Print 30 comment(s) - last by mindless1.. on Oct 18 at 6:27 PM is setting its sites on iTunes with the release of its new DRM-free music download service is expanding its digital offerings with a new music store, Amazon MP3.  The store is considered highly anticipated, due to Amazon's high profile, despite the cluttered nature of the online music market.

The early version of the store launched this week, with an initial catalog of over 2 million songs.  The store is expected to directly compete with iTunes for online music dominance.

Singles on the new service are cheaper than iTunes -- sometimes.  Songs run from 89 cents to 99 cents, an Amazon claims in a statement that more than half of the 2 million songs priced at 89 cents.  The company guarantees that its top 100 best sellers will remain at 89 cents.

Amazon signed deals with Vivendi owned Universal Music Group, the largest record company in the world, and EMI, another major record label.  Altogether, Amazon claims it secured more than 20,000 record labels.

Users can download tracks from the new service in 256 kilobit per second VBR MP3 format without any copy protection: all music can be readily played on just about any MP3 player, including Apple's iPod family.  This move marks a departure from DRM-protected iTunes and recently launched ad-supported download service SpiralFrog. 

Universal Music Group is not happy in its relationship with Apple and voice its anger today in the headlines.  With its new deals with Amazon and SpiralFrog, UMG appears ready to jump ship from iTunes.  There may be no time like the present; NBC Universal pulled all of its iTunes offerings earlier this month specifically to move to Amazon.

Apple recently announced its three-billionth download since its debut four years ago; Amazon is the fifth largest audio CD vendor even without digital music downloads.

However, Amazon might not be the only DRM-free service in town for long.  Earlier this year Steve Jobs pledged to reduce DRM on its high-quality audio tracks.  These tracks cost more than Amazon's offerings ($1.29 versus $0.89), but if Apple is any indicator, eventual winner of this arms-race will be the merchant with the best labels, not the one with the least DRM.

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RE: DRM and Music
By omnicronx on 9/25/2007 1:37:53 PM , Rating: 2
Is itunes really 128CBR? i always thought they were 196 VBR.
128kb bitrate really messes with the highs and lows, most of which are non existent after conversion. 196CBR is in my mind the minimum it should be, as it is the closest to CD quality with at the same time having the trade off of having a small file size.

I just can't believe nobody has ever made a stink about this, I refuse to even add 128kbps mp3s to my music collection, they are all 196CBR or higher, as thats been the group release standard since 2000.

RE: DRM and Music
By Anonymous Freak on 9/25/2007 3:19:59 PM , Rating: 3
iTunes is 128 CBR AAC. AAC does a better job at lower bitrates, so 128 Kb/s in AAC is somewhere around the quality of 192-256 Kb/s MP3.

iTunes Plus (the new DRM-free files,) are 256 CBR AAC, which are better than 256 Kb/s VBR MP3.

RE: DRM and Music
By TomZ on 9/25/2007 3:29:05 PM , Rating: 2
It's nice that Amazon is offering MP3 instead of AAC. While I understand that AAC may be technically superior, nearly every player on the planet support MP3, while very few support AAC.

And no, I don't want to even think about transcoding between two lossy formats. Don't get me started...

RE: DRM and Music
By Samus on 9/26/2007 6:15:18 AM , Rating: 3
I downloaded a bunch of Amazon music already, they're encoded with LAME MPx 2.03 in VBR 256kbps joint-stereo, have basic ID3 info, and frankly the software (or lack there-of) is pretty simple. Everything is web-based in what appears to be activex (although it works in firefox, too.)

For 89 cents each, I'm happy.

RE: DRM and Music
By ddahlstrom on 9/25/2007 3:30:04 PM , Rating: 2
I don't know. Eliminating DRM is a huge factor for me, but as long as lossy compression is still being used, we're still a step back from even CD quality sound. Until Amazon/iTunes starts offering DRMless and lossless music (like Chandos does now I'm still not buying.

"The whole principle [of censorship] is wrong. It's like demanding that grown men live on skim milk because the baby can't have steak." -- Robert Heinlein

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