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iTMS. Time for 256kbps AAC music ! - Page 2

post #41 of 68
I don't think it's about people valueing sound quality less than they did in the past. Rather, new possabilities of convenience have once again trumped sound quality; a slight but important distinction.

It has happened many times in the past.
  • When walkmans first came out, they sounded worse than stationary systems. Consumer headphones just weren't very good.
  • When MiniDiscs came out, they offered poorer sound quality than CDs.
  • Same thing for CDs. (Granted, not everyone is an analog freak. )
  • When boomboxes came out, they sounded worse than home stereos.
  • 8-Tracks sound worse than records.
  • Transitor amplifiers and radios
  • Would you be surprised to learn that both Sirius and XM sound horrible compared to FM... or even AM radio!
The lesson here is that sound quality isn't the only criteria for consumer preference in audio gear. If a poorer sounding medium is drastically more convenient, consumers will flock to that technology. Definately not a new phenomenon.
post #42 of 68
What I really want is a way to rip my CDs in Apple Lossless or AIFF to iTunes but have them all automatically converted down to 192 AAC or the like for ONLY my iPod (in the interest of saving HD space). My (factory) car stereo and/or earbuds can't tell the difference anyway, but my fancy-schmancy home stereo can.
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post #43 of 68
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally posted by addabox
The slightly unnerving thing about this particular mass phenomena is how it seems to be changing the fundamentals on which we judge what "quality" is, when it comes to prerecorded music (although this is arguably and artifact of downloadable music in general and not the iTMS in particular).

I agree it's fine to offer bit rates and sound quality that are "good enough" for most people; what's not entirely clear to me, pace the thread topic, is whether or not there is going to be any room for higher quality in the new world of highly portable, disposable music.

Sure, if it's profitable, but where is the next generation of people who consider "sound quality" (past a certain point) to be a desirable attribute in their music, worth paying for, when everything in their experience of recorded music has been focused on portability and convenience of acquisition?

In the history of mechanically recorded music we've never seen anything like what's happening now . Up until the download explosion, each and every advancement in the technology had been centered around improving the delivered sound quality. We have now entered an era which emphasizes maximizing quantity.

And the irony is, as I remarked before, all of this happened just as digital recordings were starting to live up to their promise, with savvier engineers, higher bit rates, denser sampling frequencies, and the like.

What do you suppose the state of the market of "super bit CD" type technology is now? Do you think, in a world where sales and the whole idea of a physical CD is fading, there is much interest in releasing many new titles?

So I wonder if there will be much interest in offering the downloadable equivalent of even CD quality music, much less some the extensions of that quality that were just starting to mature.

We'll see, and I suppose there will always be some limited number of "audiophile" releases in the jazz and classical areas, but I for one am not going to hold my breath that mainstream popular music recordings are ever again going to sound as good as they did, once, for a little while.

Very good point, but somewhat pessimistic, no ?

I think download media through the internet is going by it's "early radio days".
Of course , back then , I presume, the control people had was to tune to different radio frequencies and listen to the broadcast. Well, radio evolved and quality increased.

Now the thing about internet Media , I think, is all about control. The appeal of the internet is that control is brought about the user. So, in this line of thinking the user wants and gets more control. With control comes freedom to choose and to evaluate. This is a on going process , IMHO.
Although perceived quality is good enough for the time being, I think users will want more. They got choice, convenience and access, now.
So in the future they will go for quality. And that's a good thing.
post #44 of 68
Quote:
Originally posted by dfiler
I don't think it's about people valueing sound quality less than they did in the past. Rather, new possabilities of convenience have once again trumped sound quality; a slight but important distinction.

It has happened many times in the past.
  • When walkmans first came out, they sounded worse than stationary systems. Consumer headphones just weren't very good.
  • When MiniDiscs came out, they offered poorer sound quality than CDs.
  • Same thing for CDs. (Granted, not everyone is an analog freak. )
  • When boomboxes came out, they sounded worse than home stereos.
  • 8-Tracks sound worse than records.
  • Transitor amplifiers and radios
  • Would you be surprised to learn that both Sirius and XM sound horrible compared to FM... or even AM radio!
The lesson here is that sound quality isn't the only criteria for consumer preference in audio gear. If a poorer sounding medium is drastically more convenient, consumers will flock to that technology. Definately not a new phenomenon.

Right, and good points all, but:

None of those instances, with exception of CDs (which certainly had the potential to be an improvement, while often failing in execution) were the occasion of a wholesale reorganization of the business of recorded music and its delivery to the consumer.

Bad sounding playback systems didn't threaten to eclipse the availability of good sounding playback systems, and certainly the record companies didn't look at the sales of boomboxes and walkmen and say to themselves "well, shit, those things can't reproduce very good sound, why are we bothering to make excellent recordings?" The walkman never threatened to make LPs obsolete.

8 tracks, cassettes, et al were always adjuncts to LPs, later CDs, and understood to be a compromise.

Downloadable music is going to simply replace "hard copy" music, and so far, at least, the compromises are being built into the delivery systems.
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post #45 of 68
Quote:
Originally posted by European guy
Very good point, but somewhat pessimistic, no ?

I think download media through the internet is going by it's "early radio days".
Of course , back then , I presume, the control people had was to tune to different radio frequencies and listen to the broadcast. Well, radio evolved and quality increased.

Now the thing about internet Media , I think, is all about control. The appeal of the internet is that control is brought about the user. So, in this line of thinking the user wants and gets more control. With control comes freedom to choose and to evaluate. This is a on going process , IMHO.
Although perceived quality is good enough for the time being, I think users will want more. They got choice, convenience and access, now.
So in the future they will go for quality. And that's a good thing.

Yeah, but as many posters in this thread have noted, "quality" is in the ear of the beholder. If "most people" can't tell the difference between CD quality and a 128kbps iTMS download, where is the incentive for the content owners to make higher quality available?

My contention is that up until recently, there was a profitable upgrade cycle in the audio industry based on "newer and better sounding" delivery systems and playback devices. Wire recorder to gramaphone to 78s to LPs, mono to stereo, CD, high resolution CD, DVD audio with surround.

In each instance the recording industry made a coordinated shift in their offerings, more or less forcing consumers to follow along, but always with the sweetener "the new stuff sounds much better" (and yes, at every step of the way there have been contrarians who preferred the previous tech).

The reason the industry did that was that there was a great deal of money to be made in selling a new format with new playback devices, and improved sound quality insured wide spread adoption.

Downloadable music that is "good enough" breaks that cycle

Being able to resell your entire back catalogue as $15 CDs certainly justifies the expense of remastering and repackaging.

But is there enough money to be made offering multiple bit rate downloads at different price tiers? Enough to justify the additional expense of maintaining multiple copies of files on servers, when it is likely that relatively few people will purchase them?

What about actually doing some engineering work to insure that such files sound the best they can at a given bit rate? Why would you bother, when the vast majority of your consumers are satisfied with "good enough"?

I guess one way to look at it would to be to ask, as the recording industry surely is, "what innovation would be the thing to drive the next cycle of repurchase and upgrades?"

And it appears to me that "improved sound quality" isn't it.
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post #46 of 68
I completely disagree. Current bitrates are a temporary compromise. There is no philosophical shift going on here. People arent growing more tolerant of low fidelity sound.

When people no longer have to sacrifice quality for portability and ease-of-use, well see higher bit-rates being sold at all the online stores. It's just that in the past, technology didn't allow that tradeoff. Technology and the realm of possibility have changed, not people's preferences.

Same sonic preferences, different available trade-offs.
post #47 of 68
Quote:
Originally posted by addabox
Do you think, in a world where sales and the whole idea of a physical CD is fading, there is much interest in releasing many new titles?

CD sales still far, far, far out-strip download sales. We are a very long way from that changing.
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post #48 of 68
Quote:
Originally posted by addabox
I have to say I find it somewhat bizarre that in a few short years we've gone from CDs being regarded (by people who care a lot about the actual sound of what they listen to, as opposed to convenience and form factors) as something of a compromise in sound quality (due to some of the inherent issues with digital recording), to CD bitrates being derisively dismissed as the provenance of "audiophiles".

Then again, I have to say that most (not all, but most) bitching about CD sound quality by self-proclaimed audiophiles is the stuff of which $1000/m "audio interconnects" are made -- no, not oxygen-free copper and rhodium plating, but rather snake oil and bullsh*t.

Especially when the "analog has infinite resolution" crap starts up. (No, it doesn't. If you think it does, you don't understand anything about signal theory -- frequency response and noise limit information carrying capacity in almost exactly the same ways sampling rates and bit resolution do.)
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post #49 of 68
Quote:
Originally posted by dfiler
I completely disagree. Current bitrates are a temporary compromise. There is no philosophical shift going on here. People arent growing more tolerant of low fidelity sound.

When people no longer have to sacrifice quality for portability and ease-of-use, well see higher bit-rates being sold at all the online stores. It's just that in the past, technology didn't allow that tradeoff. Technology and the realm of possibility have changed, not people's preferences.

Same sonic preferences, different available trade-offs.

I hope you're right, but this model is really very different from what has come before. I would say it rivals the advent of recorded music itself, which changed peoples relationship to music in fundamental ways that are still reverberating.

In other words, hard to say.
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post #50 of 68
Quote:
Originally posted by Mr. H
CD sales still far, far, far out-strip download sales. We are a very long way from that changing.

Perhaps, but online sales are exploding while CD sales are flat or decreasing. Maybe not so very far away? These sea changes have a way of going exponential at some critical tipping point.
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post #51 of 68
Quote:
Originally posted by shetline
Then again, I have to say that most (not all, but most) bitching about CD sound quality by self-proclaimed audiophiles is the stuff of which $1000/m "audio interconnects" are made -- no, not oxygen-free copper and rhodium plating, but rather snake oil and bullsh*t.

Especially when the "analog has infinite resolution" crap starts up. (No, it doesn't. If you think it does, you don't understand anything about signal theory -- frequency response and noise limit information carrying capacity in almost exactly the same was sampling rates and bit resolution do.)

Very true, but one of the reasons I think "CD quality if for audiophiles" is so ironic, given that up till very recently actual audiophiles considered CDs a mass market compromise.
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post #52 of 68
Quote:
Originally posted by dfiler
People arent growing more tolerant of low fidelity sound.

I submit an example: People who pay $2.50 per song for their cell phones. I mean DANG! Its a cell phone for crying out loud!

Personally, I prefer an actual CD over downloads for the physical disk. The data on the disk is kjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjj (<- My cat stepped on the keyboard but finished my sentence accurately) This technology was released the same month I was born, almost 24 years ago. We should have 192Khz sampling rates by now for stereo sound. (We still use 44Khz, less than the average video camera's 48Khz)

Quote:
Originally posted by shetline
Especially when the "analog has infinite resolution" crap starts up.

Oh yea! Just because someone can't associate analog signals with a sampling rate doesn't mean it is better. Jeez.
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post #53 of 68
Quote:
Originally posted by Ebby
I submit an example: People who pay $2.50 per song for their cell phones. I mean DANG! Its a cell phone for crying out loud!

And god help us if they ever start selling automobile honk-tones...
post #54 of 68
Quote:
Originally posted by dfiler
And god help us if they ever start selling automobile honk-tones...

Oh dear lord that never occurred to me.

I can just picture people pausing mid crosswalk, turning, puzzled at the opening bars of "Bohemian Rhapsody", just before being thrown 30 feet into the bushes.
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post #55 of 68
Quote:
Originally posted by Ebby
I submit an example: People who pay $2.50 per song for their cell phones. I mean DANG! Its a cell phone for crying out loud!

That's a very good point indeed, especially when you have been able to copy pure mp3s from your computer to your phone for free starting from late 90's. Well, at least here in Finland, where we don't have locked down phones. And still ringtones are huge busines. Einstein was right, humans stupidity is infinite.
post #56 of 68
Kill two birds with one stone.

Consumers want higher bit rates and music industry wants variable pricing.

Encoding/price
128k=.99
384k=$1.25
Lossless=$1.50

Done!!! Win-Win
post #57 of 68
One reason it might be hard to get Apple to offer higher bit rates... their low bit rates might be considered, in a way, part of their DRM (Digital Rights Management).

Everyone knows that DRM is easy to get around, at least at one level -- without truly cracking the DRM, simply playing and/or burning a song to CD, and then re-recording it. No real cryptographic challenge there, but it's inconvenient to have to do, time-consuming... and one more thing. You're either going to lose sound quality, have a much bigger file to deal with, or some trade-off in between.

Think 128 kbps AAC isn't that great? (I'm reasonably satified with it myself for casual use, although I encode my own CDs at 192.) Well, try taking a 128 kbps AAC file, burning it to CD, and re-ripping the CD back to 128 kbps. The results are terrible.

You could re-rip the CD back as an AIFF or Apple Lossless file with no additional loss of sound quality, but then you've got a much larger file to deal with, and nothing better than 128 kbps quality for all of that file bulk. Then there the in-between solution -- re-rip to something like 192 or 256, get a somewhat larger file without quite so much loss of sound quality.

That's all part of the DRM game -- they know you can get around the DRM, but they'll settle for the fact that you'll pay some sort of penalty for it.

What happens if Apple starts selling 256 kbps music? That penalty gets much smaller. Although I haven't done the experiment, I wouldn't be surprised if you could take a 256 kbps ACC file, burn it to CD, re-rerip to the same bit rate, and end up with a file that sounds just as good to 99.9% of listeners.
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post #58 of 68
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally posted by geobe
Kill two birds with one stone.

Consumers want higher bit rates and music industry wants variable pricing.

Encoding/price
128k=.99
384k=$1.25
Lossless=$1.50

Done!!! Win-Win

Excellent ! ( Picks up the phone and dials Steve...)8)

Seriously..I would buy Lossless and higher bitrates with pricing like this.
It makes sense, and there's a market for it.
post #59 of 68
Quote:
Originally posted by shetline
One reason it might be hard to get Apple to offer higher bit rates... their low bit rates might be considered, in a way, part of their DRM (Digital Rights Management).

Everyone knows that DRM is easy to get around, at least at one level -- without truly cracking the DRM, simply playing and/or burning a song to CD, and then re-recording it. No real cryptographic challenge there, but it's inconvenient to have to do, time-consuming... and one more thing. You're either going to lose sound quality, have a much bigger file to deal with, or some trade-off in between.

Think 128 kbps AAC isn't that great? (I'm reasonably satified with it myself for casual use, although I encode my own CDs at 192.) Well, try taking a 128 kbps AAC file, burning it to CD, and re-ripping the CD back to 128 kbps. The results are terrible.

You could re-rip the CD back as an AIFF or Apple Lossless file with no additional loss of sound quality, but then you've got a much larger file to deal with, and nothing better than 128 kbps quality for all of that file bulk. Then there the in-between solution -- re-rip to something like 192 or 256, get a somewhat larger file without quite so much loss of sound quality.

That's all part of the DRM game -- they know you can get around the DRM, but they'll settle for the fact that you'll pay some sort of penalty for it.

What happens if Apple starts selling 256 kbps music? That penalty gets much smaller. Although I haven't done the experiment, I wouldn't be surprised if you could take a 256 kbps ACC file, burn it to CD, re-rerip to the same bit rate, and end up with a file that sounds just as good to 99.9% of listeners.

Good points. I assume that's what's going on with the low res video downloads: that for now, at least, it was the only way for Apple to get the content providers to sign up-- by offering image quality too poor to represent any kind of threat to DVD or cable sales, and really not worth trying to redistribute.
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post #60 of 68
I would totally buy lossless if it were $1.50..
The problem is, in Australia the 128 AAC costs $1.69..
I doubt lossless will get 19c cheaper, and $2.20 for a song is pushing it. However, an upgrade cost would be awesome, and I really wouldn't mind $2.00 if I really loved the song.
Heck, I remember (back in the days of Limewire) debating with my sister about the sound quality of a Britney Spears song. I could hear terrible artefacts and it had no bass at all. She said it sounded great..

Jimzip
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post #61 of 68
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally posted by Jimzip
I the quality of a Britney Spears artefacts
Jimzip

Jennifer Lopez artifacts are also good at any bitrate...

No. Seriously... I was young once and was convinced Mick Jagger invented Rock'n Roll. Damaged good furniture with my friends listening to "Love you Live" Silly me...


Now I'm depressed.

Back to topic. I am building a "iPod starter audiophile music kit" with a projected ceiling of 5000 USD. It as been a tiresome job , but the iPod deserves it. I finally settled on the speakers and amp (2/3 of budget there) and I am working on the BEST Dac to use with the Airport Express.
post #62 of 68
Yes yes ha ha..

Jimzip

edit: By the way who's J Lo marrying this week?
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post #63 of 68
I think a simple option would be, when you go to buy a song or album you have a choice.


Button 1. Quick download.

Button 2. High Quality.


Simple, and would please everyone!!
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post #64 of 68
Quote:
Originally posted by Ireland
I think a simple option would be, when you go to buy a song or album you have a choice.


Button 1. Quick download.

Button 2. High Quality.


Simple, and would please everyone!!

I personally use the shopping cart option (I hate the idea that a single, unrevokable click makes a purchase happen), but Apple wants to create a very clean, simple interface oriented towards impulse buying. I can't see Apple cluttering up the iTunes store interface by having two different kinds of "Buy" buttons. The extra horizontal width of the interface created by adding more buttons would be clumsy.

If Apple ever does offer higher bit rates, the way I see them doing it is by establishing an over-all quality preference which applies to all purchases until you change that preference. Perhaps if you use the shopping cart as I do, there'd be a way to go back into your cart and optionally raise or lower the requested quality of each item in the cart.
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post #65 of 68
Keep in mind, Apple does not encode the music themselves; the record labels do it. Convincing them all to re-encode every album seems unreasonable and unrealistic. \

It would be nice to see lossless files for sale on the iTMS, as long as iTunes included a convert-on-the-fly feature to downsample songs as they're transferred to your iPod. (They already do this with the iPod shuffle.)

What I'm more concerned about, though, is the video resolution available on the store. H.264 looks good, but with HDTVs now becoming common, we need at least DVD res for movies.
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post #66 of 68
Quote:
Originally posted by Mr. H
To those talking about HE-AAC, it only delivers improvements below 128 kbps. It wouldn't help.

My take is this:

The standard bit rate should be upped to 160 kbps
256 kbps should be introduced as an option for $1.50
Apple Lossless should be introduced as an option for $2.00 or maybe even $2.50.

That's individual song pricing.

Standard bit-rate albums should be cheaper than they currently are. 256 kbps albums should be just below the price of the album on CD, and the Apple Lossless version should cost the same as a CD.

edit: and Apple should look into p2p technology for iTunes to reduce their bandwidth costs. This would be necessary for them to be able to seel Apple Lossless albums for the same price as a CD.

I wouldn't go for that because it does away with the cost incentive to legally downloading music that $0.99 per song creates, and brings the total cost too close to that of the CD itself.

Another way to look at that pricing scheme is that I end up paying more for the accessores (music) that make my main item (ipod) less usefull.

Pricing models should work like this - as the ability to deliver a higher quality product increases, the price of the lower quality product should decrease.

So, higher quality audio files (i guess we're talking 256) should be downloadable from the ITMS for the same $0.99 price point. That's the price point that has been shown to work and no one can say that apple is overcharging for delivering more than crap. The current bitrate file price should drop accordingly to maybe $0.89 or maybe even $0.75.
post #67 of 68
Quote:
Originally posted by geekdreams
Keep in mind, Apple does not encode the music themselves; the record labels do it. Convincing them all to re-encode every album seems unreasonable and unrealistic. \

If Apple is thinking ahead (and I have no idea if they are in this regard), Apple has the record labels provide them with lossless encodings, doing the lossless-to-AAC step themselves. Even if Apple never planned on providing higher bit rates, it would make sense for them to be doing this just to be able to take advantage of future AAC encoder improvements which might provide better sound quality at the same bit rates, or features like gapless playback.
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post #68 of 68
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally posted by geekdreams
Keep in mind, Apple does not encode the music themselves; the record labels do it. Convincing them all to re-encode every album seems unreasonable and unrealistic. \

Not if there's different pricing involved !

Those greedy bastards ( yes, I know you read these foruns) would have a rare opportunity to make some more BIG BUCKS !
I mean, who wouldn't like to hear "50 cent" in lossless format ?

PS: The last sentence is a ironic joke, just like "50 Cent's music".
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