This is the 'best discovery of the year'. Well, I know, it's been only a month and half into 2006 - big deal. But seriously, I think this is the best kept secret on the Internet. Allofmp3 is a music download service - duh, another one? But this one is different. Very different.
The main differences are:
- The price : I pay in average about $.10~$.15 per song (192k)
- The Quality : You can download 128k, 192k, or CD quality for almost any song
- Availability : You can find almost anything here - They have all the Led Zeppelin's albums!
- No DRM : No copy protection means you can copy and play this anywhere
They charge you based on the size of the song, so a longer, higher quality will cost more. But even for higher quality songs, it is much cheaper (about 85% cheaper) than iTunes. Typically a whole album will cost you something like $1.20~$2, depending on the length of the album. How can they do this? An obvious question, but I soon realized that this is hosted by a Russian company. I did a little bit of research and found that they have the online distribution rights in Russia. So it seems like it is legal.
In fact, I probably wouldn't have used this service unless I heard them through TWIT (This Week in Tech) podcast. Leo, the host, said that he use Allofmp3 for all his music downloads and that was good enough for me (talk about reputation!). But still, when I was making the first payment, I wasn't feeling comfortable enough to give them my credit card number. They obviously know about this problem because they support various forms of payment, among which is the anonymous payment service called 'XROST'. XROST takes paypal and generates a pair of codes that you give to Allofmp3. They even give you a 10% bonus each time you charge your account!
The download process can be a little tedious if you use their web service. After you buy music, a list of download 'links' will be produced (and will be sent via email as well) and you need to download them within certain period of time (I don't remember how long that is). However, if you are using their windows application, it's as simple as using iTunes. The user interface is not as fancy as iTunes, but it does it's job very well. You can browse, search, preview (full length but mono quality), bookmark and purchase through this application. The only thing I miss is the 'social' features of iTunes. Therefore, I would usually use iTunes or goto Pandora or Webjay to discover new music and come back to Allofmp3 to buy the music.
Too good to be true?
When buying music, cost is a big factor for many people (including myself), but I could have lived with iTunes only if it had Led Zeppelin. Here you can pretty much find any pop, rock, jazz, classical and even Russian music! Also, not many people know this (surprisingly!), but iTunes files are 128k low quality files. Here you have a choice of 128k, 192k and CD quality. I always use 192k, because I think it is a good compromise between quality and storage (and cost). Being able to copy it and play on any device (due to the lack of copy protection) is a big plus as well.
This has been a great product for me personally, because it brought me back to the music scene. For the past couple of weeks, I've been downloading dozens of albums that I loved when I was growing up. - That's another change. At iTunes I usually bought 'songs', but here I buy 'albums'. That's how music should be consumed, IMHO.