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iTunes Minus DRM = iTunes Plus

So if it wasn't obvious from this morning's column or podcast (listen/subscribe/iTunes): Yes, I do have the iTunes Plus enabled on my own iTunes Store account. And if I could upgrade every one of my purchases to Plus, I would.

I like the iPod and iTunes, but I also like not having to worry about being shut out of some other gadget or program later on. ITunes Plus downloads terminate that anxiety.

Here's some extra details about this topic and how I put together the column:

* I was pleasantly surprised to see just how many different kinds of hardware and software support the AAC format (which, contrary to what some people think, Apple neither invented nor controls--AAC is as open as MP3 and cheaper to use in many cases). In addition to the portable players I tested, the media software on some newer BlackBerry smartphones also supports AAC, as do most wireless media receivers and even many car-stereo CD players that can read AAC files off data CDs.

* For anybody who would like to repeat my testing of iTunes Plus sound quality compared to ordinary iTunes downloads, I bought regular and Plus copies of Coldplay's "Clocks," OK Go's "Here It Goes Again" and a London Symphony Orchestra performance of Gustav Holst's "The Planets." You may not be surprised to hear the biggest differences in sound quality emerged with the last work, a far more complex piece of music.

* In any discussion of sound quality, however, it's important to distinguish between differences that you can remember easily and those that only surface when you play the same song in different formats--not exactly how most people listen to music. I also wonder if there isn't something of a placebo effect; if you tell somebody that a song features twice the bit rate as before, will they think it sounds better even if there's no perceptible difference?

* To extract the audio from a purchased video, I imported the video file into iMovie HD, then immediately exported it, using the "Expert Settings" command to convert its sound track to an uncompressed .wav file (which can be easily compressed into MP3 or AAC format with iTunes). There must be a simpler way to do so--any suggestions?--but if not I'll bet there will be one soon enough.

* I asked Apple how many iTunes Plus purchases have been made so far, but the company isn't ready to release numbers yet. But I'll be shocked if a lot of iTunes customers don't trade up their existing libraries.

Will you be among them? Let me know in the comments. Or, if you're free from 2 to 3 today, in my Web chat.

By Rob Pegoraro  |  June 14, 2007; 9:49 AM ET
Categories:  Music  
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