During my rounds at CES I had an interesting conversation regarding the EMI back catalog of recordings, which date from the early 50's on up through today. Recently EMI began transferring its entire archive of recordings into 96/24 digital music files. The project has been going on for over three months and the hours of operation are 24/7 with engineers working literally around the clock. The question, of course, is why?
As to what might be the goal of all this, while no one at EMI is ready to say anything officially, but I can't help but wonder if they are thinking along the same lines as Sony, preparing for a music cloud streaming site. Now so far streaming music has been the domain of highly compressed low bit-rate MP-3s, which sounds nothing like music, but it doesn't have to be that way.
Imagine this possible future scenario: what if Apple finally delivered on a killer streaming app that was red-book quality or better? And that app included the entire Beatles catalog with the equivalent of 96/24 quality? I'd buy it. Or should I say rent it, since the music service would likely be a per-use payment model billed through the iTunes store, just like Apple's other apps. In my audiophile fantasy Apple's app causes a domino effect where all the streaming sites that expect to get the highest monthly or hourly fees will need to offer hi-rez music to get those fees. Full-bandwith uncompressed music would win, and MP3 would lose.