May 3, 2006 10:05 AM PDT

Neil Young goes with download first, CD later

Neil Young has released his next album, "Living With War," on a Web site specializing in high-fidelity downloads--before the record hits stores.

The collection of songs, which will be sold as an album and not singles, is available on MusicGiants. The company sells music in the Windows Media Audio Lossless format, a beefier format that provides better sound quality than standard downloads from iTunes or other services, according to MusicGiants.

An average song in the Lossless format might be 15MB, said Elliot Mazer, a producer for Young (he mastered the 1970s album "Harvest") and a consultant for MusicGiants.

By contrast, an MP3 file of the same song might be 3MB. The reduction in file size for MP3s is accomplished through perceptual coding, he said. In that process, the dominant sound on a track--the primary vocal tone, for example--is retained, while overtones or other sounds are swept away. Mazer says perceptual coding is analogous to cranking down the color quality on a monitor from 32 bit to 16 bit.

While the smaller files economize on bandwidth and storage, sound quality diminishes. When a song in the lossless format is unzipped and played back, it contains more depth of tone and texture.

"On a Lossless file, when played back it is exactly like the CD. If you took a CD and listened to it and then listened to something on Napster or iTunes, it would sound deader or smaller," he said. "With bandwidth and storage the way it is, why would you want to go with the smaller format?"

The site sells songs for $1.29 a song. A complete album generally sells for about $15.29. The company has a music library of about 500,000 songs from labels such as EMI, Sony and Warner Music.

Windows Media Audio Lossless format files can be played back on Windows Media Player 10.

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14 comments

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Hyped by c|net, and still no one cares
When c|net is hyping a Windows Media download, you just know its a real turd that somebody needs you to buy...

Good music sells itself. Good music comes as an MP3. You want a better quality? Up the bitrate! Don't switch to some **** DRM format. I love people who whine about "oppression" in their songs, and then try to oppress their listerners with extra helpings of DRM.

Phony singer, phony journalist.
Posted by gerhard_schroeder (311 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Hyped by c|net, and still no one cares
When c|net is hyping a Windows Media download, you just know its a real turd that somebody needs you to buy...

Good music sells itself. Good music comes as an MP3. You want a better quality? Up the bitrate! Don't switch to some **** DRM format. I love people who whine about "oppression" in their songs, and then try to oppress their listerners with extra helpings of DRM.

Phony singer, phony journalist.
Posted by gerhard_schroeder (311 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I care...but...
Unfortunately, I am not going to give into the DRM mess of Windows Media Player. I use a Mac and Linux in addition to Windows, and I refuse to limit my listening to one computer out of four (not to mention my iPod). Too bad Neil gave into this protection scheme. I would have hoped he would have sought a more open approach.

Oh well, I can continue to listen to his old albums I purchased on CD and ripped to my iPod. Maybe I will give in to the CD purchase later. Maybe not.
Posted by wasabifan (13 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I care...but...
Unfortunately, I am not going to give into the DRM mess of Windows Media Player. I use a Mac and Linux in addition to Windows, and I refuse to limit my listening to one computer out of four (not to mention my iPod). Too bad Neil gave into this protection scheme. I would have hoped he would have sought a more open approach.

Oh well, I can continue to listen to his old albums I purchased on CD and ripped to my iPod. Maybe I will give in to the CD purchase later. Maybe not.
Posted by wasabifan (13 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Album Good, Approach Stupid
Windows Media for $1.29 per song, infested with DRM, still lossless, plays only on my PC, and won't load into my iPod?

I'll wait for the CD and buy it at full quality for the same price.
Posted by R. U. Sirius (745 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Album Good, Approach Stupid
Windows Media for $1.29 per song, infested with DRM, still lossless, plays only on my PC, and won't load into my iPod?

I'll wait for the CD and buy it at full quality for the same price.
Posted by R. U. Sirius (745 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Waffle man?
Didn't Niel make a statement with "Let's Roll" back in '91? Talk about capitalizing on both sides of an issue. Of course at 60, he might have forgot.
Posted by tenalp (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
to be fair
Millions of Americans have changed their status on support of the war on terror/Iraq issue. Indeed, the issue itself has evolved over the years. While I have my own concerns and reservations, I still believe we should stay the course, but I hardly fault anyone, including a Canadian, for expressing reservations about the current situation. The right to express feelings like these are what makes our country great.
Posted by skeptik (590 comments )
Link Flag
Waffle man?
Didn't Niel make a statement with "Let's Roll" back in '91? Talk about capitalizing on both sides of an issue. Of course at 60, he might have forgot.
Posted by tenalp (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
to be fair
Millions of Americans have changed their status on support of the war on terror/Iraq issue. Indeed, the issue itself has evolved over the years. While I have my own concerns and reservations, I still believe we should stay the course, but I hardly fault anyone, including a Canadian, for expressing reservations about the current situation. The right to express feelings like these are what makes our country great.
Posted by skeptik (590 comments )
Link Flag
Hold on people
Yes, DRM sucks. I refuse to participate in it. But moving from a lossy to a lossless format is unquestionably a huge step in the right direction. Yes, an MP3 sounds "good enough" but is a dead end street. Any further re-iuncoding to a different format or bitrate will further reduce the quality of your recoding. Not to mention that all you iPod freaks may one day wake up and realize that MP3s sound crappy on a good home stereo system and you really do want the quality we used to get, even back in 1980s. Technology changes, do you really want your music collection locked into a single solution? Wasn't that a complaint about changing from cassette/vinyl to CD? Lossless is the only way to go. I'm glad to see it offered, and may finally begin to consider purchasing music as a download... now if we can just do something about that DRM...
Posted by skeptik (590 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Can you actually here what you "lose"?
If you really believe that the average music listener has the ear and the audiophile type equipment to playback music that lossless audio files can produce then maybe lossless reproduction is important to the music market. I would be willing to bet that more than 9 out of 10 people would not be able to tell the difference between a lossless, WMA or CD playback regardless of the sound system. The beauty of compression is the portability of the music, whether you listen on an ipod or Windows based device. WMA output form my PC to my home stereo sounds no different to me whither it is any of the above formats, so why would I want to eat of space on my drives? As for DRM, this is a terrific solution that allows for legal download service so I can get great music, song by song, delivered straight to my PC. If not for DRM I'd have to go on buying full CD's from the record store, or worse steal the music form the artist on some illegal site.
Posted by g-luv (4 comments )
Link Flag
Hold on people
Yes, DRM sucks. I refuse to participate in it. But moving from a lossy to a lossless format is unquestionably a huge step in the right direction. Yes, an MP3 sounds "good enough" but is a dead end street. Any further re-iuncoding to a different format or bitrate will further reduce the quality of your recoding. Not to mention that all you iPod freaks may one day wake up and realize that MP3s sound crappy on a good home stereo system and you really do want the quality we used to get, even back in 1980s. Technology changes, do you really want your music collection locked into a single solution? Wasn't that a complaint about changing from cassette/vinyl to CD? Lossless is the only way to go. I'm glad to see it offered, and may finally begin to consider purchasing music as a download... now if we can just do something about that DRM...
Posted by skeptik (590 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Can you actually here what you "lose"?
If you really believe that the average music listener has the ear and the audiophile type equipment to playback music that lossless audio files can produce then maybe lossless reproduction is important to the music market. I would be willing to bet that more than 9 out of 10 people would not be able to tell the difference between a lossless, WMA or CD playback regardless of the sound system. The beauty of compression is the portability of the music, whether you listen on an ipod or Windows based device. WMA output form my PC to my home stereo sounds no different to me whither it is any of the above formats, so why would I want to eat of space on my drives? As for DRM, this is a terrific solution that allows for legal download service so I can get great music, song by song, delivered straight to my PC. If not for DRM I'd have to go on buying full CD's from the record store, or worse steal the music form the artist on some illegal site.
Posted by g-luv (4 comments )
Link Flag
 

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