iTunes, Napster, others, no good for Zappa

Gail Zappa, the widow of Frank Zappa, is furious with iTunes and other digital music services, complaining the service offers music that is far too compressed – more so than the artist himself ever intended.

“It was Frank’s concept to limit to a format so that it was accurately represented, that being 16-bit technology – CDs. He didn’t want it compressed. So we’re currently in a lawsuit over this issue,” she said.

Zappa’s widow stressed that the music her husband made was meant to be heard at a certain quality – 16-bit, in fact.

“iTunes has been from the get-go massively compressed,” she said, “That’s fine perhaps if you’re Britney Spears… but it’s not fine for Frank Zappa’s music, and he was interested in protecting that,” she told the LA Times.

Speaking to Distorted Loop, musician Toby Marks (Banco De Gaia) has made similar complaints, saying “I absolutely hate the fact that it’s possible to release music at the same quality it was created, yet the market has moved backward to something that’s little better than cassettes.”

It remains a huge puzzle as to why it is that CD-quality download services haven’t yet made any wide appearance – after all, if films can be purchased and downloaded online, then why not CDs, which max out at 650MB, after all?

4 thoughts on “iTunes, Napster, others, no good for Zappa

  1. Marinus Beers

    Although I occasionally download some songs from iTunes (mainly music that isn’t available elsewhere), I think Gail has a point.
    It’s a shame that the music on iTunes isn’t available in a lossless format. That said, it is also a shame that iTunes for ‘ripping’ CDs only supports Apples proprietary lossless format, Apple ought to provide support for FLAC (free lossless audio codec), not only in iTunes, but also on iPods.

  2. Elliot Richards

    I agree that the industry has taken a backward step with the lack of quality in audio downloads, but believe it or not a lot of people really can’t tell the difference between things like MP3 or AAC at 192kbps, and lossless formats because their audio gear isn’t up to resolving the full spectrum. Plus when the lower bitrates were introduced, harddrive prices per gigabyte were a lot more expensive. Now that storage space is cheaper it means the record industry can sell our music to us all over again citing better quality blah, blah, blah. It’s a conspiracy. 😉

    “it is also a shame that iTunes for ‘ripping’ CDs only supports Apples proprietary lossless format”

    Just a correction, iTunes does support AIFF and WAV at their full bitrates, and these are not proprietary.

  3. Marinus Beers

    “Just a correction, iTunes does support AIFF and WAV at their full bitrates, and these are not proprietary.”

    True enough, but the fact remains that as for lossless compression format (saves disc-space, which is still important on portable players) Apple goes for it’s own, proprietary format instead of supporting (open source-)FLAC

  4. Elliot Richards

    Okay, AAC is the default setting in iTunes, but without sounding like I’m defending it, at that low bitrate setting AAC does sound better than a 128kbp MP3. I don’t know why Apple made that arbitrary decision except that it’s about the same bitrate on iTunes Music Store purchases (DRM’ed) so it’s being consistent. The biggest selling music player is the iPod and a lot of people still use the white earphones with them, so low bitrate to them will sound fine. Saving harddrive space is precious to them.

    I’d rather a pop-up message (or some other indication) appear the first time you run something like iTunes to inform you about music quality settings. But then having said that, all you can do is educate people and let them make up their own minds.

    I’ve played lossless formats for friends and though they can hear the difference, for them it’s more a question of harddrive space over the seemingly marginal benefits. To each their own.

    It’s not an Apple issue though, it’s an industry-wide one. Am I right in saying that Microsoft still use the “copy protected” WMV format for personal ripping in Windows Media Player as the default setting? Lots of the big apps that people use have a default setting that may not be ideal, but again, it’s all about education and choice.

    You and I, amongst many others, should continue to talk about lossless formats with those that don’t know. It really is the only way forward as the majority of consumers don’t really care enough until you sit them down and force them to listen to beautiful music!

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