Technics entered the “high-resolution music download” business today. Like their competitor Onyko, they launched “Technics Tracks” in Germany and the United Kingdom. The site is powered by 7digital, the same digital music aggregator that is behind Onkyo’s onkyomusic.com and claims to have “a catalogue of the worlds leading record companies, currently includes over hundreds of thousands of 24-bit/44.1kHz up to 192kHz hi-res tracks (available in FLAC) and millions of 16-bit/44.1kHz CD quality files. The rapidly growing catalogue ensures the service offers users a best in class experience.”
They describe themselves this way:
“Technics Tracks is a music download service specializing in high quality lossless audio. We provide a wide selection of tracks in FLAC format from 16bit 44khz (CD quality) up to 24 bit 192khz. The catalogue is constantly growing. We will keep you in touch with exciting additions to the catalogue via our newsletter.”
Should we get excited about yet another site offering the same catalog of major label transfers (currently around 5000-7000) of older standard definition albums in big bit buckets? No, this is more of the same jump on the bandwagon strategy that other high-resolution, digital music download sites have adopted. I doubt that there is really enough demand to sustain all of these players. HighResAudio in Germany and Qobuz in France can’t be too excited about the dilution factor that another vendor will bring to their market.
The site seems well designed and is quite stark in comparison to most of the other sites. I like that you can filter the “Hi-Res” content from the rest of the standard resolution stuff. But what does it mean when you have Led Zeppelin’s “Physical Graffiti” available with a bright yellow “HI-RES” virtual sticker pasted on the upper left hand corner and right next to it the same album without the sticker. The price for the “Hi-Res” version is £21.49 (today worth $33.37 U.S. Dollars) and the price for the “standard definition” version is £18.99 ($29.48 U.S.). The high-resolution version (called “deluxe”) is encoded in FLAC at 96 kHz/24-bits and the “premium” version is $44.1 kHz/16-bits.
There is no information provided as to the provenance of the tracks. If I’m going to pay over $33 for another digital copy of Led Zeppelin’s classic album, I would like to know more than just the year of the release and that it comes from Atlantic Records.
The people behind the Technics site (possibly 7digital) have also decided to be somewhat loose with what is and what isn’t a high-resolution audio release. They have the new Bob Dylan record in both “premium” and “deluxe” versions. The only “res” difference between the two versions is the additional 8-bits used in the high-resolution or deluxe version…and the price is three pounds more. The sample rate for both versions is 44.1 kHz. Ouch. Nothing high-resolution here. Remember 24-bits makes a difference during the recording of the project but the improved dynamic range doesn’t usually survive the mastering process…we get files and recordings with much less than 16-bits….forget about 24-bits.
“Shadows in the Night”, Bob Dylan’s new record would have been the perfect record to do in real HD-Audio. I simply cannot understand why they choose to limit the sampling rate to 44.1. According to the bobdylan.com site, the record was produced like I record my own projects. Bob commented, “We knew these songs extremely well. It was all done live. Maybe one or two takes. No overdubbing. No vocal booths. No headphones. No separate tracking, and, for the most part, mixed as it was recorded.” I’d love to check out the sound on this album…if they didn’t compress the hell out it during the mastering process, it might sound really great. The track I heard on Vimeo sounded pretty good…but they used a lot of artificial reverb.
iTrax.com is still the only site on the web where every track is a real HD-Audio recording. No upconversions, no transfers from standard resolution analog masters…just original recordings done at 96 kHz/24-bits or better. The catalog is very limited but the fidelity of the recordings is not.