Initial Impressions of "Apple Music"

Discussion in 'General Mac Discussion' started by Playfrsbee, Apr 28, 2003.

  1. Playfrsbee macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2002
    #1
    I've conducted my first "tests" of the new service, and I'm full of mixed feelings.

    First, on the INTERFACE: Like all Apple products, the music store interface in iTunes is elegant and east to use. I really liked how quickly the "sample" clips played, and the downloading process of my "purchased" clips was quick and painless. Typical Apple: A+

    AAC FILE QUALITY: I downloaded 2 songs from an album that I already owned on CD, and then ripped those same songs to uncompressed .AIFF. Then I burned the tracks onto a cd and compared them on my studio monitors (Mackie HR824's--these have excellent definition and "transparency", good for such a side by side comparison).

    While the difference between the AAC and AIFF files was subtle, it was easy to tell the difference between the compressed and uncompressed files. The AACs lacked the dynamic range of the AIFFs, and the high end was noticably more brittle in the AAC files. I will say that the AAC was noticably better then most MP3 files I have heart, in terms of dynamic range and treble raspiness). While I doubt that the stereos most people listen to music on are as hi-def for my quasi-audiophile ears, the quality was substandard. C+/B-

    OVERALL While I am thoroughly impressed with how flawlessly the roll-out went, this is far from the end-all of digital music downloading. The $.99/song price tag is simply too expensive to replace cd's--which is what this is expected to do. I understand that the record labels and musicians need to make money, but in my opinion, they would be better off charging somewhere between $.25 and $.50 per song: that way, consumers would be more likely to purchase a larger quantity and wider variety of music [but the spread of a variety of music isn't what record companies are in this for, are they?] Once the selection is increased and the price is dropped, I could see this service making a serious impact in how music is bought and sold. Until the consumers are given more value, I can't see Apple Music becoming the entity Steve Jobs envisions. C

    Post your thoughts, I'm curious what others think.

    Ethan
     
  2. robbieduncan Moderator emeritus

    robbieduncan

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  3. jaguarx macrumors regular

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    #3
    I hear you robbieduncan. The fact they won't even say IF it'll become international yet alone when is really ****ting me. Back to P2P for me.
     
  4. Bear macrumors G3

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    #4
    Plyfrsbee: With your calibrated ears, could you figure out what settings on AAC compression are needed to aproximate the AIFF files? Also what settings on MP3s do you think are needed for true near CD quality?
     
  5. bertagert macrumors 6502

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    #5
    Playfrsbee,

    I think you may be correct on the quality but think of it this way:

    The songs/albums are for the majority and the majority of poeple don't have the ears or don't care as much as you do. People like yourself will always buy the CD unless you want to download huge files which really isn't practical. Basically, people like yourself might not be the ones that use this service.

    2nd: As for the expense, its actually much, much cheaper than buying an album. If you buy a few songs off the album instead of the whole thing, you save $$, or you buy the whole thing for $10 from Apple, its a whole bunch cheaper than the store at $12 - $17.

    I'll give you a example of what I do.

    Download and throw into iPod. Along with my newly order iTrip FM transmitter, I take the iPod to the car and listen as I go to work or on a trip or where ever. I've got a half-way decent car stereo so things will sound pretty good. When I get to work I do the same on the office stereo or just plug iPod into little speakers on my desk where I can't blast the volume anyway, go home in the car the same way, get home and fm transmit into my home stereo or I might get the extra base station and plug in that way.

    I'm your typical Joe when it comes to music and these MP3's do a fine job for listening. Since myself and others are in this majority, Apple will do just fine in the music biz cuz this is the market they're after.

    My suggestion to you is to lose some of your hearing so these new AAC files sound better.:)
     
  6. 748s macrumors 6502a

    748s

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    #6
    apple au. can't be bothered to get the sherlock stuff happening. i can't see them trying to do anything with this one either.
     
  7. Playfrsbee thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #7
    bertagert:

    I hear you concerning the value of buying only 1 song as opposed to being "forced" into a whole album. However, my feeling about the recording industry is that there is way too much emphasis on "singles". The record companies put all their weight behind the few "artists" whose singles can be forced onto MTV, rather then giving their customers a variety/choice of what to listen to. Call me old-fashioned, but I still think of music as an artform, and I'd be sad to see the "album" lose its clout. I guess I don't think of buying a whole album as being a chore, as apparently many do--I think of it as an exciting opportunity to hear more of an artists' repertoire.

    Sooo....even though "albums" of AAC files are available for $10, I will still favor a tangible record/cd that can be treasured as a "work of art", and for only a few dollars more.

    Just my opinion.

    Ethan


    P.S.: Bear, I'll get to doing an AAC bitrate test later tonite and post it. I'm actually quite curious myself--thanks for the inspiration.
     
  8. Beej macrumors 68020

    Beej

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    #8
    Yep I'm going to have to go with a low Z-. Looks good but I'm not from the US. I am very very p***** off.
     
  9. Mr. MacPhisto macrumors 6502

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    Jan 16, 2003
    #9
    I agree with you on this. I've been afraid that the album as art will be killed, but I also find that few artists treat albums as a complete work. I like that I can buy individual tracks from artists who don't make good albums. I will continue to buy CDs for complete albums that I really want and that are actually albums and not just collections of songs.
     
  10. Steradian macrumors 6502

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    #10
    Hey as soon as they add a few thousand more tracks I will jump on board. As of right now they don't have any led Zep, I mean WTF??? N E ways...I like this new service and will give it a try tonight... :D Sorry it doesn't work in other countries...it's hard to provide a service internationally when there are so many different types of currency...I dunno maybe they will get on the ball this year...later this year...
     
  11. mymemory macrumors 68020

    mymemory

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    Miami
    #11
    I think the system is way too good, it it such big jump and it works just fine.

    The system has limitations:

    1. I can not buy songs because I'm outside the US.
    2. They do not have most of the music I'm looking for.
    3. There are not remixes or other single versions of the same song.
    4. The price may be a bit higer but it may come down later on.

    Pros:

    1. The sample is very fast, I do not have to wait a minute to listen to a song.
    2. It has most of the music out there.
    3. It couln't be more intuitive.
    4. the interface is nice and easy.
    5. The sound quality for the sample is clean, more than I expected.

    So, we have to remember this is version 1 of the system and there are a variety of music to choose from, not only Cristina Aguiolera and Eminem as I was expecting.

    I rather pay 41 to gte a song that I like rather than look for it in the internet and spend hours and waiting time in other software.

    The reason of the iTunes 4 is to get closer to the user, if you want to buy something here it is.

    the good thing about this is that may be CDs may be cheaper some day because 99% of the people are going to download the song that they like and not the rest of the crap that we get some times. "One song sell one CD" every body know that in the music industry.

    I'm happy with the iTunes stuff, I hope they expand their library much more in the near future and not only the to 40 crap that the air heads use to get, there are real musicians and fans around that would like to get particular things.
     
  12. evoluzione macrumors 68020

    evoluzione

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    #12
    well, so far i've downloaded two songs that i've been after for ages, and haven't been able to get any other way. if there's a song i want and it's available on this new itunes service, i'm getting it that way, i'd much rather that than fart around with limewire (which in my opinion is a crock of sh*te), and it's a heck of a lot quicker too! a buck for a tune, that's awesome, i refuse to pay 5 bucks for a cd single, extortion or what. and cd albums, likewise. i always like to buy an album as opposed to downloading it, but they're too damn expensive, this gives me back the impulse buy that i miss. virgin megastore is great but at 18 bucks a cd, they can keep 'em.

    i'm glad vinyl is coming back, i'd rather buy that than a cd, and buy from apple rather than cd too, after all, as soon as i buy a cd, i rip it, and make a mix cd without the crappier songs...

    i love it. i'm gonna spend a lot of money when the selection gets better. good enough to start, but they need a couple of million more tunes yet......
     
  13. evoluzione macrumors 68020

    evoluzione

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    #13
    oh, and it will be available internationally i'm sure. it said on the broadcast something along the lines of "only available in the states, for now". didn't it?
     
  14. vniow macrumors G4

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    #14
    I think its an excellent start, its easy to use and the songs are of pretty good quality, the preview feature is excellent and everything's integrated.

    I don't like the fact that its US only and the selection is rather limited, but its only been out for a few hours, its too early to judge on some of these things, it will take some time (and ca$h) to make me want to use this a lot.

    Edit: I'm not too worried about the 128kbs limit myself, I don't have great ears, but they're pretty decent and I previewed some of the tracks of which I had already ripped (320kbs MP3 in this case) and I couldn't tell the difference at all, I was impressed.
    I usually can't tell the difference between a 192kbs MP3 and a CD so the low bitrate of the songs in the service isn't that big of a deal to me, expecially since all my music is currently in compressed format on my iBook.
     
  15. technocoy macrumors 6502a

    technocoy

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    Raleigh, NC
    #15
    this stuff rocks ass!!!

    hey for you guys who got cut off in the middle of a download... just go under advanced and then check for purchased music.... that rocks ass too!!!
     
  16. evoluzione macrumors 68020

    evoluzione

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    #16

    but isn't the 128kbps aac that the service uses equivalent to 192kbps mp3??? that's the impression i've had anyways, aac provides better quality at lower bit rates, equally smaller file sizes. i dunno, maybe i got it all confused...
     
  17. vniow macrumors G4

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    #17
    It seems so, the previews are of excellent quality, better than some of my own 192kbs MP3s, I'm currently re-ripping all of my CDs into 160kbs AACs (I don't have all too many) so I'll have higher quality songs with less space used..yum.
     
  18. iJon macrumors 604

    iJon

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    #18
    i think it is great. 1 dollar for a song is too much for me, but 10 bucks for a cd is a steal. i will be using this a lot for albums. they just need some more music and they will be set. they had my man 50 on there but no linkin park. its a good start though and its not apples fault the music isnt there.

    iJon
     
  19. Phazer80s macrumors regular

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    #19
    Re: Initial Impressions of "Apple Music"

    Here here. Well put, and very thorough. Now I won't have to type so much.

    Like many others posting here so far, I'm very disappointed the downloading service doesn't work outside the US. Apple really dropped the ball re. Sherlock 3, another US-centric app it touted as a significant feature in Jaguar. They can't let this slip, too. I would think an international version(s) of the service will be ready by Panther. But the wait sure dissipates the excitement for all of us who live in the rest of the world. Boo.

    And 99¢ US per song is a bit much. The number sure rolls off the toungue nicely, but considering you get a file that's sonically inferior (yeah, yeah, but no matter how little) to a CD, and no physical backup and no CD insert (images, lyrics et al.) the value isn't as tempting as it could be. How about "a cut for 3 quarters?" Now that's tidy, Apple. ;)
     
  20. GeeYouEye macrumors 68000

    GeeYouEye

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    #20
    I've found the selection somewhat lacking, but I've used the request feature each time, so hopefully, Apple will get the rest of the music world on board.

    As for the price, the albums are a steal at only $9.99 + tax, and 99¢ is pretty good, given that several albums are sold by 1 song.

    And the downloads really are quite fast, even if the status bar at the bottom (the gray one, with # songs, time, and MB) seems to change as I download a single album... and not constantly either... it keeps switching between 19 and 20 songs (on a 19 song album), and the MB keeps keeps going up. Oh well. Ordering, confirming, and downloading are really easy, and actually work as advertised - it's FAST.

    My one real nitpick is that the music store's interface doesn't scale, so I have to keep my iTunes window open much larger than I'd like. Oh well. I guess they made up for it with the icon color (I love green).
     
  21. evoluzione macrumors 68020

    evoluzione

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    #21
    yeah but when you look at cd singles... 5 bucks for a cd single with 3 tracks on it, and most of the time only one you want, why not pay a buck for it, instead of 5, that's the way i look at it :)
     
  22. Phazer80s macrumors regular

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    #22
    Just to clarify...

    Just to clarify my earlier post, an album for $9.99 is decent in the US, but no so much of a value here in Canada.

    For some strange reason, a CD in Canada often has a similar numeric price as it's price in the US. Considering the relative value of the Canadian dollar, a $9.99 US download is about $14.99 in Canada, the price of many albums, especially new releases. The Apple pricing makes more sense for imports, obscure albums, and those CDs that just collect dust on your music shop's shelves, but are never on sale.

    The service undoubtedly makes a great alternative to the CD single market, though! That is, unless you really really need the 'Shep Pettibone EuroTrance'94 Ibiza' mix of a song...
     
  23. Stelliform macrumors 68000

    Stelliform

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    #23
    I stoped buying albums when the RIAA got napster shut down. I recognized them for the massive rip off that they are. I have already bought 4 songs on iTunes and I have requested 2 more. I am willing to shell out a buck for a song, just not 20 for a CD with 2 good songs on it......

    Just my 2 cents...

    (And I really don't care about the coverart for the CD. I think that it is cool that they make an effort and include it, but really the CD goes in my CD changer in my Car and usually I lose the original case.....)

    I know.... I am just a music consumer... not a connoisseur. ;)
     
  24. Playfrsbee thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Oct 20, 2002
    #24
    2nd Round of Listening Tests

    Bear:

    I finally got around to doing some more listening tests, and I was actually pretty impressed with the AAC compression scheme.

    For the test, I used a current favorite cd of mine, "Supergrass: In it for the Money", which I think sonically is an excellent rock and roll cd recording.

    This time, I switched to a pair of full-range Sony headphones (MDR-7506's). Its too late to use my monitors, don't want to wake the neighbors--however, the 'phones are better for judging treble, which is where audio compression really tends to show.

    In iTunes 4, I ripped 2 different tracks ("Late in the Day" and "Sun Hits the Sky" for anyone that might care), first in uncompressed AIFF, and then at 4 different AAC bitrates. I've listed below my comparisons between these AAC bitrates and the "1411 kbps" AIFFs. Remember, this is just my opinion, I'd love to hear someone else's test results.


    128 kbps AAC vs. AIFF
    In this bitrate (the "apple music" standard) you can clearly hear the compression. As I said in an earlier post, my first impressions of the AAC format were that the codec was way better then MP3, but side by side with the uncompressed files, 128kbps AACs didn't stack up too well. Treble (especially cymbals and distorted guitar) was noticably brittle. More disturbing to my ears, though, was an overall dynamic compression (the difference in "volume" between the loudest parts and the quieter ones were much less in the AAC). Still, pretty fair quality if you were listening on a "boom box".

    160 kbps AAC vs AIFF
    Now we're starting to get close. AIFF still won on both tracks, but it took SEVERAL listens before i could "declare a winner". Dynamic range was still the proble for me, though it was a bit better. Cymbals still "sparkled" on the AIFFs, where on the 160 kbps AACs, there was still a bit of shrillness--but barely noticable. If disk space is a consideration, 160k AAC files seem like a fair compression compromise (only about 20% bigger files than 128k AAC or MP3)

    224 kbps AAC vs. AIFF
    At this point, my concert-damaged ears can detect no additional harshness in the high end, and the files sound pretty darn good and punchy. The dynamics on one track (Late in The Day) might (and I stress MIGHT) be a little squished, but you'd have to be a genuine audio-jerk to really be bugged by it....(Just kidding, audio-jerks)

    320 kpbs AAC vs. AIFF
    If there's a difference between these two files, I would never be able to here it. It's about as perfect as I could imagine a compressed 16-bit file being. Now if we could start making 24-bit SACD or DVD-A a standard, we'd really be in business. Until then, I'll take this 5:1 compression scheme ANYDAY.

    So that's it...thanks for the inspiration, bear, it was a lot of fun, and quite a challenge for my ears (i really need to start wearing my earplugs more!). Again, just my first impressions, I'd love to hear some other comments.

    Ethan
     
  25. Lz0 macrumors regular

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    Melbourne
    #25
    Ditto that.

    Soon we hope.
     

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