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12 thoughts on “Are New HD Downloads Really Hi-Res Music?

  • June 15, 2018 at 6:50 pm

    Hi Mark,
    Sad that the whole High Resolution Audio movement became just another con designed mainly to separate the customer from his dollars. The honest products on the market such as yours are so few and far between as to be almost invisible in a forest of misrepresented ripoffs. High End Audio seems hell bent on self destruction at every turn.

  • June 18, 2018 at 8:25 am

    > the abrupt spike at 40 kHz is most likely the bias frequency of an analog tape machine

    Mark, I’m doubtful of this.
    The frequency is too low.
    I suspect some other artifact is responsible for the observed 40kHz noise.

    • June 19, 2018 at 6:59 am

      I’ve seen automation intrusions at about this frequency. What is the lowest bias frequency? I thought some of the machines I grew up with had 50-120 kHz? But you’re the expert.

  • July 12, 2018 at 2:36 pm

    Those spectrum graphs remind me of Pioneer’s “Legato Link Conversion”, which claimed to extend the audio bandwidth of ordinary CDs up to 40 kHz by allowing some aliasing to get through the filter. Then they added “Hi-Bit” which “re-quantized” 16-bit CD audio to 20-bit resolution. I wonder if golden-ears audiophiles would be able to tell the difference between a regular CD doctored-up in this manner, and an MQA recording?

    • July 14, 2018 at 7:26 am

      The addition of aliasing wouldn’t accurately reflect the musical partials present in that last octave but would light up the ultrasonics. Don’t get me started on MQA. When audiophiles and reviewers claim to hear differences of standard-resolution MQA encodes, I have to just accept that the MQA investors are winning at their marketing push.

  • July 15, 2018 at 8:15 am

    I’m sorry, it’s not clear from your article if you base your conclusion that “My investigation confirmed Paul’s analysis AND affirms my position that virtually ALL high-resolution music offered as streams, MQA, or downloads is not high-resolution.” is based on the one test you performed, or based on some sort of statistically significant number of tracks analyzed in the same manner. Your statement is likely to be true for historical reasons, but you don’t spell out the basis for your conclusion. Thanks.

    • July 16, 2018 at 5:26 am

      John, I have purchased and downloaded many dozens of “high-resolution” files AND I know the provenance of most of the commercial recordings offered on these sites. They come from recordings done on analog multitracks decks mixed to yet more analog machines. In addition, the dynamics mastering that occurs (I mastered hundreds of albums during my 13 years as a mastering engineer) during the final stage of production severely limits the need for anything more than 16 bits…even 8 bits.

  • July 28, 2018 at 1:34 am

    Ive recently purchased a few hi res downloads, and generally found them disappointing. So I started digging and came to a similar point of view (but with no  industry knowledge).

    What Im after is to be able to play the best quality music in my living/listening room with as little fuss as possible. I am happy to pay for that privilege.

    As far as I can tell from poor to good quality container wise:
    Redbook CD,
    HiRes FLAC (88.2Khz 24bit PCM  and above).

    However it appears to me, for my application: dedicated quite room, with a half decent system. Vinyl is the only format that is mastered with me in mind.  However Vinyl is deeply limiting (rumble filter required, storage requirements, easy of damage, high noise floor, wear and tear,  slow to change record etc etc).

    HiRes downloads seems to be used to boost short term profit over long term stability and customers best interests.

    So my options appear to be,  suck it up and just buy CDs where the loudness war is killing quality.  Get myself a decent deck and ADC then digitally copy Vinyl to a suitable container (slow, and painful to get track timing information etc).

    I was hoping for a third option, where I could get music mastered for higher end systems, in a suitable digital format.  The only way I can do this is by getting into Jazz, which I can appreciate but in the main wouldnt say I enjoy. Any Ideas? Is the market for high quality music really that closely overlapped with the market for vinyl, that that is the only segment that has profit to it? I’d happily subscribe to somewhere that independently assessed HD downloads, to highlight the actual gems out there! Thanks

    • July 31, 2018 at 8:39 am

      Yes, the “high-resolution” downloads and streams that you’ve experienced are transfers of the over compressed masters. All we can hope is to get the best available master in high-resolution digital form. Some transfers are better than others…and there is no way to know. Are they worth the premium prices? Probably not. The record companies are not interested in fidelity. They will always opt for the version that makes more money.

  • August 9, 2018 at 2:38 pm

    Hi Mark;

    I recently discovered your blog and am both captivated and disappointed. Captivated by all the myth busting you provide and disappointed that I can no longer trust any of my sources of HD downloads. How does the average consumer like myself know what they are getting? Is anyone other than yourself critically analyzing these files and if so who? Are there a few simple key words or descriptions that will allow someone to pick out what is just a really good copy of poorly recorded music from something that truly will sound amazing?

  • December 6, 2018 at 12:00 pm

    Just came across your site and find myself reading your blogs nonstop. On this point, I have downloaded a number of high resolution albums, but at my age cannot discern a difference in the fidelity, so I limit myself to buying and ripping CDs, notwithstanding the compression so prevalent in music these days. I would, however, be willing to pay a premium for uncompressed files, simply for the experience of hearing the music the way the artists intended. Artists should press their labels to release their music in uncompressed formats for those of us who listen more critically. That at least would be an honest basis for upcharging the content.

    • December 7, 2018 at 4:09 pm

      Jim, thanks for coming by. I haven’t been writing nearly as much as I used to but welcome to the site. I’m sure there’s plenty to read in the over 1100 articles I’ve penned. And don’t overlook my book, “Music and Audio: A User Guide to Better Sound“.

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