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Murfie – the lossless download store you’ve probably never heard of

  • Downsize and digitise – that’s the exhortation from Murfie. You ship your CDs (free of charge within the US!) to their Madison, Wisconsin facility where each disc is ripped to FLAC, added to the cloud and then stored. Murfie apparently recover shipping costs by recycling the plastic jewel cases.

    Storage is free for the first year after which it reverts to an annual fee of US$12 for up to 1000 discs, US$24 for 2000 discs, US$36 for ~3000 discs etc. You get the idea. Pony up US$25/year for a Murfie Gold subscription and storage fees are waived.

    The same applies to Murfie Hifi (US$99/year), a service that allows users stream their rips losslessly on Sonos and VOCO devices. This annual fee will seem a little strong to all but those with the largest libraries, especially when when you consider Tidal Hifi now lets you stream losslessly from their cloud library of 25 million tunes for US$240/year.

    Another way to circumvent storage charges is to buy and sell CDs from within the Murfie online store – a marketplace for new and used CDs. With your shiny silver discs tucked away in Murfie’s storage repository, users can buy and sell CDs from within the Murfie store without the need to have any physical media shipped to their home address. Ownership is simply re-assigned within Murfie’s database. Simple.

    murfie_orbital

    The real beauty of the Murfie service is cloud storage. Each CD added to your account – whether mailed in or purchased – can be streamed as 320kbps MP3 or downloaded in a choice of MP3, AAC, FLAC or ALAC. To keep things tidy with the RIAA, rips downloaded by their owner are forever precluded from being sold.

    And this is where things gets really interesting. You don’t need to send in a box of CDs to get a Murfie account. Anyone can sign up and buy CDs. I spent an hour or so mooching about their online store for reasons that will soon become apparent.

    Browsing Murfie’s 160,000-ish new and used CDs is a little like visiting your favourite CD store of yesteryear; there’s a real hodge-podge of titles, several I’d not seen for a good number of years and a few for good reason: Sash’s It’s My Life, anyone? Nope, thought not. However, there are some real gems to be had. The US version of Orbital’s self-titled debut album features a radically different tracklist to its UK version. On Murfie it’s US$3. Yes please.

    Murfie is also a great place to find hard to find CD singles and out of print titles. Case in point: David Bowie’s Fame & Fashion was a mid-80s career retrospective that RCA were forced to pull from shelves six months after issue. At the end of the decade Bowie struck a new licensing deal with EMI that would result in the (inferior sounding) 1990 Ryko re-issue campaign. Fame & Fashion never featured. At time of writing, this now hard-to-find CD is available from an Amazon.com reseller for US$45. On Murfie it’s US$6. I also picked up David Holmes Let’s Get Killed for US$4. On Amazon it’s US$13.

    murfie_bowie

    Why would anyone buy CDs in an age where you can’t even give them away?

    At checkout you decide whether you want Murfie to store your newly-bought disc or mail it out to you (US$3 for mainland US addresses, more for overseas). I chose to keep my purchases stored in Wisconsin because within an hour of making payment a FLAC copy of each CD was dropped into the downloads area of my account. US$4 and US$6 for lossless rips of discs I’ll never see – marvellous. (Remember: Amazon’s auto-rip only supplies lossy-encoded files).

    Downloading from the Murfie website isn’t the zippiest experience around, at least not to Australia. That David Holmes album, a 350Mb zip file, took almost an hour to come down the pipe. Ditto Orbital at 474Mb. Whilst waiting for downloads you can always (lossy) stream your purchases via Murfie’s iOS or Android smartphone app.

    In paying for your purchases you give Murfie ongoing access to your PayPal account or credit card. Subsequent purchases are automatically charged to my PayPal account without the usual payment confirmation process. That’s either risky or ultra-convenient, depending on your point of view. You’ll need to make good on 12 ‘transactions’ per year to keep your CDs’ storage free from the annual charge. More info is available on the Murfie FAQ page.

    These are minor niggles in the context of the bigger picture. Murfie aren’t new kids on the block – they’ve been around since 2011 – but their CD marketplace might be the greatest lossless download music store you’ve never heard of. Until now.

    Further information: Murfie

    Written by John Darko

    John currently lives in Berlin where he creates videos and podcasts and pens written pieces for Darko.Audio. He has previously contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

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