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MacBytes
Jun 1, 2007, 12:50 PM
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Category: Apple Services
Link: DRM Wars: iTunes Plus vs. eMusic (http://www.macbytes.com/link.php?sid=20070601135055)
Description:: Apple's iTunes 7.2 is here, and with it, the DRM-free tracks from EMI that Steve Jobs told us to expect sometime in May. Will most people hear the difference in iTunes Plus? To really put it to the test, <i>PC Mag</i> analysts pitted iTunes DRM-free music with eMusic sans-DRM tracks. See what happens when these two giants go head to head.

Posted on MacBytes.com (http://www.macbytes.com)
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Silencio
Jun 1, 2007, 01:20 PM
eMusic is probably the second best online music store after iTunes, but too many comparisons and points made in this article are completely specious. Much of their music libraries don't overlap: eMusic is mostly independents and very little major label presence. (Not that I'm interested in much major label music these days.) iTunes has a pretty large indie label presence itself, and I'd love to see them move over to iTunes Plus ASAP.

I see the music world slowly but surely moving over to AAC for several reasons: higher quality, smaller file sizes, fewer legal/ownership issues, cheaper to license than MP3. I see more and more current portable music players on the market supporting AAC: heck, even the lowly Zune will play them. Apple needs to spend more time selling the world on AAC -- I see way too many opinion columnists calling MP3 "superior" for whatever reason.

And yeah, it figures that WMP11 won't play AAC. I would assume the Zune Player program does if the Zune will, FWLIW.

I have hardly bought any iTunes tracks due to the comparatively low quality. 256Kbps AAC files are definitely good enough for my needs, so I see myself buying more stuff from them in the future as the selection of iTunes Plus tracks builds up. I wouldn't pay a thin time for average 192Kbps MP3s.

bmb012
Jun 1, 2007, 02:38 PM
Can't you export those the DRM-free files to mp3 with iTunes? If you can, why is he complaining about compatibility problems?

shamino
Jun 1, 2007, 03:52 PM
Can't you export those the DRM-free files to mp3 with iTunes? If you can, why is he complaining about compatibility problems?
Any time you re-compress content, you lose quality. Depending on the song, where you plan on playing it, and your personal tolerances, the result may or may not be acceptable.

shamino
Jun 1, 2007, 04:06 PM
The article really doesn't compare all that much. I could've written that article without ever using either service. We all know that MP3 is more universal and that eMusic costs less, if you intend on buying a lot of songs every month.

Points that were not mentioned:

Which sounds better? 256K AAC is almost certainly going to match or beat the sound quality of any MP3-based download. According to eMusic's FAQ (http://www.emusic.com/help/technical.html#q10), they are 192K VBR. This will probably sound the same to most people, but some will notice inferior quality, especially when played on good equipment in a quiet room. I'd be interested to see some tests using different listeners (lab equipment, golden ears, normal people) in different locations (studio, living room, outdoors, car.)
How about using players other than Windows Media Player? WinAmp, for instance, also plays AAC files. Many car stereos now support AAC as well (on CD and on memory cards.) I'd like to see the iTunes Plus tracks tested on some of these devices in order to make sure that the files really will play universally.

hulugu
Jun 2, 2007, 03:39 AM
The article really doesn't compare all that much. I could've written that article without ever using either service. We all know that MP3 is more universal and that eMusic costs less, if you intend on buying a lot of songs every month.

How about using players other than Windows Media Player? WinAmp, for instance, also plays AAC files. Many car stereos now support AAC as well (on CD and on memory cards.) I'd like to see the iTunes Plus tracks tested on some of these devices in order to make sure that the files really will play universally.

eMusic and iTunes are actually rather complimentary, I've been using both for years now. iTunes is easier to sample music, eMusic allows more downloads for my dime, and both carry slightly different catalogues with some overlap. Up until iTunes Plus I tried to buy from eMusic when a song was available over iTunes because of the lack of DRM, which is always advantageous.

I don't see there would be any problem with iTunes Plus files, they are AAC files, but possibly have some steganographic (http://www.macrumors.com/2007/06/01/apple-using-steganography-in-itunes-plus-songs/) data added. This data should be ignored by the device.
Mp3 was a good codec for its day, but AAC (Mpeg-4) should be its successor.

shamino
Jun 3, 2007, 12:04 PM
I don't see there would be any problem with iTunes Plus files, they are AAC files, but possibly have some steganographic (http://www.macrumors.com/2007/06/01/apple-using-steganography-in-itunes-plus-songs/) data added. This data should be ignored by the device.
Mp3 was a good codec for its day, but AAC (Mpeg-4) should be its successor.
Steganography, but its nature, won't create compatibility problems. If it does, then it's a completely brain-dead implementation.

Steganography affects the content (hopefully in ways that are invisible/inaudible). If it breaks a player, then the player is broken, because other (non-seganographic) audio data will also break that player.

hulugu
Jun 3, 2007, 09:52 PM
Steganography, but its nature, won't create compatibility problems. If it does, then it's a completely brain-dead implementation.

Steganography affects the content (hopefully in ways that are invisible/inaudible). If it breaks a player, then the player is broken, because other (non-seganographic) audio data will also break that player.

That was just my point. It shouldn't and I can't think of any way it would, but I accept there may some a possibility, however remote.