Apple and other digital music retailers are in discussions with record labels to improve the quality of the song files they sell, reports “CNN” (, quoting “executives involved in the talks.” This means that online music stores could offer songs that sound truer to their original recordings, though perhaps at a premium price.

Professional music producers generally capture studio recordings in a 24-bit, high-fidelity audio format. Before the originals, or “masters,” are pressed onto CDs or distributed to digital sellers like iTunes, they’re downgraded to 16-bit files. From there, the audio can be compressed further in order to minimize the time the music will take to download or to allow it to be streamed on-the-fly over the Internet.

Most Macs can play 24-bit sound, and the iTunes program is capable of handling such files. But most portable electronics, and many computers, don’t support 24-bit audio. “CNN” notes that Apple would have to revamp future versions of iPods and iPhones so they can play higher-quality files.

Apple has upgraded the quality of its music catalog once before; in January 2009, the iTunes Store began offering most tracks in a bit-rate twice as high as its previous standard and free of copy-protection. Apple had piloted the program two years prior with music giant EMI, says “CNN.”