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Music Media Technology

The Future of Digital Audio 296

Andru Edwards writes "It can be said that the current digital music scene can be a bit overwhelming with all the competing technologies and file formats. No matter what format you use, these fairly new compression methods make it easy to carry along your entire music collection with you wherever you go, surpassing anything we could have done a decade ago. So where are we headed? This article examines what the future of digital music will bring, both from the hardware and software perpectives."
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The Future of Digital Audio

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 08, 2004 @06:16PM (#11037120)
    There's more than mp3, Microsoft and Apple. This is a horrible article.
    • by nadadogg ( 652178 ) on Wednesday December 08, 2004 @06:25PM (#11037198)
      There is to people who are very tech-oriented like we are. My dad, who is pretty handy with a computer, knows only mp3, wma, and wav. Your standard to slightly above-standard user isn't going to be able to tell you a single damn difference between mp3 and ogg. Hell, as I'm just a programmer weinie/college student, I can only name mp3, wma, ogg, that shitty atrac-3, flac, aac, and mpc. I'm sure there are quite a few that I'm totally missing here, but you see where I'm coming from.
    • They tend to ignore the possibility of a new format all together. It seems to me that something scalable is the ultimate winner where the original can be really high res like SACD but it can "self-downconvert" depending on the media you put it on. For that matter, there really shouldn't be any difference between video and audio. Like MPEG-4 you should be able to put it on any media and play it in any device.
      • Re: New format(s) (Score:3, Insightful)

        by parvenu74 ( 310712 )
        I too am curious what the Next Big Thing(tm) in digital audio formats will be, but how much smaller/better quality is any new/evolved format going to be -- and with storage getting so much larger and cheaper, will it even matter?

        For audio, I think the eventual winner will be the format not with the best quality per se, but the best lock-down ability (DRM) to get the major commercial people behind it. In terms of pure audio, I think OGG might be the best quality format for now, but has nobody built an *opti
        • by Simonetta ( 207550 ) on Wednesday December 08, 2004 @08:29PM (#11038105)
          I respectfully disagee with the idea that the format with the strongest DRM will be the most widely used in the future. I believe that the MP3 revolution has created an entire new way of thinking about recordings, copyright, and who owns music. MP3 caused the control of music recordings to shift from the corporate producers of the recordings to the consumers who listen to them. It will never shift back because corporate control depended upon having the music tied totally to the distribution media (the disk). Once digital technology seperated the content from the medium, it changed the financial equation for the entire music industry. The record companies remind me of the makers of typewriter ribbons, who really, really wish that all these word-processing computers would 'just...fucking...go...away!' In the long run, adding bulletproof DRM to a recording will only guarantee that the recording will only reach a tiny percentage of its possible audience. Just because the global music corporations are so big now doesn't mean that they can halt or turn back the MP3 revolution.
          In the future the format that provides the easiest,fastest, and most reliable way to copy whole libraries of thousands of albums at one time will be the most widely used format, regardless of any copyright law.
          • Whatever evil the record companies remind you of, they are the ones holding the content that the vast majority of folks want, and they choose AAC+FairPlay or WMA+DRM because they want positive control of the end consumption (to a certain degree) of the product. This will never change, so for a given format to be accepted by those who are holding the goods that we all want, the distribution format will need to have acceptable-to-good levels of rights management on board. Possession is nine tenths of the law,
        • I too am curious what the Next Big Thing(tm) in digital audio formats will be, but how much smaller/better quality is any new/evolved format going to be -- and with storage getting so much larger and cheaper, will it even matter?

          This is why I say the digital format war was settled 5 years ago. There's a reason why we still call all these devices "mp3 players" after all.

          There's no great need for better compression at lower bit rates as hard drives get bigger and cheaper. I mean the fact is there are two
      • by gidds ( 56397 ) <.slashdot. .at. .gidds.me.uk.> on Wednesday December 08, 2004 @07:59PM (#11037896) Homepage
        I believe the Ogg Vorbis format already supports bit-stripping, whereby you can downconvert a file to a lower bitrate without losing any quality (compared to encoding it at the lower rate from scratch).

        But apart from a proof-of-concept, no-one's actually written a bit-stripping program yet.

        The obvious conclusion is that, rightly or wrongly, not too many people are concerned about bit-stripping...

    • by jxyama ( 821091 )
      >There's more than mp3, Microsoft and Apple. This is a horrible article.

      ..and there's more than just the lack of mention of your favorite format to determine the qualify of the article.

      i RTFA and i thought it was pretty good. the greg guy sounds like he has an agenda to push (touting napster/rhapsody subscription model or zen being more intuitive than iPod) but otherwise, it was a fairly entertaining read. lack of one detail about a format is no basis to dismiss the entire article as horrible, which

    • flac on dvd (Score:5, Insightful)

      by kardar ( 636122 ) on Wednesday December 08, 2004 @06:55PM (#11037427)
      I haven't been able to find anything like this (yet).

      So we have portable CD players that play mp3's. That's nice. Plop in a CD-R with mp3's into your portable CD-Walkman-type device, and you are good to go. Who needs hard-drive players that cost much much more and that you have to keep plugging into your USB or firewire port?

      CD-Audio is silly. DVD-audio is silly. If you can have a portable device that plays FLAC, which there are (they are hard-drive based) from Rio, I think - then what's the point of having huge uncompressed audio files if you can cut the size in half and still have the same sound quality?

      Flac does support 24+ bit audio, so instead of using up tons of storage space with that 24bit 96khz quality, just compress it losslessly.

      What we need - and I don't know if there are issues with CSS, etc... but we need a Walkman-type device, not much larger than a CD (you know, those round-type things you can get for $50) - that supports DVD data disks.

      A DVD data disk is the same size as a CD data disk, and it can hold about 12 lossless - CD Audio quality albums (give or take). Plop in a data DVD that has flac files on it - I think this is much easier in terms of storage space, backups, and not having to connect to some USB or Firewire port all the time every time you want to change the disk.

      What I want is a portable FLAC player that accepts DVD data disks - as our embedded processors get more powerful, the need for uncompressed streams like CD audio or DVD audio will be unnecessary.

      A portable DVD data player that plays FLAC. That's where it's at, man. Just like the $50 CD Walkmans that play mp3s, except one that plays FLAC and accepts data DVD disks.

      • Re:flac on dvd (Score:2, Insightful)

        by zoips ( 576749 )
        With a decent sized hard-disk based portable music player (20-30 GB is reasonable, and relatively standard, though, for instance, Archos makes an 80 GB player), the only time (most) anyone needs to connect the device to their computer is to add new music to it, not to fiddle with playlists, or move audio files off to make room for new.

        With a DVD bases solution, you wouldn't be able to generate playlists on the fly and store them (unless the player has built-in RAM to store the playlist), and it wouldn't
        • I agree. I understand. I should add that this doesn't necessarily apply to flac, and flac alone. How about ogg, mp3, wma, aac, whatever else anyone wants. Hard-disk, flash, CD, DVD, whatever..

          Obviously, some folks prefer the hard-drive ones, and that choice is a good choice and a valid choice. But I guess it surprises me that the DVD isn't being used (it's not like this is some hypothetical either-or world - we CAN have both) - perhaps it's CSS and other Macrovision restrictions - but in the future, if w
      • Re:flac on dvd (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        DVD-Audio already has lossless compression. I think it's called Meridian.
      • This sucker is close. I got one on e-bay for $120, as a refurb.

        http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0%2C1759%2C821305 % 2C 00.asp

        It plays mp3-dvds as a walkman-type device (and happens to double as a USB dvd reader and cd writer).

        Unfortunately, I'm pretty sure the only lossless you'll get out of this is WAV, so no compression. But if you've got flacs on your hard drive, you could transcode them to high-bitrate mp3s, save a crapload of space, and probably never notice the difference in casual listening. And you'd
    • Online music stores will play a big role in what the format war will bring. As currently DRM exists only for WindowsMedia and iTunes, meaning wma and aac, these are the starting contenders. And mp3 is (still) around due to its past huge success, but unless Fraunhofer adds a way to stick DRM on top of it, it won't be adopted by online stores. Love it or hate it, DRM is what vendors like. They will keep on pushing it.

      Another factor will be players. Major player support is mp3, wma and aac these days. Some no
    • by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Wednesday December 08, 2004 @07:52PM (#11037836) Journal
      Yesterday, there was an article looking at Spam filters. It covered a number of the proprietary ones but NOTHING in the OSS even though it is OSS filters that are doing the real work. It is like covering web servers without mentioning Apache, or talking about web browsers without doing MSIE. But who knows? may be it is not BG or clueless reporters. Perhaps it it the illuminati.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 08, 2004 @06:18PM (#11037140)
    Everyone's really into this string thing now.
  • by PipianJ ( 574459 ) on Wednesday December 08, 2004 @06:22PM (#11037164)
    Companies will try harder and harder to make sure DRM exists in all these formats and is ever more restrictive ("Oh, well with our new Super-Duper Audio Discs, you can only play it 5 times on one single device.")

    All the while, prices for these new formats will either stay the same, or go up, due to "increasing costs of production" and stay that way.
    • RE: NMWTFH, OTIC (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Beardo the Bearded ( 321478 ) on Wednesday December 08, 2004 @06:29PM (#11037224)
      One fundamental thing, though:

      There's always an analog solution to a digital problem. If you can play it once, I guarantee that someone will use that one time to hook it up to their computer and record it in a non-managed format. If you can only listen with X-brand headphones with a special adapter, someone will cut the cable and make a way to record the sounds in a different format.

      No copy protection is fail-safe. As such, they will all fail.
      • What holes remain that can't be plugged with technology will be plugged with lawyers.
      • Re: NMWTFH, OTIC (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 08, 2004 @06:51PM (#11037397)
        You just put very quiet warbly tones into the audio with a binary message encoded in them... When you play it back, the playback machine hears the tones and refuses to play any further.

        There is no way of filtering them out as they do a random walk, and you trash audio if you try to remove them with hi-q notch filters anyway.

        This system was mooted a few years ago, and got a lot of complaints from 'audiophiles', but it was quickly realised that if you did not tell people the tones were there, they cannot hear them.
        So, the tones came back, and are on a large number of CDs released in the last few years, waiting for the DRM tech to catch up to make use of them. They survive analog copying very well.
        • Yeah, but will my modded Nomad 2 stop when it hears the sounds? Never in life. The old machines will keep being in demand just for reason like this.

          If you can't get them anymore, you'll be able to import them from Canada or China.
        • Re: NMWTFH, OTIC (Score:5, Informative)

          by Lemmeoutada Collecti ( 588075 ) <obereon AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday December 08, 2004 @09:04PM (#11038307) Homepage Journal
          Hate to rain on the parade, but any pattern a computer/chip can detect, it can also modify. Instead of thinking of filtering them, just introduce a secondary harmonic that alters the binary message. Since it has to be outside the human threshold of hearing, then the range available to encode the data is limited. Fill that range with additional 'noise' like the messages, change the messages.

          Aside from which, I could just use the always open legacy analog hole, play it back in a sound booth with multiple mics for pickups. Isolate speakers, 2 mics cross matched to each, recreate without wiring. Filter inaudibles out, no message left.

          Data cannot be configured to protect itself. It must necessarily be accesible to the user, and there are suffiecient of us in the 6 billion plus population to figure out a way around it. If the data can be accessed, it can also be changed.

        • by Anonymous Coward
          Remember Princeton professor Ed Felton? Remember SDMI?? It's been done, and it was cracked thoroughly.
        • Yes because lossy compression certainly doesn't take anything out of the source audio. Correct me if I'm wrong but in good compression formats the first data to go is the stuff humans are unlikely to hear is it not?
        • Until my CD player (which is really a DVD player, recently), Winamp, XMMS, Nero, iRiver portable, and/or madplay understand (and comply with) this sort of thing, it just won't matter.

          And since that's so unlikely that we might as well say that it will never happen, the only use for the warble-tone watermark is just that: Irrevocable watermarking of illicitly-traded MP3s, with the vaguely-purposeful hope of easily identifying the source material.

          There just isn't any R or M in this quasi-incarnation of DRM.
      • I agree. Forget copy protection, just wait for some pissed off underpaid assistant engineer to release a bootleg ripped from the studio masters. Or maybe, the engineer gives a copy to a friend who then uploads it...

        We use raw AIFF in the studio where I work, and it is easy to bump it down to an mp3. I could even do it right now...go grab one of the glyph disks, plug it in, open the project, export the mastered stereo track to mp3, open my favorite GNUtella client...

        Luckly, I love my job, and the artists w
    • Companies will try harder and harder to make sure DRM exists in all these formats and is ever more restrictive ("Oh, well with our new Super-Duper Audio Discs, you can only play it 5 times on one single device.")

      All the while, prices for these new formats will either stay the same, or go up, due to "increasing costs of production" and stay that way.

      Precisely why I will not buy this "new" technology. It is just a money grab. I never did buy the CDs available that I used to have in record and tape

  • Where is HDCD in the article? (not that it mattered to what they were talking about)

    Man, I was hoping for discussions on what the maximum sample rate that makes a difference is, or how much sample resolution future systems will have. (12 channels of 96-bit 1MHz audio!)
  • no music for you (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 08, 2004 @06:25PM (#11037190)
    I'm stunned the article didn't talk aboutt the fragility of digital music. My coworker's hard disk crashed and he lost a few hundred dollars of iTunes songs. When he called Apple asking for a replacement for the music he already bought, Apple told him he should have backed it up, and they would be glad to send him a history of his purchase so that he may re-buy them. If the future of digital music is paying real money for soft intangible music, then I'm not interested. I'm happy with streaming radio and pirating my friends' CD's, the old-fashioned way.
    • free replacements (Score:5, Informative)

      by poptones ( 653660 ) on Wednesday December 08, 2004 @06:37PM (#11037293) Journal
      Gee that's too bad. I know how it feels: I recently lost about 60GB of music (and lots of other stuff too) when the mandrake 10 installer decided that it should reformat that windows partition without bothering to ask first.

      Funny thing is, the stuff I bought online I just went and downlaoded again. All I had to do was put my email address in a form and Magnatune [magnatune.com] sent me a list of every selection I bought from them and provided a link and password for me to grab them again.

      Huh. Maybe the problem isn't that the music is fragile, only that your rights are. Maybe the solution isn't worrying so much about "backups," but making sure that you give your money to someone who respects their customers.
      • Fact is that you're dependent on the benevolence of the company that sold you the DRM crippled music in the first place. If they don't want, or are no longer around, you're out of luck. When you bought a record/CD, there was the same problem: physical (total) loss however is much less likely for records/CD's than for data stored on a hard disk.
        • Re:free replacements (Score:3, Informative)

          by swv3752 ( 187722 )
          Err, Magnatunes is not DRM'ed, just need a password to access thier servers. They give the option of just about any possible file format including *.wav. So it is dead simple to burn an audio cd if you want. Magnatunes just goes the extra step and lets you redownload your tracks.
    • by armyofone ( 594988 ) <armeeofone@hotmail.com> on Wednesday December 08, 2004 @06:43PM (#11037342)
      Even 'hard media' like CD's and DVD's were recently reported [cnn.com] to have a much shorter lifespan than originally advertised. But at least with a modicum of care, (keep away from fluctuations in temperature, silver side up, etc.), they last for years.

      The songs I've ripped to computer are mirrored to no less than three hard drives on separate computers - just to prevent what happened to your friend. And it's all ripped from CD so it's not like it would be gone forever if I had a crash. I just like the redundancy because I value my time. It took a long time to encode 300+ CDs to Ogg...

      Hmmm... perhaps this will be a new niche for the insurance industry? 'MP3 insurance'.

      Don't laugh - it's not even remotely funny.

      • I have CD's that I bought in 1983 or 1984 that are still in perfect condition (WOW, 20 years!)

        This jibes with the CNN article as far as storage conditions. I'm always careful to handle CD's by the edges and keep them stored vertically.

      • Re:no music for you (Score:3, Informative)

        by Alan ( 347 )
        I did the same thing, but recently have been ripping to lossless (aac lossless, as that's how the others who are doing it are, as they are macheads and don't have the support for FLAC that I do :). The plan is to have a lossless master for the music so that I can easily convert to mp3/ogg/whatever less painfully than having to re-rip everything again.
    • by Alan ( 347 ) <arcterexNO@SPAMufies.org> on Wednesday December 08, 2004 @06:51PM (#11037399) Homepage
      On one hand, if you had a fire and lost several hundreds of dollars worth of CDs, you have the same issues. You're not going to be given them again because you purchased them once. Of course, a CD is a physical object, and an mp3/aac/ogg/flac/etc is a bunch of 1s and 0s, something that the music industry both tries to make us remember (pirating is bad! bad! bad!) and forget (you can download music for a cost but if you delete the file it's just like you have a physical CD you lost).

      Personally I think that there needs to be a shift in how online music industry works, maybe a central DB of all the songs that you have legally purchased and the ability to get them from there at any time, anywhere, in any format, for any reason (ie: giving the consumer the right to the music they've purchased). Of course, bandwidth and labor costs would prevent something like this, and again I'm sure the RIAA wouldn't want you to be able to not have to buy something a second time.
      • Re:no music for you (Score:2, Informative)

        by dougjm ( 838643 )
        On one hand, if you had a fire and lost several hundreds of dollars worth of CDs, you have the same issues.

        I'm not sure thats fair, I can't imagine that it's all that hard to phone you're local insurer up and say "i'd like to insure my CD/tape/MD/betamax/hi8/2" reel to reel/8track colection".
        Not to say though that you couldn't insure a hard drive however there could be problems that the data ever existed if lost and also whether it had been copied off before a fatal partition wipe.
        • Insurance it totally doable. I made sure when I got my renter's insurance (and later my homeowner's insurance) that it covered my CD collection. I gave them estimates (and inflated it by some margin to give me room to grow) and there was no problem. My insurance company considers CDs as being in the same category as jewelry and so they are used to people having items worth large amounts of money. My CD collection (1000+) barely dented their lowest cap.

      • ...maybe a central DB of all the songs that you have legally purchased and the ability to get them from there at any time, anywhere, in any format, for any reason...

        This central global music database already exists, it's called Kazaa.
  • by BalorTFL ( 766196 ) on Wednesday December 08, 2004 @06:25PM (#11037195)
    Digital audio is doing for music what the printing press did for books, it makes the medium available for all, not just those with the means to enjoy it, or create it. Digital audio has led to an era of freedom for our music.

    So why does everyone seem to be trying to take it away?
    • by Anonymous Coward
      There have been many efforts to bring online digital music to people. So far, iTunes seems to be the most successful.

      It's a distortion of the issue to claim that companies are against digital audio (CD and DVD-A are digital formats). The freedom discussed is the ability to download your music online and take it with you on portable players.

      Illegal copying of music that is copyrighted by content owners is what they are fighting against. They have a right to have their works protected by law so that they

  • I'm sorry but my mp3s still dont sound no where as full as my good old fasion vinyl purple rain album.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 08, 2004 @06:26PM (#11037207)

    Article sez:

    If there was an effective DRM solution out there, it would seem that the music stores would have no choice but to support it as it would ease the minds of the purchasers, thus bringing in more cash.

    Yah-huh. And after that it makes the observation that:

    I think the amazing thing about digital audio is the ability of it to free our music
    Isn't it patently obvious? These people don't even know what freedom means. Their view of freedom must include being yoked to someone's cart.
    • even better (Score:5, Interesting)

      by poptones ( 653660 ) on Wednesday December 08, 2004 @06:51PM (#11037394) Journal
      Hector: I'm almost afraid to comment on what we'll see in the future because some of these ideas aren't copyrighted, and may show up on the next batch of digital players.

      "Copyrighted ideas?"

      Who the fuck are these people? A bunch of jr. high students? I would call this article a circle jerk, but it's too self indugent for that...

      • And even if he tried to patent them, he wouldn't get too far---not one of these ideas was original, and in many cases prior art already exists. I don't think there's one Patent Office in the world that would let any of these through.

        Oh, wait...
  • by vivin ( 671928 ) <vivin.paliath@g m a i l . com> on Wednesday December 08, 2004 @06:27PM (#11037213) Homepage Journal
    I'm tired of having to burn CD's if I want to play my files on my car stereo. Future systems will include wireless file transfer, so that you can seamlessly access songs from your player while in your car. Yes, the Griffin iTrip accessory sends the songs over an FM frequency to your car, but it has trouble in certain urban environments, and you have to fish for an available frequency

    He really has a point there. I got sick of burning CD's, so I bought an MP3 player. I use a car-kit (bless those things) to listen the music from my MP3 player. I use the FM transmit sometimes, but just like the article says, I have trouble finding available frequencies. New compression methods/formats are all well and good, but I'd like to see better integration between audio devices. I want to be able to stream music from my audio unit and have my car audio system pick it up and play it .

    There are car MP3 players, but the ones I have seen require you to burn a CD with MP3's on them.
  • by Software ( 179033 ) on Wednesday December 08, 2004 @06:32PM (#11037250) Homepage Journal
    I'm a little surprised to read about a moderated discussion on digital music, where one of panelists says:
    Hector: I'm almost afraid to comment on what we'll see in the future because some of these ideas aren't copyrighted, and may show up on the next batch of digital players.

    Hector, I hate to break it to you, but ideas can't be copyrighted. He probably meant to say, "patented" (which would need more rewording to be really correct, but it's close enough). Maybe I'm just nitpicking, but it seems like he's not familiar with patent law terminology. Or else I'm reading it wrong - is he really afraid that somebody will implement the ideas in the article? Why would that be something to be afraid of? Is he afraid he won't get his cut? He's a journalist - he's paid to talk about his ideas. If he wanted more payment, he should be an entrepreneur.

  • summary (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kaan ( 88626 ) on Wednesday December 08, 2004 @06:36PM (#11037282)
    for those who don't want to rtfa...

    - all music companies care about DRM, and they will all continue to care about DRM

    - Apple will face more competition for the ipod

    - all audio players will get smaller in size

    - hard drives will get cheaper, as will audio players in general

    - tivo-for-audio (something that has existed for more than a year) will continue to exist

    - some guy thinks players should display lyrics like a karaoke machine

    - they think consumers want a single device for everything - pda, audio, phone, watch, video player - even though integrated devices are unsuccessful in many other areas of life (tv/vcr, fridge/web browser, etc.)

    The above items are all written by me, and certainly omit some of the details. But I fail to see how any of this reveals anything interesting or unexpected about "the future" of digital audio.
    • there's no need to read this article!
    • I guess you could have summarized it as simply, "no duh."
    • - they think consumers want a single device for everything - pda, audio, phone, watch, video player - even though integrated devices are unsuccessful in many other areas of life (tv/vcr, fridge/web browser, etc.)

      At first I was going to agree with you, but then I realized I took my watch off today because I didn't need it since my cell phone has a clock on the front display. So I guess it is a phone/watch.

      I have an iPod I really happy with, but if I could set up a special playlist and download a gig of

    • Is there any mention of DVD-Audio and 5.1 Surround [musictoday.com]?
  • by RealAlaskan ( 576404 ) on Wednesday December 08, 2004 @06:37PM (#11037288) Homepage Journal
    Why should I have to care about formats? My computer should be able to play pretty much anything that can make a noise. If I have some special device, like an iPod or a Palmpilot, the software that deals with that device should be able to take any format and make it work on the device (probably by transmogrifying it to whatever the device favors).

    For me, that pretty well sums up the present: everything just works, and I don't have to worry too much what format AV files are in. I don't know if it's because I don't use them much, or because the Debian packagers have done a really nifty job of getting things set up.

    I suppose that if it were my hobby, I'd want to know all about those file formats, but I shouldn't have to know to have things just work.

  • ther was a far better on the article on the future of digital audio a while back, i think it was even on slashdot. cannt find it now. it was pre del.icio.us, evidently.

    i'd like to point out that CPU usage on a lot of audio processors is getting worse, even for the same task. A lot of the Via solutions dont try to offload anything at all. Its really quite disheartening.

    And my other big pet peeve, syncrhonized audio. xntpd should let you sync a couple systems clocks, and music software should be able t
  • by rainman_bc ( 735332 ) on Wednesday December 08, 2004 @06:44PM (#11037347)
    Too many players out there that only support mp3. Less suppoert wma and aac, and way less support ogg.

    Unless you come up with a format that will play on existing hardware players, it'll be extremely slow to adopt.
  • by Ralph Spoilsport ( 673134 ) on Wednesday December 08, 2004 @06:50PM (#11037386) Journal
    Some guy i nthe article who can't spell his name said:

    Andru: The thing that I see as being the biggest issue going forward is DRM (digital rights management). iTunes has their DRM for their AAC files, while Microsoft has another for WMA. Of course, they are trying to make it easy with their PlaysForSure initiative. Sony has yet another for it's ATRAC files, and MP3 has none. Therefore, an iPod cannot play any WMA files, and nothing but an iPod can play Apple AAC files. Music purchased from Sony Connect can only be played on Sony digital audio players. Why all the confusion? Fine, we understand that the RIAA wants to protect it's property, but do they have to do it at the expense of causing mass confusion amongst casual music buyers? Even better, why can't these protected files just work across platforms? If you look at DVD's, there is one protection standard. We should have the same thing for our digital music. If there was an effective DRM solution out there, it would seem that the music stores would have no choice but to support it as it would ease the minds of the purchasers, thus bringing in more cash.

    That's where it all hits the fan - DRM. If the RIAA wasn't such a greedy bunch of pigfuckers, we could all trade MP3s and get dinged for each trade (say, a dime per trade), and everyone would be happy. Napster had a system like that under works, and were ready to roll it out, then it was reduced to a smoke hole in the ground over in Redwood Shores.

    Dime a Trade? I'd do it. Especially if a source got a rating (this way asshats who rip stuff at 64 mono, have clicky messy files, or are shills for the RIAA, can be avoided) like in EBay. You would have to use a specific client, and that client would be wired to your bank account. Everybody happy, and we could all use plain vanilla MP3s - no muss no fuss no chocolate mess.


    • by The Cisco Kid ( 31490 ) * on Wednesday December 08, 2004 @08:35PM (#11038144)
      Have to use a specific (presumably closed source) client?

      Wired to a bank account?

      Gee that wouldnt prevent anyone from making choices. People that use opensource platforms can't listen to music? How about people that dont have bank accounts?

      That market will slowly push out proprietary systems, or those with DRM, as each one's protection is cracked, or the format is ignored entirely, etc.

      I for one will never buy a media device that enforces any sort of DRM (unless there is some use for it that avoids the DRM functions). That includes digital TV's, DRM'ed music (online or pseudo CD), and anything else they come up with.

  • Article seemed near sighted. If I peer into the future, I see DRM screwing up everything. It already has; wide-area wireless internet radio would have been the biggest and best thing possible.

    But peering around that, the coolest radio gadget would be one that tune tunes *every* station in the area simultaneously, and stores it all. Forget about scheduling a recording; if you discover something interesting, you can go back and listen to the whole thing. Then go even farther back, and listen to the previ
    • > Article seemed near sighted.

      All I see is yet another attitude that music is something to be consumed, and not produced.

      I wish for a very low cost digital format (like sony minidisc) but without consumer drm crap that serves to lock ME out of my own music that I create.

      If I use a Sony portable MD to record music that I wrote and performed, and the MD does not permit me to extract my recording fully in the digital domain, my rights have been abridged, because Sony has leveraged copy control over my c

    Wireless at it's best????

    This speaks loads for the credibility of the authors who make such a dumb gramatical mistake lol.
  • Ultimate file format (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TiggertheMad ( 556308 ) on Wednesday December 08, 2004 @07:24PM (#11037636) Homepage Journal
    I have been predicting for several years that the ultimate file format that everybody may eventually adopt is a compressed, non-lossy copy of the masters used for a given song, plus a fader moves script and an effects script.

    Think about it, the stones have introduced their remastered collection on the new 5.1 CD format. Beyond that home theater has 6.1 and 7.1, and a few other formats that I'm sure I have never heard of. The trend is toward more data being given to the listener in a recording. The logical conclusion is a copy of the master. By including a fader move script and effects script, I can play the recording as it was created by the studio engineer. Or, perhaps I am a fan of the band's bassist, so I push the bass to the front of the mix. Mabey I like the bootygrove music, so I dump the drumline and dub in a drum machine backing track. Perhaps I like to have my rap music with disgusting bass, so I crank all the bass in my favorite gangsta ditty. I can also fool with the balance, effects, etc. as much as I want.

    As digital processing power gets cheaper, doing real-time remixing with 24 tracks in realtime becomes a viable option. You already have something similar going on in video games.

    Personally, I hope this happens in my lifetime. I can think of several albums that I love that I would spend $100 to have a high quality copy of the master, just to be able to fool with them and listen to the results.
    • No offense, but that's really a pretty poorly thought-out idea and you should probably stop "predicting" it.

      I couldn't imagine the horror of being a recorded musician and having people messing around with my carefully crafted tracks. Add to that the fact that your "effects script" concept is inherently flawed, in that non-digital effects (ie, real stuff like overdriven tubes or even just a particular fuzzbox) are used extensively in music production, and the whole thing falls apart.

      I'm reminded of th

      • Offense taken. Your response was pretty poorly though out. Perhaps you should stop "breathing".

        I couldn't imagine the horror of being a recorded musician and having people messing around with my carefully crafted tracks.

        So don't release for that format. It's a free country. I am a musician, and if someone wanted to re-mix my music, I would be flattered. People remix the HELL out of everything these days, it's not like you could stop them.

        Add to that the fact that your "effects script" concept is
  • This article (Score:3, Informative)

    by Muttonhead ( 109583 ) on Wednesday December 08, 2004 @07:26PM (#11037650)
    should have been named: The Future of the IPod. Nothing there very visionary about the future of music.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Quoth the article:

    We want to lose ourselves in the music during those long commutes, and digital players will eventually take us there.

    I don't know about you, but the last thing I want is the asshat behind me "getting lost" in the latest Britney song and putting a thousand-dollar dent in my fender.

    Keep your immersion crap away from people operating heavy machinery, mmkay?

  • Ditch you portable collection and get connected.
    Soon you'll be able to say, store all you music at home (or on someone elses server if Microsoft, Aol or whoever get there way), and pick it up in you car, on your 'walkman alike', at work, or just in the living room.

    Say a reasonably compressed song ways in at 3MB and lasts 6mins you should be able to get that down in real time with a 100bps pipe, WIFI can easly cope with that, and 3G should be able to provide.

    Now all we have to do is outlaw DRM becuse it ef
  • by scalveg ( 35414 ) on Wednesday December 08, 2004 @08:39PM (#11038167) Homepage
    Wow an article on the FUTURE of Digital audio. MP3 phones! Will the miracles of early 2001 [cnn.com] never cease?

    Andru: [...] I am not expecting huge storage on these phones either, otherwise they become indirect competition to the iPod. Instead, I think we will see the phones able to port about 50 tracks.

    ME: Bah! The phones will certainly be strongly branded as iPod phones, and Apple will certainly recieve licensing fees. That's not competition in any meaningful sense. In addition, time has shown that any attempt to limit a music player's usefulness arbitrarily (like a stupid 50-track limit) will certainly backfire. They say themselves later on that hard drives are great because you can store your entire music collection. If musicphones are limited to 50 tracks, I predict abject failure, and I bet the cell phone manufacturers are right with me.

    Hector: With the players of the future, we will be able to schedule personal recordings of incoming broadcast music on a given hour, and play it back when we have the free time.

    ME: Bah! There's already products [pogoproducts.com] that do this, and although they are popular in a small part of the population, Pogo is not going to upset the iPod any time soon. If you really want to see a model of the future, I'm pretty confident it's to be found in Podcasting [wikipedia.org]. As traditional media middlemen grow increasingly desperate to preserve their vanishing way of life, more ways are found to completely bypass them. Podcasters are individuals who make their own audio content, and provide it for download. Why cling tenaciously to traditional audio delivery methods such as radio with its primitive 1-second-of-audio/sec transmit rate when there are better methods available? Imagine instead a few aggregation service providers and recommendation engines with links and software to help find and download the freshest Podcasts you're interested in!

    Hector: I'm tired of having to burn CD's if I want to play my files on my car stereo.

    ME: I've been using my Nomad Zen in my car for two years. What's your problem, Hector? I'm not disagreeing with your desire to have a nice wireless way to hook up my Zen to my car stereo, but, dude, BO-RING. Think about this instead: When you pull your car into your garage, it uploads information about what you've been skipping over and what you like to listen to during various times and various driving styles to your home media center, which then, next time you log on to shop for music, makes recommendations, which your car stereo downloads wirelessly across your 802.11 net.

    ME: Or heck, 802.11 is so ubiquitous nowadays, your car could download a track or two while you're in the supermarket parking lot (because it's a relatively big download) and store it encrypted. When you get back to the car, your heads-up display could ask if you want to buy the song. A quick purchase transaction later, you get the unencryption key, and away you go. New music on the fly.

    Andru: One thing I do expect in the future, is to see flash MP3 players slowly diminish from the market. While it is more shock absorbent, I just don't see the cost of the medium as being feasible going forward, especially with hard drive prices plummetting.

    ME: Buh? Maybe they haven't noticed that Flash prices [forbes.com] are also on the move. Assuming the same size, speed, and reliability, I consider it a non-issue really.

    Andru: With convergence coming into play, people are wanting to start putting pictures and video on their portable devices as well.

    ME: Yes, just as Sony's Photo Walkman and Video Walkman were follow-on smash successes after the breakthrough cassette player. Oh wait. No, sorry, I was just smoking cr
  • I got as far as Apple/iPod/iTunes is a contender. At 128kbs??? Yeah, this is an article I'm going to put my future in. I'm old and on the way out, but I still can hear how crappy 128kbs files are, no matter what the format. Somebody let me know when they write an article for people who know, or at least remember, what decent music actually sounds like. Way too funny is the BMW thingie that plays iTunes on a 75 grand (or whatever) car stereo. Are there any others out there who actually listen to the mu
  • by doc modulo ( 568776 ) on Wednesday December 08, 2004 @10:56PM (#11039049)
    Mobiles will transform into the all-in-one devices the article talks about.

    Mobiles will get harddrives. The first one of these is already announced [theregister.co.uk].

    Once those micro HDs get cheaper and implemented in more mobiles, mobiles will be at least as functional as an iPod mini.

    The reason mobiles will win over all other devices:
    1. You might leave home without your music player, but you will always take your mobile. Mobiles far outsell mp3 players. The mobile is the primary gadget, others are secondary. This means mobiles will get more upgrades and get them faster because there's just more money in it.
    2. Smartphones are much more flexible than consumer devices like an iPod. They're basically pocket computers. You can just install a java program to teach a mobile how to play .ogg. You can't do that with an iPod (without hacking). You don't worry that your PC won't play a certain video file, you just download the codec, same with a mobile. People have to beg apple to extend the iPod with .ogg playback support, and they STILL won't add it!
    3. Because of Java Micro Edition (J2ME) MIDP2.0 and higher, the mobile is a universal platform. Unlike the iPod, Creative, iRiver, Rio, PC, Mac, Linux which all need a platform specific program. You can just create one type of program, J2ME, and it will run on all mobiles regardless of processor or operating system. And unlike the PC where Java is held back because of Microsoft's opposition and Sun's mistakes. Java on mobiles is pre-installed. You just cannot easily program/extend consumer (mp3) gadgets like you can a mobile.

    In my opinion geeks should go for mobiles because of these reasons. In addition, mobiles will give you the same way to escape DRM hell like you're escaping it on your PC. You just use non-DRM playback software and content sources because you're able to. The cool futuristic features the article is talking about like: "we should be able to share songs from one person's player to another. How cool is that?" Are already possible with a bluetooth mobile, Java MIDP2.0 and the bluetooth API for MIDP2.0

    At the moment, mobile manufacturers and network operators are often putting up barriers to freely use them any way you like, as you are using your PC. This is because the phone network operators are afraid people will not download their DRM content. However, as people discover their mobiles can be their mobile PCs, phonemakers who don't free up their products from restrictions will lose market share because in the end, the public is the customer. I also think operators will win bigger by a free mobile market than with a restricted one.

    Am I missing something important? I don't think so, and so mobiles will be the future all-in-one gadgets.

    My next phone/music player/organizer/whatever will be a Nokia 7710. If it's not hobbled.

    By the way, for the "I just want a simple phone" naggers:
    1. What are you doing on Slashdot?
    2. Powerful doesn't automatically mean difficult to use.
    3. There ARE simple phones so buy those and don't try to force your view on mobiles on us. Be happy we love our gadgets.
  • 8-track (Score:4, Funny)

    by RussP ( 247375 ) on Thursday December 09, 2004 @02:42AM (#11040088) Homepage
    It's the way to go.

Save the whales. Collect the whole set.