Apple has made it official with the launch of higher quality (and cost) but DRM-free content, under the name iTunes Plus.
The DRM-free service is worldwide and retails for 99p in the UK, which gets you 256 kbps AAC encoding - which makes it virtually indistinguishable from the original recordings according to Apple. EMI's recent deal means that the first batch of available tunes hails from their back catalogue, including singles and albums from Coldplay, The Rolling Stones, Norah Jones, Frank Sinatra, Joss Stone, Pink Floyd, John Coltrane and more than a dozen of Paul McCartney’s albums.
There is still a cheaper, 79p DRM option available (with 128kbps encoding). When you try to buy a track, you're given an option to buy - there's no hard sell. If you already own the EMI tunes, you can upgrade for 20p per track or £2 per album.
“Our customers are very excited about the freedom and amazing sound quality of iTunes Plus,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “We expect more than half of the songs on iTunes will be offered in iTunes Plus versions by the end of this year."
About time too, from the man who said this about DRM.