Okay you probably know everything about iTunes 11, there are many article on the web including iTunes 11 in-depth presentation by MacWorld. But did you hear it? It sound different from iTunes 10 and older!
I used three setup, and my observations where remarkably similar on all three (with limitations on the low-end Bose system).
At my main desktop, I use an iMac with an usb headphone converter+amp and an headphone. My home desktop use a Bose Companion III, USB 2.1 sound system (that sound very Bose). And on my séjour, I use my MacBook Pro or my iPhone with an Apple TV, digitally connected to my Audio/Video AMP and my main rigs.
I am no more totally an audiophile, and won’t disclose the exact configuration, but still, excepting the Bose companion III naturally, these are high-end rigs. And I hear the difference. I could clearly tell apart a 128Kb MP3 from an AppleLossless, I did the test many times, I like to hear electro, Jazz, Blues, Classical, Rock, Metal, Pop music, and in fact almost everything that’s musically interesting, while my main drive are the voices. I am also a choir Baryton singer since I was 7, and a bad pianist, working for a nation-wide radio company! I think it’s relevant…
iTunes 11 seems to have better bass, with low-frequency correctly reproduced, when your headphone or speaker is able to handle it. It doesn’t seems to me it’s an artificial sound enhancement, more like a soft low-pass filter that have been removed from iTunes, when your track have really deep bass, they are present, without limitations, but if the track didn’t have them, they are not artificial bass extension.
You will hear it distinctly on Madonna’s “In this life” or Annie Lennox’s “Couloured bedspread”. Linkin Park “Frgt/10″ is another good example but have a good system to reproduce it at concert level, it deserve it!
A total progress for me, except for the Bose Companion III, that have problems to reproduce real bass, it’s just conceived to do boom-boom!!!
It’s the first artifical enhancement I noticed, voices seems a little more clear than before, with more grain. It’s cool if your sound system have a smooth sound.
I noticed that the first time, on Depeche Mode “The Bottom Line”, where it’s evident. A little too much depending on your system (at 1:55 it’s too much!). Another good example is George Michael’s “Patience” where it’s also too much.
At some point, I began to ask myself what changed too, as people complained about iTunes 11 sounding different than iTunes 10 (and worse for them). So I identified a third “enhanced’ area, while the overall dynamic seems similar (not sure, I doubt!), attacks, such as strings attacks, voice , percussions, everything seems to be enhanced with a better dynamic, so it’s more energy, more life.
You will notice it on David Bowie’s “Bring me the disco king”, where it’s a little too much brilliant and agressive, the bass extension is welcome on this awesome track, but clearly not the agressivness!
But also, depending on the track and your sound system, it might be too lively, and unnatural!
I had some older tracks hat I ripped on the early 2000′s, with MusicMatch Jukebox. I am a switcher I know
At first I did it totally wrong, encoding with low bit rate, such as 128Kb MP3, it’s a total castration of the musical quality, but you won’t hear the difference on a basic PC/Mac speakers, or with Apple’s earjunk (it is earpod?).
I didn’t thought that the music will flow from my iPhone, iPod Touch, Macs into my Airport Express or Apple TV, digitally direct into my high-end sound system! At this time I used a high-end analog sound-system, playing Vinyls or CDs instead what’s on my computer. Dumb!
I had to re-rip and re-encode everything on my musical library, nearly two thousand CDs! This time on MP3 320Kb (another error but minor!)
It happens that I had lost some, or when I decided to re-encode one it wasn’t fully readable, so I still have some tracks encoded in a poor 128Kb MP3, by an old crappy encoder. It’s clear their quality is not acceptable.
All these enhancements, on these old 128Kb MP3 are totally audible. But not on the same way, they make these old MP3 look more “blockier” than before, more electronic: they sound worse than before.
As for the bass, you’d better have a system that could reproduce low-frequency,or it may saturate and sound totally boom-bom. I hate boom-boom, I like to ear an Organ in it’s full glory often with choir and solists, it’s an amazing and totally physical experience on a great high-end sound system, it’s organic!
If you have nicely encoded sound, such as 256Kb AAC, 320Kb MP3, or Apple Lossless (best choice!), you may ear a clear difference, you may like it or not, depending on your sound system. If it has a smooth detailed sound, it might be an enhancement, not if it’s naturally aggressive.
But if you have these old crappy low bitrate MP3, iTunes 11 may deceive you totally.
I think Apple should had given us the choice to have these “enhancements”, or not, and that except for the bass extension that seems natural and a correction of previous iTunes weakness, some people might be turned-off and would like to use another music player to ensure their digital library is played flat, as-is…
Audiophile just wants to ear the music flat, the way it has been played, recorded, mixed, the way the artist intended it to sound. Not the way Apple intend it to sound, because “enhancements” is not what they are looking for, they are begging for a “natural” reproduction of the music and voices, as close as possible from the original. iTunes 11 is clearly not for audiophiles.