No surprises at the PhilNote

by Volker Weber

No wonder that Steve passed the buck to Phil.

If you bought crippled tracks from the store, you can "heal" them by paying another 30ct per track. Repeat after me: DRM is bad for the customer.


No DRM but still AAC, so still locked into iPod (I know, you can convert to MP3, but I'm sticking with Amazon as my primary online source for downloading music. I like the option to play on other devices without having to muck with converting the file.

Amy Blumenfield, 2009-01-07

I am with you. However, AAC actually is a standard, and the world has catched on. I can play AAC on everything we have, including the car stereo.

Volker Weber, 2009-01-07

AAC is actually a higher quality than mp3 of the same bitrate and is also non-proprietary - unlike mp3. mp3 may be universal, but it still has to be licensed.

Ben Rose, 2009-01-07

@Ben: AAC also needs to be licensed. Not sure what would make it more or less proprietary than MP3. Both are part of MPEG standards.

Jan Tietze, 2009-01-07

Ben, do you have any means to tell the quality difference between AAC and MP3 in 256 kb/s? If so, what are they?

Volker Weber, 2009-01-07

Actually - now I realize how many tracks I already bought, since I have to pay 30 cents for every one of them.

Adalbert Duda, 2009-01-07

Isn't AAC variable bit rate? therefore they _should_ sound better compared to a fixed bit rate Mp3 because it contains "more sonic detail"? A gold plated air drum mate of mine told me something along those lines once. For that reason, all his CDs are ripped to WAV! Matters not to me though -- this model only came with cloth ear drums.

Colin Williams, 2009-01-07

@Jan - AAC doesn't have any licensing costs. "No licenses or payments are required to be able to stream or distribute content in AAC format.[8] This reason alone makes AAC a much more attractive format to distribute content than MP3, particularly for streaming content (such as Internet radio)."

@Vowe - Obviously, the higher the bitrate the lesser the differentiation. 320kbps is arguably no different in sound from the CD source. Certainly at lower bitrates, like 128, AAC is appreciably better than mp3. "Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) is a standardized, lossy compression and encoding scheme for digital audio. Designed to be the successor of the MP3 format, AAC generally achieves better sound quality than MP3 at many bit rates."

@Colin - Both AAC and mp3 can be ripped using a variable bitrate. This isn't a codec feature for AAC.

Quotes from the Wikipedia page here.

Many people even think one of the A's in AAC stands for doesn't.

Ben Rose, 2009-01-07

@Ben - Your Wikipedia Link is borg'ed

Sascha Reissner, 2009-01-07

I am really happy about the DRM-free iTunes store as it means I will shop there a lot more often. Too many times I was interested in a piece of music and sighed when it didn't have the "iTunes Plus" tag to it. Since I don't have that many DRM songs (less than a dozen from gift coupons) I will easy upgrade them with the .30$ fee.

Philipp Sury, 2009-01-07

@Sascha - I'll try again here

Ben Rose, 2009-01-07

I'm at a complete loss, brain dead today. Search for "aac codec", it's not hard to find.

Ben Rose, 2009-01-07

@Ben, please see this link and the FAQ; AAC is very comparable in licensing cost to MP3. It is not free. Wikipedia says "stream or distribute", not "encode or decode", both of which seem to require a license.

Jan Tietze, 2009-01-07

Downloaded iWork '09 trial version. Looks and works nicely as expected.
However, here already a few oddities: .odf support still completely missing.
Please note it is available in TextEdit since Leopard was introduced.
On the other hand, .docx documents open flawlessly in Pages but cannot be save/exported in that format.

Makes you wonder what is Apple strategy behind such (poor?) choices..

Pieterjan Lansbergen, 2009-01-07

PieterJan, maybe they don’t want to steal Symphony’s thunder? ;o)

Ben Poole, 2009-01-07

Ben, again on the quality issue. If we switch off Steve's reality distortion field for a minute, how can you tell the difference between MP3 and AAC and at which bit rate do you have a success rate higher than say 75% (50% is dumb luck), listening to your choice of tracks over your choice of speakers?

Volker Weber, 2009-01-07

If only I could access the iTunes Music Store without iTunes now... Does anyone know an alternative client to access the store?

Ragnar Schierholz, 2009-01-07

@Ragnar. Only browsing is possible at To buy tracks you'll still need iTunes imho.

Alex Wokurka, 2009-01-07

So Apple is actually doing something that others have done before.

Anyway, I'm using Vorbis whenever I can.

Mathias Ziolo, 2009-01-08

@Jan - thanks for correcting me, one only learns from his mistakes.

@Volker - In my experience, 128kbps mp3 ALWAYS sounds bad but 128kbps usually sounds "OK". Not brilliant, it's low bitrate, but more true to the original. I find low bitrate mp3 really affects the treble/bass balance, bass being boosted to rediculous levels on some genres, this doesn't appear to happen in the same way on AAC.

No study, no science, just seat of my pants feelings.

Ben Rose, 2009-01-08

@Ben, @Jan. The difference is that mp3's owners considers distribution / streaming to be something extra that needs to be paid for, in addition to any fees included in your encoding / decoding software / firmware. For AAC there doesn't appear to be any such fee.

Kerr Rainey, 2009-01-08

Kerr - I realised after Jan's post that it's clearly open to interpretation and I'm not in any kind of expert position to argue either way. It's my believe that I could write some media player software and support AAC decoding free of charge using open source codec plugins of some kind. I believe to do that same for mp3, a fee would be applicable. I don't know for a fact though and I could be wrong.

Ben Rose, 2009-01-08

@Ben, My understanding is that for both AAC and mp3 if you write software for encoding decoding you need to pay a licence fee. If it was a plugin, then the plugin would have to be licenced. (At least at a simple level. There are lots of nasty twists in this story, like patent owners agreeing not to go after open source implementations, differing international patent laws and arguments over patent ownership.)

After that, even if you have bought properly licensed encoding and decoding software and so have your clients, if you distribute or stream music to them using mp3 you still need to pay 2% of the revenue you collect from that activity to mp3's owners. With AAC no such fee is due.

Kerr Rainey, 2009-01-08

Ben, it takes a lot of postings to dissect a broad statement of yours like:

AAC is actually a higher quality than mp3 of the same bitrate and is also non-proprietary - unlike mp3. mp3 may be universal, but it still has to be licensed.

We have found out that MP3, like AAC, is not proprietary, and has to be licensed. You also cannot back up your assertion that AAC is "a higher quality". You are now stating that 128 kb/s MP3 always sound bad, no matter what the source material is. Do 128 kb/s AAC sound better?

Isn't it all irrelevant anyway since we are talking about 256 kb/s AAC (iTunes w/o DRM) vs 256 kb/s MP3 w/ VBR (Amazon)? Do you seriously think you stand a snowball's chance in hell to tell the difference? Do you think you could rank MP3 vs. AAC vs. WAV/AIFF at this bitrate? Do you think that there is any person who can do that?

Volker Weber, 2009-01-08

@Vowe - Another one of those "let's see how many times Ben will reply" games, lol. It ends now :)

Ben Rose, 2009-01-08

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