Philadelphia Orchestra Online Music Store

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Date: Wednesday, September 27th, 2006, 08:00
Category: music

Our very own Philadelphia Orchestra has opened a new online music store, the first of its kind among major symphony orchestras. Perhaps the most noteworthy aspect is that the downloads are DRM-free(!), and you can choose between mp3 and FLAC (!!!). Prices are reasonable, but vary by length: an mp3 of most works (e.g., Beethoven’s 7th symphony, about 40 minutes) is $4.99 and the FLAC is $5.99. A short piece (Verdi’s Overture to I vespri siciliani, ~10 minutes) is $0.99 on mp3 ($1.99 for FLAC), and a longer work (Beethoven’s 9th symphony, ~70 minutes) is $9.99 for the mp3 and $11.99 for FLAC. An mp3 of Beethoven’s 5th symphony is (for a limited time) available for free.
The (minor) catch… the downloads are concert recordings, from historical (going back to 1961) up through the most recent season (2006), and not “commercial” CD recordings. They do have commercially released CDs available for sale on the site, but not for download. The distinction, however, between a concert recording and a commercial release for classical music is arguably fairly small. Commercial recordings are sometimes just concert recordings with some post-production. Even “studio” recordings of a symphony are made in a concert hall, though sometimes with significant editing to merge several takes. So while there may still be the occasional cough or rustling of programs in the background, to my mind that’s inconsequential. For the downloads I have listened to thus far, the sound quality is very good. Kudos to the Philadelphia Orchestra for trying a refreshingly novel approach to music distribution.


REVIEW: Fission – Lossless Audio Editing for Compressed Files

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Date: Wednesday, September 20th, 2006, 13:50
Category: Software

rogue-amoeba-fission.pngRogue Amoeba (makers of cool sound tools, such as Audio Hijack / Pro and Airfoil) has released Fission, a unique sound editor that allows for “Lossless” editing of compressed (mp3, AAC) audio files. The compressed formats split up a sound file into a series of small frames (~1/40 of a second each), which are very difficult to manipulate independently. Most applications simply decode an mp3 or AAC file to uncompressed audio for editing, and then re-compress the edited sound for export. The additional re-compression step results in some sound quality degradation.
Fission allows you to perform simple edits (cutting, splitting, and fading) in the compressed domain (without having to uncompress and re-compress), resulting in no additional quality loss (of course, the mp3 or AAC files you started with are lossy formats to begin with), hence the quotes around “lossless”. It is ideally suited for the editing and splitting of large compressed files recorded from radio streams (e.g., using Audio Hijack Pro or a Griffin radio SHARK). Fission also includes a “Smart Split” feature that can automatically segment your files by searching for silence (that typically occur before and after songs or commercials). Very cool!
The interface is extremely easy to use (simple for novices, but familiar to anyone who’s ever used a sound editor). I do have two small feature requests: 1) The ability to add split-markers in real-time during playback would be really helpful, and 2) Allow time to be displayed in units other than just minutes:seconds (e.g., samples). Overall, Fission is a great addition to any Mac/audio/music-lover’s set of sound applications.
UPDATE: I just heard from Rogue Amoeba that my first feature request is already there (choose “Split at Playhead” or Cmd-T). My mistake! So my revised (very minor) feature request is to make this keyboard shortcut a single key, or allow it to be user-assignable.