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An Overview Of Present, Future of Music Technology 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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An Overview Of Present, Future of Music Technology

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  • Make no mistake (Score:4, Insightful)

    by eddy ( 18759 ) on Sunday September 12, 2004 @07:25AM (#10226809) Homepage Journal

    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 (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Zorilla ( 791636 )
      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.
    • 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

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

      Ummmm...hello? The cassette, 8-track, compact disc, and mini-disc were all about portability.

      The one thing all these formats have in common is they fit in your pocket.

      I'm hard-pressed to think of any high-quality audio formats that have caught on in the past 30 years. ADAT, SACD...the few examples I can think of are pretty esoteric and are usually found in a recordin
  • and also... (Score:3, Funny)

    by dna_(c)(tm)(r) ( 618003 ) on Sunday September 12, 2004 @07:26AM (#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 :-)
  • SACD vs MP3 (Score:5, Informative)

    by valisk ( 622262 ) * on Sunday September 12, 2004 @07:32AM (#10226834) Homepage Journal
    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 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by hype7 ( 239530 ) <> on Sunday September 12, 2004 @08:23AM (#10226983) Journal
      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 (Score:5, Insightful)

        by valisk ( 622262 ) * on Sunday September 12, 2004 @08:37AM (#10227031) Homepage Journal
        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 (Score:3, Interesting)

          by abborren ( 773413 )
          Which encoder you choose greatly impacts the quality of the resulting MP3s. My favourite general-purpose is LAME []. When going for high bitrates i choose BladeEnc [].

          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.

          • 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 (Score:2, Interesting)

              by Otto ( 17870 )
              --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.
          • 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
      • Re:SACD vs MP3 (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        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 o
      • 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 th
    • Re:SACD vs MP3 (Score:3, Insightful)

      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 amplifi

      • I agree with that wholeheartedly. Flexibility is the key.

        The iTrip coupled with WiFi uploading of tracks may well turn out to be the killer app for the MP3 generation, its just so damn convenient.

  • only that.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gl4ss ( 559668 ) on Sunday September 12, 2004 @07:34AM (#10226845) Homepage Journal
    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.

  • by KitFox ( 712780 ) on Sunday September 12, 2004 @07:37AM (#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 [] 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?

    • by dna_(c)(tm)(r) ( 618003 ) on Sunday September 12, 2004 @07:46AM (#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.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      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.
    • 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.
      • 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.

  • by Fex303 ( 557896 ) on Sunday September 12, 2004 @07:37AM (#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.

    • And here I thought cassettes were about replacing 8-Tracks; remember 8-tracks were the 1960's MP3 equiv..kind of.. sort of.
    • by klang ( 27062 )
      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 anybo
      • by madfgurtbn ( 321041 ) on Sunday September 12, 2004 @08:14AM (#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.
        • 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....
          • by madfgurtbn ( 321041 ) on Sunday September 12, 2004 @08:46AM (#10227059)


            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.

          • 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.
        • 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 :-)
      • by Anonymous Coward
        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.
      • by zoeblade ( 600058 ) on Sunday September 12, 2004 @10:17AM (#10227422) Homepage

        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.

        • "It's best to keep a lossless copy of your songs..."

          Thank you for hitting the nail squarely on the head.

          By now, I've encoded my entire music collection twice, once in 128 kbps mp3, and by now in 128 kbps AAC. It would have been a giant step backward the second time around if all I had to work with were those mp3 files, instead of the CD originals.

          This is why I still purchase CDs, except for those times when I purchase from iTunes Music Store those few songs I like from otherwise insipid albums. The phot
        • "Technically every format is lossy compared to the original source "

          hmm., that's not true for any music that does not involve recording an analogue source.,

          i'm an electronic music composer and all my sources are already digital.,

          i can savely say that the production process from my studio to a CD is pretty much totaly lossless.

          there is of course some processing involved along the way but this is both intentional and enhancing so i would not consider that lossy.,

      • 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 excellen

  • But then I want isolinear chips from startreck, so feel free to ignore me :)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 12, 2004 @07:52AM (#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).
    • 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...
  • by Anonymous Coward
    " 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.
  • "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.

    • 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 custo

      • 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 (Score:3, Informative)

          by valisk ( 622262 ) *
          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 d

          • 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?

            • A friend says his iPod can't do that, either, though, is that true?

              True sadly, you can store stuff on it but nothing more :(

  • 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!


    • 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 comp
      • 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
      • 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.

        • 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
  • Is DRM Necessary? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by plasticmillion ( 649623 ) <> on Sunday September 12, 2004 @08:11AM (#10226943) Homepage
    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 [] 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.

    • >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.

    • by e6003 ( 552415 ) on Sunday September 12, 2004 @08:49AM (#10227070) Homepage
      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.

    • 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 [] earlier about an interview [] 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

      • 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 shelv
  • by Spellunk ( 777915 ) on Sunday September 12, 2004 @08:13AM (#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.
    • 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! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Wonderkid ( 541329 ) on Sunday September 12, 2004 @08:15AM (#10226962) Homepage
    "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 [] 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.

    • 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 kno
      • As I hope you guessed, I was being a little tongue in cheek with the golf players remark, but am sure you know what I meant. Having spent 10 years in Silicon Valley, I found a noticeable personality difference between the MBA types and engineers. I have always found engineers to be significantly more friendly trusting and likable, while the other side were cold, distant and didn't really 'get it'. I think this would be a good topic for discussion on Slashdot, but in view of current world political situation
    • "...thick haired golf players..."

      Um, I can't find those guys at iTunes Music Store. D'you think Napster has them yet?
  • I dunno, I'd say the jump from vinyl to tape was about portability over quality, too.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 12, 2004 @09:35AM (#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.
  • by Junior J. Junior III ( 192702 ) on Sunday September 12, 2004 @09:37AM (#10227266) Homepage
    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.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    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 whi
  • by Alwin Henseler ( 640539 ) on Sunday September 12, 2004 @09:54AM (#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.

    • 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
    • IS fully (not virtually) lossless

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

    • The WAV file format is commonly used to store PCM audio (effectively, uncompressed). But it supports encapsulation of other formats, too; I have seen WAV files with GSM audio (same compression as used by GSM cellphones), ADPCM (a very low-CPU codec), and even MP3 compressed audio in them. The Linux software PABX, Asterisk, sends voicemail-as-email to people as GSM within WAV files, IIRC.
  • 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.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    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 poss
  • 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 s

    • A few points,
      1. if 90% of people out there aren't listening to portable devices, then there are 90% of people who are potential consumers for a good portable device.
      2. Sure the portable market is finite, just like pretty much every other market for anything is finite. I seriously doubt it is anywhere near saturation. The fact that players are selling as quickly as they are would seem to suggest there is plenty of demand still.
      2.5. The younger crowd is likely going to be the major market, and they *do*
  • 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
  • Tapes were a case of portability winning over superior sound quality.

    Some argue that the CD was the same.

    So this is nothing new.
  • Responding to the post, not the article:

    Portability has been an important feature of audio formats for years.

    1. 45 RPM records. Relatively durable with a hole big enough to stick a thumb through for ease of carrying.

    2. 8-track and casette tapes. Made car and portable audio practical.
  • How cool would it be if each member of a band played in their own sound-proof studio, hearing each other and themselves through headphones, with each of their performances being recorded separately. You, the end-user, could then remove individual instruments, or all but one for your own personal solo. On top of the cool end-user features, this would make it far easier to sample the music and probably expose more patterns, etc to be used in compression techniques.

    Of course, first we have to get the record c
    • Actually, that is how music is recorded most of the time. Thing is, the album, after being recorded, is made into a final mix (where everything is blended together) and then sent to mastering.

      So in order to be able to do "selective listening" as you propose, you would have to have each seperate track available. And by doing so, you of course mutliply the size of the song x the number of tracks. Basically, the only place you could fit this onto is a DVD, and a whole album with all the tracks available would

Forty two.