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Real Player 10 - First Impressions of AAC Support
sean_k
post Jan 10 2004, 23:39
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I had an opportunity this weekend to install the RealPlayer 10, try out their online music store, and evalute its purported support for the iPod.

Background: I own a Dual G4 Mac as well as an Asus nforce Win Xp systems. So I am comfortable working with software on both platforms. My wife and I also own ipods and use them every day.

Installation: As with Real, you have to go through a series of web pages on their website where they push you to buy their paid version of the software. They make the link to the Free download rather obscure.

Once I got it installed on my PC, I launched it and had to go through registration. By default they turn on all sorts of email subscriptions that I don't want. By default they want to add their own custom toolbar permanently to InternetExplorer. So after 'unchecking' all the defaults I get to the point where I can use the software.


Application: Overall, the interface is not bad. It's actually possible to use it as an audio player without any of the RealVideo specific features stealing precious screen space. It's clear they have put some work into the interface especially between your music library, the online store, and any external MP3 devices.

Formats: I will just focus on the two, which is their .RA and their .RAX. Real has gone over to AAC format which IMHO is great because I have a huge library of AAC files. They have two lossy formats and one lossless. The non-drm'd format is AAC with a Real Audio container. This is extremely disappointing. I would have preferred if they had gone with an MP4 container like Apple for their non-DRM'd music, but no such case. The actual AAC stream data is portable if you have the right extraction tools. Their DRM'd lossy AAC container uses their new Helix DRM encryption. When ripping and encoding a CD Real Player 10 defaults to their AAC ( .RA ) @ 192 bitrate. Here are some of my assumptions and my findings:

Given: Real Player 10 defaults to:
AAC w/ .RA container for non-DRM'd

I assumed that they would strip their container and extract the raw AAC when syncing with an iPod.

However, they just resample the data as an MP3 with a maximum bitrate of 96 before storing the songs on the iPod. Unless of course you purchase higher MP3 bitrate support.

That's just unacceptable to me. I know *why* they went with the .RA container. If they had gone with an MP4 container ( i.e., .M4a ) they would have had to pay a licensing fee on every download of their pay and free player. However, the fact that I can't use AAC encoded music generated by their software in my iPod is disappointing.

Why go to the trouble of having an AAC encoder and touting their industry standard support if they prevent even non-DRM'd music from playing on the only AAC portable player; namely the iPod?

If you don't care about AAC, it's still worthless because you have to pay for the upgrade to encode MP3s at higher bitrates. I suppose if you only intend to listen to your encoded music on your PC you might like it.

DRM'd Lossy AAC: Their online store gives you Helix DRM'd AAC @ 192 bitrate. This is much improved over the 128 bitrate that iTMS gives you. However, after my unsatisfactory experience of trying to get their non-DRM'd AAC onto my iPod, I assumed they would likewise convert the purchased music to MP3. No such luck, Real Player 10 won't even convert the .RAX to MP3 if you try to transfer those files to your iPod. What gives? I have to burn a CD with a .RAX playlist and then re-rip them as MP3 in order to put them on a portable player. If RealPlayer 10 will automatically convert their non-DRM'd .RA files to MP3s when you try to put them on a portable player, why make me go through the hassle with the .RAX? I suppose their philosophy may be that this is their kindler, gentler RIAA approach to DRM. Don't make it too easy to convert to crappy 96 bitrate MP3s.

Well, in summary, I wasn't very pleased with their handling of their non-DRM'd and DRM'd lossy AAC formats in particular with regards to portable players.

Thanks,

Sean
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JohnV
post Jan 11 2004, 00:03
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QUOTE (sean_k @ Jan 11 2004, 12:39 AM)
That's just unacceptable to me. I know *why* they went with the .RA container. If they had gone with an MP4 container ( i.e., .M4a ) they would have had to pay a licensing fee on every download of their pay and free player.

For the n+1'th time:
The use of MP4-container is free!

Sorry for "screaming", but this missunderstanding has to end.. I don't know where is it coming from. unsure.gif

This post has been edited by JohnV: Jan 11 2004, 00:22


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FrDakota
post Jan 11 2004, 00:50
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QUOTE (sean_k @ Jan 10 2004, 02:39 PM)
No such luck, Real Player 10 won't even convert the .RAX to MP3 if you try to transfer those files to your iPod. What gives? I have to burn a CD with a .RAX playlist and then re-rip them as MP3 in order to put them on a portable player.

Neither can you on iTunes.

iTunes will not transcode DRM'd (m4p) AAC files. You'll have to burn them to CD too. Then rip. But m4p are designed to work with the iPod, so you don't need to transcode. biggrin.gif
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Galley
post Jan 11 2004, 07:21
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There has always been a free 320Kbps MP3 encoder for RealOne Player. There was a link to it, once you visited the music home page. I imagine RP10 has the same thing.
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karl_lillevold
post Jan 12 2004, 16:42
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file format
The choice of RM as the default ripping format, was a decision post-poned until the last minute. I am not familiar with the details, but I think mainly technical difficulties in our system, so used to RM, prevented it from being .aac, and even though the codec team still wanted .aac, our vote was not enough. The main concern was just your feedback, "why lock the format to RealPlayer"?

I have been told the format may change for Gold, I certainly hope so, preferably to M4A or MP4, and whenever I have a chance, I will be sure to mention the feedback from this forum. Thanks!

In the meantime, it is, however, possible to trans-mux the RM (.ra) files into other file formats.

iPod
With regards to getting the files over to the iPod without transcoding (urgh) -- I wish I had one myself so I could try it out, but I will see what I can find out about the plans in this respect.


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mdefranc
post Jan 12 2004, 17:53
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QUOTE (Galley @ Jan 11 2004, 01:21 AM)
There has always been a free 320Kbps MP3 encoder for RealOne Player.  There was a link to it, once you visited the music home page.  I imagine RP10 has the same thing.

The 320 Kbps MP3 (presumedly Xing) encoder now appears to be available only through Real's Rhapsody music service subscription. Whether one can game this by taking the Rhapsody free trial and then canceling is unclear.
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karl_lillevold
post Jan 13 2004, 21:13
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QUOTE (mdefranc @ Jan 12 2004, 08:53 AM)
The 320 Kbps MP3 (presumedly Xing) encoder now appears to be available only through Real's Rhapsody music service subscription.

The Basic player unfortunately only supports up to 96 kbps MP3 encoding. AAC encoding includes all bitrates though.

P.S. I have been told the Xing encoder is much improved since its first incarnation, which is usually not well spoken of crying.gif

This post has been edited by karl_lillevold: Feb 1 2004, 14:38


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Galley
post Feb 9 2004, 02:42
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QUOTE (karl_lillevold @ Jan 13 2004, 12:13 PM)
QUOTE (mdefranc @ Jan 12 2004, 08:53 AM)
The 320 Kbps MP3 (presumedly Xing) encoder now appears to be available only through Real's Rhapsody music service subscription.

The Basic player unfortunately only supports up to 96 kbps MP3 encoding. AAC encoding includes all bitrates though.

P.S. I have been told the Xing encoder is much improved since its first incarnation, which is usually not well spoken of crying.gif

They must have left out the high bitrate MP3 encoding to favor their own RealAudio 10 format. Anyway, it is included in the $19.95 plus version.
RealPlayer 10 Plus
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karl_lillevold
post Feb 9 2004, 02:56
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QUOTE (Galley @ Feb 8 2004, 05:42 PM)
They must have left out the high bitrate MP3 encoding to favor their own RealAudio 10 format.  Anyway, it is included in the $19.95 plus version.

Yes, sorry, MP3 encoding turned out too expensive to include for free, due to licensing fees. However, as you mention, AAC encoding, the next generation audio standard, is available for free at all bitrates. It is called RealAudio 10 in the player, and it is not "our" format. The container format is temporarily RealMedia, but can losslessly be converted to AAC or M4A. RealPlayer 10 Gold will rip to a standard container format.


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guest0101
post Feb 9 2004, 07:13
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This is great news! So Real Player 10 Gold will rip to either .aac files or .M4A or .MP4 files, is that correct?

This post has been edited by guest0101: Feb 9 2004, 22:03
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Galley
post Feb 21 2004, 08:40
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The only options I have when ripping a CD are RealAudio 10, RealAudio Lossless, MP3, WAV and WMA. If I rip a disc as RA10 AAC, then the extension is .ra. RealAudio Lossless files have the same extension. huh.gif

This post has been edited by Galley: Feb 21 2004, 08:40
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rjamorim
post Feb 21 2004, 08:45
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QUOTE (JohnV @ Jan 10 2004, 09:03 PM)
I don't know where is it coming from.  unsure.gif

Take a guess... rolleyes.gif

http://www.hydrogenaudio.org/forums/index....ndpost&p=153141


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karl_lillevold
post Feb 21 2004, 08:53
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QUOTE (Galley @ Feb 20 2004, 11:40 PM)
The only options I have when ripping a CD are RealAudio 10, RealAudio Lossless, MP3, WAV and WMA.  If I rip a disc as RA10 AAC, then the extension is .ra.  RealAudio Lossless files have the same extension.  huh.gif

Hi, Please see this post:
http://www.hydrogenaudio.org/forums/index....ndpost&p=186125


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karl_lillevold
post Mar 25 2004, 06:14
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RealPlayer 10 Gold is now available for download. http://www.real.com.

As we expected, there were some complaints about wrapping AAC in RM in the beta version discussed in this thread. By default RealPlayer 10 now rips music CDs to AAC M4A (MP4) at 192 kbps, using the Coding Technologies AAC encoder. The M4A format is iPod compatible. Thanks to the feedback from hydrogenaudio and doom9! It was part of the reason M4A was chosen.

This is mainly a bug fix release. For instance the HE-AAC playback bug is now fixed and the DLL update from Helix Binary Downloads is no longer needed.

Here is a list of some changes:

* Support for AAC (M4A) files, which includes library import,
playback, CD ripping, CD burning, and transfer to portable devices.

* Users can now simultaneously burn a CD and playback a media clip.

* Users can initiate playback of a file that's being download using
another application ("progressive download").

* Installation speed has been improved and the number of icons
installed on the user's machine has been reduced.

* RP10 detects changes in network settings and prompts the user to
set bandwidth, which improves playback if the bandwidth has changed
(such as a laptop that is disconnected from a LAN).

* Improved user interface to make Transfer and Synchronization easier
with portable devices.

* Support for third-party store content including nodes in the Library
to catalog a variety of purchased content types (movies,
audio books, etc.).

* A variety of improvements to Help, How To, Tell Me More, and More Info.

This post has been edited by karl_lillevold: Mar 26 2004, 05:22


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rjamorim
post Mar 25 2004, 06:15
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Cheeeers!

Great news, Karl. Thanks for pushing for MP4 adoption smile.gif


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tcmjr
post Mar 25 2004, 06:39
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And thanks for letting us now here tongue.gif


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rjamorim
post Mar 25 2004, 07:12
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Just installed it. It crashes upon startup. I guess there is no hope of running Real Player in my machine sad.gif

(and I ran .r1pclean.exe before installing)

Edit: Neverthless, something stays resident in memory trying to connect to some IP address biggrin.gif

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karl_lillevold
post Mar 25 2004, 07:37
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rjamorim: no, I am afraid your system is beyond hope for RealPlayer. it's like nothing I have heard of before, or any other known reported problems, and we do get a lot of feedback. I filed a bug report for the problem related to those who had RealAlternative installed, but .r1pclean should take care of that. I don't know what's going on with your system, I am very sorry. (mikerowesoft must have installed a secret agent)

There is nothing memory resident in RealPlayer 10 if all the auto services are disabled (like another popular media player which leaves 3 memory resident services in excess of 10 MB total). Please see my post on doom9 for the details. Something may be left after a crash, that's true.

This post has been edited by karl_lillevold: Mar 25 2004, 07:39


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ViPER1313
post Mar 25 2004, 07:45
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QUOTE (rjamorim @ Mar 25 2004, 02:12 AM)
Just installed it. It crashes upon startup. I guess there is no hope of running Real Player in my machine sad.gif

(and I ran .r1pclean.exe before installing)

Edit: Neverthless, something stays resident in memory trying to connect to some IP address biggrin.gif

The Real Alternative codec pack caused my machine to do the same thing a while back - uninstalled completely and now it's fine.

It's good to hear that MP4 is available in RP10 Gold now - keep up the good work Karl!

I would be curious to know all of the browser toolbars / dlls in system folder / memory resident programs/dlls that RealPlayer 10 installs. Is there a complete listing somewhere??

[rant] Why is it that programs can't be installed to one folder, loaded when executed by the user, then just die when you quit? I don't want my programs loaded into memory for "faster startup," I don't want 100 dlls installed to my system directory, and I don't want them phoning home to "update" themselves or messing with IE. Sadly, I fould iTunes to be a horrible offender in this arena, and RealPlayer 10 seems to be the same way. [/rant]

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rjamorim
post Mar 25 2004, 07:46
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QUOTE (karl_lillevold @ Mar 25 2004, 03:37 AM)
There is nothing memory resident in RealPlayer 10 if all the auto services are disabled

I think it was realsched.exe

I will try loading RealPlayer again tomorrow after a system restart (although I reckon that won't make much of a difference)

If you guys at Real are interested, I would like to help fixing this issue in any way I can.


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karl_lillevold
post Mar 25 2004, 08:14
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ViPER1313 and rjamorim: realsched.exe (160 KB) is the only memory resident program in RealPlayer, but it can easily be disabled. It stays in memory after exiting RealPlayer when auto services or sync to devices are enabled. Otherwise, everything is completely gone after exiting, and there are no update calls "home", just like it should. It refused to go for a long time, I have filed many bugs on this issue because I feel strongly about it, and it has finally been fixed! (at least on all of my computers) nothing stays in memory if you follow the instructions in the post I referred to.

RealPlayer installs itself to C:\Program Files\Real\RealPlayer and a list of DLLs in C:\Program Files\Common Files\Real, one folder in your Application Data (and four DLLs, rmoc3260.dll, pndx5032.dll, pndx5016.dll, pncrt.dll to windows\system32). Apparantly there is also a plugin called RichFX player installed in Internet Explorer's plugin folder, so it does spread out a little. Personally I agree that this is not very nice (most notably the RichFX plugin). I too would have liked one single folder (like Thunderbird or Firefox).

rjamorim: I will ask about what kind of information can be obtained from your system, so don't worry about trying again until you hear from me again. No promises, I would like to fix this too, but I personally do not work on any player specific details. I remember though that there are error and crash logs saved in
C:\Documents and Settings\<username>\Application Data\Real\RealPlayer\ErrorLogs. Please check there and e-mail me the .log files that are there, if any. Thanks!

This post has been edited by karl_lillevold: Mar 27 2004, 23:25


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M
post Mar 25 2004, 16:45
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Karl, is there any chance RealPlayer 10 Gold also allows for encoding ACELP.net to an *.mp4/*.m4a or *.aa container? (You do still license that codec, correct?) The reason I ask is that it would be nice - and convenient - for listening to audiobooks on the iPod, but so far I've failed to discover any way to author an iPod/iTunes-compliant ACELP.net stream.

- M.

Edit: Small fix.

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guest0101
post Mar 25 2004, 21:58
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Karl,

Thanks to both you and all the folks at Real who added M4A (MP4 Audio) encoding by default in the new Real Player 10 Gold. I just tried it (using the free Real Player) and was quite impressed by both the encoding and decoding of M4A files at 192 kbps.

Nice to hear that a company (and a developer) listens to input from a forum like Hydrogen Audio and implements the suggestions on occasion. Keep up the good work.
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rjamorim
post Mar 25 2004, 23:51
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Weee! it works now.

There was a rogue dll (probably left from some old installation) that kept RealPlayer from starting (if you are curious, it's chiw3260.dll, and was located at Program Files\Common Files\Real\RCAPlugins\)

Thanks for helping me out, Karl smile.gif

I tested it some. The ripper works well, and the AAC encoder quality is indeed quite good, for me, at the bitrate I tested (160kbps).


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karl_lillevold
post Mar 26 2004, 05:40
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I am really glad rjamorim finally got RealPlayer working on his system.

M: We still use ACELP.net codec as our voice codec, with 4cc SIPR, but I have not heard any plans to enable it to be packaged in M4A. With dtdrive and/or realmediasplitter + 3ivx MP4 Muxer, maybe it is possible to convert. Perhaps I will give those two possibilities a try when I have a spare moment.

rjamorim and guest0101: thank you for trying it out, and the positive feedback.


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