Thoughts on iTMS Download Quality / Bitrates

Discussion in 'iPod' started by alywa, Feb 9, 2006.

  1. alywa macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    May 6, 2004
    #1
    This topic has been discussed a lot, but I thought some historical perspective may be intersting.

    From the early days of recorded media, quality has always been an issue. As electronics and production techniques improved, so did audio / video quality available to the consumer.

    By the 1960's recording techonology had improved to a point where HiFi vinyl albums could sound very good. Home stereos, while in their infancy, were also improving. By the 1970's high quality hifi was available to the masses, and while relatively expensive, was enjoyed by many people.

    A funny thing happened, however. Cassette tapes, and to a lesser extent 8-tracks, began to supplant the vinyl album. Though sound quality was less than that of the LP, cassettes made up for it in terms of portability, durability and the fact that the home user could record onto them. In 1979, Sony introduced the Walkman, forever (at least for the next 15 years) sealing the cassette's place as the medium of choice for portability (cars, boomboxes, personal players).

    In 1982 the CD was introduced. Hard to believe it has been 24 years, but there it is. Sound quality was excellent. CDs initially were more expensive than tapes and vinyl (largely due to price fixing by the major labels), and players were very expensive for the average consumer. Audiophiles complained that the digital playback was inferior to vinyl in many situations, but by and large the CD became THE format of high quality audio recordings. Prices plummetted for players, portables were introduced, and car CD players became commonplace then standard.

    Recordable CD was introduced in the early 1990's, but was actively blocked by the major lables, as was consumer DAT and DCC. Digital recording for home remained elusive for most.

    A funny thing happeded around 1997. CD burners became available on most computers. Suddenly, the copying and burning of CDs, custom mixes, etc became available for the masses. This effectively killed off the cassette tape, as well as any hope for DAT, DCC, and MD.

    Not too long later, the concept of "lossy" music, ie MP3 came into being. At first this wasn't too useful... who really listened to music on their computer? MP3 CD players existed, but were pretty rare. As memory costs decreased, the first flash and HD players were introduced, but mostly only the college / geek / bleeding edge sections noticed.

    Late 2001 saw the introduction of the 1st Gen iPod. We all know the history from there. Suddenly everyone knew the concept of ripping and compressing music. People of all ages suddenly began converting their vast collections onto their computers and then onto their iPods / other MP3 players.

    So, for audio we have LP - Cassette - CD - MP3

    The MP3 hasn't and won't replace the CD as the high quality format, but its convenience, portability and durability have made it king for many, and that number is growing daily.

    OK, now what about video? Roughly 1978 saw the release of early laser disc players. They were excellent. High quality motion images were finally available to the masses. Expensive, no recording capability, and hard to find. These were the drawbacks. It never really caught on. Among videophiles, there were definately fans, but as far as real mainstream masses, it just wasn't there

    VHS / Beta were released in the mid-late 1970's also, but didn't really catch on en masse until 1982ish. The ensuing format war eventually saw VHS win, despite the fact that it was the inferior quality product. It was cheap, readily available, and had the support of the majority of the electronics firms and movie distributors. VHS was king until the late 1990's.

    1997 saw the introduction of the DVD in North America. Vastly superior to VHS, slightly better than the original laser disc, the DVD offered great quality in a durable, compact format. While uptake was a bit slow, by 2000 the DVD had come close to replacing the VHS tape... by 2003 the transformation was nearly complete. DVD burners are now readily available, and getting cheaper daily.

    October 2005 saw the introduction of the first large-scale legal video downloading service, iTMS. Uptake has been gradual.

    Ripped DVD / Video files aren't filling up the average computer yet (for technical and legal reasons). Geeks are up to date on portable video players, lossy video codecs, bitrates, etc. It hasn't come to the masses yet.

    This year we will see HDDVD and BluRay introduced. HD pre-recorded movies and content for the masses! Will it fly? Will people replace their DVDs? I don't know... time will tell.

    So, are we seeing a continuation of the trend set by music in the area of video? I think we are. Just as CD (superior quality) is currently coexisting with MP3 (lower quality), I think we will see success of DVD (high quality) coexisting with mpeg4 (lower / VHS quality). I predict in the coming 2 years, the HDDVD or BluRay will replace the DVD as the high quality format, and the download / ripped mpeg4 (DVD quality) will basically become the norm for portability / mass storage just how the MP3 has replaced the CD in those areas.

    Whew... that was long. Anyone care to comment?
     
  2. 2nyRiggz macrumors 603

    2nyRiggz

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2005
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    Thank you Jah...I'm so Blessed

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