Sunday, July 04, 2004

iTunes Ain't the Be-All End-All

Randall Stross cries Bullshit! on iTunes' 128-bit encoding and that its downloads will replace "owning" the music. This is one of the reasons Steve Albini uses when he says analog beats digital. I don't necessarily agree with Steve's views on quality -- mainly because of the wear and tear issue, at least on LPs (maybe he's talking about tape but tape has wear and tear issues as well). Quoting Stross (who wrote a book on Apple years ago):

Apple has yet to put into effect the second part of the ideal solution: distributing music that is compressed only temporarily, a process called lossless data compression. Before saving a digital song to the hard drive, software can shrink it in size by 50 percent or so just by using a shorthand notation that takes up a little less space for any repetitive patterns in the 0's and 1's. When the song is played, the software has all the information that it needs to restore it perfectly. With this, "you'll get the full quality of uncompressed CD audio using about half the storage space." The phrasing is from Apple's own Web site, but, unfortunately, the company does not offer "true CD audio," as it calls this, when you download music from the iTunes Music Store. It is available only when you traipse to the mall, buy the CD, and return home to copy it to your home computer with Apple software.

I'm keeping the original CDs that I digitize my LP / Cassette collection to and when storage becomes smaller, cheaper and the next popular MP3 format comes along, I should be able to convert back. What I haven't been doing (and should) is saving the edited high-bit rate tracks - possibly on DVDs which have higher storage capability. Damn, I am techno-lazy.

Unlike Stross, though, it's only in some tracks that I notice the quality difference. Perhaps I have a tin ear.

Sidenote stream of consciousness rambling: I can sound a perfect G - which I learned how to do when I was playing timpani years ago - if you can do G you can tune most anything else and timpani requires that you should be able to tune on the fly. How did I remember it? G is the first note of "The Great Gates of Kiev" from Pictures at an Exhibition. I haven't played the timps for awhile and I'm sure there's better technology to do tuning on the fly. There was a manual thing on alot of timpanies but as any player back then could tell you, they were very unreliable.

Yes, yes, I'm going to be doing some work on my project over the next few days assuming this new piece of gear works. Meanwhile, here's another blog I'm starting to keep track of wines, beer, smokes, etc. that I like. Feel free to leave your comments and suggestions.

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