Liquid Audio -- CD-quality audio player/server geared for online music publishing

Liquid Audio -- CD-quality audio player/server geared for online music publishing

June 25, 2002

The Liquid Music System is advertised as being the first Internet client/server system designed solely for CD-quality audio and marketed to online music publishers. The audio system is built around three components -- Liquid Music Player (for playing files), Liquifier Pro (for mastering and encoding), and Liquid Music Server (for serving). Because the Liquid Music Server and the Liquid Music encoding system are not currently available for download, we can not provide an extensive review of the system at this time. The following is a summary of the Liquid Music System.

Liquid Music Server is obviously geared toward online commerce -- audio files from a Liquid Music Server can either be sampled in short clips of streaming audio by the Liquid Audio Music Player or purchased and downloaded as local files for further listening. The idea is to write the purchased files to a CD-recordable disc and play them on any CD player. Purchase of the files by customers requires integration with an online commerce server such as Microsoft Merchant Server or CyberCash.

Liquid Music Server incorporates Dolby Digital technology to provide the CD-quality audio. In addition, other information like lyrics and album-cover information can be sent along with the audio and displayed by the Liquid Music Player. This information is stored in a SQL file and transferred via either an ODBC connection in the Windows NT version or a direct mSQL, MySQL or Oracle connection in the UNIX version. Liquid information can also be distributed on a network, as the SQL database can be located on the Liquid Music Server server or on a separate server.

Data is protected by a number of advanced copy-protection features like digital watermarking to ensure that downloaded audio content is managed only by the proper parties and not pirated across the Internet. In addition, Liquid audio files are encrypted to further protect from piracy. Finally, copyright information for the files is incorporated within the downloaded files as well as on the server itself.

Like other streaming-audio systems, the Music Server selects streaming transmissions rates based on the server connection quality and the overall performance on the Internet at that specific time. Overall, the Liquid Music System looks to be an ambitious (albeit expensive) attempt to bring CD-quality audio to the Internet, but unfortunately, without a version of the server available for downloading, you'll have to take Liquid Audio's word for it.

Pros: 7 Designed solely for CD-quality audio, 7 Integration with online commerce tools, 7 Integration with SQL databases for database support

Cons: 7 No downloadable evaluation of the server available, 7 Niche product that is marketed as a specialized music-publishing solution rather than a general audio solution

New in v4.0: Stream an entire playlist of songs (or even an entire album), firewall/proxy support, customizable faceplate, bug fixes and numerous minor feature enhancements; Release Notes
Upgrade Meter: 4

New in v5.0: Plays most popular digital music formats (including Liquid Tracks and MP3); new security features; HTTP streaming; offers a track organization feature; simplifies the process of "burning" CDs; enables the album cover, credits, liner notes, and lyrics for each track to be stored; contains a plug-in for RealPlayer G2; supports CD-R and CD-RW drives from Philips, Hewlett-Packard, Yamaha, Plextor, and Creative Labs; Release Notes
Upgrade Meter: 4

New in v6.0: Multiple audio formats allow music to be encoded in Liquid Audio, MP3, WAV, and Windows Media formats; supports AAC, AC3, ATRAC3, WMA, and MP3 codecs; Manages multiple audio activities from a single player, enabling users to stream, download, rip, and play back music as well as burn audio CDs; language support for Japanese, English, French, Italian, German, and Spanish; can download and resume multiple tracks while listening to already downloaded music; auto updates available on the Liquid Audio Web site; FastTrack Security enables users to access copyright-protected audio without having to create new pin codes or credit card numbers; Release Notes
Upgrade Meter: 5

Version Summarized: 4.0
Date of Summary: 1/21/00
Last Updated: 7/24/01

Operating Systems / Latest Versions:

Server: Windows NT: Intel - v3.0. Unix: Sun Solaris and SGI IRIX - v3.0

Player: Windows 95/98/NT - v4.0 (Build 43). Macintosh - v3.0