Taking it to another level

Can the newly developed digital music format Music 2.0 (MT9) ever take the place of the much-loved MP3 standard?

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By  Cleona Godinho Published  May 27, 2008

Imagine this: you're listening to your favourite tune by Britney Spears. Okay, bad example! Let's say it's by The Goo Goo Dolls.

You love the lead singer's voice (and who doesn't?) and want to listen to him sing without any instruments, without having to buy the overpriced a cappella single. Impossible, right? Well, not if MT9 becomes the new digital music standard.

So what is MT9 all about? Developed by a group of Korean researchers, the new format - which is also referred to as Music 2.0 - is designed to filter sounds such as instruments and even voices via a six channel equalizer (which is part of a music player). Each channel is assigned to one of the following: voice, chorus, piano, guitar, bass or drums. Therefore, isolating a voice or drum part will be as easy as sliding a fader up or down in the digital music player.

At present, only a handful of albums have been recorded in the MT9 format, and sourcing one seems to be very difficult (unless you have some key Korean contacts of course). However, Audizen - the firm in charge of taking the format into the commercial space - is currently offering free trials of Music 2.0 on its website. I tried downloading these but I kept on getting a ‘Bad Request (Invalid Hostname)' error. If you want to try your luck, click here. Oh, I forgot to mention - much of the site is in Korean.

The key question however is this: does the format have what it takes to become the next de facto standard in digital music? In terms of benefits to users, I certainly think so. Musicians - such as myself - can easily learn their top tune by highlighting their instrument of choice. Moreover, novice and experienced DJs alike will be able to easily extract slices of songs for various mixes. Also, I have no doubt that Karaoke fans and clubs will embrace this format very quickly.

More importantly, big tech players such as LG and Samsung are reportedly interested in installing their mobile phones with a MT9 player next year. Additionally, in April of this year the Motion Pictures Group (MPG) selected MT9 as the best possible candidate for the next digital music format.

So as you can see, you have musicians, DJs, Karaoke clubs, MPG and possibly two massive and arguably influential tech companies cheering for the standard, however what this fresh format really needs to overtake the MP3 standard is support from the firms who make the music players we use. Firms like Microsoft, Apple, RealNetworks (who make Real Player) and Winamp's developer Nullsoft, which is part of Time Warner. These are just some of the big firms that need to be onboard.

Moreover, to be a real commercial success I reckon the new format needs some kind of DRM (Digital Rights Management) implemented to get the music industry's support. For example, firms such as Sony BMG and Universal; firms that have the power to make or break a music format.

If Audizen have these two key groups on their side, you can be sure that Music 2.0 tunes will filling a portable music player near you very soon...

What are your thoughts on the new MT9 music format? Let me know by e-mailing me on windows@itp.com.

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