I noticed yesterday at the 2L and Channel Classics websites that the pricing of digital music downloads is approaching that of collectable vinyl. The price rises as you make your way through the numerous formats that are available on these sites. I thought my iTrax.com site provided the most options for customers to choose from, but it seems others are getting into the act.
Here are the formats that are available at Channel Classics, well-known classical label based in the Netherlands. If you’re an old school, physical format fan, then you can purchase the “Physical CD”, which turns out to be an SA-CD with a hybrid CD layer. The price for a disc is around $22. And the physical disc provides normal CD standard definition playback as well as the multichannel DSD 64 version.
In another block of the product page, you can purchase DSD downloads in either stereo or multichannel. These are the native source files taken from the masters. The price for a master file in DSD is marked as $39 but they’re on “special” for $33.15 right now because of the exchange rate.
The third (of four) format blocks on the website provides something that Channel Classics calls “High Quality Downloads”. The entire album can be purchased in “Studio Master HD”, “Studio Master”, “CD Quality” or “MP3 at 320 kbps”. I’m a little confused by the designation “HD”. The folks at Channel Classics reserve this moniker for the 192 kHz/24-bit FLAC file but don’t include it for the 96 kHz version. I’d be curious what their definition of High-Definition audio is.
All of the “High Quality Downloads” are derived from the DSD 64 master. As I reported on this site previously, a standard DSD 64 master has its noise shifted “out of band” as required by the 1-bit DSD specification (actually they are using 4-bits for dither but whatever). So there really isn’t anything useful in the ultrasonic range of a recording made in DSD 64.
If you want the 192 kHz/24-bit FLAC file (from the DSD 63 file converted to PCM and then compressed using FLAC with metadata), you’ll pay $26. For $4 less, you can opt for the 96 kHz/24-bit FLAC version. Another $4 dollar less gets you the CD version and for around $12, you can download the MP3 file at 320 kbps. I’ll drill further into the spectragraphs that I did yesterday for all of the downloads that I acquired from Channel Classics in another post, but I can tell you that the frequency response of the 192 and 96 kHz files are IDENTICAL! There is an obvious roll off that has been applied to the DSD converted source. I’m not surprised because the DSD 64 file has nothing but noise above 30 kHz anyway. The 192 and 96 files don’t sound any different because the added frequency range provided by 192 kHz doesn’t have anything to work with. In fact, there’s not much that a standard CD couldn’t deliver with the rolloff required by DSD 64.
Moving on to the last and final format box, we see the individual tracks for sale in each of the formats mentioned earlier in the “High Quality Downloads” section. The individual tracks are not available in DSD 64. You have to spring for the full album if you want DSD.
Tomorrow, I’ll break down the pricing on 2L’s download pages. They have even more formats to choose from!