This "Amazon Music" app can choke on a bucket of cocks.

Fuck Amazon. Fuck them right in their Cloud.

It's bad enough that, previously, Amazon wouldn't just give me a .zip of my MP3 album purchases, but made me dick around with their crappy "Amazon MP3 Downloader" intermediary app (which seemed to need to update itself twice a week, because come on, you couldn't be expected to ever actually get something that complicated right, right?)

It's bad enough that a few months ago, they started interposing three more clicks with every download -- "Are you SURE you don't want to install Amazon Cloud Player?" and completely ignoring me every time I said "No".

But now they seem to have discontinued even that, and now the only way to download MP3s is to go through a bunch of additional clicks in this new bullshit "Amazon Music" app that seems to be trying to replicate all of iTunes. And buried somewhere in there is "Export".

So that's going to work out really well for them.

It's almost enough to make me start buying music from Apple instead. (Ha ha, I kid, I kid, nothing would ever make me sink that low.)

Hooray for user-hostile lock-in! Why don't you just figure out a way to have a tiny hammer pop out of my screen and hit me in the face every time I try to give you money!

Previously.

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54 Responses:

  1. What's wrong with buying music from Apple? They got rid of their DRM-ridden AAC files a long time ago.

  2. Out of idle curiosity- and I'm sure you've already covered this in some post I skipped- Is the music you're downloading not available on Bandcamp? Literally every piece of music I've bought (with the exception of filling in '80s shit I'm missing) over the past year has been from Bandcamp, and I can't think of a single complaint with the purchase process, except perhaps that the money passes through Paypal.

    • jwz says:

      Yeah, Bandcamp is pretty reasonable. I should look there first. I haven't been.

      (I have a completely separate bucket of cocks waiting here for Paypal, obviously.)

  3. Michael: Because fuck Apple. I still hold a grudge over the DRM thing. Also, they don't actually give you MP3 files, they give you M4A files and that's fucking stupid. (The only reason they did that was because it was part of their DRM strategy, and they haven't let it go.)

    • grェ says:

      While I sympathize with the sentiment; they did eventually drop the DRM crap. Albeit, I still prefer to buy CDs and rip them myself when I cannot find an alternative to iTunes that offers FLACs, because DRM-free aacs/mp3s are still lossy; but I do at least acknowledge that Apple changed their tune slightly, and I would rather see such changes and support them than dig in my heels and harbour old grudges.

      Thankfully there is very little that is iTunes exclusive. What chaps my hide more, are software suites such as Serato, which allow for mp3 playback, aac playback, ALAC playback, but not FLAC playback. And that is a piece of software that basically comes with a $300-$2200 "dongle"; as a result, last year I ended up ripping my CDs in ALAC (I finally conceded it was the codec of least resistance for lossless, after they released an open source implementation that others began to use http://alac.macosforge.org/)

      That said, I think to this date, my favourite DJ set up, was with a Rane mixer with an integrated Serato compliant SDIO card, but using Traktor instead of Serato. I don't dig Traktor's UI as much, but offers some extra features (like, denser time coded control discs, and y'know, playing back more or less every audio codec) and the integrated hardware/mixer/soundcard is fantastic; being able to use that rig with Serato, Traktor, Ableton and more made the whole experience probably the best DJing setup of my life (and I am the sort of person who usually finds integrated components terrible; the TTM57SL was better than any other DJ mixer I ever used, be it Allen & Heath, Pioneer, Denon [don't laugh], or lesser unmentionable brands, and I only wish I had the funds for a Sixty-Four. Sadly, unlike the rest of the tech industry, which continues to follow Engelbart's scaling observation/Moore's Law; it seems to be one of the few sectors where equipment gets more costly with time, with very little appreciable differences [to wit, the first Serato breakout box I believe MSRPd for about $300, the new one starts at $700 last I looked]; see also: CDJ price hikes with newer models, as well as the astronomical costs of Technics 1200 iterations now, and so on)

      If Apple released some DRM-free ALAC iTunes store I would probably just cave in and give up on most other music vendors, but even their "high end" iTunes LP notion was a complete non-starter. I don't care about more elaborate cover art, but if they had multi-track 24bit 96Khz ALAC/FLAC type offerings, I would be all over that!

      So, like you, for now I would rather purchase my music elsewhere, even though I am glad they seem to have cooled off on the DRM front for audio (video is another beast entirely; particularly when digging into Airplay there is some shady shit going on there).

  4. Is there a practical problem with AAC files? To me they sound just as good or better than MP3 files at similar bitrates, and pretty much everything plays them these days, except for maybe some old car stereos.

    • I think the general consensus these days is that AAC is technically superior, however MP3 has 100% support across all platforms, and I suspect Jamie cares about consistency here- and obviously he already maintains a large collection of MP3s.

      I encode everything in AAC myself these days, and the iTunes buying process is great... IF you're using Apple products consistently, the way they expect, 100% of the time. If not it immediately becomes onerous.

    • Erbo says:

      Well, yeah; my broadcaster that I use for DJ'ing doesn't support AAC/M4A files. Not that I'm doing a lot of DJ'ing these days, but I still want to have that capability. And I do have a converter program that will turn a non-DRM'd M4A file into the MP3 file God intended, but still.

      (Incidentally, that package does support WMA files. Not that I would ever use that format, mind!)

      • Otto says:

        Does it play mp4 files? This may be a stupid question. But an m4a is just a renamed mp4, as long as it lacks DRM.

  5. Erica Mulkey says:

    7digital is the least bullshitty of all music stores IMO

  6. Erica Mulkey says:

    (you get zips of 320kbps mp3s and can re-download them whenever. but 7digital's catalog isn't as complete as iTunes)

  7. Michael: Everything I have is MP3, and all of the software I have knows how to deal with that. Experience shows that having a mixture of MOV and MP4 is a pain in the ass because half of the software works on one and not the other. I don't know what special little quirks M4A brings to the party and I don't care to. It offers me nothing, so I don't want it. The only reason that M4A files exist in the wild at all is because of Apple's failed DRM strategy. That alone is enough reason to reject them outright.

    • Nate says:

      I don't think that's the reason, actually. I think it's royalty rates and flexibility/quality. Apple could have wrapped any format in their DRM container.

      AAC is free to encode/stream whereas Fraunhofer had a lot more leverage over MP3 at the time. Also, it has more quality options and can handle more streams than MP3, which was hobbled with having to be backwards-compatible with MPEG-1 standards.

      Anyway, AAC did miss the whole ripping/Napster party in the late 90's and is thus relegated to permanent second-place position. VHS vs. Beta all over again.

    • Mark says:

      why are you guys replying to each other in this weird way?

  8. Jamie Zawinski, so is the latent DRM nonsense why Apple still refuses to support the FLAC open standard? Michael Fischer, AAC is stupid because, like M4A, it assumes the world only wants to use apple -which is not correct.

    • ...no it doesn't. Every non-Apple device I can think of plays AAC just fine. I play it from my Ubuntu server every day.

    • Tim says:

      AAC doesn't stand for "Apple Audio Codec", it stands for "Advanced Audio Codec". Apple didn't invent it, it's an ISO standard.

      • jwz says:

        Fascinating and irrelevant. The great thing about standards is that there are so many to choose from.

        • Tim says:

          Yes yes, I've used that line a million times myself. It's true but trite.

          AAC is literally Fraunhofer's followup to MP3. I assume Apple chose it not to be a bag of dicks (the bag of dicks part was wrapping it in DRM), but rather because when they decided to break into the music player market they talked to Fraunhofer about MP3 licensing and decided on using the latest and greatest instead of old and busted. Who wants to be left behind the tech curve?

          • jwz says:

            You can repeat yourself all you like, but I still don't care about the history of AAC or what your personal theory is on why Apple chose to use it. It still confers no advantages to me and so I don't want it. See, that's the "irrelevant" part.

  9. Josh says:

    Their Android app used to let me play music files that I'd copied to my phone via USB; now it doesn't (as far as I can tell, although I haven't looked too hard, as it was faster to just use an app that did).

  10. First, M4A is the file extension for an AAC file. They're basically the same thing. Second, AAC is an open standard; there's nothing proprietary about it. (The high efficiency version is used in satellite radio.) It's the functional equivalent of MP3 for this decade, and pretty much everything supports it. You can hate on Apple all you want for making it the de facto file format for audio when iTunes Store came out, but since there's no vendor lock-in if you're not using a DRM-layered file, so there's not really any valid basis for the hate IMO.

  11. Ugh, I've been dreading this day. I too have been clicking the "fuck off" button for their new downloader. I sort of understood their old one, as browser download managers can be flaky, and the "add to iTunes" functionality is somewhat useful, but forcing me to use another music manager to push their music service is just hostile.

  12. I have no lossy aac files so I guess I assumed that those were .aac. lossless m4a are a PITA on non-apple systems. They all require you to install QuickTime or buy a codec pack to play them back. With ~90% of my CD collection ripped to flac, putting that music on an i* gets you nothing -or some crappy conversion. Stating that I should just make them all alac is idiotic because I don't live the kool aid life and that is the only time it would make sense. I'm not hang on apple, I'm hating on their lack of open standards interaction/support. They only support open standards they don't have a choice about and they default to proprietary.

    • On Windows, LAVFilters. Solves it for every DirectShow based app, which is Windows Media Player, Media Player Classic, Winamp, and most other media playback apps worth caring about.

      Solves 99% of your playback issues, indeed.

      I recommend CCCP as your preferred video and audio playback needs. Free, put together by smart people, works very well and reliably.

  13. Doug says:

    The downloader is still working on my account. I'm seeing a "Or use our old MP3 Downloader" link on multi-file requests. It's still available for download from here so you might try a reinstall.

    I don't care for the direction they're going with this either.

    • jwz says:

      The "or use the old one" option was not presented to me today. If you saw it, I assume that means they're doing an incremental roll-out.

  14. Nathan Williams says:

    Why don't you just figure out a way to have a tiny hammer pop out of my screen

    At one job, we were talking about having a way to knife the user if they did things that were particularly annoying for us (I think that one was closing a laptop to suspend it and then re-opening it before suspending was done).

    A product manager pointed out, disturbingly sensibly, that a small pepper spray capsule would fit nicely behind the microphone port in the casing, aimed right at the user's face.

    • Nate says:

      As someone who wrote a lot of code to handle power management, there's no big deal here. You mask interrupts from the lid switch until you're ready to go to sleep and then unmask it atomically with the write to the "sleep now" register. You don't get woken on the way to sleep, and the user only experiences a slightly longer delay "waking up" than usual.

      If you want to be extra helpful, you can poll the lid switch (still with IRQs masked) at strategic points along the sleep path that might take a while, such as disk IO. The nice thing about resume when you're not asleep yet is that you just toss everything on the floor and jump to the resume routine if you decide you're not going to sleep.

      • Nathan Williams says:

        We did this sort of thing - it's harder than you make it sound, since we had to do a lot of userspace shutdown first, and we had to work with the existing software stack, not the one that exposes all the interrupt-controlling knobs you might want, and not one we had 100% control over. The actual thing that made us annoyed with the hypothetical user is really not the point of the story, and I should have left it out.

        Restated: "We wanted to stab the user. Knives are impractical. TPM came up with an elegant, painful, practical alternative."

        • Nate says:

          Sorry, may have over-trivialized your situation. I was a kernel developer for FreeBSD and then some embedded work. In both cases, I had a lot of control over the low-level details, which you really need in order to make this stuff smooth.

    • Anonymous says:

      > At one job, we were talking about having a way to knife the user if they did things that were particularly annoying for us (I think that one was closing a laptop to suspend it and then re-opening it before suspending was done).

      This kind of self-important attitude is what makes me despise large parts of the population of "other people in software", and accounts for why so much software is shit. "Irony" is how you took jwz's comment to support your position, while being on the same side as the one in the wrong from his anecdote.

      Congrats.

      Nate seems to be the better Nathan.

      • Nathan Williams says:

        I am glad that discovering edge cases that require you to do a lot of complicated work fills you with such pleasure. Thanks, Anonymous.

  15. Rick O says:

    No mention of the fact that Amazon just "upgraded" their desktop player to a new major version (to integrate with Prime Music), and managed to break critical features like support for media keys and most keyboard shortcuts?

    • phuzz says:

      Is there any reason you'd want to use Amazon's iTunes clone rather than any other media app?
      I had been meaning to cut back on my use of Amazon, them being monopolistic arseholes and all, and I guess they just found a way of pushing me away.

    • Joe Shelby says:

      yeah, they wrecked that, AND in their mobile app they totally got rid of the responsive layout and locked the UI into portrait mode (with fixed width contents so there's lots of wasted space on a 7", nevermind a 10" tablet).

      Sorry, this is 2014, right? Are there websites out there saying responsive design is for pussies? Did I miss that memo alongside the hundreds of mobile design books and blogs that all say otherwise?

      Flickr's updated app 18 months ago was portrait only, and they got hammered for it. They've since fixed it, but Amazon should have paid attention to that feedback.

  16. Chris Davies says:

    I'm surprised you never got round to replacing their downloader app with a 4 line perl script. The link files were never very complex, mostly legal engineering. They were just 3DES encoded xml files, once you'd ripped the sooper seekrit key out of the app, you could get around their crappy software. I guess they've found an all new way of locking people in now.

    • rich says:

      I have in the past used clamz to download the MP3 files I bought on Amazon.

      Of course nowadays I just grab full albums for free off Youtube ...

  17. Roger says:

    Since Google hasn't been mentioned, their music stuff functions really well. (No comment on their "spying" and other non-technical issues.) You can download purchases from the web browser, or use their music manager app to download (and upload). Heck the music manager app even acknowledges the existence of Linux. The downloads are DRM free.

    And yes there is the usual arbitrary nonsense in there like only being able to download songs without the app twice, and 10 registered computers/devices.

    • Jens Knutson says:

      Yeah, Google makes this reasonably easy (better than the current state of Amazon anyway). I just counted, and it's 3 (quick, not buried or otherwise obfuscated) clicks to get to downloading the MP3s after buying an album: open Play Music web app --> (open contextual menu for album) --> Download album.

      No native apps required either, it's all done from the browser.

      • Rodger says:

        Indeed. The only two things that suck about Google Music (3 if you count Google themselves) are no support for FLAC and that the browser download is limited to doing it twice (according to the doco).

        • Roger says:

          You can also download using their app. Note that they do support flac for uploading your own music just fine.

          The Android music player also works for playing your collection, although it has the usual Google engineering quirks - eg anything less than perfect networking and it gives up.

          • grェ says:

            Yes, you can upload FLACs to Google Play/Music/whateverthehelltheyrenameitto but it transcodes them for playback:

            "** FLAC, ogg, and aac files are transcoded to 320kbps mp3."

            citation:
            https://support.google.com/googleplay/answer/1100462?hl=en

            Some great irony is that back in the G1/ADP1 days (before Cyanogenmod was really much of anything) Kenny Root wrote FLAC playback for the AOSP player, the site, more or less unchanged with the information on the relevant patches is here: https://the-b.org/FLAC_on_Android around the same time, he (as well as the other co-author of Connectbot; the best ssh/terminal client for the device at the time) was hired by Google, to work on Android.

            Because the code he used for the FLAC playback was not under the appropriate Apache compliant licenses, he was unable to merge it in mainline AOSP, and while CyanogenMOD did merge it in (and has had it ever since) it is limited, does not play back all FLACs, but it was certainly better than anything else available at the time (maybe still? I have a Nexus 5 at the moment that I mostly utter curses to, with no uSD slot for loading things, and limited internal storage, it seems not worth it tbh; and Android feels like it is getting worse with time, not better).

            Anyway, not to be pedantic, but I wanted to clear up some misconceptions about Google Music being worthwhile for lossless audio.

            Keep in mind, CDDA lossless audio does not consume more than 150 kilobytes/second (indeed, NEC's first CD-ROM system for the PC-Engine had that as its maximum bus speed over its rudimentary SCSI implementation). That is not fast, not even for LTE cellular systems, let alone WiFi in a home. You may be pleased to know that the AppleTV does stream audio losslessly wirelessly using AIrplay, video is a different matter, entirely.

            That said, FLAC, ALAC are compressed, and would less bandwidth than that; the fact that in 2014, we have media-industry partnered technology companies thinking that opening a datastream that more or less any DSL connection could sustain, let alone contemporary wireless connection, just makes you realize how much innovation is stifled at the hand of larger industries.

            Not as though the U.S. wireless carriers (with the tenuous exception of T-mobile; I won't get into MVNOs like Republic Wireless) have not been gouging on bandwidth anyway after their FCC bribes, you would think they would whole heartedly endorse something that was lossless, and ran up data overages! (seething sarcasm)

            And, as any audiophile from the 1980s will tell you; CDDA was good, but vinyl, still better. mp3s and other "lossy" codecs are egregious; particularly when played over better sound systems.

            Why care? Why should I be expected to transcode my music to multiple formats in the first place? Better to have a singular lossless archive even in that event, and then transcode to lesser formats as needed. Some clever FUSE hacks already do such things, ON THE FLY: http://khenriks.github.io/mp3fs/ (it wouldn't surprise me if Google Music may even be using code very similar to that; ideally backed by a de-duplicating filesystem; because why not optimize all the things?!)

            • Tim says:

              And, as any audiophile from the 1980s will tell you; CDDA was good, but vinyl, still better. mp3s and other "lossy" codecs are egregious; particularly when played over better sound systems.

              Please tell me you don't actually believe this crap, especially the ludicrous audiophool nonsense about vinyl superiority.

              • グレェ says:

                "Believe this crap"

                You seem to be baiting me; but rather than just link another article comparing waveforms and "double blind studies" (which I am sure you can look up on your own). I will say this much, people have different sensory acuity. e.g. http://discovermagazine.com/2012/jul-aug/06-humans-with-super-human-vision

                e.g. http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2012/07/25/3553426.htm

                But let me tell you about my own experiences. More than "super sensing people" sensory sensitivity can be honed, or dulled. In the same way that one can lose hearing sensitivity. Indeed, my right ear has clinically documented hearing loss due to repeated infections when younger, and a family that did not believe in doctors or the medical system whatsoever; strangely some of that physical damage (my right eardrum was once so infected without treatment that it ruptured and burst) actually makes me more sensitive to some sounds. This may not read what it feels like though, I make an effort to keep earplugs on me at all times, because if auditory stimulation is too excessive it is physically painful to me. Some venues with old guys hunched over mixing boards having gone to countless rock 'n roll shows while numbing themselves with the stereotypical booze and drugs are so deaf, running overpowered or poorly calibrated gear as to be dangerous to their crowds, or at least me. I don't mean to pick on the old deaf guys, there are the young overly enthusiastic performers who crank all the levels because they want to be heard and show off. I will tell you, from personal experience. If you want to get a anyone to actively listen, play quietly so your audience will have to focus their attention on what you are giving them, akin to leaning in to hear a whisper. If you blast things, people just tune it out and filter and ignore the wall of sound is really not an ideal to aim for in the least. I like captive audiences, even if perhaps subdued.

                Some context: I maybe was a bit of a savant when it came to music; I received a scholarship to the Monterey Jazz Camp during the summer of 1987 (or was it 1988?), I performed on stage with an ensemble, hours before one of my then inspirations, Dizzy Gillespie played right where I had been standing. One of my fellow trumpet players was performing in an ensemble for the Oscars a few years later, and I am glad to say I knew her. But I didn't stop then, I went on to form ensembles of my own, DJ, and much more.

                When you work deeply in any field, different acuities are honed, your senses are an instrument in and of themselves and can be focused. I have some friends who claim to be able hear things about 20khz upwards into the range of even 40khz, but they don't "hear" as you may think, they sense the vibrations throughout their whole body, or describe how they hear sounds in their nose. As someone who on occasion enjoys some bass, I can tell you when particular organs resonate with frequencies that perhaps my ears are less focused on or would even be able to be attuned towards.

                I have friends who run so-called "big sound" for events like Lightning in a Bottle, Burning Man and more with systems that expose more or less every flaw in a source (e.g. http://www.funktion-one.com/products/ ), so this stuff makes a difference to me. DNA Lounge has a decent sound system, at least, and is one of my haunts as a result; I could tell you a tale of a great performer and a terrible room at the Hemlock, but I don't want to get too far off tangent, there are more tales to be told.

                So umm, again, when you say, "don't believe this crap" what do you mean?

                I believe my inputs, but they're mine, not yours; perhaps I can describe them with words in a manner you can understand that won't set you back in utter disbelief.

                In the same way that I see visual compression artifacts, I hear auditory ones. It is more like describing the difference in a taste palette almost, at one point in my life, I collected audio and video obsessively, in multiple formats, scrutinizing the differences between them; whether a recording bears the hum of a 2" magnetic master, or the sterile cleanliness of a pure digital toolchain; as a young programmer, poking at various implementations of square waves, sine waves and so on, and comparing recordings of instruments not just with my ear, but looking through signals of each on an oscilloscope, the differences between a synthetic tone and a plucked one are astounding, the lack of overtones, the precise pitch; attempting to simulate such things was once a lot more challenging, or at least computationally expensive; I have worked with people who made algorithmic improvements to synth routines simply as a means of code complexity in order to generate ways to "fool" the ear as it were.

                So yes, in the same way I hear the difference between the clicks and pops on a piece of vinyl, or the hiss of a cassette, or the skips of a CD (because CD-DA, after all, lacks ECC; and believe me, I dealt with enough pre-ISO-9660 CD-ROM formats to not even be graced with some of the fineries of more reliable data encoding even in cases where such physical formats were using data rather than audio), I also hear qualitative differences between an mp3 or a FLAC. It sounds, to my trained ears (and after nearly four decades doing this under multiple instructors and with multiple collaborators, countless hours of practice and performance from stage to radio to giant festival to underground; I think I can speak with some level of expertise, I am not a casual consumer of this stuff, I had teachers; I have personal friends whose instrument samples are in the core of drum machines, and can say I played host to folks who started entire genres), muddy, the high end and low end are usually easiest for me to notice arhythmic drop outs not presence in lossless source material. It is still music, even a 128kbps mp3 it is still arguably better than listening to the analogue terrestrial radio, but it has very noticeable characteristics to me.

                It's not terrible, but it is not great; it is certainly not the sort of thing that should be played in a public venue on a decent sound system ever. You want to listen to shitty quality music in your car over road noise, fine; but 8-Track decks would suffice for as much; analogue radio, heck, even go AM to really appreciate the vintage of horrible signal processing! If you are a professional, don't settle for lossy audio codecs, audio is very low bandwidth, disk space is now obscenely cheap, many websites will sell you a FLAC, and you are still better off just ripping a CD in ALAC or FLAC (or hell, burn the space for an AIFF or WAV, disk space is really insanely cheap right now). Besides, if you are playing on any larger sound system, they probably have components that are doing other signal processing, every layer will expose different characteristics in the source material. I try to never output into a system with a jack that isn't at least XLR these days.

                That said, I realize that while my own senses are honed, they are mine, and not everyone has them, there are tradeoffs to be made; I think it may have been the band EMF in an interview in the 1980s who recommended, when mastering, find the shittiest boom box you can, and play your mix through it - if you can hear every instrument and vocal element you want distinctly, then great, because most people will be listening to your work on about the same grade of gear if not worse.

                I feel as though with the popularization of mp3s, producers began to mix for that as their lowest common denominator; coinciding with genres that had vastly different spectrographic properties as far as frequency distribution, much louder bass, less high end, less layered mid-range, can you say Bassnectar and Glitch Mob and dubstep? They found their audiences through mp3 purveyors.

                Compared to say, older genres such as rock 'n roll, where even the Beatle's rhythmic patterns were dictated by the paltry 150W PA systems of the stadiums they were playing in. I am told, Ringo developed his offbeat drumming style in in accordance with that minuscule amplification because the crowds were deafening, he couldn't hear himself hitting the drums, so he kept to a beat until the crowd had calmed down enough that he could hear himself, and he would do a fill, when they would go apeshit again, he would go back to a standard beat to keep things sounding consistent, wash rinse repeat. Contrast that with older genres such as jazz and blues where the bassists are rarely even amplified electronically whatsoever let alone the rest of the band, and the bassists effectively are core to the rhythm section. Or fast forward to the late 1980s while studios were still in their heyday and you can listen to a group like The Cure, which did studio mixing with such arduous layering that even listening to some of the tracks from the Disintegration era for years I would pick out new riffs on re-hearing them because they were so deeply nested. Those are just my learnings though. If you want to read a someone else's words and experiences on how mixing has changed over more recent years, this one is fantastic: http://riprowan.com/over-the-limit/

                Similarly, when working in video streaming and figuring out a transcoding toolchain (we were, at the time, the first company to be doing HD-level live streaming online) I remember getting into a debate with a coworker about codecs, and transcoding all of them from the cleanest source possible so as to avoid compounding artefacts on top of each other (this is something, to my eyes and ears reprehensible, so-called generational losses can still be observed, even when going digital if one uses lossy codecs and compression formats; the travesty that is a youtube recording of say, a MOD or a PC/C64/Amiga demo that occupied mere KB of realtime generated audio or video, amplified not just in disk utilization by storing it, but also with far inferior playback characteristics because it is now recorded, in a lossy format is the sort of stuff I get picky about) I admonished my co-worker for sourcing lower-res WMV and mobile resolution h.264 mp4s off of our h.264 HD-mp4 files rather than the highest quality source files (while shot on the HDV [or later ProRes] final edits for source material were output from Final Cut Pro), she showed me the extra time it would take to transcode things with as little generational loss as possible as I advocated for, then she showed me the WMV output from identical content, one set of transcoded output files sourced from FCP files, the others from the h.264HD-mp4 file (essentially, introducing one generation of loss). The differences, while noticeable, were minor. However the transcoding time between sourcing from FCP to each target codec, rather than each codec being sourced from the HD-mp4 h.264 files was pretty appreciable. It was one of those "I guess no one will really care enough but us anyway" moments (this was for a project to transcode about 10 years worth of footage, it took months on a cluster, and all the while, the content still needed to be live and available to paying customers, swapping out higher quality transcoded formats as they were ready; while also still having an active live production queue that needed their new content transcoded, not just a backlog. Going with my preferences for quality would have resulted in this process taking about a year given the difference in speed extrapolated out, it was a great discussion, but I conceded not worth getting as perfidious about as I would have preferred)

                So yes, I notice differences in audio and video mastering, codecs and more perhaps far more acutely than others; but I know I am not alone.

                And as I said, these are sensory systems, they can be trained. Indeed, after seeing Kill Bill in theatres, and being thoroughly distracted by the insertion of red watermarks on some frames (for a film that was predominantly black and white), I began to see the watermarks on far more films. I pointed this out to some of my friends, who told me that I ruined the theatre going experience for them, because while they had never noticed such things before, now they couldn't help but see them.

                So again, I question your perspective in believing such crap. I have made working in this realm part of my profession as well as my hobby; I think I may know what the fuck I am talking about, or I would not bother posting about it.

                But I certainly understand that not everyone is as exacting as I am, and short of running /usr/bin/diff on all outputs to verify 1:1 bit by bit correspondence (which is frankly, impossible with any transcoded format that differs in container and codec; though I suppose one could always take a FLAC and ALAC and transcode them to AIFF or WAV and then diff them) there is a lot more than simply storing and presenting data going on, and it is perceptibly different to many, so please, stop. 1980s CD technology was not the be all end all (or we would not have 24bit 96Khz and up recording devices and toolchains), even its timecode length was designed to encompass an LP, but the frequency range encapsulation to many then, and even now, was not as good as a well mastered piece of vinyl (and no, I am not the sort of person who prefers vacuum tube amps over transistors, because I fucking understand circuit design as well as all the rest of this), but I do understand distinguishable characteristics to human sensory input, at least insomuch as I have at least five decently trained senses, I am also not the sort of person who goes around saying "ah this sounds like an mp3" so much as "ah, this sounds like shit, or "this sound system is too big for this room", or "they have not hooked up their speakers correctly and there is phase cancellation on the bass in this track that the source material does not have" and so on.

                So many things can go wrong, and when that happens all of it sounds like crap. It's not about superiority (indeed, I am not like Mitch; I DJ almost exclusively with CDs and FLACs and ALACs because I don't want to cart around media that is huge and heavy and prone to wear and cannot be backed up remotely; I have had irreplaceable music stolen from me on more than one occasion; and I would prefer to not suffer more data loss unnecessarily on the gross object level, as well as the persnickety codec level).

                So y'know, you respond with one line of something that is basically an off hand remark and I am happy to give you a more loquacious exposition of my perspective, but maybe you shouldn't question the beliefs of others with such a perfunctory manner, they may be omitting a much longer elucidation that usually does not seem worth the effort, as the expression goes "pearls before swine" and all that.

                But yeah, audiophile non sense exists, but a clean analogue signal can still be fucking remarkable (though, for my tastes, I would be looking at Moogs and analogue synths for such things rather than vinyl, I would still say that from master to listen at home on a nice set of equipment for a consumer format vinyl > CD > whatever the fuck else you want to put here that is worse. There are, of course things better than CD, but how many worthwhile releases do you know that encompass physical formats? DVDA was a non-starter, and frankly at this point, no optical media should really be widely in use in the era of insanely dense, fast and inexpensive SSDs; just give me raw multi-track recordings like Trent Reznor did with his 24bit 96Khz releases once he realized he was popular enough that he could even offer up official torrents of his albums for lower quality material and I will be happier than you can imagine!)

                • Tim says:

                  I question your belief system because it falls in the same intellectual category as belief systems like "vaccines cause autism" (factually challenged, in a very stubborn way), albeit with rather less serious real world consequences.

                  Contrary to audiophile mythology, vinyl does not have good bandwidth. Most recording engineers use a filter to roll everything above 15kHz off on the analog (tape) master before cutting, because there's no point even trying for more.

                  And then there's the RIAA equalization curve. It exists because you can't cut full amplitude versions of much of the audible spectrum into vinyl, or you'll produce a record that reliably ejects the needle from the track. Some frequency bands must be attenuated quite dramatically, particularly bass.

                  But RIAA equalization is all done in the analog domain, so forget about a mathematically perfect inverse transform. Also, when you attenuate the hell out of a signal and then amplify it again, you're going to get back a bunch of noise. LP's signal-to-noise ratio is fucking crap compared to CD-DA. And there's more... so much more. LP is total shit compared to digital systems.

                  Getting back to bandwidth, sorry, listeners cannot hear over 20K. And yes, I know there are people who have scientifically tested ability to hear tones above 20 kHz. The thing is, if you learn enough about psychoacoustics, it becomes very clear why lab tests where you use headphones to listen to isolated pure tones do not apply to music.

                  1. The Fletcher-Munson curve. Google it. It shows how ears respond to isolated tones in hearing tests, and demonstrates that the ear is by far and away most sensitive to the middle parts of the spectrum. Note the sharp upwards trend near 20K. If you were to extend the curve out to include data from those exceptional individuals who hear anything at all above 20K, you'd find that tones above 20K need to be REALLY LOUD (in absolute sound pressure level) to be perceived.

                  2. Most solids and fluids strongly attenuate or completely block high sonic frequencies, including the stuff your ear is made of. This means not much HF energy makes it from the source to your cochlea (or the microphone).

                  3. For the same reason, few real musical instruments produce much SPL in HF bands.

                  4. Masking. Your brain filters out sounds which are too soft relative to louder tones, even when it can perceive a soft tone at that frequency in isolation.

                  Add it all up and what you get is that signals above 20K in real recordings are below human perception thresholds, even for people who test extraordinarily well.

                  This, too, has been tested. To date, nobody can tell the difference between a wide spectrum recording of real music, and the same signal passed through a 16-bit 44.1kHz A/D D/A pair, provided that the test is done double blind with proper level matching between the original signal and the modified version.

                  A couple other things -

                  the skips of a CD (because CD-DA, after all, lacks ECC

                  Nope. CD-DA has a multilayered error correction system. If it didn't, it would pop like hell on nearly every dust particle or scratch.

                  CD-DA skips because of some unfortunate design decisions which make it difficult to determine where the head actually is. In theory, if you lose servo tracking for a moment, recovery is easy: provided there's enough data buffered to handle a seek, just seek back to where you were before losing lock and try again. In practice, precise seeking is hard enough that most players punt and just resume playing from wherever they happen to re-lock, which means they skip. (Note that CD-DA "seeks" to the start of a track by deliberately undershooting and then doing a linear scan for the start of track marker. There are no markers mid-track...)

                  1980s CD technology was not the be all end all (or we would not have 24bit 96Khz and up recording devices and toolchains)

                  24-bit 96Khz is pointless for a distribution medium. There are reasonable engineering arguments for 16-bit at 48kHz or 64kHz. Not for the human ear, but because some DSP you might like to do in consumer gear works better if the source signal has some Nyquist headroom above the frequency range you're interested in reproducing, and 22.050 kHz is a little too close.

                  24-bit isn't pointless in recording toolchains, mostly because it makes it easier to record signals without clipping, and helps avoid mathematical precision problems in extended chains of DSP calculations. It's not needed for the final signal you send to customers, because none of the customers can tell.

                  However, note that ADCs and DACs which provide true 24-bit performance do not exist. The theoretical SNR of a perfect 16-bit ADC or DAC would be 96 dB, and 24-bit should be 144 dB. Real 24-bit converters get you to maybe 110dB, last I looked, which is less than 20-bit performance. The words coming in or going out may be 24 bits, but the low order bits are just noise.

            • Tests repeatedly show that human beings can't distinguish the difference between vinyl and vinyl-converted-to-(CD audio|320kbit/s MP3 format)-then-converted-back.

              Or, in other words, people might prefer the sound of vinyl, but that's not because vinyl is better, indeed, it is because vinyl is objectively worse, but they subjectively prefer that sound.

              • Mark says:

                Vinyl is better than a CD (if it's new). But higher-bitrate stuff is far superior to vinyl. Does it matter? Eehhhh... if you play it loud enough, are anal enough, or enough people are listening... than maybe. I have a lot of stuff in 24/96 or 24/192 just because CDs are so... 80s... :)

                • Nick Lamb says:

                  Vinyl comes nowhere close to CD in terms of fidelity. When somebody makes these claims they usually say it's their exceptionally acute hearing, but the obvious inferiority of vinyl can be detected with just normal young adult human hearing.

                  It's really worth emphasising this. What you're saying when you claim vinyl is better isn't actually "Look how exceptionally discerning I am" but instead "I am both gullible and half deaf". Which, you know, whatever works for you, but at least be conscious of what it is you stand for.

                  • Mark says:

                    I said it was "better".. I did not elaborate on what I meant by that. Part of the fun of listening to a vinyl record is going to a shop or flea market and buying it, putting the needle on, watching it spin round, etc. Which makes it better for me.

                    Since I don't own a CD player except for the car (which I never use anymore) buying a CD to rip to itunes to play is kind of... 'ehhh'.

                    To answer questions/complaints about amazon or itunes or buying CDs, bittorrent.

                  • njs says:

                    I have heard one credible claim for vinyl superiority, which is that the limitations of the medium mean that the mastering engineers can't get away with the same amount of dynamic range horribleness they inflict on CDs. So while in theory vinyl is worse than CD in every way, in practice a new vinyl release may actually sound better than the same release on CD because the vinyl has a worse copy of a better mastering.

                    I've never tested this myself though.

                    (See also: the audiophiles defrauded into thinking that SACD players are useful by the fact that SACDs generally contain a better mastering on the high-definition layer and a worse mastering on the redbook layer -> pop your SACD in a SACD player and it actually does sound better!)

  18. gryazi says:

    Does this mean they stopped copying it to your "Amazon Cloud Locker" or whatever so you could just download regular files over there and skip the bullshit?

    Only just realized that I think that's what my last "Oh, huh, I'm so fucking glad they got rid of the Downloader" experience actually consisted of like a year ago.

  19. SCG says:

    As regards Amazon's crappy downloader the fact that they are trying to push you to use it without making it clear it amounts to being a piece of spyware is absolutely amazing, you pay for your purchases then get told you want them then you have to download this piece of garbage that will monitor your music usage so we can tailor the crap we wish to sell to you so it matches your tastes.
    Given up on them I lost my music but I am damned if I am going to take their downloader on my machine especially as my computer is already authorised with their system to receive DRM material