Sony Finally (Really) Dumps Proprietary ATRAC Format No One Wanted For Its Walkmen

from the what,-not-enough-rootkits? dept

It’s been almost 3 years since Ken Kutaragi, then President of Sony Computer Entertainment, admitted that the company had made a huge strategic error in launching its digital music players and download store (Sony Connect) with its own proprietary ATRAC music format and DRM. Of course, admitting a mistake and actually doing something about it are two different things. A few different readers alerted us today that Sony is finally shutting down Sony Connect and ditching support for ATRAC in its new Walkmen, though they buried the details of it in paragraph 17 of a press release about the new music players. For those who had bought from Sony Connect and are now left with an unsupported DRM that won’t be playable on any new music player… well…. you now have another reminder of why buying into DRM’d music is a huge risk. Sony is at least kind enough to explain to people how to get around the DRM using the standard cumbersome “burn to CD, rip anew” method, but that’s definitely a pretty big pain for anyone who’s purchased a sizable collection. Of course, that assumes that there was anyone out there who actually bought a sizable collection of music from Sony Connect and somehow that seems unlikely.

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Companies: sony

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Comments on “Sony Finally (Really) Dumps Proprietary ATRAC Format No One Wanted For Its Walkmen”

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Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) says:


I got two free songs from Sony Connect a few years ago through a McDonald’s promotion. I picked a couple songs listened to them once then never bothered to use the service again. DRM laden, and who can trust Sony? Of course, they are suggesting that you circumvent their DRM which shows they are lax on their anti-circumvention policy. Burn to a RW disc then use it over and over if you have a whole library. A pain, yes…but less of a pain in your wallet.

Chris says:

ATRAC and the minidisk format (both Sony proprietary) that it was predominant on was actually very popular in Japan, nearly as much or more so than the CD. This is one of the reasons why ATRAC was not only viable as a codec but widely used, albeit among a very select group of the general consumer populace (one country). I’m sure this is one of the main reasons why Sony thought (mistakenly) that the codec was viable on a global level and pushed it in their online store. ATRAC’s main problem was vendor lock-in which has brought consumers who purchased tracks encoded with it to this current state. If Apple disappeared tomorrow, the M4A format that it uses (just AAC) would be useable many years from now. It’s still DRM secured material, but that license won’t expire and other players are very likely to support AAC for some time to come. I do have to wonder why they chose, after all this time, to discontinue support for ATRAC? I can’t imagine it adds much cost to their new units.

D says:

Sony's Problem

Sony’s problem is they think it’s to their benefit to restrict the music you can play on their players. I’d be willing to bet the increased revenue from:

A)Selling DRM free music to everyone
B)Letting people put all types of music on Sony players (if you thought the Sony was the better player but you couldn’t put the music you wanted on it, would you buy it anyway?)

would vastly outstrip whatever additional revenue Sony gets from “locking in” consumers.

These companies are so behind on what really happens it’s comical. This generation that has grown up with the internet and video games does not like to be forced or locked in to anything.

Jenna says:

Even for free, it wasn't worth it

I won a Sony music player in a contest about 3 years ago. After a week of hassling with their proprietary audio cassette format, I gave up and sold it on Ebay. To me, the ATRAC format sounded lousy compared to MP3, and the format was just antiquated. If I wanted to hassle with a cassette, I would have just kept my Sony Walkman.

ConceptJunkie (profile) says:

So how many decades will it take?

How many decades will it takes for Sony to figure out that no one wants their stupid proprietary formats, and they are always doomed to fail? The last Sony format that actually had a reason to succeed was Betamax, and yet every couple years they foist another stupid product that eats up shelf space for two years and disappears into oblivion. Good thing they have the Playstation.

Pete (profile) says:

Must not have encoded it properly.

Sounds great to me. I personally own a sony minidisc player, which to my ears, sounds much better than mp3. I hava always maintained that the audio quality is higher than mp3 at a lower bitrate. But I also have sensitive ears. Mp3 compression causes digital artifacts that are audible as very high frequency harmonics. There is a reason profresional portable recording decks use high density minidiscs (and thus the ATRAC format)and not mp3 compression.

But I am not suprised that they are dumping the format. It is yet another example of a proprietary format (better it may be. remember betamax?) that sony tried to lock people into. Licence the technology and make it available, maybe people would actually use it. BlurRay is doomed to failure for that very reason.

Gunnar says:

Re: Must not have encoded it properly.

Maybe 5 years ago when everything was 128 cbr. Today the LAME .mp3 encoder encoding at a variable bit rate has a great size to quality ratio.

As for professional recording decks… they use compression of any kind?

On an unrelated note. My dad had a sony cd burner a few years ago. I put nero on the computer because I didn’t want to bother with the bundled software and was overjoyed to find that the burner would only work with the bundled, and essentially useless, software.

TIN EAR says:

Re: Must not have encoded it properly.

There’s a reason they call mp3, wma, atrac etc perceptual encoding. No matter how many tests and opinions are presented, it doesn’t matter . Each person’s perception of sound is sufficiently distinct that any codec could be held up as the best for that person. Though I have no doubt your opinion is entirely honest, it is entirely personal as well. Me? I like wma at lower br and think that mp3 > 192 br surpasses it. Atrac doesn’t even enter the discussion–I find it muffled.

Игарь says:

Нечего подобного господа ) конечно в магазин я неполезу Россия всетаки но, формат отличный в 1гб плеер можно запхнуть 36ч книг при этом плеер проиграет с одной зарядки все эти 36 часов шутки шутками но я другого такого плеера не знаю….

george rusell says:


Sony’s problem has for years been…great scientists, dumb managers! There is nothing inherently wrong with the ATRAC codec, especially at the 292 bitrate of standard Minidisc. I own several professional Minidisc units (broadcast), and have never heard any obvious artifacts, muffling, or any other problem.
I have forced highly processed audio, with very compressed peak/average ratios
onto a Minidisc, and only then, IF you know what to listen for, are any artifacts obvious.
IF Sony had had the wisdom to make ATRAC open source like MP3, it may well have become the defacto standard.
As for Beta, it only failed as a CONSUMER format, it’s advanced cousin, BetaCam, was for a long time THE videotape format for TV broadcasting.
Poor Sony…the R&D guys have come up with some really great innovations over the years, but only to have the marketing idiots derail them.
If MiniDisc had been promoted for what it CAN do that an iPod CAN’T, like in-situ editing, live recording, and with HiMD, a choice of NO-compression LPCM recording, the format would have probably taken off much better.
Also, I would rather have a cheap $1 disc fail or be lost, than the 20 gig HD that is non-removable from the iPod! Guess each has their good points and bad, it depends on what you want. For my money (and ears!), I am going to miss ATRAC (and MD) very much!

David Polley says:

I'm going to buy me a NW-A3000 again.

I have missed ATRAC so much. I could happily listen to 64kbps tracks, they pretty much sounded like 128kbps mp3’s….. and the files would be around 1mb-2mb. Now I am stuck with using WMP and hate it… Loved the Sony software so much…

Will look into getting a NW-A3000 from amazon.

Silly Sony. What a mess.

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