Amazon's MP3 store has DRM-free music, cheaper than iTunes

Amazon has launched a public beta of its long-anticipated digital music download store, offering more than 2 million songs as MP3 files (a third of iTunes' current library). Most tracks are variable bit rate 256kbps MP3 files, though the occasional track is encoded at constant bit rates. Large, high-quality album art comes embedded in each file. The default song price is $0.99 per track and albums are $11.99, but the top 100 songs are only $0.89 apiece, and the top 100 albums go for $8.99. The uncompressed CD version of the album can be picked up for only $11.98, a full cent cheaper than the compressed download.

Individual tracks can be downloaded directly to the hard drive, but full album purchases have to use Amazon's download application. The program is currently available for Windows and Mac OS X, and it automatically adds downloaded tracks to a user's iTunes or Windows Media Player library. Amazon has also announced that a Linux version will be available soon, although Linux users are able to download individual tracks in the meantime. Unfortunately, there's no re-downloading of tracks; you'd better make a backup, because if you lose a song, you'll have to purchase it again to get another copy.

Link: AmazonMP3 Beta
News source: Ars Technica

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36 Comments

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256 kbps mp3? I might actually buy digital music for the first time.

I wish it was FLAC, I can tell the difference between CD and 256 and 320.

I think that those "lossless" format are (mainly) invented by Apple to fill those gb in the first Ipod and in the same step being incompatible with the rest of the devices.


wow.. mp3 format, no DRM, and a linux downloader soon.. amazon just hit a home run for me !!!

ok ogg would have been nicer, but I can live with mp3

This is excellent. Good move for Amazon. I'll check their store first for the music I'm interested as what they are offering is superior to the competition.

I tried out eMusic and although I liked the drm-less MP3's I hated the fact that you had to subscribe to the service. That little bit of overhead of maintaining and keeping track of yet another monthly bill isn't something that I want. I'd rather pay 0.99 per track rather than a $14/month subscription even though the subscription is the better deal if I truly do download and listen to all the music available to me month-to-month.

Nice, the prices are great, I'm going to download that Common album, 8.99 for an album that costs 9.99 on Itunes with DRM and half the bitrate, sounds like a deal to me (and yes I know AAC and MP3 bitrates are not directly comparable).

I just bought an album to try it out and I am VERY impressed. I have stayed away from purchasing any music with DRM for fear the store and the DRM would not last for a long as a CDs lifetime.

I purchased Guns N' Roses - Appetite For Destruction for only $7.99 and when it told me I needed to download software, I was temped to cancel the order. I decided to bite the bullet and go for it and was very glad I did. The software was nothing like unbox. It simply started up to download the tracks, placed them in my Windows Media Player library and even closed itself when it finished! No annoying shortcut in your startup or registry folder either.

I am very happy Amazon has learned from unbox and is a strong competitor to Apple. I use Napster now but hope to soon replace the subscription model with DRM-free downloads.

I do like this idea a lot actually - DRM is what's stopping me embracing digital downloads more. Good album artwork is a bonus too.

not to mention decent [variable] bit rates :)

lets just hope the prices are the same world wide according to exchange rates

Yes, it will be interesting to see what happens when/if Amazon.UK offer this service. Typically if a song is $0.99 in the US, you will get charged £0.99 in the UK - the equivalent of about $1.89 (rip-off Britain). I have an account with both Amazon.UK and Amazon.US so I wonder if the US site would try to block me if the UK price is higher?

In any case, DRM-free mp3s are good for me =:o)

needlegun said,
Yes, it will be interesting to see what happens when/if Amazon.UK offer this service. Typically if a song is $0.99 in the US, you will get charged £0.99 in the UK - the equivalent of about $1.89 (rip-off Britain). I have an account with both Amazon.UK and Amazon.US so I wonder if the US site would try to block me if the UK price is higher?

In any case, DRM-free mp3s are good for me =:o)

Isn't that like saying you can get a hostel in Thailand for £1 a night, but in England you gotta pay £15.

It's not only the exchange rate you take into account. It's the fact that we're [on average] better off than the USA.

lunamonkey said,

Isn't that like saying you can get a hostel in Thailand for £1 a night, but in England you gotta pay £15.

It's not only the exchange rate you take into account. It's the fact that we're [on average] better off than the USA.


No, that's crap. Regardless of the exchange rate, UKers tend to pay dollar equivalence. Excuses such as VAT don't wash (a download comes from a server regardless of location) as that would only bung 17-and-a-bit pence on (== £1.16ish), and the state of the economy has nothing to do with it (try buying a loaf of bread with the equivalent of 80p in Zimbabwe ); it's all about how much the companies gouge.

Sorry to wake you up from your dreams, but the US' GPD per capita has always been higher than any EU country (excluding Luxembourg)

UK - GDP per capita $31,000 - this is more or less the same for every western EU country
US - GDP per capita $43,000

And I am sorry but Thailand comperison is awkward. We are talking about here Western countries with people rather comparible income.

Isn't that like saying you can get a hostel in Thailand for £1 a night, but in England you gotta pay £15.

It's not only the exchange rate you take into account. It's the fact that we're [on average] better off than the USA.

Nice, For me it beats Buy.com so far. The only problem is see is no re-downloading tracks.

A song I bought stoped at 47%. After a while the download was done but the song has a part twhere it skips :(
After a few re-downloads ( I never closed that page, just hit refreash) the same thing happens. Must be a bad song

edit: After a few more tries I got a good mp3 now, no skips

FLAC? The cd can be obtained uncompressed, once you have that you can FLAC and AAC and OGG to your hearts content.

It sounds good. No DRM is always nice, but the title is kinda misleading, as only the top 100 songs are cheaper than Itunes.

Sounds pretty good. I'm sure audiophiles will cry foul about the lack of FLAC, but 256 kbps mp3's are good enough for me and my headphones. I hope this service get pretty successful to send some music companies a signal about DRM.

Guarantee that 99.9% of people can tell the difference between a 256kbps track (MP3 or AAC) and the uncompressed version in a double-blind listening test.

In fact, Hydrogenaudio, who basically define the term audiophile pretty much says it is useless to do listening tests at/above 192kbps because it is simply too hard for anyone to pick out the compressed and uncompressed versions. These are people with the best equipment as well.

The difference between 192 and 256 is noticeable, 256 brings that complete feel to the music, or so I find. But above 254 and it gets hard. So it's great it's 256 VBR. I will need to test this out.

chrisgeleven said,
Guarantee that 99.9% of people can tell the difference between a 256kbps track (MP3 or AAC) and the uncompressed version in a double-blind listening test.

Is that a mistake, did you mean can't?

Lt-DavidW said,

Is that a mistake, did you mean can't?

Problem is that some people are delusional and overestimate their abilities (especially so called "audiophiles" who don't use proper double-blind test procedures).

Delusion 1: 256Kbps vs 320Kbps

Correct sentence would be "99.9% of people can't tell the difference over a 192Kbps". Most people can't go even over 128Kbps. Old people and whose who damaging their ears with loud music have even lower hearing quality. You must have super Hi-End professional equipment based in 0 dB environment, ears of genius and super quality PURE digital track to tell the difference above 256Kbps MP3. In practice there is no point to produce 256Kbps+ because of imperfection of human voice, music instruments and noise from recording equipment.

Delusion 2: Lossless vs Lossy

True is that in any LIMITED SPACE ENVIRONMENT lossy audio codec beats crap out of any lossless codec. If someone says that he can hear difference between AAC 320Kbps and any lossless codec (zillion Kbps) then this person is self delusional liar and don't have clue how human ears work. If he insists on hearing difference then ask him if he can see microbes with naked eyes too.

Delusion 3: Valve Amplifiers

Transistors are superior to Bulbs. But some self-delusional pseudo-audiophiles call audio distortion produced by valve amplifiers as "better quality". People are fast to make mistake about quality just because it sounds different. For example you have two audio sets. One more crappy and one better. You can play same audio track on both but make it louder and equalized on crappy one. Usually people will make mistake and will interpret "loudness" and "distortion" as "better quality" (this trick is used by "Valve Amplifier" scamers to push lower quality overpriced products.

Delusion 4: Golden Cables

This is one of the biggest scams of audio industry. Price don't mean quality. Cheap sugar is still sweater than expensive platinum. True is that scientists optimized all audio equipment for copper. Also note that gold, silver or platinum cables have absolute 0 impact on digital equipment. Don't waste your money unless cables are exposed and you want gold for aesthetic reasons.

P.S.: Audio industry is full of other scams so be careful.

Delusion 4: Golden Cables

This is one of the biggest scams of audio industry. Price don't mean quality. Cheap sugar is still sweater than expensive platinum. True is that scientists optimized all audio equipment for copper. Also note that gold, silver or platinum cables have absolute 0 impact on digital equipment. Don't waste your money unless cables are exposed and you want gold for aesthetic reasons.

P.S.: Audio industry is full of other scams so be careful.

True with the exception of speakers, since still speakers are analog, anyways a cooper made a good (and enough) connector (specially in those RCA jack and endpoint). And in many cases "golden" is just cooper for to difference between cooper and steel (steel or some alloy) connector.

Magallanes said,
True with the exception of speakers, since still speakers are analog, anyways a cooper made a good (and enough) connector (specially in those RCA jack and endpoint). And in many cases "golden" is just cooper for to difference between cooper and steel (steel or some alloy) connector.

To be clear, I mean overpriced connectors covered with real gold because they are key point of pseudo-audiophile scam to rip-off people of their money.

Gold does not oxidize so it prevents changes in conductivity due to oxidation. This is single excuse to use golden connectors. But this is still money waste because any cheap metal or alloy which does not oxidize and has conductivity properties similar or better than copper does job perfectly. As I've said, all analog equipment are calculated for copper cables and specific resistance. If somone has illusion that he can improve audio quality by replacing proper copper cables with cables covered in real gold then this person is delusional because "improvement" will be only in his head.