I’ve been a subscriber to Emusic for a while now, and when I started I was subscribing as a way to save cash spent on new records. For my money, I was pretty happy.

Last week though, a friend and I were discussing the audio quality differences between the 190kbs vbr that Emusic sells and the stuff that was on the original CD. He’s an mp3 doubter, slowly filling his house with audiophile quality equipment; me, I’d like audiophile gear and lossless digital music, but I’ve compromised for now.

During the conversation, we conducted, separately, a quick A/B test that showed me the pop I’m missing from Emusic downloads, and showed him the significant improvement that 320kbs constant vs. 190kbs vbr makes.

The immediate result of the conversation was that I searched and listed out a number of online music stores, especially looking for sites selling lossless quality audio, and especially skipping sites selling DRM crippled audio. The list and some brief site commentary is below, add any others you can think of in the coments.

  • Emusic.com : The site I purcahse from now.
  • Bleep.com : Electronic music. Autechre, Aphex Twin, beepity beep boop bid-eep. Some lossless audio, including the entire Autechre back catalog. I’ll be purchasing here later, I think.
  • Fastatmosphere.com : The list of artists is short, but they sell flac versions of the albums they sell. They do the personalized music stores for Jay Farrar and Gillian Welch, which is nice.
  • Backofficemusic.com : They do the online stores for Primus and related projects, They Might Be Giants, and others.
  • Musictoday.com : The offer a lot of CDs and traditional merchandise, but also sell digital downloads of some of their bands.
  • Zunior.com : Offers FLAC and MP3 downloads of a lot of really small labels. Nettwerk is there, and I see the Constantines and The New Pornograhers on the bestsellers list, so there’s music I like there.
  • Magnatune.com : Offers two tiers of MP3 downloads from a lot of bands I’ve never heard of. They have a close relationship with Amarok, my player of choice at home, and they seem like an unusual store. I’ll be visiting them again, though I’m really not sure which bands I like there.

I’m excited that newer, open media players are coming around to integrating music stores into the player, ala iTunes. Kudos to Amarok and Songbird, though I’ll talk more about them later.

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