Soundbuzz offers lossless downloads in Singapore

Soundbuzz is using a technology developed by a Singapore R&D lab for lossless audio files that can be scaled down for playback on mobile phones.

Online music store Soundbuzz is offering customers in Singapore the ability to purchase lossless audio files.

Soundbuzz's High Fidelity Music Store offers songs from a range of Asian artists using the Scalable-to-Lossless (SLS) file format developed by Singapore's Agency for Science, Technology, and Research (A-STAR) and published as part of the MPEG4 standard in 2006.

The lossless files, which use a compression technology that recreates all of the data used to encode the song, are aimed at audiophiles who want better sound quality. Because of the amount of data required, lossless music files can be very large. Smaller files in MP3, AAC and other formats use lower-quality "lossy" compression, which recreates most of the data from the original input, but not all, in order to reduce the file size.

Soundbuzz is the first music store to put the SLS file format into use, according to Lee Han Boon, vice president of science and engineering commercialization at Exploit Technologies, A-STAR's marketing and commercialization arm. Soundbuzz is offering the songs to showcase the scalability function of the SLS format, which adds additional layers of data to a core AAC file to achieve lossless quality or removes them to save storage space.

Lossless SLS files encoded at 1,100K bits per second (bps) or more are priced at S$3.00 (AU$2.30) on Soundbuzz. Alternatively, users can purchase a 256K bps file for S$2.50, and later upgrade to the lossless version for an additional S$0.80.

In addition, Soundbuzz's Music Manager application offers a sideloading capability that transfers a 64K bps version of the songs to a mobile phone in order to save space. Unlike other software that can sideload music to a mobile phone, there is no need to reencode the SLS file at 64K bps. Instead, the software removes all additional data layers from the file, leaving the core 64K bps AAC file, which is loaded to the phone.

To play the SLS files, customers need a PC running Microsoft Windows with the Windows .Net 2.0 framework installed, the Soundbuzz Music Manager application, and Windows Media Player 7.1 or above. Playback on a mobile phone requires a handset that supports the AAC format.

Exploit and A-STAR hope that Soundbuzz's demonstration of the SLS technology in its High Fidelity Music Store will prompt more companies to use the file format. They ultimately hope to create a patent pool of organizations with similar scalable technology for MPEG4 files to generate licensing revenue, Lee said.

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