Gunnar Van Vliet compares the sound quality of the new Apple Music Store AAC codec vs. MP3:
- Being a Mac user and a music lover, when Apple announced the Apple Music Store for digital song downloads I was very excited. The store uses a new codec called AAC to deliver the songs (for 99¢ each). It’s a competitor to MP3 and since this is the first major attempt at online music downloads for pay, the format is by default the standard for future services. I wanted to know how good AAC was in comparison to MP3, and finally to see if it could come close to standard CD.
….On the whole, there weren’t any surprises. My observations echo what most people have said about AAC vs. MP3. AAC is higher quality at the same bit rate, so you can use a smaller file to achieve the same quality as MP3 which is a good thing for portable and computer users. Ultimately, both formats still sound pretty bad in their practical ranges compared to CD. I didn’t test 256 or 320 kbps because it’s impractical for most users to use these encodings. The Apple Music Store for example uses 128 kbps, and if you have room for 320 kbps and you care about sound that much you’ll probably use AIFF or just play the CDs themselves.
You’ll notice a few anomalies in my findings, such as higher bit rates from the same format getting a lower score, and one case where AAC did worse than MP3. These I attribute first to the interaction between the piece of music chosen in relation to the codecs – sometimes less data sounds better, or more distortion sounds better if it gets the right mix of psychoacoustics. An analogy might be to vinyl or tubes, or even compressed FM radio – getting more of the good part of the music, ie. the fundamentals and less of distracting ambiance/texture can actually sound better, or just more enjoyable sometimes. Secondly, as fidelity increases, flaws, or what’s missing can become more apparent. An analogy might be to HDTV. When I first saw HDTV I found it blurry (although much “clearer” than regular TV) because I had jumped exponentially in expectation. I wasn’t comparing HDTV to normal TV, my brain had jumped standards to compare it to real life!
In any case, these are just some of my thoughts. I know I’ll be sticking with CDs and LPs for a long time. [RecordStoreReview.com]
I imagine I will too.
Meanwhile, applause for Apple keeps rolling in:
- Allen Evans of Middlesex, Vt., is no stranger to digital music. About two-thirds of his music collection comes from free copies on file-swapping networks. The remainder was ripped from CDs he and his family already owned.
Recently, Evans downloaded four songs and gladly paid for them.
The 19-year-old’s purchases, along with 1 million other tracks sold in the first week of business for Apple Computer Inc.’s online music store, mark a refreshing turn of events for the ailing music industry.
Steve Jobs, Apple’s chief executive and the closest thing Silicon Valley has to a rock star, has succeeded in a major coup, forcing tectonic change in an industry notorious for its dinosaur pace and dragon tactics.
….Jobs’ success is encouraging to competitors and wannabes, especially those that serve the Windows market, which Apple says the iTunes Music Store won’t serve until later this year.
”If he’s the one that gets the game going great,” said Dan Hart, chief executive of Echo, a joint venture of Tower Records, Best Buy and four other retail chains that plans to mirror Apple’s pay-per-song model in the larger Windows world.
….Echo plans to let consumers choose between a subscription package and single-song downloads.
Microsoft Corp., too, is entering the online music fray next week with MSN Radio Plus. Though it will initially charge $4.99 a month for streaming listening to music while connected online MSN may one day match Apple’s per-song downloading onto computers, said Hadi Partovi, general manager of MSN Entertainment. [AP]