When MP3 players started appearing in 1999, (yes, it has been ten years..) everyone was limited to low quality MP3 files to use with their player, as people were limited to dial-up internet connections which cost by the minute and jammed every phone line in the house. To have to download huge audio files would have been inconvenient to say the least. The answer? Compress the audio into files no bigger than a few megabytes.
Great solution for the 90’s, but what about now? Every house in Britain will have at least 2MB broadband by 2012. The majority of houses in Britain enjoy high speed internet anyway, yet we’re still using the same crappy small music files! If you buy music in iTunes, you’re still downloading compressed AAC files at 256kb/s.
So why can’t we easily buy CD quality audio downloads?
If you extract songs off a CD with no compression at all, you’re probably looking at a file that’s at least 30MB big for a standard song, and I’ve encountered much bigger. To maintain quality, but save space at the same time, you can encode songs in a “lossless music” format. A common format is FLAC, (Free Lossless Audio Codec) but it isn’t supported by many mainstream MP3 players, and iTunes can’t read FLAC files either. To address the issue however, Apple created their own format, simply called Apple Lossless.
If you go into your iTunes preferences, go to “Import Settings” (Under the general tab) and you can choose what format you want to import your songs with. This still leaves us with one problem though; you probably don’t want to buy CD’s to import one or two favourite songs into your iTunes library losslessly. There are some sites where you can buy music in FLAC or WAV, but none are as comprehensive and as easy to use as Apple’s iTunes store. If you don’t mind stepping on the wrong side of the law, there are thousands of CD’s floating around P2P networks in FLAC, which you can then convert into Apple Lossless if you want to use in iTunes.
Whether we’ll actually see lossless songs in iTunes any time soon is another matter entirely. Apple have a monopoly in the online music industry as it is, so it may not be financially sound for them to spend a lot of extra money on additional server storage and bandwidth just to offer CD quality downloads, and if they do, you can be sure the cost will be passed on to us consumers…
Have you got any thoughts on this? As storage is becoming increasingly cheap, shouldn’t we now look to be getting full and complete sound quality for our music? Or are people less concerned with quality and would like to just have the convenience of listening to music streaming services like Spotify? Be sure to let us know in the comments section below!