Universal Music Group, the world's largest music company, has announced that it will begin testing the sale of DRM-free downloads in the States.

It was rumoured earlier this year that the company were considering this path via Apple's iTunes, but they were swift to deny this option.

"The rumor is completely untrue", Peter LoFrumento, senior vice president at Universal Music Group told Pocket-lint at the time, which it possibly was, as they've left iTunes out of the line-up to offer their DRM-free tracks.

Joining EMI, who was the first major record company to offer this kind of download option, Universal will undercut EMI's $1.29 price tag and will be offering their DRM-free tracks at 99 cents.

Universal has said it will make "thousands" of its albums available for download without digital rights management.

The songs will be sold in the MP3 format, but Universal did not revealed whether they would be at the higher quality rate as has been the case with other DRM-free downloads.

Universal, who made headlines earlier this year by refusing to renew its long term contract to offer music through Apple's online music store, will not be offering the DRM-free downloads through iTunes.

Although this could be seen as another snub to Apple there is logic behind the decision - they apparently want to use iTunes as a control group comparison to compare the sales of protected vs. unprotected music.

The stores that will get Universal's freed up music will be Amazon.com, Wal-Mart, Google, Best Buy and Rhapsody.

The test run will begin in August and run through the end of January.