The Lossless Audio Blog
The Lossless Audio Blog (The L.A.B): The State of Lossless Audio

3.05.2006

The State of Lossless Audio




O
ver the last few months there have been an increasing number of articles focusing on the online music industry's (iTunes, Napster and Yahoo) use of low bitrate audio files and the problems that users may face once they start playing these files through there home stereo systems, media centers and other high end audio components.
The articles also point out that many users are not aware of the difference between lossy and lossless formats when purchasing there music online and that these users are typically playing these files through portable media players using low end headphones. Because of the method that these online files are played users do not notice the low quality of the sound.
One such incident has occured between the British Federation of Audio (BFA) and the the UK's specialist AV consumer electronics trade body. The BFA is concerned that consumers aren't getting what they deserve from their portable music devices or hi-fis and are blindly paying a premium for low bitrate audio. Back across the water in the USA my hope is that as we gather digital files from all sorts of sources and start playing these files through our Media Center PC's and home stereos we will come to the realization that we have been paying a premium
for a low quality file. But over two years ago The New York Times published an article detailing the pitfalls of purchasing music online and made some interesting comparisons on cost of CD's vs. lossy and lossless audio files and we still didn't pay attention.
What I hope is that this grumbling is a sign of what is to come. With end users starting to become educated not just on audio file types but also bitrates and the quality of what they are downloading they may begin to demand better quality formats like FLAC and WavPack. With more end users demanding lossless formats the hardware companies will have to include support for these formats.

Articles

"Acquiring Digital Music" from Connected Home Media


"Online Music Lovers Frustrated'" from BBC


"Get ripped off at iTunes store for low quality 128bit" from ComputerWorld blog


"What's Wrong With Digital Music Stores?"
from PC World


"Can Surround Sound Save MP3?"” from Wired


"BFA condems low bit-rate music" from AV Review


"“Music lovers trading quality for convenience"”
from SouthCoast Today


"From a High-Tech System, Low-Fi Music" from NY Times


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2 Comments:

At 9:18 AM, Anonymous Carlton Bale said...

As much as I want to see support for FLAC become a standard feature on all portable devices, I'm afraid that DRM-protected formats such as Apple Lossless and Windows Media Audio Lossless will become a more-popular format for download services, and thus for players. I think the reason compressed music became so popular was 1) limited storage space in portable devices and 2) slow internet connections. Both of those reasons are rapidly disappearing. As soon as the music services figure out that they can charge more for higher-quality (lossless) music, they'll jump on board. Device manufacturers will not be far behind; hopefully they won't forget about FLAC in the process. Although Apple would likely avoid supporting a competing format at all costs, there is really no risk to anyone as it is free and open source.

I hope to see support for FLAC proliferate; my Sonos and PhatNoise systems both support it and that was a major factor in my choosing them.

 
At 2:43 PM, Blogger Brennan said...

"As soon as the music services figure out that they can charge more for higher-quality (lossless) music, they'll jump on board."

I think you hit the nail on the head, it will come down to money first then demand. I have been extremely wary of DRM formats and have been lucky enough to be able to steer clear of them but I realize not everyone has this luxury.

 

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