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April 03, 2007

Comments

Jeff Miller

Not only is the music DRM free it is also available at double the bit rate of regular iTunes music (256 kbps) which alone makes a price increase worth it.

Though it still won't be highly portable. It will still be using AAC and the majority of MP3 players other than the iPod currently don't support AAC, though it would be easy to do an AAC conversion (outside of iTunes) to MP3 or another format (with the loss of some quality.)

Hopefully more music companies will follow EMI lead since DRM only hurts customers who buy and don't steal music. Even iTunes DRM can be unprotected via the "analog hole" of making a CD in iTunes and then reimporting it. There is of course translation quality issues, but people who steal music and then make it available don't care about perfect quality digital copies in the first place. Audiophiles will continue to buy CDs and rip them themselves at the highest quality bit rate or compression free.

BillyHW

Buy the CD. Rip it to any format you like, now and in the future.

SteveL

Does iTunes allow for WAV file download. I still think MP3 doesn't sound as good as WAV.

Chris-2-4

I-tunes will allow you to convert to MP3, but so far it would not convert "protected files". Presumably the DRM Free songs will be convertable.

My question is about the songs I've already purchased. Can we pay an extra 29 cents to get a DRM free version of them or would one have to purchase the entire song again?

Never mind... I know the answer to that...

Tim J.

But, BillyHW, let's say I don't WANT all of Slim Whitman's Greatest Hits - I only want "Una Paloma Blanca".

That's why I don't like CDs. I have only owned a very few that were good all the way through.

On the other hand...

Buying albums was like going to a concert. You paid your money and you took your chances. You gambled a bit, sometimes ending up delighted, sometimes disappointed or even disgusted. This did have the effect of supporting artists in their more experimental (or maybe self-indulgent) work. It encouraged a bit more risk-taking, for good and ill.

DJ

Audiophiles will continue to buy CDs and rip them themselves at the highest quality bit rate or compression free.

No, audiophiles will still be using records and playing on tube amplifiers. :)

And Steve, I'd bet not. Wav files are uncompressed, which equates to a 10-12x size increase. You'd get 1/10 the number of songs on your player of choice with wav.

Tim

I still buy CDs. Ripping to WAV didn't satisfy me, though. Huge files and no way to tag the files directly.

Now I rip my CDs to FLAC. It's free. It compresses (like mp3), it's taggable, and it's lossless (unlike MP3, which, by design, throws out some of the signal as part of the compression process).

Edward

What is FLAC?

Jason

Yah, I don't buy albums from iTunes. If I want a full album I buy copy. Not only do you have a physical version, but it comes with the artwork and everything else. iTunes is good for singles though.

DJ

Edward:

FLAC - Free-Lossless Audio Codec

The main technology behind FLAC is linear predictive compression. Basically, it creates a filter (I assume using a least squares fit) and filters the data stream. The resulting filter is stored along with the error stream from the filter. The error stream is able to be stored using less space.

To reconstitute the signal, the error stream is basically fed back through the filter using the reverse process. This method produces no loss to the signal, though one could potentially filter the signal with a low pass filter beforehand and get somewhat better compression with very small perceptible loss in quality.

FLAC see's roughly 30-50% compression with most audio, but it gets better compression with things like classical and voice since there are fewer higher frequency components in those forms of music (rock gets horrible compression.)

This is different from mp3, which I like to think of as the audio version of jpeg. I know that's somewhat inaccurate and ignoring the various levels of compression, but there isn't room for an all out discussion here. MP3 and the like take small blocks of sound, filter out higher frequency components and other things (depends on the encoder) and then compresses the remaining result using a form of encoding on the frequency spectrum (before someone critiques me, I'm aware that I'm playing loose and fast with words here..)

MP3 defines how the data is to be stored, leaving a range of options open for how someone may choose to compress the sound to that format.

Wav is just uncompressed PCM data (don't know much about compressed wav)

AAC is similar to mp3.

Ogg is somewhat like mp3, but that isn't worth going into.

DJ

You know, all of this discussion ignores one important fact. That in recent years (we're talking the past 5 years) producers have been compression the heck out of music as they master it for both radio and CD's. More sex in our advertising and louder sounding music to make us think its better.

Listen to an old audio CD from mid 90's or before and compare the same song re-mastered on a CD from after 2000. The more recent version, even though its of the same original recording, is slaughtered. The dynamic range is lost and its louder (translate: worse for the ears.)

The average RMS of what you find on a CD today is much higher than it was even a handful of years ago.

IA_

I'm a big fan of wav lossless (44.1 kHz.) Sure the file is big and you cant tag it, but on the decent speaker system I have it sounds so much better. (I just need a better sound card.) FLAC, despite how good it is, I have heard on very good authority that it is in fact lossy. I guess I'm just to young for record players but hearing all the dust and scratches annoys me. Oh yeah DJ, don't get me started on the way they mix new CDs. In summary it has something to do with the compression, the more they compress it the louder it is. The companies want their songs to play the loudest on the radio so they compress it to high heaven.

Brian

Chris,

You can upgrade for 30c per song.

DJ

Floating point error is the only place one could see loss given that FLAC doesn't appear to use any other compression than linear predictive coding.

From Wikipedia (which is usually right)
FLAC supports only fixed-point samples, not floating-point.

I recall backing up a CD once using FLAC, and decoding it to compare with the source Wav file. I'm pretty sure diff found no differences in the wav files. I'm testing that out right now.

DJ

Conclusion of test, files are same.

and IA_:

One of the dumbest things about that myth is that recording engineers at the radio stations do their own re-mastering anyways.

I remember hearing a local band once demo their CD and they were saying, "Well, we still have to get it made radio-ready", which translated to them being told that the radio stations wouldn't listen to their stuff unless it was compressed and loud. Radio stations destroy the music on their own without intervention on anybody else's part.

Ed Peters

Shouldn't it be, "sticks-in-the-mud"? instead of "stick-in-the-muds"? And don't pick on my Beatles, man. Especially since onyl half of them are around anymore.

mpa

IA_: Part of the FLAC test-suite compares an original to an uncompressed test file -- if even one byte is different, the test fails. FLAC is very definitely lossless. Check the source for more info: http://flac.sf.net/ (You might want to point your "very good authority" there too.)

R A Bautista

Simply being dead should never bring someone above criticism.

Karen

Now if only they'd make iTunes for Linux. :-(

Glenn

The reason that The Beatles were the last ones to get their music onto CD in the 1980s had nothing to do with being "sticks in the mud". There were two reasons.

The first was a longstanding battle with EMI over royalty discrepancies--payments for sales of their albums that were never reported and which the group never received. Once that was settled, things were clear for the group's catalogue to appear on CD in 1987.

The second reason was trying to guarantee that their albums would be released on CD worldwide in their original UK album formats rather than in the piecemeal format that albums in other countries like the U.S. generally had in the 60s. They blocked release of their albums until they had assured full control over the way that they would presented.

I for one am glad they did too. Although I grew up on the U.S. versions of their albums, the UK versions of the albums are the recordings as The Beatles conceived and created them in the 60s and their format is superior to the U.S. ones.

In 1989 the band reached an agreement with EMI/Capitol Records which guaranteed them full control over all future use of their recordings, which prevents any further shoddy packaging and ridiculous compilations (like the 1978 "Love Songs" double album in the U.S.)

So, in this spirit, The Beatles music is not being released YET through iTunes because all of their albums are currently being remastered and Neil Aspinall, the director of Apple Corps, Ltd (The Beatles' company, not Steve Jobs' empire) feels that it would be wrong to release the music for downloading until it has been properly re-mastered and the audio quality is on a par with other contemporary recordings. The re-mastering is taking time to do and being done very carefully to ensure that it's done properly. George Martin, who produced all of The Beatles' music is overseeing the project. This will guarantee that their music will be properly handled and thus preserved for future generations. When the re-mastering process has been completed, all of The Beatles albums will be released for digital downloads.

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