iTunes Bad, WMA Good | iLounge News

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iTunes Bad, WMA Good

Author's pic

By Dennis Lloyd

Publisher, iLounge
Published: Friday, February 13, 2004
News Categories: Digital Media

“After immersing myself in audio codecs (as research for a future article) and re-ripping most of my own collection, I’ve come to the conclusion that I really like WMA—and I really don’t like the whole iTunes/iPod thing.

AAC is a perfectly fine audio format. It sounds good. I don’t really want the music I pay money for to be encoded at 128k, but none of iTunes’ competitors are offering a higher bitrate, so I don’t have much choice there. The problem with AAC is that it doesn’t really have digital rights management, so songs you buy through the iTunes Music Store have an Apple-specific proprietary digital rights management scheme called FairPlay attached to them. AAC may be a format that many desktop applications (like Winamp) can understand, and it’s certainly possible for non-iPod portable players to build in support for it, but iTunes and iPods understand FairPlay. If I buy music through the iTunes store, it will only play on iTunes or an iPod. That’s it, until the end of time.”

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Comments

41

I love reading these comments. If it were the other way around, people would be calling him a legend, instead he is an idiot.

I really do hate people who actually research a codec and then make a conclusion which isn’t to my liking, why on earth would they do that?

Posted by Adam on February 13, 2004 at 4:33 PM (PDT)

42

WMA is a part of microsoft. so by using wma you are pretty much supporting windows. than to make it worse your are putting your windows crap on an apple product

Posted by Brant on February 13, 2004 at 5:45 PM (PDT)

43

uh… vinyl sounds better than any of these weak digital approximations. and AAC and itunes SUCK with all that proprietary hoop jumping you gotta do. i’ll just d/l mp3’s and rip cd’s thank you. if i wanted to have a toss figuring out which digital codec sounds better… well then i’d be a guy with not much of a life goin’ on.

Posted by specto=spook on February 13, 2004 at 5:45 PM (PDT)

44

Most people know this, but you can transfer a protected iTunes AAC to ANY player, stripped of all DRM, with NO quality loss and NO hacks, by the SAME well-known re-rip-from CD method. How? Rip to lossless WAV or AIF. The price you pay is file size, but don’t overlook the option.

Also, there’s VERY good reason to say AAC is better quality than WMA. (That means truer to the original—not that one person can’t prefer whatever they like.) Link:
http://www6.tomshardware.com/consumer/20020712/2u4u-05.html

As near as I can tell, though, when people have the ears and the equipment to detect “loss” in compressed audio, what the describe sounds like an equalizer difference to me. Some frequencies emphasized, some muted. It’s no wonder that in blind tests (which compression reviewers rarely dare to do), people can often tell the difference but can’t be sure WHICH is which. Your equipment and equalizer settings can have a FAR greater effect on the sound, overwhelming any minor differences from compression.

I’m not denying that audiophiles exist who do care, I’m just pointing out that SO many other factors affect sound SO much more than the compression that lets us fit our whole collection in a pocket.

Posted by Nagromme on February 13, 2004 at 6:18 PM (PDT)

45

Stylescaper, you miss the point.  How many songs that you purchased from ITMS are you playing through your Roku?  I’ll answer that. NONE.  Why, because Apple’s Fairplay stops you from doing it.  Right now, you’re not much, if any better off with WMA, but MS is working on a solution for that.  I, personally, hope Apple is too, since ALL of my music is AAC, including my purchased music.

And your statements about multiple downloading is just nonsense.  Apple allows me to download my songs once. But then I can copy them, manually on as many computers as I want (I own 5).  But I can only be authorized to play the songs on three of my computers at a time. I have no big problem with that (although I would prefer 4).  But, if Apple can keep me from authorizing more than three computers at once, why do they need to make it so hard for me to download them?  Roxio allows me to download my purchased music on unlimited computers without buying it again, because they know that they can keep me from playing it on all of them at the same time.

Basically, my problem is that, if Apple will let me play my purchased music on three computers, why don’t they make it easy for me to get the music onto those other computers, without wasting time, effort and media?

Posted by rdlink in Denver on February 13, 2004 at 6:24 PM (PDT)

46

I rip all my cds 256 AAC and 320 AAC. Using $300 dollar Bose Quietcomfort 2 headphones, i “cannot” i repeat “cannot” tell a difference between AIFF, WAV, or uncompressed cd versus these selective AAC encodings. I say this because i have more cds encoded to AAC than any fool in this chat. I have 11,300 songs encoded between 224 and 320 AAC accounting for over 76 GB of data. I just would like everyone to know that all my songs came from MY cds, and not ITMS or ###### mp3 128 downloads from the nappy napster days. Let me tell you, nothing sounds anywhere near as good as AAC does no matter what these windows worshipping fools may say. They just dont want theyre entire music in WMA to be obsolete in a few years like its going to be because Apple is conquering the online music wars with its best music store, best player IPOD, best jukebox ITUNES, and best codec AAC. OK, end of argument, Apple is King, AAC designed with Dolby Lab, and Ipod, and Itunes, is the going to be dancing on MIcrosofts grave when it comes to online music acceptance and quality. Did you forget that although 95 % of computers are Windows, but that Itunes is COMPATIBLE with these duhhh, and that AAC and Itunes music store will play on 95% of those “others” you mentioned. OK APPLE WINS, everyone else shut up and go home to your mommys.

Posted by iamtiger on February 14, 2004 at 12:05 AM (PDT)

47

iamtiger, i would like to point out that even though you are ripping at a high rate, you are still not recieving everything that music has to offer.  When even though you do this, the AAC file is still lossy.  You lose more than half of the audio when you rip.  The only real way that you can get pure audio is through analog.  And the only reason I say this is because any type of music that is taken from analog and put to digital is lossy.  There are an infinity number of frequencies in and wave form and when they are converted digitally to a computer, even from a CD because originally the instruments on the CD were analog, they are compressed.  The only format areound that does not do this right now is the SACD. 

And also, when you listen to your music through your headphones you are not listening to the music the way it was meant to be listened to.  There is not one studio in the world that mixes their audio through headphones, why? because when you mix that way you don’t get the “sweet spot.”  75% of the studios out there mix, as a general rule, with the wpeakers as far apart from each other as they are away from you.  You should go out and buy some high quality speakers and listen to one of your converted files about 100 times and then listen to it in another format about 100 times.  There are very slight differences.  The general population won’t notice it unless they sit and concentrate on every sound that comes out of those speakers.  But if you ask any audio engineer, they will tell you that there is a difference, even though it isn’t much, it is still there.  When audio is encoded (yes, even AAC) there are many frequencies removed from the signal.  Sounds that are covered up by the louder sounds are remove, the high and low end frequencies harmonics are removed.  These harmonics add color.  Some encodings are better than others, but you can still tell a difference.  I also rip with AAC, but each codec has it’s own benefits.  Besides, every persons hearing is different anyway and we won’t hear things the same way.  Some people hear frequencies better than others.  It all depends on the person, not on the codec.  Unless your talking about 8-bit ripped music.  Everyone should be able to tell that 8-bit sucks, and sounds like Nintendo.  Why?  Because Nintendo’s NES was 8-bits.

What’s the point of arguing this anyways? Everyone hears things differently.  i can’t believe i just wasted 5 minutes of my life.

Posted by Cynful in Winter Park on February 14, 2004 at 2:32 AM (PDT)

48

Don’t get me wrong, the NES rocks!

Posted by Cynful in Winter Park on February 14, 2004 at 2:33 AM (PDT)

49

If you want lossless compression yuo could do worse than Meridian Lossless Packing.

http://www.highfidelityreviews.com/features/mlp_encode.asp

Doubt you can get a home encoder though.

Posted by Jackson in London on February 14, 2004 at 4:43 AM (PDT)

50

God things would just be soo much simpler if Apple would just add WMA support to the iPod.  This includes WMAPro, WMA Lossless.  But nooooo.

Posted by MeshAir on February 14, 2004 at 7:51 AM (PDT)

51

AAC in itself will catch on, and I’m sure many players will suport it in the future.  It’s simply the audio component of MPEG4.  What the person is saying, however, is that the copy protection built in by Apple is completely proprietary.  If 10 years from now Apple (heaven forbid) goes out of business or something better comes along and iTunes folds, you will have hundreds of dollars of digital only music that can only be played by this dead application.  If Apple licenses their protection scheme at that point, it would not be a big deal, but until then, you’re stuck playing it in iTunes, or not at all.  I personally would like to see the record companies suck it up and drop CDs to 9.99.  I’d buy 3 times more.

And, about the lossless format.  I’ve used SHN to trade bootlegs.  An SHN encoded CD is still 500 megs.  A 160 AAC encoded CD is roughly 50 megs.  That’s 1/10 of the lossless.  I currently have 10 gigs of totally legally ripped music.  My collection would be 100 gigs.  Of just ripped CDs, and I know people with twice the collection I have.  Lossless is not a viable solution at this point.

Posted by Green on February 14, 2004 at 10:43 AM (PDT)

52

As a followup, I just read someone’s post on here stating they have 65 gigs of music, and get a new album every day.  They would have 650 gigs of SHN encoded music right now.  That’s just not acceptable.  Plus, if you were to purchase an SHN file online, it would take 10 times as long to download, with minimal audio difference (yes, there is a difference, I’m not going to say that the highs and lows are the same, they’re not).  The audio difference is not enough to warrant that incredible size difference.

Posted by Green on February 14, 2004 at 10:48 AM (PDT)

53

Cynful,
Thanks for you input, and you “didn’t” waste five minutes of your life at all, cuz i was listening with ears like a bunny. But i must say that although even a compact disc is compressed from the original analog tape, by comparing the retail cd versus encoded AAC at high bit rate, i feel there is no perceivable difference unless of course like you said you have it hooked up to a 4000 dollar amplifier, sub and high end receiver/speakers. But who in real life will have this kind of equipment and listen for that one cymbol that sounded a little bit dull. I feel high bit AAC has given me “full” colors and warmth as compared directly to the retail cd, and i know that SACD hooked up to a 4000 dollar setup will obviously reveal some hidden sounds from encoding, but frankly i dont want those hidden sounds cuz i cant hear them in the first place. If my ear can’t detect them, then i feel its not worth investing in carrying around over 1000 SACD in my trunk to justify hearing something that i would need a professional musicians setup to hear in the first place. Point taken though, and it seems you are very knowledgeable about audio and i must say that you are a true audiophile who knows his stuff, and that five minutes is not wasted.

Posted by iamtiger on February 14, 2004 at 3:16 PM (PDT)

54

Analog has loss too. No reproduction is perfect.

We must also separate the “unpleasant idea” of loss from that which actually has a detectable result.

Posted by Nagromme on February 14, 2004 at 4:04 PM (PDT)

55

Analog has loss too. No reproduction is perfect.

We must also separate the “unpleasant idea” of loss from that which actually has a detectable result.

And the perceived result DOES depend partly on the codec—in addition to the person and the equipment and the environment etc.

Posted by Nagromme on February 14, 2004 at 4:06 PM (PDT)

56

I was just wondering about this whole re-rip discussion on music bought from ITMS. It is possible to transfer a number bought on ITMS to any iPod, right? What stops me from using a third party piece of software to move the track off of the iPod again on some other machine and playing it there outside of iTunes?

Posted by mufoxe on February 14, 2004 at 11:38 PM (PDT)

57

I dont care too much about format as I rip all my CDs in MP3 format. The advantage that I get with that is I’m not tied only to certain format compatible player. I can play my files in my car MP3 deck as well as on my iPod. And I think that was the basic aim of MP3 to allow you to take your music whereever you want and play it on any MP3 player. So arguing over a particular format defeats whole purpose of MP3.

Posted by mj on February 15, 2004 at 7:15 PM (PDT)

58

all i agree with is the fact that you can’t use protected AAC files on other mp3 players. . .but that really works for me, i don’t want to use another mp3 player because the ipod is truely the best, in my eyes.  so it works for me.  key words are my and me. 

just my 2 bits

Posted by J on February 15, 2004 at 8:07 PM (PDT)

59

Oh stop whining iPodLounger.

AAC is a FAAAR superior sound format to most of the other ones, and with SMALL file sizes too.

I personally encode all my music at 224kbps AAC and I find NO imperfections at all… Played on my iPod (with Bang & Olufsen headphones) or my Bang & Olufsen 10,000 surround sound system. Its pitch perfect.

There are plenty of programs that will play AAC on the PC, have a hunt around on cnet.com

Posted by Tom Hayes UK on February 16, 2004 at 7:12 AM (PDT)

60

224 Ogg sounds better than 224 AAC.

Posted by Ogg on February 16, 2004 at 1:40 PM (PDT)

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