Audio heaven

Audiogalaxy brings MP3s to Mac By MATT GALLOWAY


Rating: NNNNN


it’s one of the baffling inconsis- tencies of technology that while much of the music you hear these days is made and edited on Mac computers, downloading that music from the Net onto a Mac is almost impossible. In the year or so since the plug was pulled on Napster, several file-sharing sites have popped up, allowing music fans to swap songs and entire albums between hard drives. Sites like Morpheus (www.musiccity.com) and KaZaA (www.kazaa.com) admirably stepped in to fill the breach, much to the horror of the music industry.

The problem, if you happened to do your work on a Mac rather than a PC, was that none of these were for you. Morpheus was long-rumoured to be developing a Mac-friendly version, but that never came to fruition.

Long-time Napster alternatives MacTella (www.gnutelliums.com) and Limewire (www.limewire.com) were available but were also painfully slow, with none of the simplicity and efficiency of their PC counterparts. The result, for a long time, was that while your PC-using pals built up massive libraries of downloaded songs, your fancy iPod remained empty.

The only real Mac-friendly window into downloading music is Audiogalaxy (www.audiogalaxy.com), and while it isn’t as fast as Napster, it’s almost as deep. Audiogalaxy is actually two applications working at the same time. Users search for music through the Audiogalaxy site and then download their music via a stand-alone program called a Satellite.

Like Morpheus and KaZaA, the Satellite is officially only available for PCs, but recently, someone — probably a frustrated Mac user — developed a bootleg Mac version of the Satellite, available through www.version-tracker.com.

The Mac version of Audiogalaxy only downloads one song at a time, and at quick but often wildly varying speeds. The real bonus, though, is the amount and variety of music available.

Because the file-sharing programs are, in essence, just links between thousands of users’ hard drives, the program is only as good as the number of people on it and the depth of their record collections. While you could find almost anything on the classic version of Napster, Limewire was thin.

To test the depth of my newly installed Mac version of Audiogalaxy, I plugged in searches for the popular and the obscure. It was no surprise that songs by singers like Tom Waits and Ja Rule were readily available. More impressive was the stash of obscure tunes.

A search for Cuban singer Beny MorĂ© turned up more than 200 songs. DJ Shadow’s The Private Press album, not scheduled to drop until May, was there, as were out-of-print albums like Neil Young’s American Stars & Bars.

It’s the music industry’s worst nightmare, but a music junkie’s wet dream.mattg@nowtoronto.com

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