When you visit a digital music retailer (DMR), you always have the ability to audition a short sample of the music. The reason is simple. The provider of the content wants you to be able to hear the tunes to make sure that you like the tracks. That’s certainly true for albums, arrangements or artists that you don’t know, but do you really need to audition “Layla” or Honky Tonk Women” again? Probably not. If you’re considering a high-resolution download of a classic album, what you’re really interested in is the sound quality, right?
The samples on iTunes and most other DMR sites are streamed in MP3 or org vorbis at a relatively low bitrate. As I mentioned above, they are not meant to be high fidelity.
But if your primary concern is whether the purchase under consideration is up to snuff sonically, you might prefer to get a small taste of the real deal. Imagine going to a culinary extravaganza or wine tasting event and being offered food and wine that isn’t the same quality as the item following your purchase. It’s kinda hard to detect the subtle tastes and aromas in the food or wine without getting the real thing. I’m not an expert on wine but I’ve been part of a wine tasting trip and they always give you a small taste of the actual type and vintage that they want you to purchase.
Why not do the same things with high-resolution audio? This is just one of the innovations that iTrax.com will be introducing in the coming year. Visitors to the site will be able to quickly audition tracks in the MP3 or Org Vorbis formats to get familiar with the tracks. But they will also be able to download short samples in real high-resolution. You can listen to those 96 kHz/24-bit files (that standard should be enough to hear the real sonics of the tracks) through your best DAC or music server. You might also be interested in doing a little analysis (perhaps a spectral analysis…although the new site will have that already done) on the files.
I want you to know everything that I know about the files that you will be purchasing. The goal is to have 100% satisfied customers. I get way to many emails and phone calls from customers of other high-resolution digital music sites lamenting the quality of the music they’ve purchased. Sometimes it’s because the sources were bad or wrong but sometimes it’s just a case of buyer beware. I’m thinking that if you get all of the information that you want including: which master source was transferred to digital, how and with what equipment the transfer was done, what the spectra looks like, the dynamic range of the tracks, any processing that was applied along the way and a chance to pre-taste the high-resolution before purchasing.
If someone then spends their money, gets the tunes on their system and then wants to complain about the product, I’m thinking they don’t have much of a case (unless there’s a technical problem).
I’m still working on the interface for the new iTrax.com. I’ll share it soon…