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Deutsche Grammophon selling DRM-free classical music online
Engywuck
post Nov 28 2007, 01:31
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Deutsche Grammophon now sells about 2400 of its classical music albums online, some 600 of which are no longer available on CD. The price is 1.29 € for a single title, albums cost 10.99 € on average, and 11.99 € with a digital booklet. Only credit cards are accepted at the moment.

The files are encoded as 320 kBit/s MP3s, DRM-free, because Deutsche Grammophon thinks that fans of classical music have higher audio quality standards.

The shop will be available in 42 countries.

Deutsche Grammophon Webshop

This post has been edited by CiTay: Nov 28 2007, 01:45
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Heliologue
post Nov 28 2007, 06:20
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QUOTE (Engywuck @ Nov 27 2007, 18:31) *
Deutsche Grammophon now sells about 2400 of its classical music albums online, some 600 of which are no longer available on CD. The price is 1.29 € for a single title, albums cost 10.99 € on average, and 11.99 € with a digital booklet. Only credit cards are accepted at the moment.

The files are encoded as 320 kBit/s MP3s, DRM-free, because Deutsche Grammophon thinks that fans of classical music have higher audio quality standards.

The shop will be available in 42 countries.

Deutsche Grammophon Webshop


dry.gif At 320kbps, why not just offer them lossless? Classical music often gets 50+% compression ratios.

Plaudits for the effort, anyway.
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SamHain86
post Nov 28 2007, 07:46
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QUOTE (Heliologue @ Nov 28 2007, 06:20) *
dry.gif At 320kbps, why not just offer them lossless? Classical music often gets 50+% compression ratios.

Maybe they think only old people listen to classical and would not figure out this "new-fangled-lossless malarchy."

Kudos for the effort though. If I can't find certain symphonies I know where to go.


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Kees de Visser
post Nov 28 2007, 07:49
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QUOTE
At 320kbps, why not just offer them lossless? Classical music often gets 50+% compression ratios.
Sure, who wouldn't love to have that 3-SACD Abbado/Don Giovanni as lossless DSD tongue.gif
The website looks very well done and seems a great step forward in online music delivery.
Any features missing ? At first sight I can't find any (apart from lossless formats).

I still think that with a bit of clever shopping it's possible to buy the original cd for less than € 10.99
For example, Abbado/Beethoven9 is €11.99 at DGG online whereas the cd is € 4.99 at Amazon (without shipment).

Nevertheless: well done DGG
and thanks for the info, Engywuck.

Kees de Visser
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gorman
post Nov 28 2007, 10:14
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Any information on the encoder used? I could buy a song just to try and find out, but maybe somebody has already done that.
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Squeller
post Nov 28 2007, 11:06
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Single track prices depend on their length... I paid 3.49 EUR for a 10 minutes track. Anyway, good to have the service.

QUOTE (Heliologue @ Nov 28 2007, 07:20) *
dry.gif At 320kbps, why not just offer them lossless? Classical music often gets 50+% compression ratios.
True, classical music compresses great. Maybe it is because the world out there doesn't know lossless compression in general...

This post has been edited by Squeller: Nov 28 2007, 11:13
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gorman
post Nov 28 2007, 12:14
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QUOTE (Squeller @ Nov 28 2007, 12:06) *
Single track prices depend on their length... I paid 3.49 EUR for a 10 minutes track. Anyway, good to have the service.

QUOTE (Heliologue @ Nov 28 2007, 07:20) *
dry.gif At 320kbps, why not just offer them lossless? Classical music often gets 50+% compression ratios.
True, classical music compresses great. Maybe it is because the world out there doesn't know lossless compression in general...
I think it has more to do with everybody knowing, understanding and being able to play MP3s. If they are compressed with a good encoder they should be completely transparent at that bitrate, shouldn't they?

I am so afraid they haven't chosen LAME, though. unsure.gif
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Squeller
post Nov 28 2007, 13:03
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QUOTE (gorman @ Nov 28 2007, 13:14) *
They should be completely transparent at that bitrate, shouldn't they?

Yes, but it's better to have the "original" (to be precise: the maximum available quality) e.g. if there's need for transcoding.
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SamHain86
post Nov 28 2007, 13:29
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I think we are getting slightly off topic... but I want to join in anyways.
QUOTE (Squeller @ Nov 28 2007, 13:03) *
Yes, but it's better to have the "original" (to be precise: the maximum available quality) e.g. if there's need for transcoding.

Completely agree with you on this. And it is like what I said, they think only old people that wouldn't figure out this new-fangled lossless malarchy will use their site. Also, if they used FLAC or Vorbis this site would not have to give Fraunhofer-Gesellshaft some of their profits for using MP3.


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Engywuck
post Nov 28 2007, 15:17
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I just sent them an email telling them about FLAC (and asking for additional payment methods... not everyone has a CC)
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jrswanson
post Nov 28 2007, 16:39
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I too just sent an e-mail applauding their effort but lamenting the lossy encoding. I gave them the example of Linn Records where you can get mp3, FLAC, WMA lossless and "Studio Master" versions of a recording. I hope that someday these companies will see the light but until then I will buy CDs and encode myself.

John
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Alex B
post Nov 28 2007, 17:15
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DG seem to use a webstore service from Fresh Digital (http://www.freshdigital.co.uk/index.html).

That service provider has also some other interesting customers, like ZTT: http://ztt.freshdigital.co.uk/

This post has been edited by Alex B: Nov 28 2007, 17:19


--------------------
http://listening-tests.freetzi.com
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42ndSSD
post Nov 28 2007, 18:49
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I'm excited to see them release DRM-free music, but the MP3 compression is unfortunate.

I've ripped a few hundred (I think close to 500, I'm too lazy to run grep | wc) classical CDs. Even with 320kbps MP3 I've found occasional artifacts, one reason why I use FLAC instead. (The other being that disk space and bandwidth are Cheap, there's simply no excuse for using MP3 for home audio storage.) Not very many artifacts and not often, but enough that I noticed it--first at 192, then I tried increasing bitrates with little or no improvement. I'm reluctant to spend money for lossy music if I can buy the lossless version on CD and rip it myself... the other advantage to owning the CD is, of course, that it's a convenient backup.

The irony from my perspective is, if they'd released them as 44.1khz/16bit FLACs I'd buy a very large chunk of their collection just out of principle. Heck, they could charge twice as much for the lossless versions and I'd still do it.
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Nick E
post Nov 28 2007, 19:01
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QUOTE (Kees de Visser @ Nov 28 2007, 00:49) *
The website looks very well done


At first it looked like a blank yellow screen to me. But then I don't surf with JavaScript or other active content habitually enabled. After awhile I saw a tiny text-link telling me I could "skip" to some content, so took it. Don't know what i missed -- probably some ghastly flash intro.

Once past that page, it's possible to browse the site without turning on JavaScript, which is good. You do get a note:

QUOTE
Please enable JavaScript if you want to buy tracks or albums!


But there are valid uses of scripting to check fields on input forms and the like. So that's fair enough.

If you look at the page source, you'll see they've used access keys. That's a tricky area: some experts think they do more harm than good, since they can change expected behaviour in a user agent. But it does, indeed, look like DG have taken some care with this site.

QUOTE
and seems a great step forward in online music delivery.


I think that's an exaggeration. November 2007 ... It's been long enough coming, surely. And it's not as if there aren't other outlets for music downloads: the iTunes Store, Magnatune, Linn records, Amazon, to name just a few.

QUOTE
I still think that with a bit of clever shopping it's possible to buy the original cd for less than € 10.99
For example, Abbado/Beethoven9 is €11.99 at DGG online whereas the cd is € 4.99 at Amazon (without shipment).


Well, yes. Seji Ozawa conducting three Respighi pieces Pini di Roma, Feste romane, Fontane di Roma. That was just recommended by BBC Radio 3, so I looked it up. It's 10.99 in that Toytown money they're using. that's £7.83 in Sterling. Not cheap for a old-ish recording.

If I go to the iTunes Store, I find I could get the famous Fritz Reiner version for £7.99 (although that's not iTunes Plus files by the looks).

And if I go to Amazon UK, I find I could get the equivalent CD -- Ozawa/Respighi -- for £4.36. That means I'd have sleeve notes, uncompressed sound, and the ultimate backup (a hard copy) for less money.

QUOTE
Nevertheless: well done DGG


Two cheers any rate. It's still too little, too late. And if the record companies are finally going to offer directly to the public, cutting out manufacturing and transportation costs why still so -- relatively speaking -- expensive? They're also absorbing the shopkeeper's living. One imagines they could sell downloads for less. Yet it seems by shopping around a bit you can buy a "real" CD and still beat the download price.

QUOTE
and thanks for the info, Engywuck.


Yes, of course. I can't be too excited by what's offered by DG, but I'm glad it's there at least.
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guruboolez
post Nov 28 2007, 19:42
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QUOTE (Nick E @ Nov 28 2007, 20:01) *
QUOTE
and seems a great step forward in online music delivery.


I think that's an exaggeration. November 2007 ... It's been long enough coming, surely. And it's not as if there aren't other outlets for music downloads: the iTunes Store, Magnatune, Linn records, Amazon, to name just a few.


There's nevertheless a specific point which should catch the attention: 2400 CD from one single label (DG + Archiv Produktion). It probably far from the full label catalog but it's certainly a very important part of DGG modern production. I wouldn't call this DGG music store a technical innovation but it's the first time I see such big label (one of the biggest of the whole classical market) selling such wide catalog downloadable files. I was recently browsing iTunes + eMusic + different WMA stores in order to find some older Harmonia Mundi products and I was very, very disappointed by the lack of references (only few ones). I still wonder why some labels are not exploiting the internet opportunity (the long tail, ...).
Good point for DG and I really hope to see other big and smaller labels (like Naxos, Harmonia Mundi, CPO, BIS...) following the DGG step.

The 2 big disappointments are:
• MP3 format (of course it's transparent but I wouldn't use 320 kbps on my portable player neither transcoding MP3 to MP3)
• Price: DG products are usually expensive and the MP3 version is much more affordable - good point. The bad point is that DGG doesn't segment the digital market. Price for MP3 looks really uniform whereas a part of the DGG CD catalog is very affordable (and sometimes very attractive). Simple comparison on a 8-CD box:
66,9 € for the MP3 version and 37,20 € for the CD box on amazon (and even 30 € on amazon marketplace).

In other words customer should be careful before buying on this store.

This post has been edited by guruboolez: Nov 28 2007, 19:43
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towolf
post Nov 29 2007, 00:27
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In the artist’s endorsement video clips they have e.g. Helene Grimaud say that they offer the technically highest possible quality. dry.gif

BTW, it’s cute that the sceptical smiley is the first in the palette on HA.
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punkrockdude
post Nov 29 2007, 02:04
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What about mp4 at a target bitrate of 320kbps? AAC is playable on most media devices today (ipod, cellphones). Regards
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Squeller
post Nov 29 2007, 09:24
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QUOTE (guruboolez @ Nov 28 2007, 20:42) *
I still wonder why some labels are not exploiting the internet opportunity (the long tail, ...).
Good point for DG and I really hope to see other big and smaller labels (like Naxos, Harmonia Mundi, CPO, BIS...) following the DGG step.

With CPO: yes, they follow a wrong route. The client based download service (jpc mediacenter) was definitely the wrong way to go. Honestly I've never had a closer look on it, because of the client installation and IIRC they distribute drm'ed wma's or even a proprietary format. However, I liked to buy their CD's. Though there's nothing groundbreaking new currently (their peak was the atterberg and pettersson cycles imo)
But as for BIS.se (you probably know they are in fact a giant with nordish composers): They don't distribute audio files directly, but you'll find all their stuff downloadable in different music download services. Also Naxos.
CPO possibly hates the digital reality. I don't know. I once asked them what kind of audio snippets they allow me to distribute in internet forums: no answer.

@punkrockdude: I don't see need for aac>300 kbps; you could really go lossless then. I personally would be happy if services would offer lame@ v0, nero aac at around 200 kbps and lossless. Or, better, like the allofmp3 devils, i.e. the service has lossless and lets you choose the format.

@42ndSSD: HA would be really interested in your details about artifacts at high bitrates. If you have problem samples, publish them here!
Personally, I only recognized problems with classical/the latest nero aac encoder. With lame @V0 I've never experienced artifact problems.
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guruboolez
post Nov 29 2007, 10:44
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About Naxos: I read in a recent french magazine (Diapason) a Klaus Heymann (Naxos founder) interview. He said that Naxos will probably offer lossless files in the next future (I had to read the interview again to find the exact words). It's encouraging: at least someone who knows that lossless exists :-)
And if Naxos will distribute his own catalog in lossless, I suppose that Bis, Dacapo and a few others should offer the same (they seem to be digitally distributed by Naxos)

__
Naxos is widely accessible on several eStores (iTunes, eMusic...) but it seems that these stores are expecting their clients to be ignorant about Naxos CD normal Price (here 7 € in France in every shop) and therefore sell the digital version at an uninteresting price (and sometimes at a higher one like 9,90 €... at least in the past).

This post has been edited by guruboolez: Nov 29 2007, 10:45
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Kees de Visser
post Nov 29 2007, 13:52
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QUOTE (towolf @ Nov 29 2007, 01:27) *
In the artist’s endorsement video clips they have e.g. Helene Grimaud say that they offer the technically highest possible quality.
When DGG decided to offer MP3 as a universal DRM-free format, wouldn't you agree that 320 kbps is highest quality ? IIRC the consensus on HA is that a public listening test at this rate is a waste of time, since it will be transparent to most participants.

I can't help noticing a rather ambiguous attitude on Hydrogen Audio:
First there is the adagium that if a difference can't be heard, an increase in bitrate, bandwidth or budget isn't justified.
On the other hand there seems to be a desire for the best possible quality (e.g. lossless), even if it's not proven that there is an audible benefit.

Should online music providers offer several formats like lossless, high-quality lossy and low-quality lossy ? That would probably require many terabytes of webspace.
If (download) bandwidth and webspace are expensive, perhaps "lossy on demand" might be an option. Select your favorite codec and settings online and the audio is converted for you on the fly.
I have no idea what the financial investment would be and how much extra revenue it would bring but I fear it's not an interesting option for them.
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Lashiec
post Nov 29 2007, 14:10
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It's not a question of quality, but a question of convenience. Being DRM-free means that you can transcode the songs you bought to any format you desire, wether is for portable listening, or to save space in your HDD, without having to go through any hoop, like with DRM-infested songs, and legally, of course.

Of course bandwidth would be a problem, but they could offer lossy and lossless versions for those with more needs than their usual clients, it's not that everyone is going to get lossless, but the opposite. The live archives of Metallica are offered in MP3 and FLAC at the same time, and the page has a little section telling you the differences between both. I'm sure people would pay a bit more to be able to have lossless copies of the albums they like. Besides, I doubt Deutsche Grammophon site would end creating so many server expenses as, to say, iTunes, and, wasn't a subsidiary of Universal Music? Like Universal was a small independent label smile.gif
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towolf
post Nov 29 2007, 16:31
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QUOTE (Kees de Visser @ Nov 29 2007, 13:52) *
I can't help noticing a rather ambiguous attitude on Hydrogen Audio:
First there is the adagium that if a difference can't be heard, an increase in bitrate, bandwidth or budget isn't justified.
On the other hand there seems to be a desire for the best possible quality (e.g. lossless), even if it's not proven that there is an audible benefit.


That was more of a nitpick. They could have added “highest technically possible quality ... /with MP3/”. I certainly understand that offering un-drm-ed 320kbps MP3s only is a very clean solution. You offer a one-stop shopping experience. One button, one download. No explanations necessary, no support necessary. The music will play anywhere.
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gorman
post Nov 29 2007, 18:50
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QUOTE (gorman @ Nov 28 2007, 11:14) *
Any information on the encoder used? I could buy a song just to try and find out, but maybe somebody has already done that.
Nobody?
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42ndSSD
post Nov 29 2007, 19:03
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QUOTE (Squeller @ Nov 29 2007, 00:24) *
@42ndSSD: HA would be really interested in your details about artifacts at high bitrates. If you have problem samples, publish them here!


I think I can recall a couple of specific instances and I'll try to dig them up. Lately, for portable listening I've been using Vorbis instead--which has its own set of problems but at least I don't have to deal with potential licensing issues (the player I use is one I wrote, and I may want to distribute it someday).

QUOTE
Personally, I only recognized problems with classical/the latest nero aac encoder. With lame @V0 I've never experienced artifact problems.


It's quite possible whatever I was hearing has been fixed, and I certainly ran across more problem samples with modern music than orchestral works. It's been at least three years since I used lame, and I'm sure many of the MP3s I was regularly listening to were created with versions even older than that. If I can find anything I'll try recompressing with the latest version and see if it changes things.
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Kiteroa
post Nov 29 2007, 22:40
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QUOTE (gorman @ Nov 30 2007, 06:50) *
QUOTE (gorman @ Nov 28 2007, 11:14) *

Any information on the encoder used? I could buy a song just to try and find out, but maybe somebody has already done that.
Nobody?



If you sign up you can download one track download free (from a limited "most-popular" list).

The track I chose (from Mozart's Die Zauberflöte, K.620 / Act 2 - "In diesen heil'gen Hallen") sounds really good- details are:

bitrate = 320
channels = 2
codec = MP3
codec_profile = CBR
encoding = lossy
mp3_stereo_mode = joint stereo
samplerate = 44100
tagtype = id3v2|id3v1
-----------------------
10904303 samples @ 44100Hz
(rounded samples : 10903872)
File size: 10,338,326 Bytes (9.86 MB)
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