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Today's LTAR (02/02/03 in Mass.)

On today's LTAR, the subject of the substandard quality of MP3 or 
other file-swapping of "songs" was brought up. This reminded me of an
article by the Wall Street Journal's Walter Mossberg.  Walt writes about
computers, home electronics etc every Thursday in the WSJ.  Besides product reviews
(or even platform reviews like a recent column on wireless internet standards),
he answers questions submitted by readers.  One letter, printed March 7, 2002
dealt with the audio quality of downloads.  I've kept it around since then
in case it came up here: and VOILA (a little French lingo) it did.
Here's the letter, and Walt's reply:

   When you review MP3 music players, such as the Apple iPod or
   the Rio Riot, you always mention how many "songs" they can hold.
   But that isn't much help to us classical music lovers, for whom
   a "song" might be a 45-minute symphony. Do these players work
   with classical music? If so, how can we gauge their capacity?

Walter's answer:

   Yes, portable high-capacity MP3 players, such as iPod and the
   Riot work perfectly well with classical music.  There is no 
   limit to the length of a track, or "song", which is really
   just a computer file.  One single track, identified on the 
   player's screen as a "song", could contain a 45-minute 
   symphony. The same goes for MP3 software players on the 
   computer, such as MusicMatch Jukebox or iTunes.  They can
   handel classical music with ease as well.  Capacity measures,
   when expressed in the number of "songs", are always estimates
   because even in pop and rock (selections), lengths may vary.
   Apple assumes songs average 4 minutes, so your 45-minute 
   symphony would take up the equivalent of 11 "songs" by Apple's
   reckoning, assuming you recorded the symphony at the same 
   quality level  Apple assumes for pop songs.  The same 
   calculation would work for long jazz pieces.  However, you 
   should probably figure on squeezing fewer minutes of
   classical or jazz onto an MP3 player than a person favoring 
   pop or rock (selections) could.  That is because pop and rock
   sound perfectly fine(?) when converted to MP3 at lower quality
   levels, which take up less space.  But classical and jazz 
   really require a higher quality of MP3 file, which takes up
   more space per minute of music. 

NOTE: I replaced the word "music" with "selections" in Mr. Mossber's
rely for obvious reasons.

Laurence Glavin

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