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AJJ's picture
Last seen: 1 year 3 months ago
Joined: Feb 3 2012 - 12:14am
Corrupted at the Source--Audible Watermarking

Is anyone aware that Universal Music Group, whose labels include Decca, Deutsche Grammophon and many others, is digitally watermarking their audio files in a way that produces very audible distortion of music?  It adds a warbling or fluttering quality, most noticeable on sustained tones, and especially on piano music. It apparently is also being used on lossless tracks which are being sold as perfect copies of CDs. For the technical details see Matt Montag's blog here:

What do we do about this? Complaining to UMG isn't likely to help; their contempt for their customers is obvious.

absolutepitch's picture
Last seen: 2 weeks 6 hours ago
Joined: Jul 9 2006 - 8:58pm
watermark NO


Thanks for bringing this to my (our?) attention. I have not downloaded much, but if I am to do more in the future, especially in lossless formats, I expect it to be truly lossless from the original recording. If the watermark is added it is no longer the same as the original, and in my opinion, dishonest at best.

What one could do is to feedback directly to the artists on their websites, telling them something to the effect: "I was about to buy your CD, but with UMG's watermark added to your recording, it is destroying your performance with the audible watermarking. I will not support UMG in this fashion. Are you aware they are doing this to your music?"

deckeda's picture
Last seen: 9 months 3 weeks ago
Joined: Feb 1 2006 - 7:41pm
not on the CD

... but on the download.

Regardless, this is a slippery slope if lossless downloads ever replace CDs. Sony's early CD watermarking was quickly found to be audible and (somewhat ironically) out of spec from the Redbook standard, which helps explain why it was squashed.

But watermarking a supposedly lossless flac is Several Layers of Wrong. I really didn't know watermarking existed for that.

If they're using eFolio for this, the process "adds an inaudible frequency" to the audio:

Q: How does eFolio watermark an audio file?

A: EFolio watermarks the Audio file by actually embedding the information on the audio as an inaudible frequency. One of the advantages to this method is the Audio track can be convert to analog and still retain the watermark.

But as stated below that, the file won't pass QC for production because adding anytihng to the file makes the checksum fail (of course.)



This crap strikes me as being related to other dumbing-down of downloads that has sometime happened, i.e. dynamically compressed hires downloads.


Labels like UMG must paint with very broad brushes:


1) There's a CD production chain

2) Maybe an LP production chain

3) The "digital distribution" production chain --- which lumps everything from hires 24/96 and 16/44 FLACs together with the MP3 with the Spotify files with what FM radio gets.

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