Since 2012, Apple has run a program called Mastered for iTunes. The initiative allows engineers to maintain the highest possible quality when encoding master recordings for digital distribution through iTunes (and now Apple Music). Apple's tools and guidelines prevent clipping and other unwanted remnants of the volume wars – as producers and mastering engineers continue to turn up the volume of recorded music at the expense of dynamic range.
The master of iTunes was never about bit-rate or high-resolution audio; Apple still has to stick to the lost AAC format as streaming competitors like Tidal have emphasized loss-free sound. But listeners still manage to distinguish differences between Mastered for iTunes content compared to other releases of digital music and even older CDs, and think Apple's releases are more dynamic and detailed. This is especially true of older directories belonging to The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, John Coltrane and countless others. You usually don't have to worry about getting stuck with a hard, sounding old digital transfer or an overly loud remaster if it has got the Mastered for iTunes label.
There is a huge thread on Steve Hoffman forums of 2014 discussing "MFiT" albums. This place is home to some of the most obsessed music listeners on the planet, so thumbs up for many releases of Mastered for iTunes are worth something. These are great masterings that are more convenient than ever before to access – you don't have to hunt for a vinyl release or some obscure CD pressing to get the best presentation of an album you love.
Now , according to Billboard Apple brings all that MFiT content together under a transformed banner: They will now be called Apple Digital Masters. The name change is easier to catch for listeners, but it's also a necessity since iTunes cycles out into the sunset this fall from iOS 13 and macOS Catalina. In fact, users of Reddit noticed the new name almost a month ago, since the change has already been made in the beta of Catalina.
Apple told Billboard that “the majority of Apple Music's top releases are currently Apple Digital Masters, with about 75 percent of the top 100 in the United States and 71 percent of the top 100 globally created under the program. ”
It's easy enough to see if a song in your music library is an Apple Digital Master in iTunes (soon the Music app) on a Mac desktop or laptop computer; just right-click and examine file info. However, Apple Music on an iPhone or iPad has never really made it clear when listening to a song or album from Mastered for iTunes / Apple Digital Master. So I am hopeful that this revised branding can also make the entire effort more visible from the consumer perspective.
But if you're someone with a FLAC or Apple Lossless music library (I'm in the latter camp), don't get too excited yet. Do I Want Apple Will Offer Apple Lossless Series Apple Music? Absolutely. Could this be a springboard to get there? Possibly. But do I expect it to happen? There is still a lot of "maybe" territory, and there is no evidence that Tidal HiFi has made enough waves for Apple to care. But here's to hoping, especially when even Amazon is now thinking of going this way.