Monday, May 02, 2005

Digital Audio Player Madness

MP3 LogoA co-worker of mine is thinking about buying a digital audio player, which got me thinking about all the madness surrounding music files and the ways to play them. It's far too confusing for the average consumer to make an educated decision.

Here are the problems I see:
  • A variety of Digital Right Management schemes make it impossible for any one player to play every type music file that can be obtained.
  • DRM makes it difficult, by design, for a person to move files from a computer to a player, then back again, at will.
  • There are too many different/competing types of music files (mp3, aac, ogg, wma, etc.).
  • The average consumer has no idea that the typical music file purchased from an on-line vendor is of very poor quality - much worse than what's on a CD.
  • Most documentation for players lists the specifications in terms of how many songs the unit can hold, which is meaningless. They should be telling the consumer how many hours of music it can hold at each of the commonly used encoding bitrates (128, 192, and 256 kbps).
Another issue I have is that the headphones that come with players, plus the majority of ones that are readily available for purchase at your local chain store, are of beyond terrible quality. This makes many believe that certain players are poor, which is completely false. I contend that if a person listens to the exact same music files, through the exact same headphones, at the same volume, on a variety of players, the person will conclude the difference in sound quality across the players is imperceptible.

Hopefully I can help my co-worker out rather than confuse her more. But how do you explain the lunacy behind the fact that if you purchase a song from iTunes, the only player you can easily listen to that song on is an iPod? Damn that conniving Apple and the RIAA. "Damn you all to Hell!"


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