Is Universal Music Group using audible watermarks on digital files?

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Edgard Varese, Nov 19, 2013.

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  1. onionmaster

    onionmaster Tropical new waver from the future

    I've noticed this on stuff bought from iTunes, which is the main reason I almost never buy downloads anymore.
     
  2. Platterpus

    Platterpus Forum Resident

    Location:
    MPLS
    Glad I never got into downloads or streaming. I buy CDs new and used as well as old vinyl (pre 1990), none of the current reissue stuff is of interest to me. 80s vinyl reissues is as far forward as I go.

    If what's been said in this thread is true, I would feel like crap had I bought into this technology.
     
    Robert C and Gumboo like this.
  3. Robert C

    Robert C Sound Archivist

    Location:
    London, UK
    Incredible. I wonder if universal is still engaging in this practice?
     
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  4. pbuzby

    pbuzby Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chicago, IL, US
    I listened to some Bill Evans material from Verve on Spotify the other day and it may have been watermarked, but it was still convenient to have and good enough for the car. However, I'm not getting rid of my CDs or LPs (except maybe for some titles I don't care that much about).
     
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  5. Ignatius

    Ignatius Forum Resident

    David Geffen's yacht in Tahiti is named the I'll Probably Buy This Title Again, docked right next to Just Pay Separate Processing.
     
  6. reb

    reb Long Live Rock

    Location:
    Long Island
    What aspect of the watermarking is audible upon playback .?
     
  7. pbuzby

    pbuzby Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chicago, IL, US
    Listen to the Three Doors Down intro in the post linked in the OP. I didn't notice the difference over my computer speakers but it is there on headphones. On the watermarked version the sustained guitar notes break up like they are playing underwater.
     
    reb likes this.
  8. Godbluffer

    Godbluffer Forum Resident

    I'm in the process of compiling playlists of affected titles on Tidal and on Spotify based on my favorite classical recordings. I can already give away that the Tidal playlist will be *considerably* longer, and it contains many famous recordings.
     
  9. Godbluffer

    Godbluffer Forum Resident

    Well, the end score difference between my two playlists says it all:

    Spotify: 6 items (for each item a non-watermarked alternative exists on Spotify, except for Kleiber's Beethoven Symphony No. 7)
    Tidal: a whopping 44 watermarked items that range from annoying-sounding to downright horrendous (all titles have been double-checked with Spotify, so if that same title doesn't show up on my Spotify list, you can be sure it sounds fine there)

    I listed just one track per album, but when one track is affected, the rest of the album is, too (meaning the 9-CD set of Sir Charles Mackerras' legendary Janacek opera recordings is all screwed up on Tidal, for example).

    Here are the lists, for your (dis-)pleasure :p:

    https://open.spotify.com/user/11512739/playlist/2cz12j4NItW48FfqvJ1q6P
    tidal.com/playlist/49695b7e-6dbb-41a9-9722-0d28ce1b75e2

    The good news is that I noticed that a handful of items that I recall with certainty were watermarked before on Tidal have now been corrected, so there seems to be some progress, but I'm afraid I'm going to cancel my Tidal subscription in spite of that minor positive. It just isn't worth the extra dough!
     
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  10. PanaPlasma

    PanaPlasma Forum Resident

    Location:
    Belgium, Europe
    Yes, they recently did a professional test at Wisseloord Studios (a popular high end mastering facility in Netherlands, with some of the best engineers)

    Link: Universal Watermark affects sound
     
    c-eling and shaboo like this.
  11. PanaPlasma

    PanaPlasma Forum Resident

    Location:
    Belgium, Europe
    It seems now that Qobuz is completely ignored by Universal, not only because of the watermark ...

    But because they were testing if the provided files from them were real hi-res or fake upscales!

    While other hi-res sellers sold various albums at 192kHz-24bit (which were actually upscaled 96kHz-24bit), qobuz refused to do this.

    They didn't get the Beatles backcatalogue like other streaming services! But they didn't get any of the recently released albums in hi-res from e.g. Queen etc.
     
    shaboo likes this.
  12. Ambassador

    Ambassador Forum Resident

    Location:
    Ontario, Canada
    I have noticed what sounds like the "watermark effect" in newest Rush Power Windows 24/48 digital files (original post).
     
    JediJoker likes this.
  13. I guess the intention is that Universal will be able to identify their music and then go after file sharers whose IP addresses they have obtained. Still, Universal should make it clear to purchasers that the music is watermarked and the presence of the watermark may affect sound quality.

    If the sound quality has been compromised in any way, I am going to ask HDTracks for refunds.
     
  14. soka

    soka Forum Resident

    Location:
    Denmark
    But how do you test for watermarks?


    If any free detecting software exists, I'd gladly check all my downloads and post the findings, so others could be warned or get refunds.
     
  15. pbuzby

    pbuzby Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chicago, IL, US
    Offhand I guess you would need to compare the HDTracks version with another from CD source like the author of the article linked in the OP did.
     
  16. soka

    soka Forum Resident

    Location:
    Denmark
    Buy twice? Well I'm not going down that road for sure.;)
     
  17. brimuchmuze

    brimuchmuze Forum Resident

    Has anyone proved that any download sold by hdtracks, qobuz, etc has been watermarked?
     
    BGLeduc likes this.
  18. Steve Martin

    Steve Martin Wild & Crazy Guy

    Location:
    Plano, TX
    I'm not getting it either. So, UMG has the copyright on some song, that song is being shared on some illegal file sharing site, what does it matter if it has a watermark or not. It isn't like no one can recognize what song it is.

    Of course the file sharing sites will now specialize in unwatermarked recordings sourced from CD's etc. before the watermarking started and since the online digital stores probably won't disclose what is and isn't watermarked, the file sharing sites will become the best source of non-watermarked material. Is that what they want?
     
  19. brimuchmuze

    brimuchmuze Forum Resident

    I recently purchased a 96/24 download of Keith Jarrett's Sleeper from Ponomusic. This is on the ECM label, and ECM is distributed by Universal.

    I also have the CD, so I thought I would see I could find some objective evidence of watermarking.

    Here's what I did:

    - Convert the 96/24 download to 44.1/16 using foobar
    - Imported the downscaled download and the cd rip of the same track into Audacity
    - Since the tracks had slightly different starting points, manually aligned the two tracks
    - Inverted one of the tracks
    - Mixed and Rendered the two tracks

    Attached is the spectrum analysis for the results. It is not as well defined as the example at http://www.mattmontag.com/images/watermarked_full.png , but that may be because of the down-conversion and manual alignment.

    [​IMG]

    So what do you think? Watermark?

    Looks very suspicious to me.
     
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  20. brimuchmuze

    brimuchmuze Forum Resident

    This is a more more detailed image. I normalized the file and zoomed in. The .04 second blocks can clearly be seen.

    [​IMG]
     
    JediJoker, Vorlon, Dino and 1 other person like this.
  21. Steve Martin

    Steve Martin Wild & Crazy Guy

    Location:
    Plano, TX
    Just makes you want to give up on listening to music altogether. Of course we've all given in to watching TV shows with network logos covering part of the picture, maybe they just need to change the watermark to a little voice whispering "this song owned by UMG" over and over again, the audio equivalent.
     
  22. BlueTrane

    BlueTrane Forum Resident

     
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  23. agentalbert

    agentalbert Forum Resident

    Location:
    San Antonio, TX
    This is really insidious, if true. I'm curious why it hasn't been noticed on any of the Rush titles prior to "Power Windows" or if it wasn't used on all of them. I haven't noticed it specifically, but this is the type of thing that once you hear it, it is impossible to unhear. And now I'll be listening specifically for it.
     
    Ambassador likes this.
  24. Ambassador

    Ambassador Forum Resident

    Location:
    Ontario, Canada
    Listen in parts with not a lot going on, like the drum solos/intros/fills.
     
  25. Ambassador

    Ambassador Forum Resident

    Location:
    Ontario, Canada
    This has nothing to do with IP addresses as that would require a custom watermark generated with every file purchase (and that would be a job for the distributors and an extra expense for them to boot).
     
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