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MP3 losing to AAC and WMA

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By Dennis Lloyd

Publisher, iLounge
Published: Friday, October 15, 2004
News Categories: Digital Media

MacMinute reports “The MP3 music format is losing ground to rival technologies backed by Apple and Microsoft, according to researchers at the NPD Group’s MusicWatch Digital who track the contents of people’s hard drives. The researchers said that the percentage of MP3s in digital music collections has steadily declined in recent months, down to 72 percent of collections from 82 percent a year ago. The AAC (Advanced Audio Codec) format, which Apple’s iTunes Music Store uses, and Microsoft’s WMA (Windows Media Audio) format has each gained about 5 percent of the ‘hard-drive share’ in the past year.”

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Comments

1

And they are making this sound bad? MP3 is still the primary codec. WMA quality sucks. A few devices can play AAC.

Posted by Joe on October 15, 2004 at 4:44 PM (PDT)

2

at least ipod supports aac and thats good enough.

Posted by lol on October 15, 2004 at 4:45 PM (PDT)

3

The article states:

“The project surveys the hard-drive contents of 40,000 different people to track Internet and software trends.”

Obviously, all those users have to give permission for their hard drive to be surveyed. One signiifcant problem with this research is that people who are still “borrowing” music as mp3s are a lot less likely to have their hard drive surveyed.

Posted by Sam on October 15, 2004 at 5:44 PM (PDT)

4

Joe - “And they are making this sound bad? MP3 is still the primary codec. WMA quality sucks. A few devices can play AAC.”

It’s obvious you’ve never actually used WMA 9 Series before.

Posted by Shinglor on October 15, 2004 at 6:02 PM (PDT)

5

WMA does suck, get over it.  Anyone who uses that format is stupid

Posted by MATRIXsjd in Burbank, Ca on October 15, 2004 at 6:59 PM (PDT)

6

“It’s obvious you’ve never actually used WMA 9 Series before.”

Why would you think I said WMA quality sucks if I haven’t encoded songs in this format before?

Posted by Joe on October 15, 2004 at 7:53 PM (PDT)

7

personally all my files are mp3

Posted by todd2fst4u on October 15, 2004 at 8:00 PM (PDT)

8

All of mine are AAC, though I kind of think it may have been a mistake to encode that way, just in case I ever decide to ditch my iPod for the inevitable better DAP sometime in the future…

Posted by Awesome-O on October 15, 2004 at 9:09 PM (PDT)

9

Until all DAPs support AAC/WMA, those format won’t replace MP3 anytime soon. Currently, all DAPs that can play AAC/WMA, can also play MP3. WMA might be on the upper hand than AAC since more DAPs support it.

Personally, I wish OGG or lossless formats like APE/FLAC are the ones that would replace MP3.

Posted by Nah on October 16, 2004 at 12:51 AM (PDT)

10

“...more DAPs support it.”

More as in?.... Just different brands licensing WMA from MS, or qty of players in consumers hands? I think, based on your argumentation that AAC has the upper hand at this time.

I just want lossless, but I need a 1TB DAP for this, and I just don’t think that will happen soon… smile

Posted by thedutch on October 16, 2004 at 3:46 AM (PDT)

11

I think using AAC is more space efficient and ultimately, sounds better than WMA and MP3.

Posted by Sol on October 16, 2004 at 3:49 AM (PDT)

12

this is mainly due to the fact that windows xp uses WMA by default and you cant change to HQ mp3 without further software. Windows is cramming WMA down throats and people dont even know it. So most of the less savvy computer users out there will just use whats there…..so all of the sudden wma is gaining ground,,,,,,wow what a shock.

Posted by BerT6801 on October 16, 2004 at 4:31 AM (PDT)

13

The permission aspect really does blow the reliability of the survey. Someone like me, a big privacy and open standards buff would probably not have given permission, and if I had they would realise that I completely regret ever ripping song one to AAC and am now changing everything over to MP3 where no corporate influenced standard or control exists. If users do allow themselves to be duped into adopting industry motivated standards we will lose control of our music, not good.

Posted by Code Monkey on October 16, 2004 at 4:38 AM (PDT)

14

This is a half-statement.

The AAC marketshare is mostly NEW digital music users.  Among those of us who have been doing this for awhile, AAC is not the choice most of the time.

In fact, I have stopped purchasing from iTunes Music Store altogether.  The quality sucks of you have decent headphones and use the line out and three times I have had songs that I paid for stop working.  I’m sick of DRM.

And yes, WMA is kinda jank.  You have to use high bitrates to eliminate digital “jitter” and what’s the point of that?  No space savings, you miht as well be using tried and true MP3 encoded with LAME.

Posted by stark23x on October 16, 2004 at 4:39 AM (PDT)

15

I’m a bit of an audiophile, not crazily so, but definitely more than the average consumer.  I performed some tests before comparing various bit rate rips from CD to MP3, WMA and AAC.  When playing these songs back on a high-end system or good headphones I could easily tell the difference between MP3 and WMA/AAC.  Even 320 kbps MP3 paled in comparison to 128 kbps WMA/AAC.  However, I could not really distinguish any quality difference between WMA and AAC.  With Apple’s stock headphones I couldn’t tell the difference between any of them.

I have some friends who said they couldn’t tell the difference between any of them regardless of the playback equipment.  My theory is if you can’t tell the difference then don’t waste your time converting your library.  Although, I was able to convert 2000+ tracks in my spare time over a two week period.

I’m not a huge fan of DRM.  I have purchased a couple dozen tracks off of iTMS over the past year, usually one-off tracks in cases where I did want to purchase the actual CD.  I still buy the majority of my music on CDs and rip.  However, I did convert all of my MP3 collection to AAC by re-ripping from CD.  I do not regret it at all, as my music library is now much better quality and for the most part has no DRM.

I know people say well, now you cannot play the AAC tracks on any digital player other than iPod, but I don’t have any intentions of buying a player other than iPod in the foreseeable future.  Also, I didn’t delete my MP3’s, I simply backed them up to DVD.

Posted by feakbeak in Plymouth, MI, USA on October 16, 2004 at 6:15 AM (PDT)

16

Feakbeak: what mp3 encoder? I ask because if found 128 AAC superior to 320 MP3 there was something very wrong with your encoding setup. If you want to use AAC I don’t care, but to give the impression that MP3 is *inherently* inferior to these codecs is flat out wrong.

I use EAC/LAME to make my mp3s and they are equal or superior to similar sized AAC and they will freely migrate to any player without worrying.

Posted by Code Monkey on October 16, 2004 at 7:56 AM (PDT)

17

Let’s get some things straight. At high rates (like 256 Kbps+) there’s basically no difference between the lossy codecs. You want better quality go to lossless, like SHN or FLAC or AAC Lossless or WMA Lossless.

AAC is a reasonable lossy codec but has a few years to go before the software does it justice.

LAME MP3 VBR represents nearly 15 years of mp3 development. It’s best of breed and equal to or superior to AAC at low (128-192 Kbps) bitrates.

The most recent multiformat results for lossy codec quality at 128 Kbps are ranked like this:

Ogg Vorbis & MPC (Tied first place)
Lame & iTunes (Joint second place)

http://www.rjamorim.com/test/multiformat128/plot18z.png

You want more details, go to Hydrogen Audio.

Posted by aac now ranked second place in encoding quality on October 16, 2004 at 8:10 AM (PDT)

18

I keep reading people saying they are afraid tracks will/won’t play on various players.  How many players does one need, and who would ever want anything but an ipod?  Actually, people that for some reason hate Apple might want something other than an ipod.

Posted by biglouddrums on October 16, 2004 at 8:11 AM (PDT)

19

my collection is all mp3. i hate WMA’s, worst codec ever. i’m not fond of AAC/mp4 either. if i had to choose something over mp3, it would be .ogg

Posted by djl236 on October 16, 2004 at 8:23 AM (PDT)

20

“I keep reading people saying they are afraid tracks will/won’t play on various players. How many players does one need, and who would ever want anything but an ipod?”

In 1992 I wouldn’t have wanted anything other than a Macintosh, you couldn’t give me one today that I would do more than set up as a glorified jukebox. Technology marches on and the best manufacturer today is tomorrows junk.

I am not about to bet the hundreds of hours of ripping that iPod will remain the best of breed choice for DAPs - on a purely hardware basis it’s already behind, if the competitors begin to match it on software and interface the only reason to choose iPods will be you’re a corporate tool.

Posted by Code Monkey on October 16, 2004 at 8:26 AM (PDT)

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