1. Patents

There should be no reason whatsoever that patent-free formats (OGG, FLAC, APE, MPC) shouldn’t be supported by every audio program and digital audio player in existence. The code is freely available: the only excuse for companies who continue to churn out hardware players that only support MP3 and WMA is sheer laziness. We know that it’s possible. Even vendors who like to tout themselves as friendly to FOSS continue to enforce a narrow spectrum of patented codecs (MP3 and WMA or AAC) and vendor lock-in. From now on, consumers must press for the adoption of patent-free codecs for their own music libraries, and in terms of vendor support.

2. Digital Restrictions Management

DRM is a fundamental blow to users’ freedom of information. DRM is only supported by proprietary audio codecs whose performance and quality is severely lacking, and only understood by restrictive software like Windows Media Player and iTunes. It hinders the fair use of legally purchased music and does nothing to hinder the spread of pirated material, all of which is available in formats with freely available encoders (FLAC, LAME, &c.). It does this by only allowing a song to be transfered a certain number of times before expiring, meaning that despite legally purchasing the song from whatever source, the consumer does not own the music, but is rather only renting it; all this for a song in a poor format, a fraction of its former self. From now on, consumers must let vendors know that DRM is an abridgement of their rights as consumers and an insult to free ownership.

3. Bitrates

Vendors tout the size of their Digital Audio Players’ hard drives (which might otherwise be incomprehensible to computer-illiterate customers) in terms of the number of songs that can be crammed onto it. In order to maximize the appeal, marketing departments usually use the lowest possible encoding quality in order to use bigger numbers. The Creative Zen description states “20 GB storage lets you bring up to 10,000 WMA songs (64 kbps) or 5000 MP3 songs (128 kbps) everywhere you go.” It is in affront to audiophiles everywhere to suggest that one should encode anything at 128kbps; such a thing may have been acceptable in the days of Napster, but is certainly not now. MP3 files do not reach transparency until at least 192kbps. It is a mockery of even greater proportions to suggest that any piece of music should ever be subject to an encoding at 64kbps (in WMA, even!).

It is time that consumers start demanding a more realistic approach to these marketing campaigns; they need better education on the relative qualities of various formats at differing levels of compression. What’s more, disk-based storage has reached an extent at which we should be clamoring for better (if less efficient) methods of compression, such as the aforementioned lossless codecs. From now on, consumers must pressure manufacturers to use realistic figures when describing capacities.

4. Bono

Bono must stop making commercials for the iPod and just focus wearing sunglasses at diplomatic functions. In fact, he should probably stop making albums as well; he seems to be better as an activist than a musician.

5. Radio

Consumers need to abandon the radio as a means of entertainment. It’s become a cesspool of nothing but Top 40 tripe and the vapid banter of legally retarded show hosts. What’s more, its quality is completely miserable, and it’s subject to the iron fist of the FCC. Either listen to CDs or MP3 players in your car/home, or use satellite radio as a censor-free and higher-quality alternative. The idea of listening to six minutes of commercials in order to hear the same Gwen Stefani song they played an hour ago strikes any sensible audiophile as absurd. Take control of what you listen you.

6. Mastering

As stated before, the tendency to create extremely loud songs suited to radio airplay is a death knell for music quality. To all producers and sound engineers, this is a call to start mixing audio in such a way that preserves dynamics and makes the experience of listening to said music more enjoyable. Not only does hot music just sound bad, but it makes the job of compressing and manipulating that music even harder. Stop it! Just stop it! Ross Robinson, I’m talking to you!

7. Consumers

Of course, none of this would be a problem if you music fans and consumers weren’t such braindead twits about it all. You have the right to inform yourselves of the dangers of DRM, the strengths and weaknesses of different compression formats, and the evil that is hot mastering. You have the right to pester hardware vendors about support for patent-free codecs and the right to purchase from those companies that do implement them; you have the right to see through marketing bullshit about fitting 10’000 songs on a single player. You have the right to not give a damn about Apple’s glossy-but-inferior products or the white earbuds that will get you mugged. You have the right to use better programs than Windows Media Player, the right to encode your entire collection in FLAC, the right to transfer a song that you own to as many devices as you damn well please.

You have the right not to be a lazy as and accept whatever is fed to you. And you have the right to enjoy your music in all its unadultered glory.

§680 · July 12, 2005 · Tags: , , , ·

12 Comments to “A Declaration of Audio Rights”

  1. rob says:

    the only excuse for companies who continue to churn out hardware players that only support MP3 and WMA is sheer laziness.

    Or players whose CPUs can’t handle the more CPU-intensive decoding of formats like FLAC or OGG, such as the iPod (in early generations at least).

    It is in affront to audiophiles everywhere to suggest that one should encode anything at 128kbps

    Sure, you can tell the difference between a 128k MP3 and the lossless source in an ABX test on a PC with relatively good equipment, but can you on a portable player? Really?

    128k, if you’re using some small earbuds on a portable device, will be more than ample for most people.

    the right to encode your entire collection in FLAC

    Some of us value hard drive space over a completely indiscernable difference in quality ;)

  2. Ben says:

    1. Players are now powerful enough to be able to handle computations like that. Battery life takes a hit, certainly, but that choice should be up to the user.

    2. I can. My player gets really good sound. I realize that I’m too much of an elitist to expect that the average joe would be that discerning, but on principle if nothing else, 128kbps is criminal.

    3. That’s why it’s just a right, and not necessarily a suggestion. However, the ability of hard drive players to process lossless formats is handy even if a user has only a few albums that benefit from it (classical music, for instance).

  3. rob says:

    Classical music doesn’t benefit from lossless formats, though ;)

  4. abou says:

    Classical music doesn’t benefit from lossless formats, though ;)

    Oh, that is just bollocks.

  5. Ben says:

    I agree. Classical music needs lossless compression more than any other type.

  6. rob says:

    It isn’t bollocks, please post the results of an ABX test comparing an —alt-preset-extreme/—alt-preset-standard MP3 with the original lossless source, say 20 repetitions. I’ll let you choose the piece of classical music.

    If you can tell the difference then kudos, but I bet you can’t :)

  7. Ben says:

    Eh, don’t be so cocky. I haven’t gotten around to it.

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