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MusicGiants Brings Lossless to the Masses

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by Josh Ray on September 29 '05

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Continuing our stream of industry news, MusicGiants, a new iTunes-like downloading service, has opened its doors and promises to bring glorious lossless audio files direct to your computer. You need Windows Media Player 9 to play the high-res files, no Apple users allowed. Audiophile-approved tracks start at $1.29 a piece.

Now, Gizmodo spread some rumors saying that MusicGiants requires a new sound card called the Lynx 2 priced at $1100 or the Sound Vault 400gig jukebox system that runs a whopping $9500. From the MusicGiants website, that seems unfounded.

For those who do not know, lossless is not SACD or DVD-A which requires different decoding and whatnot. All lossless does is get CD-quality sound at around half the size, though it's a much larger file than mp3. For example, a 5mb mp3 is about 40mb in lossless. So it's a huge jump. If it there the super high res of SACD or DVD-A files, it would be more like 200mb a song, which is just ridiculous and way too huge for a download service.

Also, lossless is available in many flavors. FLAC started the trend off, only to be picked up by Apple and Windows Media. In head to head tests, all the lossless formats perform pretty much the same, though hard core audiophiles see differences. Comparisons to the CD itself are tricky because there is no common transport method and as anyone familiar with the wild world of audio knows, a single piece of gear can mean the world.

Anyway, as for the gear required to get the best sound, my bet is any typical sound card will take advantage of the higher resolution and a USB device like the Red Wine USB Select at $500 with glorious battery power will give you far better sound than any internal sound card ever will. USB devices are popping up all over the place with the likes of Empirical Audio among others getting into the mix.

The service has a subscription fee of $50 a year in addition to the normal price for most of the songs at $1.29. According to the report, the subscription fee is to discourage pirates. I say it's to squeeze every last penny from our already-broke audiophile wallets.

If I were a betting man, I'd say MusicGiants will not make it and we won't see lossless go mainstream until iTunes adds it as a feature. But I'd like to be wrong about this one because consumer-approved lossless would be awesome for audiophilia. Convergence is the key for the industry, in my opinion, and the sooner the high-end embraces computers and iPods, the sooner the massive influx of cash will find its way into the pockets of our dearly beloved manufacturers of esoteric audio gear.

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