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Universal MG embed an audible watermark in downloads (article@post#30), Was: FLAC file with artefacts not present on original CD?
Wombat
post Mar 27 2012, 23:34
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QUOTE (evankk @ Mar 27 2012, 23:24) *
I believe that the same thing may have just happened to me, looking for the best legal (finding a FLAC download link proved impossible) FLAC quality download of Amy Winehouse's "Back to Black" I eventually navigated myself to https://store.universal-music.co.uk where it came to my surprise that FLAC downloads were available. Upon listening to the FLAC files I'd purchased I noticed terrible quality, it sounded as if they did not even take the time to rip a cd copy to 16bit FLAC, it just sounded like a terrible MP3, I found many artifacts in each track, and at many points a distorted sound was evident. I don't know if this is watermarking or just terrible audio quality, but being that this site is in the family of UMG I'm sure the problem is of the same nature. I just e-mailed them, although I'm sure I'll never get a response...

It is supposed to sound this way. You may call it art in this case.
There was much talk about how it sounds when it was new and came out on cd.
You may try some tool like audiochecker just to be sure if it gives you a high confidence about being lossless but don´t judge this recording by its sound.
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evankk
post Mar 28 2012, 02:20
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QUOTE (Wombat @ Mar 27 2012, 17:34) *
QUOTE (evankk @ Mar 27 2012, 23:24) *
I believe that the same thing may have just happened to me, looking for the best legal (finding a FLAC download link proved impossible) FLAC quality download of Amy Winehouse's "Back to Black" I eventually navigated myself to https://store.universal-music.co.uk where it came to my surprise that FLAC downloads were available. Upon listening to the FLAC files I'd purchased I noticed terrible quality, it sounded as if they did not even take the time to rip a cd copy to 16bit FLAC, it just sounded like a terrible MP3, I found many artifacts in each track, and at many points a distorted sound was evident. I don't know if this is watermarking or just terrible audio quality, but being that this site is in the family of UMG I'm sure the problem is of the same nature. I just e-mailed them, although I'm sure I'll never get a response...

It is supposed to sound this way. You may call it art in this case.
There was much talk about how it sounds when it was new and came out on cd.
You may try some tool like audiochecker just to be sure if it gives you a high confidence about being lossless but don´t judge this recording by its sound.


your probably right about this as i did some researching and apparently it may have been done to the album to make it sound better on "lower quality" setups (as most consumers own these days) and the copy i had prior was a 128kbps copy from when I didn't know any better (there was no distortion on there).
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icstm
post Mar 28 2012, 11:20
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This is the craziest thing I have heard... they are mastering to sound good at ~128kps?
awesome - and hear I was reripping my cd collection using new LAME codecs rather than the musicmatch jukebox I used ten years ago and upping to 320kps for lossy formats...
(somewhere on hear I was informed of the improvements to the encoding process over the past 10 years)
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evankk
post Mar 28 2012, 21:44
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QUOTE (icstm @ Mar 28 2012, 05:20) *
This is the craziest thing I have heard... they are mastering to sound good at ~128kps?
awesome - and hear I was reripping my cd collection using new LAME codecs rather than the musicmatch jukebox I used ten years ago and upping to 320kps for lossy formats...
(somewhere on hear I was informed of the improvements to the encoding process over the past 10 years)


i mean yeah that could be it, considering that when this album came out popular music download stores like itunes were still selling songs at 128kbps-256kbps. Although I feel it was done to the album to give it the old and used vinyl sound, it could've even been a bad mic, or a badly mastered copy and they just didn't wanna go back in and re-record the whole thing.
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mmontag
post Apr 4 2012, 12:26
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I have some analysis of the UMG watermark here in case you guys are interested, and so that there can be no more question about the origin and nature of these artifacts. The watermark technology they use is criminally bad.
dry.gif http://www.mattmontag.com/music/universals-audible-watermark
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Porcus
post Apr 4 2012, 12:44
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QUOTE (mmontag @ Apr 4 2012, 13:26) *
The watermark technology they use is criminally bad.


In terms of what? Is there any technology to compare this to, or is it so that this could very well be the state of the art?


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db1989
post Apr 4 2012, 12:44
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Very interesting—thanks! I’ve edited this thread’s title to make it more fitting of a general discussion about this ‘technology’, now that its existence is confirmed and details are known.

I think I might well object to watermarking as a general concept, but when it’s implemented in as destructive a way as this, it’s complete rubbish. Do UMG think they’re promoting themselves with this? On the off-chance that a significant number of customers became aware of this, the result would be exactly the opposite.
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mudlord
post Apr 4 2012, 13:41
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Why complain?
The record producer has every right to implement this form of DRM. Especially since FLAC inherantly has none.
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richard123
post Apr 4 2012, 15:54
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QUOTE (mudlord @ Apr 4 2012, 08:41) *
Why complain?
The record producer has every right to implement this form of DRM. Especially since FLAC inherantly has none.

Because they are degrading audio quality without warning. Consumers expect FLAC to sound the same as the original and are getting something noticeably worse.
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andy o
post Apr 4 2012, 16:16
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There are inaudible watermarks perfectly available. There is one similar to the DVD-A one being used in blu-ray right now (Cinavia from Verance). This is just inept.
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Kees de Visser
post Apr 4 2012, 16:26
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QUOTE (mmontag @ Apr 4 2012, 13:26) *
I have some analysis of the UMG watermark here in case you guys are interested, and so that there can be no more question about the origin and nature of these artifacts. The watermark technology they use is criminally bad.
Interesting. Lossless downloads seemed such a great idea. Is there a quick test for end-users to verify if a watermark is present ?

This post has been edited by Kees de Visser: Apr 4 2012, 16:31
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krabapple
post Apr 4 2012, 16:40
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QUOTE (Kees de Visser @ Apr 4 2012, 11:26) *
QUOTE (mmontag @ Apr 4 2012, 13:26) *
I have some analysis of the UMG watermark here in case you guys are interested, and so that there can be no more question about the origin and nature of these artifacts. The watermark technology they use is criminally bad.
Interesting. Lossless downloads seemed such a great idea. Is there a quick test for end-users to verify if a watermark is present ?



AIUI, the audible watermark is only present on digital versions UMG licenses to other distributors. The OP says the download direct from UMG itself does NOT have the watermark. So I would hope the CD does not as well!

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db1989
post Apr 4 2012, 18:05
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QUOTE (richard123 @ Apr 4 2012, 15:54) *
QUOTE (mudlord @ Apr 4 2012, 08:41) *
Why complain?
The record producer has every right to implement this form of DRM. Especially since FLAC inherantly has none.
Because they are degrading audio quality without warning. Consumers expect FLAC to sound the same as the original and are getting something noticeably worse.
The audio stream in a losslessly encoded file should be expected not merely to sound the same but to be the same, bit-for-bit. Otherwise, what’s the point of it?

Mind you, how confident are we in the ripping strategies of major companies? Destroid posted in another thread recently with a good point, which I have considered before: Is there much point in being concerned about losslessness if the ripping process is insecure?

QUOTE (krabapple @ Apr 4 2012, 16:40) *
AIUI, the audible watermark is only present on digital versions UMG licenses to other distributors. The OP says the download direct from UMG itself does NOT have the watermark. So I would hope the CD does not as well!
This is interesting, in that it contrasts to what Matt Montag said in his article: “the artifacts are […] a result of audio watermarks that Universal Music Group embeds in all of their digitally distributed tracks.” If this definitely doesn’t apply to tracks sourced directly from UMG, please let myself or another member of staff know so that the title can be made conditional.

This post has been edited by db1989: Apr 4 2012, 18:48
Reason for edit: adding link to Destroid’s post, fixing a typo
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greynol
post Apr 4 2012, 18:45
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QUOTE (mudlord @ Apr 4 2012, 05:41) *
The record producer has every right to implement this form of DRM.

...and we should have the right to our money back for buying something of inferior quality. Yet it doesn't exactly work this way, now does it?


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mudlord
post Apr 4 2012, 19:05
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Too bad. You get what you paid for.
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Porcus
post Apr 5 2012, 00:42
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QUOTE (mudlord @ Apr 4 2012, 14:41) *
Why complain?
The record producer has every right to implement this form of DRM. Especially since FLAC inherantly has none.


So ... someone is complaining about the record companies destroying the artist's work and selling them an inferior version without any warning stamp, and someone else chooses to complain about these customers ...


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mudlord
post Apr 5 2012, 01:49
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Yes, DRM has its purpose in the world, even if you people hate it.
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krabapple
post Apr 5 2012, 02:17
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QUOTE (db1989 @ Apr 4 2012, 13:05) *
QUOTE (krabapple @ Apr 4 2012, 16:40) *
AIUI, the audible watermark is only present on digital versions UMG licenses to other distributors. The OP says the download direct from UMG itself does NOT have the watermark. So I would hope the CD does not as well!
This is interesting, in that it contrasts to what Matt Montag said in his article: “the artifacts are […] a result of audio watermarks that Universal Music Group embeds in all of their digitally distributed tracks.” If this definitely doesn’t apply to tracks sourced directly from UMG, please let myself or another member of staff know so that the title can be made conditional.



From mannheim's first post to this thread:

QUOTE
I have two FLAC files for the same classical track (Tchaikovsky's 5th Symphony, Markevitch, on a Philips label). One was purchased from Passionato, the other was purchased from UMG's web site. Although both are supposed to be lossless copies of the data on the original CD, the FLAC file from Passionato actually has a clearly audible sort of "flutter" in some quiet, sustained passages.It is not the same as the UMG file.The difference isn't subtle. (Having read the TOS, I did do an ABX test. But it hardly seemed necessary in this case: I got 10/10 without difficulty. I will upload the short samples that I used.)


This post has been edited by krabapple: Apr 5 2012, 02:18
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mixminus1
post Apr 5 2012, 15:05
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...and I found the same with another pair of tracks downloaded from Deutsche Grammophon's and Passionato's website in post #14.

@mudlord: Do you not actually listen to music? We're talking about *audible degradation* of the sound - DRM can be (Cinavia, noted above) and has been (FairPlay, PlaysForSure) implemented with no audible artifacts. UMG's "DRM" is really nothing of the sort. It does nothing to "Manage" playback of the files - it simply gives UMG a (very ambiguous) way to track where a given file came from, by cheating the consumer out of the original, unaltered recording, which had better damn well be what we're paying for.

This post has been edited by mixminus1: Apr 5 2012, 15:09


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Rotareneg
post Apr 5 2012, 16:41
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QUOTE (mudlord @ Apr 4 2012, 19:49) *
Yes, DRM has its purpose in the world, even if you people hate it.


Sure, and Dracunculus medinensis also has a purpose in the world, so nobody better complain about when one of them comes to visit either. dry.gif

This post has been edited by Rotareneg: Apr 5 2012, 16:41
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Porcus
post Apr 7 2012, 02:26
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QUOTE (mudlord @ Apr 5 2012, 02:49) *
DRM has its purpose in the world


Yeah, it provides periodic testing of my 'boycott the motherfucker already' reflex.


In this case though, I do on one hand suspect that plainly destructive watermarking is a way to either test the market ('do they tolerate this?') and also, when it is discovered, use it to scare, in which case I'm anticipating a 'sorry for this, we are now just rolling out the new and improved one you cannot hear'. On the other hand, it is maybe even more naive to attribute to malice what equally well can be explained by plain stupidity.


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lock67ca
post Apr 7 2012, 03:25
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QUOTE (mudlord @ Apr 4 2012, 20:49) *
Yes, DRM has its purpose in the world, even if you people hate it.



And it's that attitude which has caused file sharing and piracy to skyrocket.
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mudlord
post Apr 7 2012, 03:53
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No, its because people want everything free that causes piracy to skyrocket. dry.gif
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Elbart
post Apr 7 2012, 12:09
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QUOTE (mudlord @ Apr 5 2012, 02:49) *
Yes, DRM has its purpose in the world, even if you people hate it.

When people get a better version of the track for "free" from god-knows-where compared to the exact same track with destructive watermarking from a legit source for money, that kind of "DRM" has failed its purpose completely. Especially when it is degrading the very product. And as I've read through the thread UMG hasn't even told Passionato (and ultimately the customers) about this, correct? Shady.
UMG (and other labels) can put all kinds of nasty DRM, watermarks and whatnot on the files they're selling, but at least be open about it. Then "you get what you paid for" would be a valid argument.
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Porcus
post Apr 7 2012, 12:39
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QUOTE (mudlord @ Apr 7 2012, 04:53) *
No, its because people want everything free that causes piracy to skyrocket. dry.gif


And pissing on your paying customers, that surely solves the problem wink.gif


Now off to download a random Universal album, just for the hell of it.


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