Earlier today, Apple released iTunes 7.2, with a new “iTunes Plus” feature. iTunes Plus is the marketing name for newly-available 256 kbps (read “higher quality”) and DRM-free AAC files. As discussed in April, these files are standard AAC files, playable with any software and hardware that supports the AAC audio format.
AAC isn’t as ubiquitous as MP3 (yet, anyhow), but all iPods support it, as do Zunes and many other players. Unless other stores quickly adopt DRM-free audio1, AAC is likely to gain more ground in the near future, as consumers clamor for other players to support these iTunes files. If AAC takes off, users of our lossless audio editor Fission will be in luck. Because, you see, Fission loves iTunes Plus.
A bit of background/self-promotion: When using any other editor to edit AAC, your file must be converted out of AAC (to AIFF/WAV) for editing. When done, it’s then re-encoded back to AAC, causing undesirable quality loss. Fission avoids that by editing the AAC file directly, causing no loss in quality. Fission is the only lossless AAC editor in the world.
Before today, all music purchased from iTunes came as “protected AAC” files, a proprietary AAC format that Fission couldn’t access. With iTunes Plus tracks, Fission can access the audio just fine. You can use this audio however you like – create sound bytes, mash it up with other audio, or use it for a ringtone. Fission will open iTunes Plus files and provide full access to the audio, just as with audio from any other standard file.
Above is a screenshot of Fission editing the first song I purchased this morning (Clint Eastwood by The Gorillaz). I’ve cut it down to just the opening seconds of the beat, for use as a looped ring tone on a Sony Ericsson k790 (which supports AAC ringtones). Neat!
Once you’ve grabbed iTunes 7.2 and had a look at iTunes Plus, download Fission and use it for editing all your iTunes Plus audio.
1. Amazon previously announced that they’ll have EMI’s tracks for sale as MP3s without DRM “later this year”. That’s not very specific, but it’s something. For now, however, iTunes is the biggest (partially) DRM-free online music store. ↩