Beating Amazon to the punch, with Play.com’s launch of their new PlayDigital download service, DRM-free high-quality mp3 downloads from major record labels finally reach the UK. Which also means it is time to put my money where my mouth is and, in line with a promise I made a long while back, buy an album. This actually proved harder than I expected. Not through any fault of the store itself, I hasten to add. It feels just like buying anything else from Play, which is to say almost too easy. No additional software is required, you simply pay and then download (download speed was disappointingly slow but this is likely due to the store being swamped at launch). The first issue is that EMI is still the only one of the big labels who is playing nice and fully embracing this non-crippled digital distribution model, and the second is a question of pricing. Harking back to my darker metal roots Paradise Lost’s In Requiem was my first choice until I realised that the album offered for download at a very reasonable £7.25 was actually being sold physically, jewel cased CD with free postage, for just £6.66. If I were not the album buying sort the general 65-70p price point for single tracks is great, and undercuts Apple’s iTunes enough to tempt people away, particularly when one notes the format offered here is far superior to anything offered by Apple as I’ve discussed before.
So, given that I did remain true to my word, what was the eventual winner? Dragonforce’s blisteringly fast Inhuman Rampage for a bargain £5.25. The first couple of minutes of Through The Fire & Flames has already given me a real craving to play Guitar Hero…
On a related musical theme I am generally disparaging of fashion speakers like JBL’s Creature series, glossy white and very slick but utterly average in the most important characteristic of sound reproduction — they match Macs wonderfully which one assumes was really their primary purpose. However the new Razer Mako 2.1 system has really impressed me from what I’ve seen so far. I’m dying to hear for myself whether they live up to the THX certification they have received (Logitech’s THX certified speakers sound simply phenomenal and have long been my favourites for a PC). These are definitely ones to keep an eye on.
UPDATE: I have heard from others that they are now getting fast downloads from PlayDigital so any speed issues are now resolved.
16 February 2008 at 11:48 am
I can’t believe you decided to mark the momentous occasion by buying Inhuman Rampage!!!! And I still maintain that if you’re going to attempt to play Through the Fire and the Flames in Guitar Queero (Gotta love South Park!) you might as well start playing real guitar.
18 February 2008 at 11:58 pm
How is a 192 kbps CBR high quality?
19 February 2008 at 12:40 am
This is true. Some is offered at 320kbps but a lot is only 192kbps. There’s really no reason to be using VBR except that it makes it difficult to describe the quality to non-technical consumers. “High” was relative by comparison to Apple’s standard 128kbps but I agree it really ought to be better. What I’d ideally like to see is VBR averaging around 192kbps, or 256kbps if it must be CBR.