A Look at Amazon MP3

amazon-mp3-head.png US-centric: Starting Tuesday, Amazon launched Amazon MP3, a new online digital music store selling DRM-free MP3s for $US0.89 to $0.99 a la carte or $5.99 to $9.99 per album. That's as cheap or cheaper than the iTunes Music Store but without any of those pesky DRM restrictions or codec issues (everything supports the MP3). Featuring over two million songs from over 180,000 artists, it's shaping up to be an extremely viable alternative for purchasing music online.Check out the features offered by Amazon MP3 in the gallery below.

Although Amazon MP3's two million songs sound impressive (and there is a lot of very good and popular content offered), it contains a lot of what most of us might consider filler. That said, if I'm looking at downloading the same album in iTunes or Amazon MP3, the choice is pretty obvious: I'm going for the cheaper, DRM-free MP3s. With the Amazon MP3 Downloader, the music will be added to my iTunes library just as seamlessly as if I had bought it from iTunes, and I'm not vendor-locked into iTunes or the iPod for the rest of my life.

Technically speaking, the MP3s are of a pretty high quality, generally encoded using variable bit rates averaging at 256 kbps. While it's not the 320 that seems to be the standard for high-quality MP3 encoding that the BitTorrent crowd has probably come to know and love, it's definitely high quality. (Eight years ago I thought it was crazy to go any higher than 192!) On the flip side, Apple's default bit rate for their AAC-encoded music is 128 kbps (though you can purchase some DRM-free AAC tracks at 256 kbps for $1.29/song). Remember, though, the 128 kbps AAC offers much higher sound quality than a 128 kbps MP3—namely because the AAC codec is more efficient than the MP3. However, at 256 kbps, Amazon's MP3s should sound just as good if not better than your iTunes-purchased AAC files. The main difference, then, will be the file size (the AAC files will be smaller) and the DRM (Apple restricts your downloads, Amazon does not).

Granted, Amazon MP3 is far from the first vendor to offer DRM-free MP3s, as other such services—most notably eMusic—having been around for quite some time. But Amazon is Amazon, and with their imposing consumer influence, this store might have a real chance. In the end, whether it's a viable iTunes replacement or not, it's still a very promising option for digital music lovers. Let us know what you think of Amazon's new offering in the comments.


Comments

    I think the idea behind this store is great - good quality, DRM-free music at a competitive price. The DRM-free thing is the best though - I hate the idea of having my music collection crippled by anything other than questionable taste. Of course, my first choice for music is eMusic but they don't have major label stuff. Amazon has the potential to be the second place I look for my music purchases.

    The biggest issue I have though is that purchasing albums from the Amazon store doesn't seem to work in Australia. I've got an Amazon account, they have my credit card details already but when I go to purchase an item they ask for my billing details, which requires that I select a US-state. No options for Australian states or territories. Oh well. Maybe one day...

    I agree with Mark, here we are in 2009 and the service is still not available to Australians!
    I'm glad I didn't wait around for that to happen.

    I would love to be able to buy from Amazon as I they seem to have more of the artists I like. I'm no so fussed about the encoding as I'm only playing on the computer at the moment, but...it would be nice to not have to move to the US to buy my music!

    Just wanted to point out its now 2011 and still unavailable to Australia! Come on Amazon! :(

    Australia is still waiting on September 6, 2011. Boohoo.

    2012, still waiting for you Amazon.

    Still waiting 24/05/2012 :(

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