Review: Bob Marley's 'Exodus' album – USB memory stick version

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If you’re a keen music fan, you might have picked up on the fact that it’s the 30th anniversary of the release of Bob Marley’s ‘Exodus’ album. There’s TV documentaries celebrating the fact, as well as a glossy re-release of the album itself.

What’s this got to do with Tech Digest? Well, the album is also coming out in a limited-edition USB memory stick version, as we reported last week. Only 4,000 copies are being released, and mine arrived in the post today.

How does it work? Is there any devilish copy protection on it? Why would you want music on a USB stick anyway? Read on for all the answers.

First off, what you get is a 256MB USB stick, with all ten tracks from the original album, plus three videos of live tracks from Marley’s 1977 Rainbow Theatre gig in London, and some wallpaper.

It cost me £19.99 from Amazon, which considering you could find a 256MB USB stick for under four quid online and buy the CD for a tenner, is a bit steep. But then, it’s collectible innit. We music fans throw our price sensitivity out of the window at the thought of making a profit on eBay cherishing limited-edition stuff like this.

P1020630.JPGI was expecting a full-size USB stick, but it’s actually a tiny slip of a thing, more like an elongated mobile SIM card, and half as thick as the USB port it slots into. I’d worry about carrying it around with me, but the size means it fits into a little holder that sits inside a normal-size CD case, so the album can sit on the shelves alongside your other CDs.

After transferring the content onto my Mac, the USB stick goes back in the case, where it’ll probably stay from now on. According to iTunes, the files are standard MP3s encoded at a bitrate of 256kbps. The vast majority of my iTunes library is ripped at 192kbps, and they sound good by comparison. There’s no DRM either, so you can play the files on whatever device you want.

The downside is that you don’t have a CD to play the album at CD-quality on your hi-fi – instead, you’ll have to stream the tracks from your computer, or transfer them to your iPod and plug that in. I don’t mind that, but audiophiles might get a bit stroppy at only having 256kbps versions of the files.

It has to be said, I’d still rather own ‘Exodus’ on CD than on a memory stick, as the price premium isn’t justified by the novelty aspects. That said, the decision not to slap DRM on the digital files is a welcome one, and if this sells out and the price soars, it’ll certainly have its place as a collectible item for the digital age.

What’s that? I haven’t mentioned the music? Well, it’s fab. But then, that’s why ‘Exodus’ is getting a 30th anniversary re-release in the first place, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Stuart Dredge