Mix and match, MUSICALLY

MUSIC COMPANIES are coming down heavily on Internet music downloads. But this hasn't curbed the growth of downloadable music players.

Napster, the mother of all music swapping services, is due to appear again in October. But its second avatar is coming in a changed musical scenario. The site, which in its heyday had many young users, will now be a paid download service.

In other ways too, the free spirited, peer-to-peer music downloading business is going through an all-time low. Music companies are coming down heavily on free Internet downloads by manufacturing copy-controlled CDs that can play on your music system and PC, but cannot be copied on to your PC or converted into the MP3 format. Also, these CDs make you download an in-built software that comes in the CD on to your desktop, and you can play the music only through that software.

The music company versus listener debate is an unending one, as listeners demand lower CD prices, while music companies blame skyrocketing manufacturing costs. In India though, it is only the international music market that is being affected by this phenomenon. An average Hindi film soundtrack or Indipop CD costs between Rs. 90 to Rs. 150, which, in comparison to a Rs. 65 cassette, is not unaffordable for the die-hard music lover. It is the international music fan who has to dole out a good Rs. 350 for a Metallica CD today.

One can only hope that the music companies will wake up to the fact that as long as the CD prices do not hit the two figure mark, listeners are going to be driven to newer software that allow free downloads. "Who cares if they are legal or not. Give us affordable music, and we will pay you in turn," seems to be the unanimous message.

The latest version has a new chic look that is different from the older orange-coloured default look. The equaliser is more effective and gives you the freedom to fine-tune music the way you want it. Also, the enhanced play-list editor allows you to set your play-list in the order you desire, and the new Crossfade function lets you blend the end of one track and the beginning of the next one in virtual DJ style. The visualisations (the graphic designs that move to the beat of the music) are more impressive and provide more eye-candy, while you listen to the music. A few more gimmicks here and there have been added to make it strikingly different from the earlier versions, in the process ensuring that Winamp becomes THE number 1 freely downloadable music player.

Though the Windows Media player that comes bundled with the newer Windows operating system plays both music and videos, Winamp beats it in sound quality and equaliser capabilities, making it a must-have on your home PC desktop. Go on guys, let me see you mix 'n' match your own music in true DJ style!


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