Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Sony Raises the Curtain on Ariama, Its Classical iTunes

Want your classical music on your iPhone, now? Sony Music is thinking about you: The label has opened up Ariama, its all-classical online store.

This is the iTunes-meets-classical project I told you about in July. Sony owns the shop, but sells music from most of the big labels.

Who needs an all-classical iTunes? Both labels and music fans, apparently: Conventional online stores don’t feature much classical music, for obvious reasons. And while the crummy sound quality of most online music doesn’t seem to bother most people, it’s a real problem for classical connoisseurs.

So Sony gives classical a room of its own, and promises that it will sound good, too, because its downloads come in two different formats.

There’s a 320-kilobits-per-second version that Sony promises will produce “near–CD quality audio” (the more kilobits, the better the sound; Apple upgraded its catalog to 256 kbps in 2009).

And there’s also a “lossless” version (FLAC, for those who care about this stuff) that’s supposed to be even denser and better. In my brief self-guided tour through the store on Monday, I found that the lossless stuff generally sold at a premium of about $2 per album.

Hate digital music players, period? That’s okay. Sony will sell you CDs, too. In fact, that’s the only way you’ll get music from Universal Music, the world’s biggest label–for whatever reason, it has licensed only discs, not downloads, to Ariama. (You can get Universal’s stuff in download form from rival classical store

Tough for me to assess the quality and selection here, given that I know next to nothing about classical. But last time I wrote about this, you guys contributed plenty of insightful commentary on the topic. So take a look, and tell us what you think.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik