Apple iTunes - iTunes Music Store Review
Just as the Apple iPod is the most popular MP3 player on the market, the Apple iTunes Music Store is the most
popular Internet music vendor. iTunes is, after all, bundled with the iPod, so it's normal that most iPod users
will take the path of least resistance and use the supplied software to organize their music collection and buy new
iTunes does both these functions. It can be used to rip CDs, convert them to AAC (Advanced Audio Coding) format,
and transfer them to the iPod. It is also the front end to the iTunes Music Store - Apple's highly successful music
vending service that lists more than 2 million songs in its catalog. Individual songs or whole albums can be
bought. Videos, podcasts and audio books are also available.
The iTunes software is well designed and easy to use. The search function allows you to narrow down choices by
artist, album, song or genre, and the first 30 seconds of all songs can be previewed for free.
The playlist function allows you to organize your music collection manually or automatically according to music
style. The software will recommend other songs similar to your current selection - a great way to explore new
All of the songs from the iTunes Music Store are in AAC format. This is a compression format that discards
certain parts of the audio spectrum to reduce file sizes. AAC also has a form of Digital Rights Management (DRM)
that restricts how files can be used. This includes a limit on the number of times songs can be burned to CD and
the number of computers the songs can be transferred to.
The Apple iPod is one of the few portable music players that support AAC format, so if you use another brand,
you are pretty well out of luck. Apple does not seem to mind - they appear to be looking for market domination in
both music sales and hardware sales, and have succeeded on both counts.
What is the downside to Apple iTunes.
On the surface, there's nothing really 'wrong' with iTunes - it offers lots of choice and is easy to use.
Consumers seem to have accepted the idea of online music sales, and iTunes and other online vendors have the
blessing of the music industry.
The main thing that is wrong with online music distribution is sound quality. AAC, MP3 and WMA files are all
compressed, and they are compressed by removing part of the audio spectrum. Sure, Apple and the other online
vendors will tell you that their songs are 'CD quality' but compare them side-by-side with the original CD and you
will soon hear the difference.
Compressed audio files lack presence and the stereo field has been reduced. Some of the subtle audio clues that
add to the atmosphere of a good recording are lost.
Not only the audio quality, but the audio conception of a complete album is lost by selling songs individually.
Even if you buy a complete album from the iTunes Music Store, the songs are in individual files. This means that
there will be a pause between tracks that was not present on the original CD. This may not be a big deal for
generic pop music, but albums that have been carefully structured will lose the original organization and placement
Of course, iTunes is not to blame for this situation. Apple is simply following the trend and capitalizing on
the latest marketing methods. Given the size and clout of the iTunes Music Store, however, it could be a major
force in changing this second-class way of distributing music.