineers to have awareness to the intended final product. I see it sort of a reversal of the “louder is better” mentality. As an engineer, you get this nifty little software from Apple that makes this all happen. You can sort of preview what the end product will be, and proactively fix issues before encoding. Most notably, digital clipping.

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Consider a release group containing these sets of mediums and disambiguations:

Digital Media / (blank)
Digital Media / Mastered for iTunes
Digital Media / Special Edition, Mastered for iTunes
Digital Media / Special Edition, 24bit/48kHz
Digital Media / Special Edition, DSD
CD / Limited Edition A
CD / Limited Edition B

This is extremely common and ought to help you disambiguate between the different releases. (All of these releases have different barcodes, if you were going to ask.)


Well, maybe, sort of, depends. MFiT does not have a different barcode from iTunes (not MFiT) because you will not have both. When your release is submitted to iTunes, it will fall into one or the other. Unlike physical media, barcodes on digital releases are somewhat unimportant and often times not even disclosed to the consumer. If you look at digital releases, you will also find that different stores will have different barcodes for the same release in some cases. I cannot say how many are like this, but I can say it happens.

I see no reason to differentiate MFiT as it is no different than just saying iTunes, which is not done here. Amazon, iTunes, etc are all lumped into a single release with different references. Special edition releases most often have a different track listing, so those should be differentiated.

EDIT: The progression for iTunes using the gimmick words is essentially:
Original iTunes -> iTunes Plus -> MFiT

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With a web browser,

  1. Go to https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/id1398449449
  2. Scroll down and click on “Also Available in iTunes” to switch from Apple Music to iTunes.
  3. You should now see the “Mastered for iTunes” badge on the left, under the editors’ notes.

To add to that … at this time, there is no indicator of this in the file metadata. The only place I have found such distinction is on the iTunes store, as yindesu has outlined.

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Not true.

iTunes Plus refers to songs and some music videos* in high-quality AAC format that don’t have Digital Rights Management (DRM).


iTunes Plus refers to the concept of high bitrate AAC audio without DRM. RIP m4p.

“Mastered for iTunes”, on the other hand, is an entirely different 10 beast.


edit: By the way, none of this matters to the MusicBrainz Release Disambiguation. I’d say “Mastered for iTunes” and “24bit/48kHz” as 2 disambiguations of digital media releases is working correctly. And it is possible to have multiple masterings of a release on the iTunes store, in which case your insistence on dropping “Mastered for” makes the disambiguations incorrect.


iTunes Plus was also a move from 128 to 256. Sure DRM was also a factor there, but it was still a quality progression. This discussion was not going all technical, just speaking in general terms. If you look at it, it IS the same thing … MB does not differentiate iTunes Plus while iTunes Plus actually has more of an impact on the product itself vs MFiT.

Please provide an example of this. Of course it is possible … Apple could do this. The iTunes store lists whatever is put into it. This is not procedure though, but I would love to see examples of this.

EDIT: This might provide some information for those wanting to learn a bit more on MFiT and mastering for iTunes Plus, etc.

For those not wanting to read all that, this explains that iTunes Plus was the next step after the original 128:
What is AAC and iTunes Plus?
AAC (Advanced Audio Coding) is a format for compressing and encoding digital audio.
AAC achieves the portability and convenience of compressed and encoded digital audio
while retaining audio quality that’s indistinguishable from larger digital files, such as
audio from CDs.
The iTunes catalog was initially offered in 2003 as 128 kbps AAC files, many of which
were encoded from the original CD masters. They sounded great—in fact, these
downloads led the industry in sound quality. More than 100 million songs were sold in
this format in a little over a year, changing the landscape of legal digital music forever.
But innovation didn’t stop there. Recently, using the most advanced AAC encoder, the
iTunes catalog was upgraded to iTunes Plus: a variable bit rate (VBR) 256 kbps AAC
encoding format. iTunes AAC encoders are now able to transparently encode high
definition audio, creating files that retain the small footprint, portability, and ease of use
iTunes is known for. And they sound amazing.

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https://itunes.apple.com/jp/album/id1266158923 - Mastered for iTunes.
https://itunes.apple.com/tw/album/id1265742080 - not.

And since MusicBrainz doesn’t delete releases that iTunes is no longer selling, I think we still have a problem if you start incorrectly branding “Mastered for iTunes” releases as the one “iTunes” release. You’ve already participated in one such discussion regarding the addition of new versions of Kiss albums. There’s other old proof of multiple masterings of the same albums in iTunes such as https://discussions.apple.com/thread/3849011?answerId=18027345022


I guess I cannot comment on that as first, it is not in a language I understand and second it is from two different iTunes stores. I mean no disrespect there, but I cannot in good faith comment on something that I cannot fully look at, see, etc.

Can I ask you this? Did you purchase and download both versions? If you look at the files, is there a difference, or is it the same file? Obviously the metadata will be different, it is a different country/store. But if you remove those obvious differences, is there any indicator that there is a difference?

It is really senseless to debate something that is fact. When I submit to iTunes, my submission will either pass and get listed as MFiT within the 2 week window, or it will “fail” and not get labeled as such. As I say that, you are correct that historically, there will be different releases. You will have those in the original 128 iTunes, you will have iTunes Plus (which I have already shown to be a progression of quality), and you will have MFiT. In that sense, yes, there will be different versions from the same store. But, those different versions are not available (active and there for purchase) at the same time.

If you think that MFiT is that important and has a real differentiating meaning, then I will consider my post here voted down. What boggles me is that differences of MP3 vs AAC/M4A are ignored, but something that has no obvious tangible impact on the product, like MFiT is put on a pedestal. Why is MB not differentiating iTunes Plus, as iTunes Plus actually makes a noticeable difference as compared to its predecessor?

What I am trying to say here is that MFiT is really nothing that is in need of a distinction, especially since MB does not distinguish between those prior (ie iTunes Plus). I know you have stated that I was wrong, but there is proof on the table to say you are incorrect. iTunes Plus is a mastering and encoding (generally speaking) “term”. Same as MFiT. Given the guidelines as they stand, I fail to see why MFiT has any place in disambiguation.

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So iTunes Plus files were mastered differently than the “original” iTunes files? This is the first I’ve heard of that.

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