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Good download sources?

Discussion in 'Classical Music' started by Robert Westcott, Mar 1, 2016.

  1. Robert Westcott

    Robert Westcott New Member

    Having ripped all my CDs a couple of years back I now only listen to computer audio, typically through high quality DACs and either headphones or stereo system.

    The problem is, the search for good quality downloads yields little that is helpful. For classical music Presto Classical is good, maybe very good, but they only provide FLAC format which must be converted for us Apple users. I asked them a year ago could they add ALAC and they promised to look into it. The model site is Hyperion; great search, information and download options. But only for the material on their group of labels.

    For popular music it is actually worse. Neither Amazon nor iTunes provide lossless downloads. HDTracks provides good material with a reasonable interface, but I do not always want HD resolution which wont play on my Apple or Sonos devices. HD is great on my full stereo but I am not sure it is much better than Red Book CD quality, which is all I really need.

    Up until now I have resorted to buying the CDs any way and then ripping them. Prehistoric. Time this sort of thing stopped. When is the world going to catch up -- what do other people do?
  2. kirk

    kirk Administrator Staff Member

    If you want lossless, there aren't many choices. As you say, Hyperion shows how it should be done, but in non-classical music, the only site that comes close for lossless music is Qobuz, in France, which probably won't survive very long. (They are currently in receivership.) And I think they only sell FLAC, not ALAC, but it's trivial to convert the files. I don't expect Amazon or Apple to sell lossless music any time soon, because it only interests a niche market. This said, if Apple did make the switch, and most people didn't care, it could still be a marketing tool. So you never know.
  3. Robert Westcott

    Robert Westcott New Member

    The proverbial 'straw' for me happened last week. I discovered DG had remastered Karajan's 1963 Beethoven -- the best of his four versions according to most people and outstanding compared to any other performance as well. It was recorded at a unique moment in time under historical circumstances that will never be the same.
    The remastered version is only available in the UK via "Mastered for iTunes" whatever that really means. A very disappointing decision by DG. Yes, I could buy the box set and rip it, but seems so wasteful when all I want is the digital content. The SACDs are included as the re-master was done at 24/96 so should I step back a decade and buy an SACD player as well?
    Just venting. I posted to see if others were as frustrated as I am. Surely I cannot be alone in wanting at least the lossless version of the material? And surely it is but a tiny incremental cost/complexity for any of the big retailers to provide lossless alongside other versions?
  4. kirk

    kirk Administrator Staff Member

    Well, remember that the standard used to be 128 k MP3s. Apple changed that some years ago - 7 years, it's been - but the real question is whether it's cost-effective to offer a better format. I'm sure that only a small number of people care enough; after all, look at the most popular streaming service, YouTube, many of the songs you hear there are very low bitrate.

    Again, Apple would use this as a marketing tool, but I think most listeners would just shrug. They don't want to pay more for bandwidth when streaming, and they don't want to fill up their iOS devices.

    BTW, it looks like the music you want is available on CD at Amazon UK, together with a Blu-Ray audio disc.
  5. Robert Westcott

    Robert Westcott New Member

    Thanks. Yes, it is available on CD at Amazon, thanks for looking that up. In the meantime I followed up your mention of Qobuz. I thought it was a streaming site and did not realise they also sell music downloads. As luck would have it they do have the Karajan, in ALAC, and at HD resolution.
    So I went ahead and purchased it.

    Shame if Qobuz are in receivership and in danger of not surviving as you say. Their site was pretty good.

    In the meantime I do not have to buy an SACD player after all :D
  6. kirk

    kirk Administrator Staff Member

    Yes, I think the problem with Qobuz is that it's owned by a company who is also a distributor, and there were some cash-flow issues. I subscribed to their service for a few months before I left France; it was okay, but there are a lot of labels they sell that don't stream.

    As for an SACD player, I actually have one, because I have a player that plays pretty much any kind of disc, but they aren't very common any more I think.
  7. Robert Westcott

    Robert Westcott New Member

    The Karajan has now downloaded. 6.7 Gb which is still a large file even in today's world. I really don't think HD is sonically worth it for most material.

    Re the SACD player, I promised my wife going digital would mean less boxes!
  8. kirk

    kirk Administrator Staff Member

    That is quite large. You do know that you can play SACD files - DSDs - on computers, right? There aren't many vendors yet, and the files are huge, and you need a DAC that supports them, but it is possible.
  9. Robert Westcott

    Robert Westcott New Member

    Yes, thanks. I have a DAC which will play hi-res and DSD but not the hardware device to read them on disk.

    Mostly I am happy with CD quality files as long as they are not compressed. On my equipment I can hear the difference between lossless and, say, 256 k MP3. But between lossless 44.1 and 96, for example, I struggle to hear any difference. Last year I bought two Brahms symphonies from Hyperion, one at the higher rate just to try it out. Simply cannot tell which is which (apart from content of course).

    I made an exception and purchased the HD version of the Karajan since it has been re-mastered at the higher rate. It is also a classic I will treasure for many years -- probably to the day when HD files are issued as standard.

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