So, Apple started selling some EMI tunes through iTunes without DRM, but with an additional $0.30 in the price, making DRM free songs $1.29 each. Apparently even though DRM is gone, in its place is meta data about who bought the song! So basically, if you pass your music on to your friends or put it on a file sharing network (or someone else takes one of your songs and puts it online) someone (The Feds!) would be able to track you down. It’s basically designed to scare you off from sharing music. Most people won’t even realize that they might be sharing a song that is “watermarked” since the data is hidden in the music file.
I find it ironic that Apple’s coming out TV ad for the Macintosh at the 1984 Super Bowl depicted Apple smashing Big Brother. My, how Apple has now become Orwellian themselves.
Is Apple turning into another Microsoft? They deride anything Microsoft does and poke a lot of fun at them with their hilarious Mac VS PC ads, but maybe that’s all just smoke and mirrors, because they are taking a page right from the Redmond boys and adding feature upon feature to their iTunes software, making it use so much memory that it has become a complete dog. It isn’t as bad as Windows Vista yet (Vista is pathetic…more about that another time) but like most Windows software, it has too much crap that hardly anyone needs.
Gapless playback is the latest feature that they thought everyone needed. We don’t.
Gapless playback is always on in iTunes 7 or later unless the Crossfade feature is turned on. If Crossfade is on, only audio files that have the “Part of a gapless album” option checked and are capable of being played gaplessly will play with no gaps.
The best default setting is to turn Gapless Playback off and adjust the crossfade to personal preference. I actually use a plug-in for iTunes called Bossa. I can totally control my music with it, make schedules and playlists all while iTunes runs in the background. I just use the crossfader and set the segue to what sounds right to me. You can actually use the crossfader to make Abbey Road sound like it was meant to be. It takes a little effort setting the crossfade, but it’s so much better than Gapless Playback!
Here’s how to turn Gapless Playback off.
1. Open iTunes
2. Select all songs in your library – “Ctrl + A” on a PC – Apple key on the Mac
3. Right Click and select “Get Info” – It will warn you about editing all files
4. Check the “Gapless Album” box and set it to “No”
5. Click “OK” and your files should quickly update
6. To avoid even having to do this….don’t upgrade past iTunes 6
Apple had a great thing going with iTunes but as with anything that gets too popular and too big, the latest version of iTunes is just too bloated and uses way too much memory to be an effective media player. When I first started using iTunes a few years ago the application was less than 20mb and didn’t use much memory at all. Now, it’s almost 40mb and a complete memory hog. Apple is trying to make iTunes your one stop shopping program. Not only music, but podcasts and video and now it’s also incorporated with Apple TV. All this just makes iTunes impractical if you just want to play music and nothing else.
Every so often I get update messages for the latest version of iTunes, and I tried updating to version 5.0 when that came out and it just totally messed up my computer. My drivers were all messed up and I couldn’t burn a cd in iTunes or with Record Now. I tried to delete 5.0 but deleting the program didn’t fix the issue with my drivers. I ended up having to do a clean install which was a complete pain in the ass. Anyway, after all the hassles I put iTunes 4.9 back on my computer and never had a problem again.
I hardly ever buy any songs from iTunes because of the crappy DRM and AAC format they use, but I found something recently that was only available on iTunes and I couldn’t purchase it because Apple wants me to have the latest version of iTunes to be able to download songs from their store. That’s completely preposterous! Now they are forcing consumers into using their latest software. I wonder if that’s even legal?
Anyway, if you have a new computer and you want to download iTunes, do not go past version 4.9 if you want a problem free media player. If you want all the other functionality and you have a lot of RAM, go for it, but I tell you……it’s a dog.
Audiophiles have complained forever about the loss of sound quality because of the compression and I’m not going to argue that. People complained about the warmth of a song on a vinyl record being lost when the cd came out, but going from cd to mp3 was a much bigger loss. Luckily bandwidth has improved so much in the last couple of years that downloading and using any music in less than 192Kbps is a complete waste of time. If more music was available in 320 Kbps we would have music that is audibly almost as good as the original wav file from a store bought cd.
Funny thing that with all this modern technology we are creating a whole generation of people who walk around listening to music with their ear buds that, in simple terms, is the difference between AM and FM radio. I remember joking that my dad had AM or Mono ears because he couldn’t tell the difference when stereo first came out.
Ironic how a whole generation grew up listening to High Fidelity records and cd’s and now the latest generation is growing up listening to lousy sound quality songs from the iTunes store. In my mind the record labels made a huge marketing mistake by not using the sound quality angle. Hey, you can drink a PBR or a nice micro brew. Both are beer, but they’re definitely not the same.
There is an audible difference between an AAC, MP3 and Wav file. Try it at home with a song that you have from the original store bought cd, then make a MP3 version of the song and after that download the same song in AAC format from the iTunes store. Unless you have mono ears like my dad, you’ll hear a clear difference.
If you still don’t believe me, I imported the “Nickodemus” song “Cleopatra In New York – Karuan Remix” into Adobe Audition and you can visually see the difference in quality.
If you’re going to compress your music, only use the highest bit rate MP3 your computer and hard drive can handle. MP3 needs to become the defacto standard in compression. Don’t use AAC. Don’t use WMA.
At this point everyone has probably heard that Apple and EMI have partnered and will offer DRM (digital rights management) free songs on iTunes for 30 cents more than the DRM infected songs they were selling before. Granted, they will be 256Kbps instead of the old 128. However, I was reading conflicting reports whether Apple was going to offer songs in MP3 format or continue to offer songs in their proprietary AAC format. At this point it looks like they are still going to continue selling songs on iTunes in AAC. Honestly, selling songs in AAC is pretty much the same as having DRM. Talk about a bait and switch operation. Apple and EMI get tons of press and all we get is some better quality sounding songs for $1,29?? Seriously, Steve Jobs only needs to fart and the cool-aid drinking press eat it up like it’s the most important news story of the millennium. I know that you Mac die hards out there are probably blowing some fuses but you have to realize that your beloved Apple and their proprietary hardware and software are no different than the boys from Redmond. They are actually better at the game than Microsoft.
So what can you do with AAC files? Play them in iTunes and on your iPod….that’s it! If you want to play them on any other MP3 player you’ll still need to convert the files. Sounds like this new arrangement is still in Apple’s favor. Maybe it’ll get the anti-trust guys in Europe off their backs for a while, but until Apple starts offering DRM free songs in MP3 format, you’re still stuck using their software and hardware. What a thrill to pay more for the same! Thanks Apple!
If you want to purchase real DRM free songs check out www.emusic.com They don’t have all the big labels, but tons and tons of great indie and up and coming acts.