When Casady & Greene's SoundJam MP arrived on the scene two years ago, it wasn't the only MP3 software for the Mac platform. But it was certainly the most complete. More important, it helped usher in a new era in which MP3 encoding became a powerful feature in the Mac's repertoire.
Digital music still has a bright future on the Mac -- but that future doesn't include SoundJam. Casady & Greene announced this week that it would stop selling the MP3 encoder/player software on June 1. A statement on the company's Web site said the move was made "at the request of the developers."
"The developers own SoundJam, we don't," Casady & Greene spokeswoman Bonnie Mitchell said. "We are publishers, not developers."
Indeed, Casady & Greene never owned SoundJam; it just had the rights to publish the software. SoundJam's principal developers now work for Apple, and many of the application's features appeared in iTunes, Apple's MP3 player and encoding software.
There were hints that Casady & Greene was scaling back its involvement with SoundJam. Several weeks ago, the company removed an OS X-native version of SoundJam from its Web site. At the time, the company said it pulled the version because it was incompatible with the release version of OS X. This week, however, Casady & Greene said that move was also at the request of SoundJam's developers.
When asked if Apple requested that Casady & Greene stop publishing SoundJam, Mitchell declined to comment, referring all questions to Apple.
Apple spokeswoman Alicia Awbrey referred Macworld to Apple's official statement about SoundJam: "After purchasing SoundJam MP last fall, Apple created iTunes to bring even more Mac users into the digital musical revolution. . . . As of June 1, 2001, Apple will discontinue distribution of SoundJam to focus its resources on iTunes."
iTunes sports some features that SoundJam does not, most notably integration with Apple's Disc Burner utility. This lets users create CDs on supported CD-RW burners directly from within iTunes.
But iTunes is also missing some features near and dear to the hearts of SoundJam aficionados. You can't use third-party skins with the Apple software. iTunes doesn't have a stream broadcaster, so you can't broadcast audio files over the Internet. While it supports CD writing on more than two dozen third-party CD-RW drives, some extensions installed by iTunes may keep third-party CD-burning applications from working like they're supposed to. And while iTunes features a window with patterns that swirl to the rhythm of a song, the application lacks the additional visual plug-ins that SoundJam supported. SoundJam also had a built-in equalizer; iTunes does not.
Awbrey declined to comment on whether future versions of iTunes might incorporate some of these missing features.
So where does the demise of SoundJam leave Mac music lovers? Besides iTunes 1.1, there are other alternatives. Audion 2 from Panic is a $20 full-featured MP3 player and encoder that provides options iTunes doesn't, such as an equalizer, multiple playlist windows, and MP3 waveform editing. Both MusicMatch's free Jukebox and $20 Jukebox Plus allow you to encode and play MP3s, burn to CDs with Toast, and use an equalizer. The Plus version includes additional options such as faster encoding and burning. Proteron offers N2MP3 Professional, a $60 flexible encoder-only program. Through the end of this month, SoundJam owners can switch to N2MP3 Pro for $35.
And of course, you still have the rest of May to pick up SoundJam. Casady & Greene says it will continue to provide tech support to SoundJam MP users.