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An Overview Of Present, Future of Music Technology

timothy posted about 10 years ago | from the movable-feast dept.

Music 148

prostoalex writes "IEEE Spectrum magazine is running a feature article on the state of music and current digital formats. They point to an interesting phenomenon in the digital music world that Steve Jobs emphasized as well: for the first time in music history, the next big format was not about better quality (SACD and such) but about better portability (MP3). 'It was only five years ago that the music industry was facing a civil war over the next-generation disc-based music format -- the successor to the wildly successful CD. At that time, hardly anybody doubted that the music would be encoded optically on a round plastic disc the size of a CD.'"

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Make no mistake (4, Insightful)

eddy (18759) | about 10 years ago | (#10226809)

All the future formats will be about replacing CDDA with "DRM".

Oh, it will be marketed as being about increased audio-fidelity, but it's all about getting rid of those horrible "insecure" CDs.

Re:Make no mistake (2, Interesting)

Zorilla (791636) | about 10 years ago | (#10226860)

In a similar case, I already have seen DVD cases with words along the lines of, "Macrovision protected to ensure quality of the disc". Marketing DRM towards fidelity has already started.

Re:Make no mistake (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10227076)

FACT (Federation Against Copyright Theft) very much spin this - don't buy pirate DVDs from markets because they are not of the same quality as the movies, and are 90% poor camera copies.

Re:Make no mistake (2, Interesting)

rizzo420 (136707) | about 10 years ago | (#10227702)

but that's sort of true... they are generally camera copies. also screeners tend to be lower quality as well, so a copy of a screener would be lower quality than what you'd buy in a store. and camera copies are only as good as the camera and the dude holding it.

The question is whether DRM will be optional (2, Interesting)

turnstyle (588788) | about 10 years ago | (#10227302)

I'd say that the big question is whether Microsoft (or the gov't) will start forcing the DRM'd formats -- meaning dropping support for non-DRM'd formats -- kind of like the digital TV "broadcast flag".

If they do, then that could be a big plus for the Open Source OS's.

And if it does wind up a government mandated thing, then would the Open Source OS's be forced into following suit? (ie, will Open Source OS distros have to come from outside the US?)

On the other hand, if the DRM'd formats *aren't* forced on us, then they'll never take over.

first! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10226811)

and more portable to boot!

MP3, but improve the quality (0, Troll)

shm (235766) | about 10 years ago | (#10226812)

Ok Steve, you got your MP3, why don't you fix the quality on itunes to better than 128kpbs?!?

Bah... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10226837)

128kbps outta be enough for anybody....

Re:Bah... (1)

ntsf (812742) | about 10 years ago | (#10227368)

"640K ought to be enough for anybody." --Bill Gates, 1981

"DOS addresses only 1 Megabyte of RAM because we cannot imagine any applications needing more." --Microsoft, 1980, on the development of DOS.

"Windows NT addresses 2 Gigabytes of RAM which is more than any application will ever need." --Microsoft, 1992, on the development of Windows NT.

Re:Bah... (1)

Zorilla (791636) | about 10 years ago | (#10227479)

Didn't Windows 9x/Me have a 512 MB limit? I have 98 installed, but can't prove the limit with only 384 MB.

Re:MP3, but improve the quality (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10226848)

You're thinking in terms of Mp3. 128 bit AAC is equivilent to 192 bit MP3.

Re:MP3, but improve the quality (1)

shm (235766) | about 10 years ago | (#10226855)

128 bit AAC is equivilent to 192 bit MP3.

Really? I didn't know that. Thanks for the info, I will revisit itunes/ipod.

Re:MP3, but improve the quality (0)

Spellunk (777915) | about 10 years ago | (#10226974)

The MP3Pro is actually a great technology. I realized my terrible RCA player supported it after reading the print IEEE article a few days ago.

At 64kbit/s, MP3pro files "sound" better than a 128 MP3. It is a great improvement, as now my tiny 64 Megabytes is the equivalent of a measley 128 Megabytes. check out the MP3pro technology at: http://mp3prozone.com/ [mp3prozone.com]

Re:MP3, but improve the quality (3, Interesting)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 10 years ago | (#10227239)

MP3pro sucks ass. Plain and simple. How do I know? I tried it. Here's the issue: I can hear MP3 compression artificats clearly to 192kb on most sources, and to 224kb on some of my "favorite" music. Certain Boston sequences are particulary difficult to encode well even at 256kb when played over decent headphones*.

The problem is that even the registered version of an MP3pro converter would max out at 128kB, with 192kB "quality". Nice, but not really "enough". Everyone seems to be racing to the 96-128kb SIZE point, without realizing that it's not really all the great to listen to unless there's a lot of background noise, or the equipment you're playing it on comes in a heat-sealed clamshell. And 64kn in every format I've listened to sounds somewhere between AM and FM radio, with digital artifacting added as a bonus. I'll take 48 or 64 for spoken spoken word, but please don't say you use it for audio unless you are listening to it while mowing the lawn.

I finally gave up on lossy formats and started re-ripping everything in FLAC. Now I can transcode through foobar2000 to whatever the format dujour is, or to a format which will fit in the space I have on my portable player.

* Sony MDR-V6 in my case...quite the bargain IMHO, but get the Beyerdynamic 250/290 replacement pads - they're much more comfortable. See http://www.audioreview.com/PRD_118127_2750crx.aspx [audioreview.com]

and also... (3, Funny)

dna_(c)(tm)(r) (618003) | about 10 years ago | (#10226814)

...lots of telcos payd huge license fees for 3G because that would be the next big thing... Thats why I have such unshakeable confidence in Gartner and such, when they predict the future in, say, 10 years :-)

ARMED INSURRECTION AND OUR TACTICS (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10226822)

The revolutionary movement "has already brought about the necessity for an armed uprising" -- this idea, expressed by the Third Congress of our Party [monstersofcock.com] , finds increasing confirmation day after day. The flames of revolution are flaring up with ever-increasing intensity, now here and now there calling forth local uprisings. The three days' barricade and street fighting in Lodz, the strike of many tens of thousands of workers in Ivanovo-Voznesensk with the inevitable bloody collisions with the troops, the uprising in Odessa, the "mutiny" in the Black Sea Fleet and in the Libau naval depot, and the "week" in Tiflis -- are all harbingers of the approaching storm. It is approaching, approaching irresistibly, it will break over Russia any day and, in a mighty, cleansing flood, sweep away all that is antiquated and rotten; it will wipe out the disgrace called the autocracy, under which the Russian people have suffered for ages. The last convulsive efforts of tsarism -- the intensification of repression of every kind, the proclamation of martial law over half the country and the multiplication of gallows, all accompanied by alluring speeches addressed to the liberals and by false promises of reform -- these things will not save it from the fate history has in store for it. The days of the autocracy are numbered; the storm is inevitable. A new social order is already being born, welcomed by the entire people, who are expecting renovation and regeneration from it.

What new questions is this approaching storm raising before our Party? How must we adjust our organisation and tactics to the new requirements of life so that we may take a more active and organised part in the uprising, which is the only necessary beginning of the revolution? To guide the uprising, should we -- the advanced detachment of the class which is not only the vanguard, but also the main driving force of the revolution -- set up special bodies, or is the existing Party machinery enough?

These questions have been confronting the Party and demanding immediate solution for several months already. For those who worship "spontaneity," who degrade the Party's objects to the level of simply following in the wake of life, who drag at the tail and do not march at the head as the advanced class-conscious detachment should do, such questions do not exist. Insurrection is spontaneous, they say, it is impossible to organise and prepare it, every prearranged plan of action is a utopia (they are opposed to any sort of "plan" -- why, that is "consciousness" and not a "spontaneous phenomenon"!), a waste of effort -- social life follows its own, unknown paths and will shatter all our projects. Hence, they say, we must confine ourselves to conducting propaganda and agitation in favour of the idea of insurrection, the idea of the "self-arming" of the masses; we must only exercise "political guidance"; as regards "technical" guidance of the insurgent people, let anybody who likes undertake that.

But we have always exercised such guidance up to now! -- the opponents of the "khvostist policy" reply. Wide agitation and propaganda, political guidance of the proletariat, are absolutely essential. That goes without saying. But to confine ourselves to such general tasks means either evading an answer to the question which life bluntly puts to us, or revealing utter inability to adjust our tactics to the requirements of the rapidly growing revolutionary struggle. We must, of course, now intensify political agitation tenfold, we must try to establish our influence not only over the proletariat, but also over those numerous strata of the "people" who are gradually joining the revolution; we must try to popularise among all classes of the population the idea that an uprising is necessary. But we cannot confine our selves solely to this! To enable the proletariat to utilise the impending revolution for the purposes of its own class struggle, to enable it to establish a democratic system that will provide the greatest guarantees for the subsequent struggle for socialism -- it, the proletariat, around which the opposition is rallying, must not only be in the centre of the struggle, but become the leader and guide of the uprising. It is the technical guidance and organisational preparation of the all-Russian uprising that constitute the new tasks with which life has confronted the proletariat. And if our Party wishes to be the real political leader of the working class it cannot and must not repudiate these new tasks.

And so, what must we do to achieve this object? What must our first steps be?

Many of our organisations have already answered this question in a practical way by directing part of their forces and resources to the purpose of arming the proletariat. Our struggle against the autocracy has en tered the stage when the nccessity of arming is univer sally admitted. But mere realisation of the necessity of arming is not enough -- the practical task must be bluntly and clearly put before the Party. Hence, our committees must at once, forthwith, proceed to arm the people locally, to set up special groups to arrange this matter, to organise district groups for the purpose of procuring arms, to organise workshops for the manufacture of different kinds of explosives, to draw up plans for seizing state and private stores of arms and arsenals. We must not only arm the people "with a burning desire to arm them selves," as the new Iskra advises us, but also "take the most energetic measures to arm the proletariat" in actual fact, as the Third Party Congress made it incumbent upon us to do. It is easier on this issue than on any other to reach agreement with the section that has split off from the Party (if it is really in earnest about arming and is not merely talking about "a burning desire to arm themselves"), as well as with the national Social-Democratic organisations, such as, for example, the Armenian Federalists and others who have set themselves the same object. Such an attempt has already been made in Baku, where after lhe February massacre our committee, the Balakhany-Bibi-Eibat group and the Gnchak Committee[39] set up among themselves an organising committee for procuring arms. It is absolutely essential that this difficult and responsible undertaking be organised by joint efforts, and we believe that factional interests should least of all hinder the amalgamation of all the Social-Democratic forces on this ground.

In addition to increasing stocks of arms and organising their procurement and manufacture, it is necessary. to devote most serious attention to the task of organising fighting squads of every kind for the purpose of utilising the arms that are being procured. Under no circumstances should actions such as distributing arms directly to the masses be resorted to. In view of the fact that our resources are limited and that it is extremely difficult to conceal weapons from the vigilant eyes of the police, we shall be unable to arm any considerable section of the population, and all our efforts will be wasted. It will be quite different when we set up a special fighting organisation. Our fighting squads will learn to handle their weapons, and during the uprising -- irrespective of whether it breaks out spontaneously or is prepared beforehand -- they will come out as the chief and leading units around which the insurgent people will rally, and under whose leadership they will march into battle. Thanks to their experience and organisation, and also to the fact that they will be well armed, it will be possible to utilise all the forces of the insurgent people and thereby achieve the immediate object -- the arming of the entire people and the execution of the prearranged plan of action. They will quickly capture various stores of arms, government and public offices, the post office, the telephone exchange, and so forth, which will be necessary for the further development of the revolution.

But these fighting squads will be needed not only when the revolutionary uprising has already spread over the whole town; their role will be no less important on the eve of the uprising. During the past six months it has become convincingly clear to us that the autocracy, which has discredited itself in the eyes of all classes of the population, has concentrated all its energy on mobilising the dark forces of the country -- professional hooligans, or the ignorant and fanatical elements among the Tatars -- for the purpose of fighting the revolutionaries. Armed and protected by the police, they are terrorising the population and creating a tense atmosphere for the liberation movement. Our fighting organisations must always be ready to offer due resistance to all the attempts made by these dark forces, and must try to convert the anger and the resistance called forth by their actions into an anti-government movement. The armed fighting squads, ready to go out into the streets and take their place at the head of the masses of the people at any moment, can easily achieve the object set by the Third Congress -- "to organise armed resistance to the actions of the Black Hundreds, and generally, of all reactionary elements led by the government" ( "Resolution on Attitude Towards the Government's Tactics on the Eve of the Revolution" -- see "Announcement").

One of the main tasks of our fighting squads, and of military-technical organisation in general, should be to draw up the plan of the uprising for their particular districts and co-ordinate it with the plan drawn up by the Party centre for the whole of Russia. Ascertain the enemy's weakest spots, choose the points from which the attack against him is to be launched, distribute all the forces over the district and thoroughly study the topography of the town -- all this must be done before hand, so that we shall not be taken by surprise under any circumstances. It is totally inappropriate here to go into a detailed analysis of this aspect of our organisations' activity. Strict secrecy in drawing up the plan of action must be accompanied by the widest possible dissemination among the proletariat of military-technical knowledge which is absolutely necessary for conducting street fighting. For this purpose we must utilise the services of the military men in the organisation. For this purpose also we must utilise the services of a number of other comrades who will be extremely useful in this matter because of their natural talent and inclinations.

Only such thorough preparation for insurrection can ensure for Social-Democracy the leading role in the forth coming battles between the people and the autocracy.

Only complete fighting preparedness will enable the proletariat to transform the isolated clashes with the police and the troops into a nation-wide uprising with the object of setting up a provisional revolutionary government in place of the tsarist government.

The supporters of the "khvostist policy" notwithstanding, the organised proletariat will exert all its efforts to concentrate both the technical and political leadership of the uprising in its own hands. This leadership is the essential condition which will enable us to utilise the impending revolution in the interests of our class struggle.

SACD vs MP3 (4, Informative)

valisk (622262) | about 10 years ago | (#10226834)

Whilst working for a UK Hi-Fi outlet in their engineering department, I have come across a number of players, particularly Sony, which are capable of playing SACD, but I have not noticed any growth in the number of SACD discs available to purchase, it is to all intents and purposes a dead format. MP3 on the other hand is big and getting bigger, in the past four months the number of MP3 players we see passing through our hands has quadroupled. As the article points out, the demand for wifi connections to these devices is also increasing. I fully expect to see the most flexible devices take the lions share of the market, but no doubt the crippled Sony player will have its share of adherents too.

Re:SACD vs MP3 (4, Insightful)

hype7 (239530) | about 10 years ago | (#10226983)

And this is a real shame, because technology is moving forward but the mediums are moving backwards.

The two aren't mutually exclusive. Some people want portability, and that's fine, but what I want is a high quality update of the CD; with it's quality, maybe with more channels, and with the ability to scale it down *myself* if I want to take it with me on an iPod or such. Give me high quality, no DRM, and I'll work out what I want to do with, thanks very much. Oh, and I will pay for it, if it's DRM free, because that means it's portable to me (as well as being high quality). I have a rack of about 500 CDs sitting here beside me as a testament to that.

And this isn't about digital files. Digital files could be great, if they were decent quality. I'd buy lossless versions of the digital masters by the truckload if I could... but not versions that are worse than the CDs I can already buy (128kbps typical online music store vs CDs 1411kbps).

Anyway, I think the main reason that the MP3 is popular is not because it's just portable, but because of that portability it's easy to pirate. Listening to music on portable music devices is fine, but when you stick a 128kB MP3 on a decent hi-fi, or in a car, it sounds like crap. Until they provide us with something more compelling than free (but crap quality), they're going to have a big piracy problem (as opposed to a small one).

But the record companies are going to learn one way or another. If what they put out costs the same, but in every other regard is a backwards step, there are going to be a lot of people throw up their hands in disgust and look for something better. Or at least different.

I (we) don't just want portability, we want fidelity. MP3 and co do not provide that. They'll only get so far in the market without taking that into account.

-- james

Re:SACD vs MP3 (4, Insightful)

valisk (622262) | about 10 years ago | (#10227031)

I think that you are right in that respect.

128kbps MP3s have noticible artifacts when I play them back through my Nakamichi AV-8 amp + Mordaunt-Short speakers, that simply aren't noticible when played through an iPods headphones.
Variable bit rate encoding helps a lot here.

Makes me wonder why given all the hulabuloo about 'Digital is Forever' that Valenti and his morons trumpet, they persist in offering 128kbps DRMed audio from their download sites.

I guess they simply want this distribution method to fail.

Re:SACD vs MP3 (3, Interesting)

abborren (773413) | about 10 years ago | (#10227166)

Which encoder you choose greatly impacts the quality of the resulting MP3s. My favourite general-purpose is LAME [sourceforge.net] . When going for high bitrates i choose BladeEnc [mp3.no] .

IMHO around 128 kbps with lame is where it gets diffcult to tell the difference in an ABX test.

I use OGG a lot, too. It is pretty good.

Re:SACD vs MP3 (1)

SCHecklerX (229973) | about 10 years ago | (#10227490)

I use VBR with LAME for the best of both worlds, using the --r3mix option. It's been a long time since I read up on it, but is --r3mix a better option, or should I be using --alt-preset extreme or --alt-preset insane?

Re:SACD vs MP3 (2, Interesting)

Otto (17870) | about 10 years ago | (#10228193)

--r3mix is way deprecated. If you're using the latest LAME, you should be using --alt-preset standard instead of --r3mix. You can use extreme or insane if you want, but it's unlikely you'll be able to ABX any actual differences between those and standard.

Re:SACD vs MP3 (1)

rizzo420 (136707) | about 10 years ago | (#10227746)

while that may still make a difference, it's still lossy. OGG is also quite lossy. the parent/grandparent's point was that the more popular format is becoming a crappy sounding format. why aren't they looking into making it sound great and be portable at the same time? do something more with flac since it is open source, make those filesizes smaller.

i'm also one with a large collection of CD's (no, not 500, i'm somewhere around 260, unless you count all my recorded shows and then i'm probably well over 500). I will continue to buy CD's as i not only like the sound quality, but i also like the concept of the album. there's a reason when an album is released it's released the way it is (at least with some bands). those songs are suppoed to flow together. how good would abbey road or sgt pepper be if those songs weren't listened to in that order? my only issue is the cost of the CD. it's still a ripoff. while i disagree with the RIAA, i like my music, so i'm gonna be buying CD's no matter what.

Re:SACD vs MP3 (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10227710)

Well it is a pity to see you using this "piracy" language. Nobody owns music and nobody should make another person feel bad for wanting to listen to music. It's a real shame you would pin a criminal label on people for listening to music. I supposed reading a book in a library is a form of asault?
If commercial artists don't get millions of dollars for cranking out commercial crap, that's a real heartbreaker. If I want to listen to their crap for free, well good for me. This is the liberating nature of technology. The supermarketed stars had their day. Now it's time for the people who aren't into music for the money to have a turn. If the superstars want to play, then good for them. This isn't exclusionary, this is embracing music for everyone rich and poor and that's the right thing and a good thing and you have no reason to call people names over it.
But I would agree that portablitity would most likely only be a priority to Steve Jobs since he's so heavily invested in his portable player.

Re:SACD vs MP3 (1)

AaronGTurner (731883) | about 10 years ago | (#10227971)

That's all very well but if you are 1% of the market and buy 500 CDs then the 99% of the market that might only buy 10% of that number each are what the record industry will be interested in. The total market is larger. Look at the increase in ringtone sales, for example. If low quality hi fi for ringtones make lots of money due to the number of units sold then ringtone friendly music and music formats and DRM will be what the record industry will require.

On the other hand for bands that want to put out their own material and distribute it themselves the likes of mp3 and ogg are much more attractive than physical media as they represent a much smaller and less risky initial capital outlay for distribution.

SACD (or something similar) will probably live on in niche markets only (e.g. high quality classical recordings) unless semi-auutomatic mastering tools that can master a recording to SACD, CD, mp3, and even ring tones in more-or-less one pass become available.

I don't have a problem on one level with physical media vanishing, since it cuts down on waste from all those ephemeral CD singles from manufactured bands that end up as landfill within a year, but it does mean that when music is coupled with DRM then old recordings might essentially be lost to the people, except within large libraries of recordings. I.e. they will be preserved for posterity, but only as fossils, rather than as hotly traded old pieces of physical media between buffs as old 78s are today.

Re:SACD vs MP3 (3, Insightful)

16K Ram Pack (690082) | about 10 years ago | (#10227143)

How about this for a theory - that for most non-Hi-Fi types (IE about 90% of the population), they just don't have the gear to get any benefit from SACD (like the amps/speakers).

For many people, music has become more like a "soundtrack" to their lives. Things like personal stereos, computer CD players and car cassette/cd increased the market for music because people would not have to sit down to listen, but could have it around them. However, the equipment for most people generally has low quality amplification.

In all these, cases though, portability of the musical content will be vital. I don't want to buy a CD for my audio system, another format for my car use, and another for my PC.

only that.. (2, Insightful)

gl4ss (559668) | about 10 years ago | (#10226845)

5 years ago mp3 was already an avalanche and making the same to movies was just around the corner.

cd is good enough for store sold, holds an unit of music riaa is willing to sell and on just about any consumer system cd itself isn't at fault but the crappy speaker/amplifier used to play it.

it's going to be hard to convince people to switch to a 'better' format when cd really sounds good enough, is already widely spread, and people have cd players everywhere.

Re:only that.. (2, Insightful)

SnowZero (92219) | about 10 years ago | (#10226869)

Not to mention you have to convince them why they need to buy their music collection again, just to get it on a different format (see CD vs. vinyl).

Re:only that.. (1)

the_2nd_coming (444906) | about 10 years ago | (#10227333)

H.264 will be the movie's MP3.

Re:only that.. (2, Insightful)

Zorilla (791636) | about 10 years ago | (#10227498)

I thought DivX already was, at least in the sense that it saved a lot of space while retaining quite a bit of quality and is widely used as a format for sharing movies.

Re:only that.. (1)

the_2nd_coming (444906) | about 10 years ago | (#10227985)

H.264 will be playable on DVD players though.

Portability... And security (5, Interesting)

KitFox (712780) | about 10 years ago | (#10226852)

People want to take their music everywhere, and get it fast. So they want portability, internet downloads, etc. But the folks with the product want a business model that makes a lot of money, so any way they can enforce anything that complicates copying, porting, or anything else will be on their To Do List.

So I end up wondering... With the business they want, and with self-destructing DVD's [slashdot.org] already a common thing, plus time-limited DRM's, how long until we are reduced to the age of "renting" everything... even that which we purchase fully?

And then, on another front, how long before people start realizing that if people just want to hear the music, Digital-Analog-Digital conversion completely strips DRM... Then how long before some crazy laws come out that make that illegal, and anything that can "Facilitate" such functions illegal... so no computers will have line in anymore, and posession of microphones will result in a still fine and jail term?

Re:Portability... And security (5, Funny)

dna_(c)(tm)(r) (618003) | about 10 years ago | (#10226885)

how long until we are reduced to the age of "renting" everything... even that which we purchase fully?

Just returned my rented steak, fries and salad back to nature. Thank you.

Re:Portability... And security (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10226915)

Nahh... It's not really about forcing everyone to rent all the entertainment. It's about forcing CONTENT CREATORS to go through the traditional channels. Ie: Those pesky "indie" bands will be forced to go through a record company in order to sell music on cd, because all the cd players are made to block non-authorized content.

Re:Portability... And security (1)

SnowZero (92219) | about 10 years ago | (#10226926)

We can call this future Farenheit 221 (a temperature by which most electronics will die). Conveniently plastic and PCBs melt much easier than books burn. People might write down designs for their circumvention devices howeverm, so you'll still need the flame-throwers for such meta-circumvention documents.

Luckily, your tinfoil hat is good up to 935 F.

Re:Portability... And security (1)

KitFox (712780) | about 10 years ago | (#10226976)

Luckily, your tinfoil hat is good up to 935 F.

OOoooooo!! I never knew that!! Hey Joe!! Your Tinfoil hat will protect you up to 935 F! Let's try that out!

Two hours later

Well, good news!! The tinfoil hat survived! Joe, on the other hand, was not rated that high.

Re:Portability... And security (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10227004)

how long until we are reduced to the age of "renting" everything

Then how long before some crazy laws come out that make that illegal, and anything that can "Facilitate" such functions illegal

If we assume that the current business model for the music industry will persist, then YES your predictions will come true. The music industry will have to find a way of plugging the "analog hole".

So the question is this: Will the music industry be successful in its attempts to enforce these harsh but necessary laws? Or, will we see a paradigm shift in the way people make money from music?

My money's on the latter, purely because the former will not be tolerated by consumers.

Re:Portability... And security (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10227983)

And then, on another front, how long before people start realizing that if people just want to hear the music, Digital-Analog-Digital conversion completely strips DRM... Then how long before some crazy laws come out that make that illegal, and anything that can "Facilitate" such functions illegal

Some people in the recording industry, partly via Orin Hatch, are already campaigning for future equipment to have no analog pathways. Since amps and so on still have analog inputs it will be a while, but within around 10 years it is an entirely possible scenario.

What about cassettes? (4, Insightful)

Fex303 (557896) | about 10 years ago | (#10226853)

...for the first time in music history, the next big format was not about better quality (SACD and such) but about better portability (MP3).

Um... Wasn't that the point of cassette tapes? They were a dominant format for a while and the reason they replaced vinyl was their portability and robustness (maybe play-time, too.) Certainly it wasn't about sound quality.

On another note, why does MP3 have to replace CD? For my money, I really don't think that there's any likelihood that'll happen. CDs are simple to use, store enough data, are lossless, and come with pretty packaging. All good things. I can't see why there can't be two parallel distribution systems.

Re:What about cassettes? (1)

ReidMaynard (161608) | about 10 years ago | (#10226870)

And here I thought cassettes were about replacing 8-Tracks; remember 8-tracks were the 1960's MP3 equiv..kind of.. sort of.

Re:What about cassettes? (2, Interesting)

klang (27062) | about 10 years ago | (#10226899)

Many albums are still available on vinyl, cd and cassette ... some even in one or several digitally encoded (reduced) form. (several parallel distribution systems have existed for the last 15-20 years)

Going from vinyl to cd's you had to buy the cd, because you couldn't transfer an album you already had... fine, for The Industry. CD's are not lossless compared with vinyl, it's still a digital format whereas vinyl is basicically analog..

Now, people are encoding their cd collections without the help of anybody and The Industry is not getting a second sale .. no wonder they are pissed.

The way things are going the walkman generation will be moving to iPods or similar. 10.000 songs at 128kbs or 5000 at 256 kbs .. the way harddisk space is going, quality will go up leaving the number of songs at roughly the same spot ..

Re:What about cassettes? (4, Insightful)

madfgurtbn (321041) | about 10 years ago | (#10226955)

CD's are not lossless compared with vinyl, it's still a digital format whereas vinyl is basicically analog..

I am not a sound engineer, but LP's were pretty noisy and had much less dynamic range than cd's. Different types of loss, but still a loss. Think of the sound you would hear as the needle rode in the groove before the music started. That sound was always there. There were many other quality issues with LP's, so I gladly switched to cd. It was a night and day difference in sound and convenience.

I know there are LP zealots out there who love the warm rich tones of vinyl, but I for one welcome our cd overlords. LP's sucked.

Re:What about cassettes? (2, Informative)

LeaInShadow (773675) | about 10 years ago | (#10226977)

actually a good LP has more dynamic range then a CD. If you take care of it well, and use a good needle, it will help take care of some of the audio blemishes that you hear. Yes there is noise, but it doesn't have to be as bad as the stereotype. anyhoo....

Re:What about cassettes? (3, Informative)

madfgurtbn (321041) | about 10 years ago | (#10227059)



From: http://georgegraham.com/compress.html

In 1982-83 when compact discs were introduced, it was like an epiphany for us audio folks. For the first time, consumers could purchase a recording in a medium whose dynamic range exceeded that of $20,000 professional tape machines. Now I know that there are vinyl-philes who still swear that LPs sound better than CDs. But right now I'm talking about signal-to-noise ratio and dynamic range. Putting aside the arguments about the analogue digital conversion process, I don't think anyone can make a convincing case that an LP (or a cassette for that matter) has a dynamic range that comes within 20 db of that available on a CD.



Re:What about cassettes? (1)

LeaInShadow (773675) | about 10 years ago | (#10227397)

I stand corrected. ;P

Re:What about cassettes? (1)

Zorilla (791636) | about 10 years ago | (#10227538)

As far as signal to noise ratio goes, it should be mentioned that CDs are 16 bits per sample. That means that the minimum amplitude that can be expressed on a CD is 1/32,768th that of a wave of 100% amplitude. That's pretty quiet. A lot of the background noise on an LP is much, much louder than that- probably even more so than 8 bit audio, which has a minimum amplitude of 1/128th that of 100% volume.

Re:What about cassettes? (1)

klang (27062) | about 10 years ago | (#10227306)

It is true that with vinyl the difference in sound varied with the equiptment and varied quite a bit. With CD's that difference might not be so great.

Me? I am happy with 128-320 kbs encoded mp3 as I don't have an expensive HI-FI anyway :-)

Re:What about cassettes? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10227326)

But CDs are lossless compared to vinyl *as your ears can hear it*. They are sampled at 44100 Hz, which is more than twice the top frequency of the ears of all but a few adults. And it is proven that as long as the sample frequency is at least twice the actual frequency, *you cannot hear the difference*. They might not be lossless in some abstract length, but as far as being listened to by humans is concerned, cds are lossless.

Re:What about cassettes? (3, Insightful)

zoeblade (600058) | about 10 years ago | (#10227422)

CD's are not lossless compared with vinyl

OK, that's not what lossless means in this context. Technically every format is lossy compared to the original source because any recording is inferior to actually being next to whatever's making the original sound. Microphones aren't perfect. Headphones, speakers and even studio monitors aren't perfect. Let alone the recording formats.

In this context, lossless means that when you transfer a clip of audio (or video for that matter) from one format to another, the two versions of that clip are completely identical. As far as I know, this is impossible with all analogue formats.

If you copy a twelve track master tape of an album onto a record or a CD, it will lose some of its fidelity. If you copy a record to tape or a CD to tape, it will lose fidelity.

This is the important part: transferring one digital copy of a file to another. Encoding a CD audio track or .wav or .aiff file to .mp3 or Ogg Vorbis is lossy, because cunning trickery is used to get rid of all the parts of the sound that most human beings can't hear. FLAC and Shorten, however, are lossless because they preserve the data exactly.

For example, try this on a *nix machine:

flac --best blah.wav
flac -d blah.flac -o blah2.wav
cmp blah.wav blah2.wav

The first line encodes a wave file losslessly. The second line decodes it. The third line compares the two. They are identical.

This is useful for several reasons. None of the reasons are how good it sounds; Ogg Vorbis quality three can probably convince most people (I know I can't tell the difference between that and the original audio). However, say you want to encode your CD collection to mp3, and then a year later you want to encode it to Ogg Vorbis instead. Transcoding (that is, transferring a file from one lossy format to another) sounds terrible. It's best to keep a lossless copy of your songs so that if you change your mind about the lossy format to listen to them in, you can automate the process.

Another, less likely, advantage is this: you can use steganography to hide data in wave files (steghide does this, for example). Losslessly compressed wave files retain this hidden data. Now you can stash your porn or ROMs where no one will think of looking, and even keep a backup on a P2P client.

Re:What about cassettes? (1)

Fex303 (557896) | about 10 years ago | (#10227940)

CD's are not lossless compared with vinyl, it's still a digital format whereas vinyl is basicically analog.

I wasn't actually comparing CD to vinyl there. I was contrasting CD with MP3. Actually, I don't think the term lossless can be applied to any analogue system. The term fidelity is much more useful in these circumstances. And vinyl's fidelity ranges from sublime to bloody awful, depending on the pressing, turntable used, stylus, cartridge, etc.

Don't get me wrong here, I think vinyl's an excellent system and I've got way too many records piled up next to me right now for it to be healthy. However I've recently come to the conclusion that I don't like it so much for the sound quality (though it can be very good) as much as for the sound texture. It's warm tones and the strong body to the sound are very hard to replicate on CD. The other thing about vinyl that makes it so good is the method of control. It's not important unless you want to DJ, but I'm yet to see a CD manipulation system as simple yet flexible as two turntables and a mixer.

I hate round plasic discs... (1, Funny)

NoMercy (105420) | about 10 years ago | (#10226883)

But then I want isolinear chips from startreck, so feel free to ignore me :)

Re:I hate round plasic discs... (0, Troll)

NanoGator (522640) | about 10 years ago | (#10226895)

"But then I want isolinear chips from startreck, so feel free to ignore me :) "

I ignored you because of your atroshus* spelling of Trek. Commander Data, you are not.

Re:I hate round plasic discs... (1)

SnowZero (92219) | about 10 years ago | (#10226931)

Perhaps that's how they spell it on Seti Alpha Five?

Re:I hate round plasic discs... (1)

NanoGator (522640) | about 10 years ago | (#10227009)

"Perhaps that's how they spell it on Seti Alpha Five? "

There's no way that Admiral Kirk would allow that change to basic human language to be made!

(to any of you nodding your head in agreement, the mystery of why you don't have a significant other has been solved.)

MPEG AAC != Dolby AC-2 (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10226892)

As a technical matter, I just wanted to clarify the error in the article, when the author states: "When people say "AAC" they usually really mean AC-2. Based primarily on adaptive delta modulation technology as refined by Dolby Laboratories, AC-2 was developed for professional audio transmission..." AAC and AC-2 are completely different algorithms. Dolby did develop AC-2 on it's own. Dolby later worked jointly with AT&T/Sony/FhG on developing AAC, which shares some similarities to MP3, but uses improved filterbanks and entropy codes (among other improvements).

Re:MPEG AAC != Dolby AC-2 (2, Informative)

NothingToSeeHere (784682) | about 10 years ago | (#10227010)

Argh. Yeah, and they keep repeating that mistake, too - really bothersome in an otherwise well-written article.

Apple never mentioned AC-2 anywhere. In fact, they usually expand AAC to Advanced Audio Coding in their explanations. I wonder where the author got that wrong idea.

Let's see how long it takes for this myth to spread across the internet...

Re:MPEG AAC != Dolby AC-2 (1, Troll)

kimota (136493) | about 10 years ago | (#10227532)

Well, I think if this 'myth' does spread, it'll likely take the form of "Thomas Dolby invented the iPod, thereby BLINDING us with SCIENCE!"

--Kimota!

Need for DRM? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10226896)

" Last but certainly not least, the compression format will have to support digital rights management, or technical protection--that is, it must include technology that limits unauthorized copying and distribution."

I wonder how he justifies that considering one of the strong points of the leader, MP3 is no DRM.

Cheers (1)

NanoGator (522640) | about 10 years ago | (#10226914)

"At that time, hardly anybody doubted that the music would be encoded optically on a round plastic disc the size of a CD.'"

Thanks for putting the nail in that coffin, Apple! Surely a key factor in the iPod's success is in its size.

Re:Cheers (1)

valisk (622262) | about 10 years ago | (#10226990)

IMHO a major key in the iPods success is just how reliable these little buggers are.

I work testing and repairing all sorts of electronics for a UK Hi-Fi company and I see a fair old few MP3 players returned.

The vast majority of iPods returned have nothing wrong with them that a good RTFM loudly directed at its owner wouldn't fix.

Unlike Philips HDD060 which is a piece of garbage, it has to be charged for 14 hours out of the box or you risk fucking it's battery, and Philips don't see any need to inform customers of this with a note inside the product. Also it's DRM software is horribly slow.

The other competitor I see a lot of, is the iRiver iHP 1X0 series, damn fine players with a bag of functions, but a bit on the fragile side unfortunately.

Re:Cheers (1)

moonbender (547943) | about 10 years ago | (#10227094)

Unlike Philips HDD060 which is a piece of garbage, it has to be charged for 14 hours out of the box or you risk fucking it's battery, and Philips don't see any need to inform customers of this with a note inside the product. Also it's DRM software is horribly slow.

Care to elaborate? I was going to buy one and now am looking into the successor models HDD050 and HDD065...

Re:Cheers (2, Informative)

valisk (622262) | about 10 years ago | (#10227381)

When you first plug the unit it it is unresponsive and if the units are not charged for a full 14 hrs on installation, the units either lock up displaying a ! symbol or they simply refuse to power on.

Quite a problem if the owner does not know that they have to charge the unit before use.

This problem is so bad that Philips opened a unit specifically to put new batteries into the units before sending them back out.

The unit though it can be used as a removable HDD will not play mp3s that you simply drag and drop onto the drive.
It requires going through Philips (Java based) DRM software, and it takes a long time to load up the device, around 50 seconds to transfer a 3 minute 128kbps mp3 via USB.

Not a product I could in all good conscience recommend.

Hope that helps :)

Re:Cheers (1)

moonbender (547943) | about 10 years ago | (#10227668)

The unit though it can be used as a removable HDD will not play mp3s that you simply drag and drop onto the drive.

Eww. That really sucks. And I guess it's unlikely they changed that with the new models, although they finally went ahead and used USB2.0 with those, which is the main reason I didn't get the HDD060. A friend says his iPod can't do that, either, though, is that true?

Thanks!

MP3 vs the rest: Is file size really an issue? (5, Insightful)

Simon (815) | about 10 years ago | (#10226930)

There seems to be an assumption by the technologists and music industry that people are dying for a better format to replace MP3. Better quality, smaller file sizes. I don't believe that is so.

Filesize: But when a new computer comes with a 200Gb harddrive do most people these days even care that MP3 maybe isn't the most effective compression algorithm? I mean, you've got plenty for space so who cares if the typical music collection is 5Gb or 10Gb?

Quality: Most people are happy with CD quality. 192Kb MP3 pretty much gives you that quality. Most people are more than happy with MP3, especially on a portable device where listen conditions are 'suboptimal' shall we say.

Portablity vs DRM: This is the killer feature of digital music. The music industry wants to stop it, for everyone else it is all about being able to move music around. This is the one 'feature' that people do not want to see go.

What I've trying to say here is that people are more than happy with MP3 and the 'problems' with MP3 really aren't an issue for the majority of people, while these replacement formats kill the one feature that people really care about.

Good luck marketing your new formats, music industry. You'll need it!

--
Simon

Re:MP3 vs the rest: Is file size really an issue? (2, Interesting)

hype7 (239530) | about 10 years ago | (#10227061)

I completely agree with your identification of the issues, with the exception that you've left off price. You've applied your own standing to those issues, which is fair enough, but not everyone agrees with you.

I don't mean to be the smelly hairy audiophile (anyway, I'm not) but the 192Kb MP3s that you refer to suck as soon as you're not listening to them on those shitty iPod headphones.

Like many other college students, I've invested a bit in a decent hi-fi (as much as I could afford) that has decent components in it. My mother can pick the difference between MP3s at less than 192kbps and a CD. I have a few demo SACDs and DVD-As (not going to buy many because I can't put them into iTunes) and the difference between these and CDs is unbelievable.

I am willing to pay more for good quality and no DRM. The RIAA is only interested in offering a wide range of poorly-formatted songs (i.e. put on AAC/MP3/WMA, etc) or a very narrow range of well formatted songs (i.e. put on DVD-A or SACD) but all of them, every last one, has DRM. So I'm buying CDs, but less of them, because I'm becoming disillusioned with the whole situation...

So, as someone who is one of their customers and who has spent a lot of money on their products, I'm sick of this situation. I want their product, but I don't want to be assumed to be a criminal. Yes, I'll probably let my sister copy my songs but that's never going to stop. It's always been the case, and always will be, no matter what stupid DRM you put on the product. I'll strip, fucking sue me.

I might sample a few songs online but I go and buy the CD. The quality is better, and it saves the hastle of going through and finding the songs. It's great for discovery but no good for getting a lot of what you want.

Surely these overpaid fuckers at the RIAA can find a business model in there somewhere. They have a product I want, I want to give them money, but I don't want to be told how it is acceptable for me to use their product.

-- james

Re:MP3 vs the rest: Is file size really an issue? (1)

hype7 (239530) | about 10 years ago | (#10227068)

bit too quick on the submit button there, cowboy :)

I'll strip, fucking sue me.


I wasn't meaning to be comical. It should be:

I'll strip
it, fucking sue me.


Sorry :)

-- james

Re:MP3 vs the rest: Is file size really an issue? (2, Informative)

damiam (409504) | about 10 years ago | (#10227315)

I don't mean to be the smelly hairy audiophile (anyway, I'm not) but the 192Kb MP3s that you refer to suck as soon as you're not listening to them on those shitty iPod headphones.

Maybe to you. I have some decent headphones (Sennheiser HD 497) and I can't tell the difference between CDs and lame --alt-preset-standard (VBR, about 192kbps). I'd say most people are in the same boat.

Re:MP3 vs the rest: Is file size really an issue? (1)

Zorilla (791636) | about 10 years ago | (#10227625)

I thought I was an audio nut until I heard about the stories of people getting $2,000 speakers (individual price) and complaining that CDs were at 44100 Hz when it really should be 48000 or 96000 Hz because you "lose the detail on the high end waves". Point being that, even with my good hearing, I still can't tell the difference between CDs and 192kbps LAME encodings. Even when Pro Logic is applied to it to listen in 5.1 surround, there is no swishing in the rear channels (caused by sloppy stereo separation).

My hearing is kept in check every now and then. I've pointed out MPEG artifacting in a CD me and some others were listening to while we drove to lunch one day and the response was, "What th- you can hear that?"

At least it's good to know that some people are in the same boat as us. Luckily, there are very few who fit my first example.

Re:MP3 vs the rest: Is file size really an issue? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10227718)

I can hear sound at frequencies I'm sure are >44kHz (don't have an osciloscope so can't really check), and so can most young people. It doesn't sound very nice, and most music doesn't really suffer from missing out of that area of the spectrum, but still for totally perfect audio reproduction 44kHz isn't good enough.

I can't reliably tell between 192kbps and CD either, and 128kbps only on a good day.

Re:MP3 vs the rest: Is file size really an issue? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10228241)

I remember I could clearly hear the ultrasonic remote controls from the 1970' from across the room. Easy to test: somebody pushed the button and I would say 'yes' when I heard it. Nobody else heard them.

When in the uni, I had problems with bats. That's right, bats. While I was studying in June for the exams with my window open, the sounds of the bats reflected off the window, opened at 45 degrees, straight into my ear. It caused very weird, disturbing annoyances. It actually took me a while to find out that the bats were the culprits, and changing the angle of the window solved the issue. None of my fellow students could hear anything.

Maybe I would have heard the difference between a good quality 192kbps MP3 and a CD back then, but now I simply can't. Since most people have much worse hearing than I (still) have, a 192kbps MP3 is plenty good enough for 95% of the population. The remaining 5% may go pound sand.

Is DRM Necessary? (4, Interesting)

plasticmillion (649623) | about 10 years ago | (#10226943)

It's interesting that the article parrots conventional wisdom by presenting ubiquitous DRM as inevitable, rather than one possible future. Personally I think that DRM may end up a lot less widespread than most people expect.

The premise that we can't do without DRM is based on a couple of unfounded assumptions. One is that people will always avoid paying if they can. This has already been proven wrong by the success of iTunes Store (and to a lesser extent competiting offering), despite the fact that there are plenty of sources of free music on the internet (especially P2P software like Kazaa and eMule). The second is that DRM actually works; actually there have been convincing arguments [mit.edu] that this will never work, especially considering the fact that a D->A->D conversion will produce very good results (probably as good as 128 bit MP3) and is basically impossible to prevent.

Then consider how much of a turnoff DRM is for customers. I think a good analogy is the early software industry. It used to be that floppy disks were crippled with "copy protection" technology, and a lot of software required the use of a hardware dongle. Nowadays these approaches have gone the way of the dinosaur and software companies tend to rely on much, much lighter weight protection like a simple license code. The reason is that copy protection was more likely to deter well-meaning novice users than hardened hackers, resulting in reduced sales. The software industry eventually realized that the right price points and distribution mechanisms were going to raise their revenues and profits a lot more than these "protections".

To me it seems logical that the music industry will eventually go the same route, even if it means that today's leading players will be dethroned by more forward-looking challengers. They're only clinging to DRM now because they are terrified of cannibalizing their existing revenue streams. This might work for a while but history suggests that they can't hold back the tide of technology forever.

Re:Is DRM Necessary? (1)

eddy (18759) | about 10 years ago | (#10227066)

>It used to be that floppy disks were crippled with "copy protection" technology [...] Nowadays these approaches have gone the way of the dinosaur [...]

Bought a game lately? Floppys are gone, but customer-agitating CD-protections are the rule, not the exception.

Re:Is DRM Necessary? (3, Insightful)

e6003 (552415) | about 10 years ago | (#10227070)

Well said - I agree completely. I think it's very interesting to note that, despite the paranoia here on /. about DRM "slipping in the back door" because uneducated Joe Public will "just accept it", the evidence is that this just isn't happening. I don't think it's a coincidence that the market leader in "legal" music downloads (iTunes Music Store) is also the one with the least restrictive DRM. A lot of the pessimism is starting to be misplaced I think - "Joe Public" knows damn well that change is in the air for the music business (even if they can't put their finger on why - improved communications == easier copying == no need for specialist distributors of music) and they also figure that DRM is likely to stop them doing what they want with their music. And sensibly, they aren't buying the devices that the consumer electronics companies (under pressure from the RIAA) want to sell them - devices crippled with DRM that let you do LESS with the music you've bought! I also don't think it's a coincidence that the market leader in portable music devices (the iPod) is one that primarily supports a completely unencumbered music format (MP3). Despite the hype about being the "Walkman for the 21st century" the offerings from Sony that insist on burdensome conversion to ATRAC, and harsh DRM, are nowhere - for this exact reason.

I also find it instructive, whenever a music industry lapdog or article starts lauding "copy protection" (as this article does) to mentally substitute the phrase "business model protection" because that's what it's all about (protecting rights to exclusive distribution of music). But there's no doubt in my mind that consumers have rumbled this and won't let the market players get away with it.

Re:Is DRM Necessary? (-1, Troll)

AaronGTurner (731883) | about 10 years ago | (#10228008)

"I don't think it's a coincidence that the market leader in "legal" music downloads (iTunes Music Store) is also the one with the least restrictive DRM."

The least restrictive DRM (and copyright) are those tracks released on the creative commons licence. They are not market leaders, but are the least restrictive.

Re: DRM just adds useless overhead (2, Insightful)

Alwin Henseler (640539) | about 10 years ago | (#10227289)

I think current DVD players are a good example of the practical 'use' of DRM. They contain protection mechanisms (in hardware and software) like region coding, CSS and more. What does it do for consumers?

There was a Slashdot story [slashdot.org] earlier about an interview [engadget.com] with MPAA's Jack Valenti, who said: "I really do believe we can stuff enough algorithms in a movie that only the dedicated hackers can spend the time and effort to try to plumb through those 1,000 algorithms to try to find a way to beat it". He really doesn't have a clue, does he? A consumer gets the content, has a decoder, and gets decoding keys where needed (somehow), and to prevent interception, decoding will have to be done at the endpoint, the consumers' equipment. And then you expect to be able to ensure that content never leaves the device once decoded? Get real.

Consumers are faced with extra hassle, limitations resulting from DRM features, and building those features into equipment and software makes everything more complicated and expensive. Hackers on the other hand (both black hat & white hat), will have circumvented DRM features in no-time.

The interesting point here: the barrier it presents to hackers is removed quickly, and isn't an issue after that, but all disadvantages it presents to consumers, REMAIN. If, in 10 years from now, you want to write a software DVD player, chances are at some point you'll still have to deal with region codes, CSS and other useless crap, and DVD-enabled equipment will always be more complicated and expensive than it has to be because of the included DRM features.

Concluding: DRM just adds useless overhead, extra cost, and doesn't do squat to prevent unintentional copying (aside from whether you think it should). I wrote a rant titled "CONTROL versus FREEDOM [alwinh.dds.nl] " some time ago, that isn't of much interest anymore, but its conclusion still holds. For me, it means that I won't invest any money in products that have significant DRM features built in. CD's with copy protection? Game consoles that you're not allowed to mod, or run your own software on? Stick it up your .....

Re: DRM just adds useless overhead (1)

BeerCat (685972) | about 10 years ago | (#10227499)

It also doesn't help equipment manufactuers.

Region coding that is difficult to change means that the manufactuer effectively has multiple production and distribution lines. (one for each region).
In an ideal world, the sales in each area will be constant, but, as Apple found with the multi-coloured iMacs, Joe Public preferred some colours over others.

The same applies with the players. If, say, Europe has a sudden surge, at the expense of Japan, then all the players made for Japan sit on the warehouse shelves.

With margins for players really low (I could pick one up here in the UK for under £30), a manufacturer needs to be able to sell all the players they make, so increasingly, the "box shifter" manufacturers (as opposed to the big names like Sony), are increasingly relying on really easy to change region coding, to maximise their sales.

So, the consumers don't like it, the manufacturers don't like it...

Re: DRM just adds useless overhead (1)

AaronGTurner (731883) | about 10 years ago | (#10228027)

Remember that Sony is essentially just rebadging players made in a comparatively few factories. A factory making Sony players one month may be making ones branded differently the next. (The same sort of thing goes on with laptops - essentially made in 5 factories, and guitars - many brands, few actual manufacturers).

DRM for Everyone! (or am I paranoid?) (5, Informative)

Spellunk (777915) | about 10 years ago | (#10226950)

While the IEEE tries to be impartial on DRM issues, I have seen an increase in DRM on every new storage medium in the last year. I am a member of IEEE and I was so displeased with the DRM of my last MP3 player (the RCA one in the article, actually) that I built one that has no DRM and a better user interface (I'll post it soon)

Anyways, look out for many of the DRM features lying around to be activated in the near future. The biggest concern will be in memory cards, as most of them have built in features to erase the file after a certain number of plays.

Also in the near future: DVD players having their playing rights revoked (a code on the disc only allows keys stored on approved players to access the content. Both of these are not "coming-up" technologies, they exist at this very moment in hardware, it is just a matter of time before manufacturers activate them.

Re:DRM for Everyone! (or am I paranoid?) (1)

bloo9298 (258454) | about 10 years ago | (#10227566)

Also in the near future: DVD players having their playing rights revoked (a code on the disc only allows keys stored on approved players to access the content. Both of these are not "coming-up" technologies, they exist at this very moment in hardware, it is just a matter of time before manufacturers activate them.

Could you elaborate on this please?

Bullshit! (2, Insightful)

Wonderkid (541329) | about 10 years ago | (#10226962)

"At that time, hardly anybody doubted that the music would be encoded optically on a round plastic disc the size of a CD.'" - I have been discussing [owonder.com] on demand digital music since 1988. And I'm fedup of reading about 'new' concepts and technologies that myself and other technical innovators pioneer or discuss years before the media and thick haired golf players wake up and smell the coffee. It's about time this behavior stops and us genuine innovators get due credit. And we'll start by getting rid of the dumbed down celebrity culture which means it's good PR and dress sense that get you noticed rather than the truth and good will.

Good PR... (1)

Chordonblue (585047) | about 10 years ago | (#10227224)

...is important stuff. I could give you countless examples of how good PR overcame better technology. I guess the thing we techies have a problem with is that we can't understand how a superior technology or better way of doing things doesn't become the standard.

Alas, the world doesn't work that way and doesn't look like it will change anytime soon. Most people are not technical in nature and rely on a balance of information - mostly given to them by the mass media. Don't blame them - they simply don't know. After all, how much do you know about scrapbooking or landscaping? Most people have a focus in life on only a few things - not a flaw, just a fact. Ciphering the details on new tech or formats just isn't something most people will engage in.

I think in the case of electronics formats, quality has ALWAYS taken a back seat to cost, marketability, and the 'it's good enough' factor. Case in point: Beta Vs. VHS. VHS's costs were lower, had more manufacturers to market, and was good enough for home recording/playback. Was it better than Beta? Not in the least. And that's why MP3's are winning also. Low cost, great portability, and it's simply good enough.

You do get a '+1 Insightful' for your use of 'thick haired golf players'. Amazing how a short stereotypical statement like that illustrates things.

Not the first time (1)

Tom7 (102298) | about 10 years ago | (#10227051)

I dunno, I'd say the jump from vinyl to tape was about portability over quality, too.

Give me DVD audio over CD quality any day (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10227264)

Well I THOUGHT the music industry was heading in the right direction with their CD one side DVD other side discs, but I guess I was wrong.

I don't want portability. I'm not going to store 15,000 songs on an MP3 player. Heck, most of them will sit there unused for months. I want quality, DVD quality specifically. The difference between DVD and CD audio is just amazing. People might say there isn't much of a difference between the two, but chances are they're either deaf or have never heard the two compared to each other. It's just sooooo much better than past technologies. The problem is that no companies are putting their music out in DVD format.

Any of you who have audigy 2s, go get your discs and search for your DVD audio sampler disc. You'll have to install creative's junky music player to get it to work(I haven't found a DVD audio plugin for winamp that works with it), but it's worth it to hear the difference. Go on, do it, you can uninstall everything when you're done. You'll be amazed.

First time in history... (2, Insightful)

Junior J. Junior III (192702) | about 10 years ago | (#10227266)

for sufficiently small values of "history".

After all, the phonograph record was a step down in quality from live music, but ever more portable tha a full band or orchestra.

Time we stopped calling this "music industry" (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10227307)

I keep getting labelled a troll when I post stuff like this, which is why I'm getting a bit disillusioned with Slashdot, but we do need to remember that "the Music Industry" is not the music industry. All over the world people are doing live performances, making little independent recordings on CDs or tape, creating genuinely experimental music. The thing the IEEE et al call the "Music Industry" is the bit that is run by large companies that figure on stock exchanges and so are visible to the media, and which in general is followed by a subset of the 10-30 age group in the developed world.

There is no doubt that it is important in that its activities drive technical developments in certain directions, especially in the electronics and computer industries, but it isn't as important as it thinks it is. Its products are ephemeral and one day it will be of interest only to historians. Anybody who doubts this should look at the history of music; music is no longer driven by competing cathedrals, protestant churches or local rulers. When Bach was a superstar composer, he was part of a musico-industrial complex that no longer exists. Bach survives because he was also a great musician, but most of the composers of that era are completely forgotten. When Mozart was a kid, cathedrals tried to enforce copyright by excommunicating anyone who tried to memorise and reproduce the tunes of their new settings. This business model no longer works very well.

And my point? That many people already may be seriously pissed off with the "Music Industry" but their activities, because they are small scale and local, are under the radar. Just like rock music was, once, when its performers couldn't afford proper instruments. We don't actually know where the next groundswell will come from, but we can be fairly sure that DRM-crippled reproduction equipment and the like will mean that the next new thing will come from left field. Rather than read about "Record execs pay research organisation to talk up their latest revenue protection concept" or whatever, I would like to know more about what might be happening in genuine grassroots music, and whether recording,transmission and reproduction technologies are aiding it, impeding it or are irrelevant.

Re:Time we stopped calling this "music industry" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10227712)

Excellent post, thanks. One could also add the example of raps origins and the creative use of very low end tech to make that happen. Analogue tech btw.

But, this is /. I imagine your post fails to move beyond a most humble 0 because:
1) you're talking about big-concept social issues rather than technology itself
2) you're posting anonymously as I am, it seems the editors here want you to register and develop an "online identity" or virtual character, another interesting concept in itself, socially speaking. I wonder what the bottom-line purpose of that is?

Maybe someone can further illuminate, I myself always wonder why big-concept social stuff like this is not of greater interest here.

WAV? Compression format? (4, Informative)

Alwin Henseler (640539) | about 10 years ago | (#10227323)

From the article: "WAV has one of the lowest compression ratios and is virtually lossless, but it is not streamable"

WAV isn't compressed format at all (check filesize against audio data rate), IS fully (not virtually) lossless, and although the format wasn't designed for it, being raw audio data, ofcourse you could stream it.

Re:WAV? Compression format? (1)

Zorilla (791636) | about 10 years ago | (#10227665)

If anything, WAV is slightly larger than what the bitrate mandates, when you consider that it has a header that describes its sample rate, bitdepth, and encoding type (i.e PCM vs. u-Law).

And for more fun (because it's almost raw PCM), try cat foo.wav > /dev/dsp

Re:WAV? Compression format? (1)

ratamacue (593855) | about 10 years ago | (#10228175)

IS fully (not virtually) lossless

Technically, the term "lossless" does not even apply, because (as you said) wav isn't a compressed format.

It Ain't About the Quality... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10227407)

...for most consumers.

Quality is one factor, portability is another, but convenience of use is probably the most important selling point for a format. That includes both the actual features of the format as well as simply obtaining the hardware (cost, backwards compatability, etc.).

The idea that people stampeded to CDs primarily because of better fidelity is mainly P.R. B.S. It was also about moving toward the portability of cassettes, merged with the direct track access of vinyl (remember cassette decks with that pain-in-the-ass silence-sensing to skip tracks?) and a new leap forward in durability.

A higher sampling rate or 5.1 sound or whatever will never trump portability, durability, convenience for the masses.

After all, it wasn't stereo sound and less static that allowed FM to supercede AM (it was largely due to unique content).

This is why the push by the music industry for DVD-A and SACD (largely fueled by piracy fears) will undoubtedly go the way of DAT, MiniDisc, and the Digital Compact Cassette (remember those?) for the masses...

Bad Title (1)

SCHecklerX (229973) | about 10 years ago | (#10227443)

You are talking about digital format technology, not "music" technology. By the title, I'd expect to see something about how instruments and such are changing.

creating backups of your music data ... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10227554)

What troubles me about this article is that no mention appears to have been made about what happens when an audiophile with an extensive collection of music located ONLY in one place, on a hard disk, loses that hard drive to a hardware failure, and if he / she doesn't have any back-ups? I wonder how informed are the masses which buy new computer systems, or new high-capacity music players, about the role that backups play in their lives. With vinyl, tapes, CDs, and DVDs, music collectors always had the possession of the physical media, but with digital, Internet-based, distribution of music, and eventually movies, this ownership seems, less real, and more ephemeral. This comes from a person
(me), who preaches backups to other people, yet who is too lazy to even perform them himself.

Re:creating backups of your music data ... (1)

AaronGTurner (731883) | about 10 years ago | (#10228052)

From my perspective the worry is that I have a large collection of music that I have written, or original music performed by bands I have been in. I have backed various multitrack tapes up to CD in wav format, but I need to really redo it all in FLAC and multiply for security. The original tapes I have still play, of course, but I may not always have a tape player that works, and the tapes are much bulkier than now a handful of DVDs (with things backed up to more than one DVD in case a DVD fails).

Accessibility not Portability (2, Insightful)

ssummer (533461) | about 10 years ago | (#10227783)

The industry needs a reality check.

Yes, increased portability is behind the success of the iPod and other portable players. However take a look around you the next time you're riding the train, taking the bus or walking down a busy street: count how many people who are actually listening to ANYTHING, be it a MP3 player or even a portable CD player (excluding cell phones). Chances are it will be less than 1 in 10 (even for here in NYC).

The portability market is finite, and it has just about reached the saturation point. People in general only listen to recorded music in 3 places: home, the office, and the car. The first two of which do not benefit from increased portability. Who cares if the listening device+media is as big as a brick or as small as a postage stamp in their home/office?

This brings me to the car. The only portability that benefits the car listener is the ease of transferring and listening to one's music (which for the overwhelming majority of the population is on CD or cassette) from the home/office to the car and vice versa in the least steps possible. Right now the simplest way is a two step process: #1:take CD from home/office unit, #2:place in car stereo. In all the different portability solutions available, none comes close to rivaling the ease of use of the CD solution.

Well actually, one solution comes close: those people that download ALL their music, place it directly to a memory card and then plug it into a car stereo that accepts that memory card/compression format. This is very unlikely to take off as it requires a fundamental shift in the physical media used to distribute recorded music to the "non-connected people" aka "the buying public". Why? Because if the original source of the music is on a CD, that automatically adds another (time-consuming) step to the process (converting from CDDA to whatever file format becomes the next big thing).

Other than the glaringly obvious advantage of getting something for free (that isn't), MP3 succeeded because it brought us greater ACCESSIBILITY to our music. Mr. Home/Office/Car Listener could now get (timely) access to exactly the music he wants without having to leave his home/office. It wasn't (and still is not) because he could carry his whole collection in a nifty little device that fits in his shirt pocket, he just burns the music (uncompressed) to CD anyway.

The majority of the public does not need increased portability (the MiniDisc fiasco should have tipped the industry off to that). We need increased ACCESSIBILITY: getting the music I want, where I want (which for most of us is just the home/office/car), when I want (which is NOW).

The compression/the device/the size/the method of transmission/the protection is insignificant to me, just MAKE IT HAPPEN in as few steps as possible. Right now their is only one ubiquitous digital device (other than the CD player) that could serve as a point of access to OUR music, and you probably already know what it is:

The cell phone.

Anyone listening?

Re:Accessibility not Portability (1)

AaronGTurner (731883) | about 10 years ago | (#10228066)

"However take a look around you the next time you're riding the train, taking the bus or walking down a busy street: count how many people who are actually listening to ANYTHING, be it a MP3 player or even a portable CD player (excluding cell phones). Chances are it will be less than 1 in 10 (even for here in NYC)." Seems to me that every other person is listening to some annoying tinny thing they call "music" these days. Of course it isn't proper music as you can't understand the words and it is just a repetitive beat and bleeping noises. Maybe I am just getting old. Anyway, must get back to writing a letter to the Telegraph complaining how everything round here used to be fields and young people used to be respectful and a haircut only cost 1 and 6.

Re:Accessibility not Portability (0, Redundant)

AaronGTurner (731883) | about 10 years ago | (#10228082)

"However take a look around you the next time you're riding the train, taking the bus or walking down a busy street: count how many people who are actually listening to ANYTHING, be it a MP3 player or even a portable CD player (excluding cell phones). Chances are it will be less than 1 in 10 (even for here in NYC)."

Seems to me that every other person is listening to some annoying tinny thing they call "music" these days. Of course it isn't proper music as you can't understand the words and it is just a repetitive beat and bleeping noises.

Maybe I am just getting old.

Anyway, must get back to writing a letter to the Telegraph complaining how everything round here used to be fields and young people used to be respectful and a haircut only cost 1 and 6.

Re:Accessibility not Portability (1)

spisska (796395) | about 10 years ago | (#10228220)

Music on cell phones?

Ummmm. Actualy, Microsoft is listening: http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=58 1&e=3&u=/nm/20040910/tc_nm/tech_microsoft_music_dc [yahoo.com]

The only problem with that is that most people like to save their phone's juice for using the phone. Listning to music on a phone is all well and good, but not if it means having to charge it every few hours. Some companies are also talking about porting TV to cell phones, which is a bit silly.

As far as portability goes, an iPod with an FM transmitter is whole hell of a lot easier than hauling a suitcase full of CDs back and forth between home, office and car. And its a much cheaper solution than a car stereo with a memory card reader.

Portability IS accessibility. MiniDiscs failed because they didn't really add anything to the mix. The advantages were slight, and the costs were high. iPods and similar players, on the other hand, offer quite significant advantages. They don't take up any space, and they hold an entire library.

I already have most of my CDs copied to a Myth box at home. That's accessibility that beats the pants off the 5-CD changer I used to use. The FM-enabled iPod let me take the whole collection on a 5-hour drive last week. Beats the pants off switching tapes (or CDs) every little while.

The industry certainly does need a reality check, but it's as much in how they promote and distribute music as it is how people choose to play that music back.

It's not about portability any longer! (1)

jjn1056 (85209) | about 10 years ago | (#10227923)

The only reason why people used MP3 at all was because it shortened download time back when most people still used dialup. It's actually a big pain to have to rip and then encode the music. Now that lots of people have broadband, we could all just share cd rips using a non lossless format. The only reason why Jobs is talking about encoding formats at all is a self serving one: In order to make money, he needs to assure the music companies that the downloaded music has strong DRM. Also, it makes it less likely people will try to get around the DRM by re-encoding from an analog source, such as the analog out on your Mac, since the compressed music is lower in quality to begin with.

Not the first time... (1)

AaronGTurner (731883) | about 10 years ago | (#10227935)

Tapes were a case of portability winning over superior sound quality.

Some argue that the CD was the same.

So this is nothing new.

Last Post! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10228143)

Last Post!
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