I wrote this week’s installment whilst sitting on my porch, enjoying summer and being productive due to the miracle of WiFi. Double good!
The warm, golden sun flickered through the breeze-blown branches and birds chirped and chatted at the birdfeeders. However, my restful reverie was rudely interrupted by the passing of a 180-decibel muffler-less motorcycle that would obviously stall immediately unless the throttle was “gunned” continuously. Then there was the jacked-up ’79 Bronco with the “Southern Comfort Sunroof” (the rear cab cut off with an acetylene torch), with nothing in the back except for some empty beer cans, a sofa, and two whopping subwoofers engaged in a constant battle with the engine for aural superiority.
Yep. Just another summer day on Washington Street. It’s a wonder any living creatures can survive here at all, much less flourish. But, I digress.
Last week I promised to reveal a method to legally remove Digital Rights Management “protection” from music purchased and downloaded from online music stores, like the iTunes Music Store or Urge. Here it is.
Simply “burn” the songs onto an audio CD, like you would to listen to them using the CD player in your car (if you could hear them over the engine noise). Then, re-import the songs back into iTunes or Windows Media Player 11 or “Fred’s Digital Windows Jukebox and Keystroke Logger” (OK, I made that last one up). Voila! No more DRM.
There are two things to consider when using this method. First, remember that when you create this audio CD from within iTunes you’re not just burning the files onto the CD like you would to back up data files. When you click the “Burn” button, iTunes decompresses the compressed AAC files and then converts them to the AIFF format recognized by “generic” CD players, then copies it onto the CD.
When you import the music back onto the computer, your digital jukebox compresses the music file into the format you choose. Any time you go through the compression/decrompression process, you’re going to lose some quality. Think of it like a copy of a copy of a cassette tape. However, in this case, you’re only doing it once.
Remember that all music sold through online music stores that deliver the goods through internet downloading is compressed, from the 30MB that a three-minute song “weighs” on a commercial music CD, to the 1.8MB file that quickly downloads into your jukebox. It’s always a trade-off with any digital media (be it audio, video, or photo) between “resolution” (quality) and file size.
So, back to our DRM-stripping technique, and the second thing to consider. Since you can choose within iTunes’ Preferences the “quality” of the encoding and compression, consider using a higher bitrate setting when re-importing your DRM-liberated songs. Remember, the higher the bitrate, the higher the quality and the larger physical size of the resulting music file.
While we’re on the subject, both Apple’s AAC (which stands for Advanced Audio Codec and is a relative of the venerable MP3 format) and Windows Media Audio offer a “Lossless” compression format that they claim rivals CD quality. These lossless formats knock the 30MB CD file size down to about 11MB. Not bad, if you’ve got the hard drive space.
© 2006 Peter F. Zimowski