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Speculation On a Lossless iTunes Store

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the filling-up-the-160-gb-ipod dept.

Music 321

DrJenny writes "C|net UK has up an interesting blog post predicting that within 12 months Apple's iTunes Store will include a download center for lossless audio. This would be a massively positive move for people who spend thousands of dollars on hi-fi gear, but refuse to give money to stores that only offer compressed music — they could finally take advantage of legal digital downloads. The article goes into details on how Apple's home-grown ALAC lossless encoding relates to FLAC, DRM, and the iPod ecosystem."

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unemployment problems (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21744074)

you can help with itunes unemployment rates today [myminicity.com]

they make money on the razors (5, Funny)

User 956 (568564) | more than 6 years ago | (#21744078)

Speculation On a Lossless iTunes Store

Lossless? I thought the iTunes store was a loss leader?

Re:they make money on the razors (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21744150)

the loss leader here is not itunes [myminicity.com]

Re:they make money on the razors (1)

davidsyes (765062) | more than 6 years ago | (#21744860)

Then there will be "gainful silence"???

I'm sure I'll be modulated for saying this, but (4, Funny)

User 956 (568564) | more than 6 years ago | (#21744944)

As much as it hertz, their loss results in your gain.

More Lossless Content (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21744122)

"Lossless"? Such BS (4, Insightful)

timster (32400) | more than 6 years ago | (#21744138)

Forget "lossless" when you've already lost so much of the original wave by mixing it down to 16-bit 44khz stereo in the first place. I'd rather have something that started out with a higher sampling rate/etc, but with good lossy compression to pull it down to something that doesn't require DVD-type storage for a single album.

Re:"Lossless"? Such BS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21744224)

Well, naturally they're not counting anything that happens before it hits the CD. CDs are the defacto benchmark. Yeah, it's not like seeing the band play live, but what recording is? This is all in the context of recordings.

24/96? (1)

corsec67 (627446) | more than 6 years ago | (#21744282)

What about 24bits/sample, 96K samples/second?
That is also a very popular standard for audio, and is better than CD quality, by quite a bit.

What would be nice is a losslessly compresses 24/96 5.1/7.1 channel audio format to be their choice.

Re:24/96? (4, Informative)

Applekid (993327) | more than 6 years ago | (#21744478)

24 bits per sample, cool. With you all the way.

But, 96 KHz sampling? You do know the Nyquist theorem [wikipedia.org] , don't you? You are aware that top human frequency tops off around 20 KHz, right? That 48 KHz, even with 24-bit precision, should take care of all sounds possible for the human to hear?

I've had audiophiles* just snub their noses at mathematical proof and regrettably inform me that I do not have "the golden ear." I wonder if there have ever been any research on whether self proclaimed audiophiles REALLY have magical hearing.

(* You didn't say you were, don't take it personally. When I see super-high sampling rates bandied about I get a little red.)

Re:24/96? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21744626)

That 48 KHz, even with 24-bit precision, should take care of all sounds possible for the human to hear?
Human being the key thing here. What makes you think that parent is human?
On the internet nobody knows you're a dog...

Re:24/96? (2, Funny)

Hes Nikke (237581) | more than 6 years ago | (#21744832)

i've gotten it the other way around... I've been told that i have 'the golden ear' when i told someone that they left there CRT tv on. i can hear the picture tube wine when it is displaying all black and no sound. maybe i do have an audiophiles ears, but i am certainly not a snob about it (those apple ear buds sure suck!)

i have trained eyes too. i see all sorts of compression artifacts on digital TVs that nobody else notices. i wish i could turn that ability off! or just bring back the analauge signal!

Re:24/96? (2, Informative)

krog (25663) | more than 6 years ago | (#21744942)

You're hearing the horizontal scan [wikipedia.org] , which is usually around 15kHz -- quite high, within an octave of our upper limit.

let's take a tour of the Nyquist sampling theorem (5, Informative)

krog (25663) | more than 6 years ago | (#21744870)

Nyquist's theorem states that a wave of frequency f must be sampled at the rate of at least 2f in order for information not to be lost. So, yes, a 44.1kHz sampling rate can accurately reproduce signals up to 22kHz without loss of information, and since that's all we can hear, we should be fine. Right?

Well, not entirely. You see, if the source material contains frequencies above 22.05kHz, they will end up "aliased" onto another part of the frequency spectrum. In short, the extra high-end becomes noise. Information is lost.

Here is the important part, in practical terms. In order to prevent aliasing, the source material must be low-passed to remove the unrepresentable high frequencies. Low-pass filters are not perfect; in order to toss out the frequencies we don't want, we end up attenuating some of the frequencies we do want. Thus it is not uncommon for high-frequency rolloff to begin in the mid-teens of kilohertz, even though we're aiming for 22kHz as the corner frequency.

This causes a real, human-audible difference in the finished product, and it is practically impossible to avoid.

Now, with a 96kHz sample rate, we aim to squash all frequencies above 48kHz, and our non-ideal low-pass filter starts to work in the 30kHz range. The imperfections in the low-pass filter are only apparent at frequencies humans can't hear. The finished audio ends up sounding like the source material, with no human-detectable loss in fidelity.

This is why 96kHz is a good idea.

Re:let's take a tour of the Nyquist sampling theor (2, Interesting)

evanbd (210358) | more than 6 years ago | (#21745200)

Very well put. It's one of the things that makes the delta-sigma modulation at very high sample rates used in eg SACD interesting. Of course, it would help if the data stream were easier to work with, which is why I think 24/96 or even 24/192 is superior overall.

The problem gets even more obnoxious if you care about the flatness and phase response of your filter. The one time I've done data acquisition work that cared about such things at 20kHz, we ended up using a 250kHz sample rate in order to give the Bessel filter room to operate. (We could have gotten away with marginally lower, but not enough lower to avoid buy the 1MS/s ADC system. We had 4 channels, so we ran at 250kHz.)

Re:let's take a tour of the Nyquist sampling theor (1)

Goalie_Ca (584234) | more than 6 years ago | (#21745230)

Does the source material contain those high frequencies? And secondly.. we can sample it at 98KHz and using the magic of DSP we can make a damned near ideal low-pass if we really needed one.

Re:24/96? (1)

jfengel (409917) | more than 6 years ago | (#21744876)

I'm certainly not going to defend the audiophiles and their gold foil aftermarket eardrums, but there are reasons to get the music in higher-than-audible resolutions. If you're going to do any further processing on it (converting to MP3, remove the vocals for karaoke, add your own effects in a mix) those non-audible data bits will have an effect on the result that might well be audible.

Re:24/96? (1)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 6 years ago | (#21744938)

96 KHz sampling?

Yes, it's overkill for what you hear. But my understanding is the higher sampling rate helps the final product when processing the audio further. So maybe when a DSP in a receiver adds some effects it will sound subtly better?

Re:24/96? (1)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 6 years ago | (#21745090)

You are aware that top human frequency tops off around 20 KHz, right? That 48 KHz, even with 24-bit precision, should take care of all sounds possible for the human to hear?

Even if sounds above the limit cannot be heard on their own, they can still produce interference tones if played at the same time as a lower-frequency tone. Per Norgard's Symphony No. 5, for example, exploits this by having one of the percussionists blow a pair of dog whistles at one moment, with wild effects. High-end speakers can produce frequencies so high, and with a SACD surround setup, the piece could be heard in a home environment as it was intended.

Re:24/96? (5, Insightful)

Reverberant (303566) | more than 6 years ago | (#21744532)

What about 24bits/sample, 96K samples/second?

Enough with the 24/96 wet dreams. Yes, 24/96 does offer real advantages for mixing houses in terms of being able to normalize levels generated by different sources and reducing the complexity of filters. But 16/44.4 is perfectly fine for home audio playback.

What does >16 bits get you? More dynamic range. BFD. 16 bits gets you (realistically) 90+ dB of dynamic range. Unless your listening room has a background noise level of 20 dB or less (trust me, it doesn't), you're not even enjoying the true benefit of the 16-bits you have now.

What does > 44.1kHz sampling give you? Wider frequency response. BFD. Let's assume that most people have good hearing beyond 20 kHz (very few do). Let's assume that most music/movie content has lots of information above 20 kHz (some do, most don't). Let's assume that your speakers can reproduce signals above 20 kHz (some can, most can't). There is still the issue of how you get that > 20kHz info on your recording on the first place. You see, most microphones don't record signals out that high, and of those that do, they only do so over a very narrow angle. When we have tech that can produce mics that are omni-directional above 20 kHz for reasonable costs then maybe you'll have an argument.

Let's deal with the loudness wars before we start worrying about 24/96.

sampling frequency and signal frequency !mix-up (1, Troll)

Animaether (411575) | more than 6 years ago | (#21745118)

I'm completely with you on the "nobody but the freakier people are going to notice", and they'll probably have gold-plated, gold-cable, etc. SACD players. Or, if they're really serious, they do away with the gold plating and have a goldsmith permanently goldsolder the wires right onto the board.

That said... the sampling frequency shouldn't be mixed with the signal frequency in the way you mention; e.g. 44.1KHz, divide by 2 (yay Nyquist), ~22KHz is the maximum frequency you can sample. ergo: 96KHz allows you to sample 48KHz signals and nobody can hear 48KHz anyway so what's the point.
Ah, true, but...
A 400Hz sine wave is now -also- sampled at the 96KHz level. Suddenly, that sine wave is looking twice as smooth.

Think of it like computer graphics. If you have a 320x240 15" display (12" by 9", non-widescreen 4:3), your pixel is going to be nearly 1mm on each side (12*25.4 / 320). A 1600x1200 display will have a pixel that is going to be much smaller, about 1/5th of a mm on each side (12*25.4 / 1600). Now you might not often find any reason to display a dot that is 1/5th of a millimeter at each side. However, if you were to display a large circle on the 320x240 display, it will be blocky. Do so on the 1600x1200 display, and it will appear to be much smoother.

Alternatively, find a piece of music that doesn't seem to do much over 22KHz, and band-limit it so that everything over 22KHz gets cut off anyway. Save this for later playback. Now actually downsample that to 22KHz. Now play back both files; see if you can tell the difference. Again, any high tones over 22KHz are gone anyway, so all you're hearing is the loss in fidelity of the lower-frequency ( 22KHz) signal.

Re:24/96? (4, Interesting)

krog (25663) | more than 6 years ago | (#21745168)

Once, when my band was recording to a digital medium (a RADAR 24-track hard disk recorder, for those keeping score), we captured some tracks at 16bit, and some at 24bit. All other parameters in the signal chain were held constant.

I did not expect to hear as big a difference as I did. 24b absolutely crushed 16b in the oh-so-unscientific terms of listening enjoyment. Everything, especially the cymbals, sounded clearer, less harsh and brittle, more defined. We had to throw away some good 16b takes because they sounded so much worse than the 24b recordings.

Don't be so quick to discount the difference that a little extra dynamic range can make. Sure, you might not notice when you're listening to your iPod in your 89 Chevy Cavalier with the burned out left rear speaker, but it's not as hard to tell as you might think.

Re:24/96? (1)

deh dll (1205084) | more than 6 years ago | (#21745174)

Let's deal with the loudness wars before we start worrying about 24/96.
yeah - the loudness wars need to stop. until big time mastering houses would let some of the original dynamic range from a performance end up on the final product, high samplerate/bit-depth audio won't really matter to the average music consumer, IMHO.

that said, i'm familiar with the nyquist theorem and i know someone will tell me i'm full of shit, but i can definitely hear the difference between 24/96 and 16/441 in my modest studio. i think the problem with 16/441 is not the limitation of the format itself, but how we get there. i've never been able to find a dithering algorithm that preserves the all of the "shimmer" and clarity of 24/96 when it gets down-sampled to 16/441. but i'm usually dealing with non-mastered material that hasn't been compressed all to hell - we're talking raw mixes, so the dynamics issue is still very much on the table.

Re:24/96? (1)

QRDeNameland (873957) | more than 6 years ago | (#21745082)

What would be nice is a losslessly compresses 24/96 5.1/7.1 channel audio format to be their choice.

I can't speak for Apple's ALAC, but FLAC [wikipedia.org] "can handle any PCM bit resolution from 4 to 32 bits per sample, any sampling rate from 1 Hz to 1,048,570 Hz in 1 Hz increments, and any number of channels from 1 to 8. Channels can be grouped in cases like stereo and 5.1 channel surround to take advantage of interchannel correlations to increase compression."

Re:"Lossless"? Such BS (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 6 years ago | (#21744432)

There is so much overmodulation and distortion in concert venues that one could argue that seeing the band play live is not like listening to the CD. Unless you're listening to an acoustic band in a small setting. You can't get much "more real" than that.

Re:"Lossless"? Such BS (2, Funny)

croddy (659025) | more than 6 years ago | (#21744280)

My kingdom for a mod point.

Re:"Lossless"? Such BS (1)

Fast Thick Pants (1081517) | more than 6 years ago | (#21744466)

My thoughts exactly. Sometimes I think there's a bug in slash that prevents intelligent users from posting when I have mod points.

And now someone's gone and marked it flamebait... good grief... (I know, I know, meta-moderate.)

Re:"Lossless"? Such BS (0, Offtopic)

Fast Thick Pants (1081517) | more than 6 years ago | (#21744284)

Bravo to this -- enough with the 44.1Khz already!

Re:"Lossless"? Such BS (5, Informative)

Hatta (162192) | more than 6 years ago | (#21744398)

Sorry, Nyquist's theorem states that you can accurately represent frequencies up to 1/2 the sampling rate. Assuming you are a human and not a dog [lib.unb.ca] , you can not hear frequencies above 22khz. As for 16 bit, nobody uses all that dynamic range anyway. So 16bit/44.1khz is entirely good enough for listening.

Now 24/96 has its uses if you're mastering something, so that any errors introduced in the mixing process are below the quantization error in the final 16/44.1 product.

Re:"Lossless"? Such BS (1)

Applekid (993327) | more than 6 years ago | (#21744520)

Said much better than I could have hoped to. I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

Re:"Lossless"? Such BS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21744618)

True, but consider CDs cut off is 20khz and 1 in 4 people hear as high as the 22khz you mentioned.

Re:"Lossless"? Such BS (1)

Trailer Trash (60756) | more than 6 years ago | (#21744702)

Sorry, Nyquist's theorem states that you can accurately represent frequencies up to 1/2 the sampling rate.

Really? I have a square wave, a sine wave, and a sawtooth wave, all at 22KHz. Now, you tell me how they'll be quantized such that all are accurately represented.

Either Nyquist is wrong, or you're misrepresenting his "theorem".

Re:"Lossless"? Such BS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21744792)

You can't hear the difference between those three waves, unless your hearing greatly exceeds 22 kHz. The sawtooth and square waves are the addition of a 22 kHz sine wave and other, significantly higher frequency sine waves. Your speakers probably can't reproduce the higher frequency components, even if you could hear them.

Re:"Lossless"? Such BS (1)

FredFredrickson (1177871) | more than 6 years ago | (#21744836)

Yeah, I'm going to go ahead and say that when I set my audio less than 44 during recording, you can hear a very clear difference. It's not a golden ear thing, it's an obvious difference. Am I missing something?

Re:"Lossless"? Such BS (1)

evanbd (210358) | more than 6 years ago | (#21744958)

You're missing 2 things. First, to get response to 22kHz or more, you need 44kHz or more sample rates -- remember, you can only represent frequencies out to half the sample rate. Second, there are lots of potential artifacts introduced by sampling. This includes aliasing artifacts both in the original sampling, and in any later sample rate conversions. Aliasing artifacts in the original sampling are (ideally) removed by an analog filter before the ADC; that filter may very well not actually be adjustable, so you get some sampling artifacts if you drop the sample rate. Second, if you use a sample rate that's not an even fraction of 44.1kHz, the ADC may very well upconvert it to a 44.1kHz stream before converting it into an analog signal for your speakers, introducing more artifacts. And if you drop all the way down to 22.05kHz, you've lost the 11kHz-22kHz frequency band, even assuming no artifacts, and that band is most certainly audible.

In short, do what you've already figured out -- if your system is designed for 44.1kHz, use it at 44.1kHz.

Re:"Lossless"? Such BS (1)

evanbd (210358) | more than 6 years ago | (#21744848)

Your 22kHz square and sawtooth waves have higher frequency harmonic content. If you don't believe me, go work the fourier transform -- it's not actually that hard if you replace the sawtooth wave with a triangle wave. Regardless, what that means is if you took your 22kHz waves, and ideally low-pass filtered them at frequency f, 22kHz

If you don't believe me, you can (sortof) do the experiment yourself. Generate the waves at 1kHz and at 10kHz and play them back. With the 10kHz waves, they'll sound different, but they'll be much closer to each other than the 1kHz waves. You can do this on your 44kHz computer audio system. If you want something more convincing, do it in analog electronics and up the frequency to 22kHz. Finding speakers with good response beyond 20kHz is left as an exercise for the reader.

Re:"Lossless"? Such BS (2, Informative)

Hatta (162192) | more than 6 years ago | (#21744880)

Easy, a square wave(or any wave) can be represented (through fourier transforms) as a sum of sine waves of increasing frequency. If you have a 22khz square wave, what you really have is a 22khz sine wave, and a bunch of sine waves with frequencies greater than 22khz. Those higher harmonics cannot be accurately represented with a 44.1 khz sampling rate, but since you can't hear anything above 22khz anyway it doesn't matter.

Re:"Lossless"? Such BS (1)

ljw1004 (764174) | more than 6 years ago | (#21744910)

Lossless formats are a stupidly inefficient way of using up their bit quota. If we're allowed the same number of bits as a CD (or a lossless AAC) but instead we use it in some lossy format, then we can get much higher fidelity.

"Lossless" is a pointless criteria. The CD has already thrown away information (e.g. cut out frequencies above 22khz, cut out dynamic range to squash it to 16 bits, cut out anything more than 2 channels). It's silly to get enthusiastic about a "lossless" storage of this already-lossy data.

Re:"Lossless"? Such BS (1)

hackerjoe (159094) | more than 6 years ago | (#21744974)

Now, of course Nyquist's theorem is correct. It's a theorem. Mathematically speaking it's unassailable.

But in practice, there's a caveat for real-world applications: by the same math, any frequencies over half your sampling rate that get into your source get converted into frequencies less than half your sampling rate. New, audible sounds that didn't exist in the source! And they sound absolutely awful.

So you need a filter that removes those sounds as aggressively as possible from your input with as little effect as possible on the audio you want to keep.

Here's the crux of the issue: 44kHz sampling only gives you a 10% frequency margin to go from "zero perceptible effect on the audio" to "completely blocks all audio". As it turns out this filter is pretty much impossible to build. Designers either compromise by allowing some rare aliasing noise (most audio equipment isn't designed to respond well above 20kHz anyway), or by starting the cut a little early (most people can't hear much above 16kHz anyway). As a general aside, the narrower and more accurate your filter is, the more delay it adds to your audio, so there's a latency issue, too.

It's much easier to build a filter that gradually cuts out audio starting somewhere above 20kHz and finishing completely (100dB or 150dB cut) by 40kHz for use with 96kHz sampling. And this is why 96kHz sampling is better: nothing to do with being able to hear over 20kHz, but merely engineering tradeoffs.

That said, you're right, most people can't tell the difference, or if they can it doesn't matter to them. And yes, you could probably record at 96kHz and use a (very computationally expensive) digital filter to downsample to 44kHz and produce something indistinguishable in mastering, but then I'm not actually a signal processing expert..

Re:"Lossless"? Such BS (1)

Takichi (1053302) | more than 6 years ago | (#21745022)

In electroacoustic music and classical music, 24bit sound does make a difference. I think it would be wise to stop at a standard that can at least produce sound that takes advantage of the compete rage of human hearing. Plus, people have easy access software that can do a lot of effects processing. Since re-mixing seems to only be getting more popular, I think the more the merrier, especially in sampling rate. Then you can do all sort of fun time expansion and pitch shifting without worrying about it sounding like crap.

Re:"Lossless"? Such BS (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 6 years ago | (#21745146)

As for 16 bit, nobody uses all that dynamic range anyway. So 16bit/44.1khz is entirely good enough for listening.

That's actually the biggest problem there. If they did use that whole range, CD audio would be flawless. Trouble is they usually compress it so it's all squeezed into a much smaller range.

At least so I understand it. My hearing sucks, so I'm quite happy with low bitrate mp3s:)

Re:"Lossless"? Such BS (1)

YodaYid (1049908) | more than 6 years ago | (#21745162)

This is true, but doesn't account for aliasing [wikipedia.org] : "Music, for instance, may contain high-frequency components that are inaudible to us. If we sample it with a frequency that is too low and reconstruct the music with a digital to analog converter, we may hear the low-frequency aliases of the undersampled high frequencies. Therefore, it is common practice to remove the high frequencies with a filter before the sampling is done." (from Wikipedia, which said it better than I was going to).

Finally...an archive format (4, Interesting)

TimSee (765338) | more than 6 years ago | (#21744152)

Hope this happens. After transcoding my CD collection to FLAC to arhive it, I now regularly batch re-encode to smaller and smaller bit rates using new releases of lossy encoders. AAC has gotten much better (esp AAC-HE) over the years to the point for a portable player, 48kbs is perfectly acceptable to my ears. With a 16GB iPod Touch, I could see buying music from the iTMS in some lossless format and transcoding to get my entire collection all on a small, flash memory player.

Re:Finally...an archive format (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 6 years ago | (#21744576)

"Hope this happens. After transcoding my CD collection to FLAC to arhive it..."

Same here. I've been bitching for quite some time that there was no way to purchase songs online that weren't less than CD quality...if they will offer lossless formats, with no DRM, I'll pay a fair fee. I want to use what I purchase in lossless format on my home system, and be able to rip it to mp3 or whatever for poorer listening environments like the car or the portable for the gym.

Bravo!

Re:Finally...an archive format (4, Interesting)

Mr.Ned (79679) | more than 6 years ago | (#21744760)

If you're converting to mp3, and have an operating system that supports FUSE (GNU/Linux and FreeBSD are the ones I know about), take a look at mp3fs - it's a virtual filesystem that will encode from lossless to lossy on the fly. It's great for putting stuff on a small flash memory player.

Re:Finally...an archive format (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21745116)

There is also a Mac OS X FUSE version

http://code.google.com/p/macfuse/ [google.com]

Re:Finally...an archive format (1)

qortra (591818) | more than 6 years ago | (#21744802)

A sibling post already mentioned it briefly, but it really should be mentioned more specifically; iTunes-ALAC isn't going be archive-ideal until the DRM is gone. Since at least one record label has talked about removing DRM, this might actually happen. However, I wouldn't count on it.

First off, I haven't heard anything about the other major labels switching any time soon. Maybe they will and maybe they won't.

Moreover, I think that businessmen who are otherwise satisfied with removing DRM on AACs will be more skittish about removing the DRM on lossless; an ALAC/FLAC/Monkey'sAudio DRM-free rip is
exactly equivalent to the original [mastered] content. When it gets burned to a CD, even the freedb/cddb repositories will recognize it. These rips, once out in the wild, are a perfect replacement for almost any medium on which the content can be found. That will probably frighten the powers that be.

Re:Finally...an archive format (1)

mr_man (141914) | more than 6 years ago | (#21745176)

freedb/cddb finger printing is based on the length and order of the tracks. If you were to burn k tracks of silence with the right length and in the correct order you can get freedb or cddb to say "yup, you've got the right cd!"

SLASHDOT SUXORZ (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21744156)

_0_
\''\
'=o='
.|!|
.| |
lossless goatse available here [goatse.ch]

Any chance of better-than-CD? (1)

neuro.slug (628600) | more than 6 years ago | (#21744172)

Linn Records [linnrecords.com] offers downloads of 24-bit 96kHz songs. It would also be great to see DSD [wikipedia.org] files available sometime. Those formats would really bring interest.

It's good to see the possibility of lossless music nevertheless. :)

You insensitive clod (1)

Malevolent Tester (1201209) | more than 6 years ago | (#21744180)

I'm tone deaf.

Let me translate... (5, Insightful)

Anita Coney (648748) | more than 6 years ago | (#21744194)

From the blog:

"And now I have an inkling Apple will add lossless music downloads to the iTunes Store within the next 12 months."

Translation:

I have no fricken clue that this will ever happen, but because I think it'd be cool if it did, I'll go ahead and blog about it.

polution control needed (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21744246)

we could use some polution control on this issue [myminicity.com]

Re:polution control needed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21744878)

learn to spell fucktard and maybe Ill visit that gay site you keep incessantly promoting....

Re:Let me translate... (1)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 6 years ago | (#21744326)

Quoth the article header: "people who spend thousands of dollars on hi-fi gear..."

No kidding. When you blog it, be sure to notify all 500 people who might actually be likely customers for this service.

Compressed lossless audio formats are cool, and in my opinion will probably exceed lossy formats in use in the near future, but not until the average person's bandwidth is a little bit higher. Sure, I'm sitting here on a 6 Mb/s connection, but a lot of folks still aren't.

Just anoher Apple marketing CRAPFLOOD of SPAM (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21744198)

Crapflood
From Encyclopedia Dramatica
Jump to: navigation, search

Crapflooding is a common (and wonderful) way to attack blogs or wikis. Literally, a crapflood is a veritable mudslide of feces. Similarly, on the Internets, a crapflood is a massive posting of thousands of garbage comments, usually containing pornography from the infamous Pain series, tubgirls, and goatses, along with some hateful text containing the word nigger, plus some randomized text in each post to stop the lam3r security measure of filtering duplicate posts.

I've found a website that actively encourages spam and crapfloods through teh use of an online flash game. Its very addictive, and was probably invented by apple fags. Everyone should visit [myminicity.com]

The reasons I'll never adopt DRM lossless audio... (1)

garcia (6573) | more than 6 years ago | (#21744204)

Other than selection, which is arguably a non-issue these days, why would I bother downloading something as large as lossless audio when there's no real benefit to doing so? I could just as easily go to the store and pickup the original CD for only a small bit more than or, more than likely, the same price as the download. I get the physical media and it doesn't cost much more, this is a no brainer for me.

The ease of access argument is null, in my mind, because it has DRM and any ease is negated right there. When I spend the time to download FLAC from etree, dimeadozen, or where ever else, it's not a waste because the music is free, pretty much unavailable in any other format anywhere, and there's a huge selection of it.

I'm sure it will have limited success with those that are *that* excited about the delivery medium and are that obsessed with lossless format. For the rest of us that pretend to be audiophiles, we'll probably stick to our free FLAC files and/or purchased physical CDs.

Re:The reasons I'll never adopt DRM lossless audio (1)

Gr8Apes (679165) | more than 6 years ago | (#21744444)

I'd buy the downloads only if they're DRM free, and lossless, because there's lots of artists that only have one or two songs that I like, and I would only want to buy those particular selections. One great example of such a one hit wonder is Melt with You, by Modern English. The rest of that album will make you pierce your eardrums. Or Chumbawumba's Tub-Thumping - the rest of the album serves as an incentive to push EMOs over the edge.

So... (3, Insightful)

Seakip18 (1106315) | more than 6 years ago | (#21744230)

This would be a massively positive move for people who spend thousands of dollars on hi-fi gear, but refuse to give money to stores that only offer compressed music
So....this is for all 17 of them? I figured since they have that much money for equipment, most would just get the CD's and rip them via those means. If you can afford a $20k speaker, you can afford a a few TB Hard drives to keep your music.

Re:So... (1)

P3NIS_CLEAVER (860022) | more than 6 years ago | (#21744258)

Maybe because CDs suck? Hate storing them, hate ripping them. And I don't like music stores.

Coincidence? (0, Offtopic)

Derek the Donutmaker (1204868) | more than 6 years ago | (#21744240)

Bell labs are working on a lossless format nearly a quarter the size of its nearest competitor. Interesting article that Bell have tried to sue over [tinyurl.com]

Re:Coincidence? (0, Offtopic)

sherpajohn (113531) | more than 6 years ago | (#21744578)

A witty use of tinyurl - mod parent up! +1 for non-obvious trolling ;)

In other words.. (0)

Cajun Hell (725246) | more than 6 years ago | (#21744286)

Apple can cater to the portion of the market that has rejected AAC, while simultaneously ensuring lock-in by using their proprietary codec that isn't interoperative with other players.

It makes sense.

Win for Apple, and lossy everyone else, including customers. (Inless they have the wisdom to just say no and keep buying CDs. And iTunes store's popularity suggests lots of people don't.)

Re:In other words.. (1)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 6 years ago | (#21744600)

Apple can cater to the portion of the market that has rejected AAC, while simultaneously ensuring lock-in by using their proprietary codec that isn't interoperative with other players.

Umm, the OSS libavcodec has played ALAC for over a year and Mplayer and VLC both can play it as a result. That's not a lot of lock-in.

Win for Apple, and lossy everyone else, including customers. (Inless[sic] they have the wisdom to just say no and keep buying CDs. And iTunes store's popularity suggests lots of people don't.)

I've bought a couple of songs from iTunes Music Store, when they were not easily found elsewhere. Getting rid of the DRM was not hard, even without burning a CD or losing quality. Apple is moving away from DRM as well, as fast as the studios will let them. They don't care about the music. They just want it easy for people to use iPods and they seem pretty content to let the iPod compete based upon merits and momentum. Do you really think freeware won't batch convert ALAC to FLAC? In fact, Google tells me Foobar and DBPowerAmp both do it today with free codec plug-ins. I guess I'm not buying your "lock-in" theory.

Do you understand what "lossless" means? (1)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 6 years ago | (#21744950)

Unless they are DRM'd, it doesn't particularly matter what format they're in -- you can transcode them to another lossless format, without loss! (Duh.)

Or you could transcode to mp3 and play it anywhere.

Re:In other words.. (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 6 years ago | (#21745108)

Apple can cater to the portion of the market that has rejected AAC, while simultaneously ensuring lock-in by using their proprietary codec that isn't interoperative with other players.

AAC is not proprietary to Apple. It was designed to be the successor to MP3 by the designers of MP3 and is designated MPEG2, Part 7. Fairplay extensions to AAC is proprietary to Apple. Many software and hardware play standard AAC according to wiki [wikipedia.org] , even the Zune. As for lock-in for Fairplay, it exists if and only if you wish to play the Fairplay version on software or hardware that Apple does not support. The consumer can get the song in other ways like by purchasing a CD or buying from a competitor of Apple like Microsoft. However those online versions are limited too. The Zune marketplace sells versions that will only play on Windows Media Player and the Zune.

I personally think that this is not likely to happen. Considering the number of customers who actually know what lossless means and the trouble of developing an infrastructure to satisfy what I think is less than 1% of their customer base, Apple would more likely focus on other aspects of their business.

Or they could just stick with CDs (2, Interesting)

the_humeister (922869) | more than 6 years ago | (#21744316)

Most CDs have about 10-19 songs and range in price from $10-$15 (at least the mainstream ones). That works out to usually $0.99 a song. The last album I bought was Timbaland: Shock Value. 17 good songs for $12.

Re:Or they could just stick with CDs (4, Insightful)

Vegeta99 (219501) | more than 6 years ago | (#21744442)

You might like all the songs. Since I listen mostly to rock/alternative genres, I probably only want his singles. Can I buy them cheaply, like my dad could in the 70's? He's got a stack of 45's that probably reaches the ceiling of my apartment.

I do realize they still sell them, but are they $0.99 per song cheap?

Re:Or they could just stick with CDs (2, Insightful)

michaelmalak (91262) | more than 6 years ago | (#21745238)

I do realize they still sell them, but are they $0.99 per song cheap?
I assume you're referring to 45's. Adjusting for inflation, $0.99 in 1979 (the year I bought the 45 of the song "Funkytown" at Woolco) would be, according the the BLS calculator [bls.gov] , $2.87 today.

Around 1990, there were CD singles. Granted, they were intended to be replacements for 12" maxi-singles and not 45s, but they were $5. And the record companies killed them because they thought CD singles were "too cheap" -- that they were canibalizing the sales of CD albums.

The expectation of paying $0.99 per song is not based upon historical price trends, but rather upon the expectation that music should be free or at least cheap, which in turn was caused by the record companies withholding digital sales until just a few years ago.

Finally! DRM free, lossless, digital music! (4, Insightful)

Lord Byron II (671689) | more than 6 years ago | (#21744320)

Isn't it amazing that 25 years after the release of the CD, we're excited to finally have a way to buy DRM free, lossless, digital music? If this happens, we'll be back inline with 1982 technology.

Livin' Large (1)

tut21 (860295) | more than 6 years ago | (#21744360)

Nice idea, but Apple hasn't yet introduced the 1TB iPod Classic you'd need to hold all your uncompressed music...

Re:Livin' Large (1)

SomeGuyTyping (751195) | more than 6 years ago | (#21745208)

they never said it was uncompressed - just lossless. ALAC gets similar compression as FLAC, which is around 50%

Lossless iTunes store? (1)

gringer (252588) | more than 6 years ago | (#21744362)

I thought the whole point of having a music store online was so that they could make a tidy profit with minimal expenditure. Wouldn't that mean they've been lossless already?

Doesn't MP3Sparks.com do that already? (1)

rimugu (701444) | more than 6 years ago | (#21744374)

Or is it because of the definition of legal?

Re:Doesn't MP3Sparks.com do that already? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21744488)

the definition or legal according to LR Hubbard [myminicity.com]

Zunior already supports FLAC (1)

pazu13 (663695) | more than 6 years ago | (#21744416)

I haven't RTFA'd, so don't know if this is in there, but Zunior.com is already offering FLAC downloads for $2 more than their mp3 downloads; it was definitely an incentive to buy from them, and I imagine some other, smaller mp3 stores are also offering lossless. Hopefully both Apple and eMusic will take the hint.

iTunes won't get any more sales from me... (2, Informative)

BUL2294 (1081735) | more than 6 years ago | (#21744420)

Forget Apple... I updated my iPod's firmware to Rockbox (which natively offers several lossless formats, and a slew of other features) and haven't looked back.

I did this for 3 reasons... 1) iTunes stopped supporting Windows 2000. (Yes, I know it's old, but I don't have to deal with the stupid BS Microsoft has built into XP, like WGA). 2) The 1.2.1 Apple firmware for iPod Videos gave me trouble with a bunch of my MP3s--cutting off the song at the 75% marker and refusing to seek within the track. (Of course, the catch-22 is that I can't get a newer iPod firmware from Apple since they refuse to support W2K). 3) I never liked the way iTunes worked in the first place...

I don't hold out much hope that a lossless format sold thru iTunes will truly be lossless. After all, converting an LP to 16-bit 44.1KHz WAV is, by definition, lossy (but outside of the perceptions of 95+% of the people out there)... To add, part of the reason that iTunes even sells DRM-free music is because the record companies can say "if you want higher quality, buy the CD or, better yet, vinyl!" So, I doubt many record companies will be selling uber-high-quality lossless tracks through iTunes...

Re:iTunes won't get any more sales from me... (1)

stuporglue (1167677) | more than 6 years ago | (#21744554)

Rockbox does have a better feature set, but it's UI is terrible.

I still have it on my iPod (3G), but it's not intuitive, and even after you've learned which functions map to which buttons it doesn't make sense.

I use Linux full time, and really wanted to be able to use my iPod as a mass storage styled player since it works better that way with Rhythmbox. Even with the better feature set and ability to use it as a mass storage player, it's not worth it. I'm just waiting for a day when I've got a couple of hours to reformat it and copy all my files.

Re:iTunes won't get any more sales from me... (1)

Raineer (1002750) | more than 6 years ago | (#21744658)

Hard to say the UI is terrible when there are hundreds to choose from and you could author your own quite easily.

Rockbox (1)

illegalcortex (1007791) | more than 6 years ago | (#21745130)

I did, too. But then I switched back. Unfortunately, they didn't have support for realizing that the charger stopped sending juice to my ipod mini. So when I turned my car off, my ipod didn't automatically pause. This is a major feature for me with audiobooks.

DRM silliness (3, Insightful)

spiritraveller (641174) | more than 6 years ago | (#21744454)

So they lock down these files with DRM. Then DVD-Jon (or someone else) comes up with a DRM-stripping program for the files.

Then people can re-encode the files to their format of choice. But by then, most consumers have said "fuck it" and decided to just download their format of choice directly from p2p or usenet because it's easier and simpler than paying Apple and still violating the DMCA just so the music they paid for will work on the audio player they own.

Oh wait, that's already the status quo... Never mind.

If you wish they'd just adopt FLAC... (4, Informative)

Josh Coalson (538042) | more than 6 years ago | (#21744512)

...make some noise; here's one place to start: http://flac.sourceforge.net/itunes.html [sourceforge.net]

almost everyone else distributing lossless (except musicgiants) is using FLAC [sourceforge.net] and/or WAV. it's supported by almost all s/w except itunes, hell you can even get wmp to play FLAC with some work.

re:TFA, lossless is not directly about quality, mp3 and aac both can be perceptually transparent for the most part, it's about (depending on your personality) perceived quality or format independence -- i.e. being able to transcode to the format you need without quality loss.

Re:If you wish they'd just adopt FLAC... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21745028)

My understanding is Apple Lossless was created because it could be implemented efficiently on an iPod using only integer math, which FLAC couldn't at the time.

iTunes can certainly play FLAC (or Ogg or whatever else you want) by installing a QuickTime component that handles the format.

Since these are all lossless formats anyway, it' not a big deal to convert between them. The audio will be identical; it's just a one-time operation to do the translation.

This is the same reason those record companies that insist on DRM won't go for lossless: Apple's generous terms on burning CDs will make it easy to strip the DRM losslessly without any tricky work-arounds. If Apple ever does offer lossless downloads, I expect it would only be for the DRM-free offerings.

Re:If you wish they'd just adopt FLAC... (1)

Josh Coalson (538042) | more than 6 years ago | (#21745220)

My understanding is Apple Lossless was created because it could be implemented efficiently on an iPod using only integer math, which FLAC couldn't at the time.

that's incorrect, the FLAC decoder has always used only integer math and from the beginning was lower complexity that ALAC.

iTunes can certainly play FLAC (or Ogg or whatever else you want) by installing a QuickTime component that handles the format.

I think that has since broken but when working it basically "imports" into itunes (loading the whole file before playing, causing delay) via quicktime and does not support metadata.

Re:If you wish they'd just adopt FLAC... (1)

Llywelyn (531070) | more than 6 years ago | (#21745242)

Why would they adopt FLAC?

They support WAV, they support ALAC. Transcoding between these doesn't result in a loss of quality. So why would they support FLAC unless it was just to decode from FLAC into something else?

Re:If you wish they'd just adopt FLAC... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21745248)

it's about (depending on your personality) perceived quality or format independence

Huh? Let's get to the bottom of this mystery. Lossless compression is about having a bit-for-bit identical archive of the master cd album. Lossy compression is great for your portable mp3 player, but for archiving, lossless compression is the only proper solution. That's what it's really about -- the ability to transcode at will is simply the natural side-effect of having a proper lossless archive.

what's the point? (1)

nickhart (1009937) | more than 6 years ago | (#21744514)

If you can afford thousands of dollars on equipment, why not just buy CD's and rip them with FLAC? Or better yet, have your butler rip them for you!

Cool if/when it happens (2, Insightful)

Strange Ranger (454494) | more than 6 years ago | (#21744526)

Sure I might buy something in Apple's lossless format from iTunes, but

A - If I'm going to pay extra for DRM'd lossless, I better get the cheap lossy version for free (for my phone, wife's iPod, whatever) because paying them to compress a song for me is ridiculous,and
B - It will be a moot point if the player won't play all the FLAC I already have, because I won't own the player. It's why I don't own one now.

Re:Cool if/when it happens (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21744744)

You can transcode lossless formats into any other format you want without the additional loss of recompression. Want to listen to it on your nice stereo? Just use the lossless originals. Stuff 234154 of them on your shuffle? No problem, transcode them to 48bps AAC. Stick them on your ipod at a reasonable rate for those crappy ear buds? Sure, transcode again to 128bps AAC. Decide the new ipods are ugly? 196bps MP3s work fine on the Zune. Which is of course why Apple will never actually offer this option.

Lossless piracy? (2, Insightful)

MMC Monster (602931) | more than 6 years ago | (#21744556)

Am I out of the loop? I was under the impression that most piracy was of the low quality mp3s that suck on any high end audio gear.

Lossless is a great idea and may open up a new market to the iTMS, but I can't image it's going to offset piracy. I'd think it will offset physical CD sales.

Re:Lossless piracy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21744622)

Release standards for MP3 are typically 320 kbps or slightly lower VBR. Lossless FLAC is also common.

Re:Lossless piracy? (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 6 years ago | (#21744786)

Lossless torrents are very common these days. Especially on private trackers where quality is of the highest importance. They're a great way to get your ratio up too.

why it's not about FLAC+DRM (4, Informative)

Josh Coalson (538042) | more than 6 years ago | (#21744614)

the article claims that apple won't go with FLAC because we're against DRM. I don't think so; if we're to believe Steve then he's against it too. and there's nothing stopping apple from sticking FLAC in an mp4 container with fairplay, we can't prevent that anyway. aside from the principle of it, another reasone we're against it in FLAC is that DRM is doesn't belong in the codec layer, it's a layer on top.

apple's got nothing to fear from FLAC, it can actually be used to their advantage to get a leg up on the competition, since for lossless electronic distribution FLAC is becoming the de facto standard.

I dunno... (2, Interesting)

Cleon (471197) | more than 6 years ago | (#21744816)

Lossless audio is going to involve some large file sizes, and with that, comes increased costs--bandwidth ain't free, and storage/delivery of these files is not going to be cheap or easy. This all translates into fairly expensive downloads.

So for Apple to seriously consider this, they're going to have to figure out if there are enough audiophiles out there willing to pay that kind of money for downloads.

Personally, I kinda doubt it.

Nyquist and less loss (1)

MrF0ck (257982) | more than 6 years ago | (#21744838)

Selling 44.1khz/16bit/stereo audio files is the same business as selling downloadable DVDs. Only freak hobbyists will do it for the next few years until consumers have enough bandwidth, time, storage, motivation to indulge in such a hobby. Commercial big file size media business (excluding game binaries) is just a press release folks. All soundbytes, no usage.

And as for Nyquist... its a theorem, not a fact. Compare a 44.1/16bit file to a 96khz/24bit file on a studio grade sound system and you'll hear the difference. Nyquist didn't listen to music.

tag: rumorsrumorsrumors (1)

Nimey (114278) | more than 6 years ago | (#21745056)

Again, if Microsoft is about "Developers Developers Developers" then Apple's meat and drink is "Rumors Rumors Rumors".

Contradiction (1)

moosesocks (264553) | more than 6 years ago | (#21745066)

This would be a massively positive move for people who spend thousands of dollars on hi-fi gear, but refuse to give money to stores that only offer compressed music -- they could finally take advantage of legal digital downloads.


For serious?

If you've got thousands of dollars to toss around on audio equipment, you're seriously going to be stingy enough to illegally download music on the principle that you don't want to pay the $2-$3 more it costs to buy the physical CD?

I'm sorry, but that's got to be one of the lamest excuses for pirating music that I've ever heard.

To be fair, I actually can tell the difference between a 128kbps and a 192kbps MP3 when listening to certain pieces of music with a pair of decently nice headphones. 'Quieter' pieces, and most classical music don't do all that well under low-bitrate MP3 compression -- however, a 256kbps VBR MP3 (Amazon) is virtually indistinguishable from the original CD, whereas AAC (iTunes) is purportedly an even better codec.

Lossless audio is a waste of bandwidth, and frankly not worth the extra expense to the consumer.

However, if some music store wants to offer FLAC downloads for twice the price, I'm sure the audiophiles will be all over it, just like those $400 volume knobs.

(My prediction: The "They Might Be Giants" model of online distribution will become increasingly popular over the next few years, which will cut the music stores and record labels out entirely. As an added bonus, I'm sure a bunch of the bands will offer FLAC versions for a modest extra fee to appease their audiences.)

Re:Contradiction (1)

myz24 (256948) | more than 6 years ago | (#21745228)

They probably aren't buying CDs either, DVD-Audio and SACDs.

Audiophiles (1)

paleo2002 (1079697) | more than 6 years ago | (#21745102)

Why would people with high-end audio gear want to download digital music? I thought they all insisted on listening to wax drum recordings to achieve the best possible "natural sound".

Might I suggest a new encoding Scheme? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21745260)

For apple. How about a mix of Apple and FLAC... We could call it AFLAC... that was bad.. it's considered polite to laugh at grandpa jokes.
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