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Quality and price concerns hamper pay for music downloads

PC Advisor readers sound off

As the UK prepares itself for next week's arrival of Apple's online song shop iTunes, more than half of the 882 respondents to a recent poll by PC Advisor magazine expressed considerable reservations about the growing crop of legal download music services.

Roxio's rehabilitated Napster online music download service went live in the UK last month, stealing a four week march on iTunes, which launches next Tuesday.

Both services provide the first serious competition to online music distributor OD2, used by the likes of HMV, Oxfam, Coca-Cola, HMV, Virgin, along with ISPs such as Tiscali and Wanadoo.

Over a quarter of poll respondents (25.1 percent) indicated that if they are paying the best part of £10 per month for a legal service then they expect to be able to copy their downloads on to any device of their choosing.

Even more objected to paying a further 99p per track for the right to burn a song to a CD or transfer a track to an MP3 player, when the quality of Napster's WMA format and iTunes AAC format are inferior to that of a normal CD.

The growing bevy of online, legal pay services have their work cut out addressing more than one in four respondents who vowed to continue using popular P2P fileswapping networks such as Kazaa, which offer a much greater range of music without charging a penny.

"The main benefit to being able to download music rather than buy a CD seems to be the fact that it should, in theory at least, prove cheaper. There are very few audio CDs on which every track is still of interest after the first hearing," said reader Stuart Isenberg.

Fellow reader Simon Hutchins objects to the quality issue. "I downloaded several tracks from Tiscali's music site [which uses the OD2 service] and compared them to the original CD version," he said. "They sounded pretty dire in comparison."

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