If you're just starting to build your classical music collection, you may be wondering whether to go with Amazon mp3 or iTunes.
We've mentioned that we are big fans of purchasing music. But which format do you choose? Here's our side-by-side comparison:
Quality - Tie
Amazon mp3 files are encoded at 256 kb/s (kilobits-per-second) variable bitrate mp3 format. iTunes files are encoded at 128 kb/s, but the files are the slightly superior aac format (Advanced Audio Coding - the successor to mp3). A few iTunes aac files are available at the higher quality rate of 256 kb/s.
We downloaded copies of the same piece from each store, and played them side by side on a great sound system. Honestly, we couldn't tell the difference.
Selection - Winner: iTunes
As of this post, Amazon mp3 has about 5 million songs, while iTunes has about 8 million. Our experience with classical music shopping is that iTunes has a more varied selection.
Compatibility - Winner: Amazon mp3
Because of iTunes digital rights management (DRM), most pieces downloaded from the iTunes Store will only play in iTunes, on iPods and iPhones (or your burned CDs).
Amazon mp3 files have no DRM, so no restrictions. They play in iTunes, and on iPods, iPhones, Zunes, Zens, RAZRs, BlackBerrys and more. You can burn your songs to CDs, play them on all your computers, and transfer them to all your devices. No hassles, no converting. They work everywhere.
Price - Winner: Amazon mp3
iTunes has a clear pricing model of songs for 99 cents and albums for $9.99.
Amazon mp3 is more competitive, offering most songs between 89 cents and 99 cents, and most albums between $5.99 and $9.99.
User Experience - Winner: iTunes
You just can't beat iTunes or the iTunes store. It's well-designed, thoughtful, and gives you great suggestions so you can browse for hours following one link to another, listening to 30-second previews of each piece. The only complaint we have with iTunes is how overblown the program itself has become, with Apple Update, QuickTime, Safari, etc.
Amazon mp3 is browser-based, so you don't need iTunes installed to get your favorite music. The web interface is a bit clunky, but functional. You can search and sort by relevance or bestselling (just like in iTunes) and get 30-second previews. The Amazon MP3 Downloader, a small downloadable app, allows you to download entire albums with one click and automatically adds your music to iTunes or Windows Media Player.
Choose the qualities above that are important to you, and make your best decision. If you think we suck for not choosing a clear winner, we'll tell you this:
Even though iPod is our preferred mp3 player, we do our browsing in iTunes, and make our purchases at Amazon mp3.
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