New iPod, iTunes, Music Service

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Joshua
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New iPod, iTunes, Music Service

Post by Joshua » Mon Apr 28, 2003 2:30 pm

Apple's Store is back online after being down during Steve's announcement... The new iPod is neat, although I don't think the addition of a dock is necessarily an improvement... Probably just a way of shaving a couple ounces off the weight.

The new music store is the major new thing, obviously - with 99 cent downloads and exclusive music from artists like U2, The Flaming Lips and Bob Dylan. The 'Music Store' function in iTunes 4 is a little sketchy right now - I think they're getting hit hard.

I had discounted the idea of getting an iPod recently, largely because I didn't think 10GB would be enough space, but the 20GB model was too expensive. That 15-gigger was obvioulsy built just for me.

So... whaddaya think?

thousandfold
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Post by thousandfold » Mon Apr 28, 2003 4:04 pm

Oh, if only I had broadband... I think the new music store is awesome. Just a great idea.

And I haven't even filled my 10 gig iPod up yet, but that's mostly because I'm lazy.

Jake
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Post by Jake » Mon Apr 28, 2003 4:23 pm

Anybody got any info on "the new AAC format," which is what these files are encoded in. I can't image 128 kbps sounding good enough to pay for. Any links to audiophile evaluations would be appreciated. This is Mac/iTunes only so far, but it probably won't be for long...

Joshua
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Post by Joshua » Mon Apr 28, 2003 6:08 pm

Jake wrote:Anybody got any info on "the new AAC format," which is what these files are encoded in. I can't image 128 kbps sounding good enough to pay for. Any links to audiophile evaluations would be appreciated. This is Mac/iTunes only so far, but it probably won't be for long...
It's actually not Mac-specific, it's just MPEG-4 compression. I Googled it and found this. That's more of a technical description than an audiophile evaluation, though. There's plenty out there, since it is just an MPEG thing.
AAC is the newest audio coding method selected by MPEG and became an international standard in April 1997. It is a fully state-of-the-art audio compression tool kit that provides performance superior to any known approach at bit rates greater than 64 kbps and excellent performance relative to the alternatives at bit rates reaching as low as 16 kbps.
Based on what I've heard of the 30-second samples from many, many tracks, it blows MP3 away easily - easily. I haven't decided if I can tell any difference yet between these and CDs.

[EDIT: On further review, it makes sense that this should be highly variable depending on the source audio - the sound quality is noticeably compressed on things like spoken word albums and stand-up comedy. Still, for all fully tracked music I've heard, there's hardly any compression noise at all.]

Browsing the music catalog in iTunes as though it were my music library list is pretty cool. There are obviously many large gaps int the catalogue, but that will just require time, I think.
Last edited by Joshua on Mon Apr 28, 2003 7:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Joshua
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Post by Joshua » Mon Apr 28, 2003 6:37 pm

Another update: I've purchased my first track: "I'm Always In Love" from "Summerteeth".

Already being a .Mac member, registration was simple - I just needed to confirm the info they use to bill me for use with iTunes' Music Service. I found the track I wanted, clicked 'Buy Song' and after another click to confirm, it was very quickly dumped onto my Mac (<30 seconds) and into my iTunes library.

The track is 3:42 and takes up 3.4MB of disk space (with a .m4p extension, btw) - compare that to "War on War" which I ripped at 160Kbps and takes up 4.3 MB for 3:50. It sounds better, too.

Edit: I just noticed that the track included the cover art for the disc - a low-res image that's presumably embedd in iTunes' Library data or something - I can't find a source file for it.

Mixmaster Shecky
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Post by Mixmaster Shecky » Mon Apr 28, 2003 9:02 pm

I just picked up "Infected" by The The and "Let's Go Thundering" off of Robyn Hitchcock's Storefront soundtrack from the iTunes music store. Both sound great, especially "Infected". Maybe they ripped it from the masters, as I think Steve Jobs mentioned they would do if they had access to them. Good policy if it's true.

Also, iTunes will let you rip in the AAC format. I just did a head to head test of a track I had previously ripped at 192 kbps in MP3 format with a 128 kbps AAC, and they sound about the same. Seriously, I can't tell much of a difference. Only problem is I can't load it onto my Rio Riot in that format. Hope there's a firmware update for that (but I doubt it).

The music store setup is pretty cool-pretty easy to find stuff, and all the tracks have a 30 second preview. The selection isn't real deep. But like Josh said, that should change, especially if this whole thing flies. What's evil and scary is the 'One-Click' buying option: you start browsing and soon you've got $30 on your credit card!

Still and all, I've got to give it a tentative thumbs up. If Apple can just deepen and widen the selection, this could really be a killer.

Jake
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Post by Jake » Mon Apr 28, 2003 10:30 pm

Joshua wrote:It's actually not Mac-specific, it's just MPEG-4 compression. I Googled it and found this. That's more of a technical description than an audiophile evaluation, though. There's plenty out there, since it is just an MPEG thing.
I was saying that iTunes is Mac-specific and this whole service requires iTunes, right? I'm not talking about AAC being Mac-only...

And I found a forum for AAC discussion: http://www.hydrogenaudio.org/index.php?act=SC&c=8 from the always helpful Hydrogen Audio. Still looking for audiophile listening comparisons... And I wish Apple would have gone with an open source encoding format such as Ogg Vorbis rather than the proprietary MPEG format which charges hefty licenses for its encoders and decoders (even if consumers rarely see the cost)...

clem

Post by clem » Tue Apr 29, 2003 3:53 am

Jake wrote:Still looking for audiophile listening comparisons... And I wish Apple would have gone with an open source encoding format such as Ogg Vorbis rather than the proprietary MPEG format which charges hefty licenses for its encoders and decoders (even if consumers rarely see the cost)...
It all depends on the encoder. When mp3 first came out it was nowhere near the quality of what you can get now, that took time and lots of work. The encoder Apple is using for the store might be a better quality version than they license for use with iTunes. I haven't tried the new version they included with QT 6.2 (I was actually hoping it'd be AAC+ which adds support for better quality at low kbps like mp3pro, who knows, maybe it does and they just haven't exposed it yet).

There have been a few tests done comparing the various formats, you might want to do a search at Hydrogen Audio because I know the users there have done more than a few.

sab
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Post by sab » Tue Apr 29, 2003 7:01 am

What no one has mentioned is that Apple has a copy protection scheme for the stuff you download. The AAC tracks from the store can only be copied to 3 other computers, all of which must be "authorized" by your Apple ID and password. And you can only burn the song onto a CD 10 times if its in the same playlist.

My gut reaction is to be pissed that I pay CD prices for a song and then don't actually own it. (I still think $0.50 per song is a more reasonable numbers.) But then again, as I start to use the service, perhaps my fears are unjustified. Sharing with 3 other computers and 10 burns may be enough that I never bump into the limits. But then again, again, why have them in the first place, if they aren't going to be restrictive in actual use?

If nothing else, perhaps this service will reinvent the "single," a nearly dead concept these days.

I have yet to install iTunes 4. I am wary: Has Apple removed any of the functionality of 3?

Mixmaster Shecky
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Post by Mixmaster Shecky » Tue Apr 29, 2003 8:16 am

sab wrote:What no one has mentioned is that Apple has a copy protection scheme for the stuff you download. The AAC tracks from the store can only be copied to 3 other computers, all of which must be "authorized" by your Apple ID and password. And you can only burn the song onto a CD 10 times if its in the same playlist.
I think that copy protection jazz was the reason Apple got so many music labels to authorize their songs. Let's face it, recording industry types aren't going to give us (or Apple) the right to unlimited usage, no matter how unfair it is. That being said, I think Apple's restrictions aren't too bad-you do get unlimited iPod copies, too.

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