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  1. #31

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    I'm with H9, I don't feel so bad taking a chance on a $2.99 to $4.99 CD and then finding out it isn't all that. That and most times I'm supporting a local used CD store in doing so.

    It's frustrating that the recording engineer is at times the one who creates the presentation, and in cases reworks the artists material based on marketing and record company guidance. In the case of Britney Spears, that's probably a good thing and not concerning. In the case of remastering a classic album, I would like to see more participation by the artist if possible. New presentations aren't bad per se, they may be what the artist really originally tried to do.

    I also think that because of our love of our gear and the money spent on our gear we over analyze this stuff. Case in point, last night at a friends house, music on my laptop played by using the BoseLink connection to the Bose radio. Good music, good friends ....................... did it sound like crap - yes ..................................... did or should that have diminished the enjoyment of good music - no.
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  2. #32

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    Quote Originally Posted by steveinaz View Post
    Unfortunately it also shows that regardless of the format, we are at the mercy of recording engineers.
    Quote Originally Posted by vc69 View Post
    Correction Steve, we are at the mercy of the mastering engineers.
    Correction, we are at the mercy of the record company marketing departments.

    Quote Originally Posted by BlueFox View Post
    What bothers me is that these guys are, apparently, deaf. Either that, or the record companies hire people who never listen to the genre they are mastering. If I had that job I would be trying to make something that sounds great on my stereo, not sounds terrible.

    However, I suspect they are just doing what their bosses tell them to do. Either make it loud, or find another place to work.
    Your suspicion is correct. Many times the engineer is told to mix music so that it sounds "good" on the radio, on crappy speakers and on crappy ear buds. "Good sound" in this context equates to "attention grabbing when casually listening to the radio". "Good sound" is the sound that sells records to the greatest number of people, the vast majority of whom couldn't care less about high quality sound.

    Unfortunately (for audiophiles), high quality recordings are a boutique business.

    Quote Originally Posted by BlueFox View Post
    However, I suspect they are just doing what their bosses tell them to do. Either make it loud, or find another place to work.
    Quote Originally Posted by dkg999 View Post
    It's frustrating that the recording engineer is at times the one who creates the presentation, and in cases reworks the artists material based on marketing and record company guidance.
    I have read and seen many interviews from frustrated artists who complain of this. They were disgruntled because of the lack of creative and quality control of their work. The final product offered to the public was often very different, and lower in quality, than what was created in the studio.

    Quote Originally Posted by dkg999 View Post
    I would like to see more participation by the artist if possible.
    Unless the artist is a consistent multi-platinum seller, they have very little say in what is released. "Regular", non-superstar artists who buck the system and try to exert more creative and quality control may find their work collecting dust in the record company's vaults.

    So sad.
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  3. #33

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    question, Would it be out of reach financially, for an artist, group of artists, businesspeople, or whomever, to put together their own recording operation, with an eye( or more appropriately, an ear) towards quality recordings.

    It seems in atlanta, every third or fourth shooting is in some rundown building where some shmoeput together a rap recording studio, maybe thats a whole different ball of wax.

    Im totally ignorant of the technical aspects of all this, im really asking.
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  4. #34

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    Ok, resurrecting this thread again. I will admit to still purchasing from hdtracks on occasion. But I still would love to see some better alternatives and competition. Here is something that's really pissing me off:

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00..._ya_os_product

    Vs:

    https://www.hdtracks.com/index.php?f...HD603497927746

    How on earth can they justify charging MORE for the 24-bit download than it costs to buy the bluray audio disk with the same 24-bit audio, plus the 5.1 mix? This is a like for like comparison. Downloaded files of the exact same audio should be priced substantially less than purchasing physical media. Otherwise there is no value proposition. Amazon is charging $18.99 for the disc, but in the pre-order I paid $15.99. That's 20% less than what hdtracks is charging for the download. Atrocious.
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  5. #35

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    I find it to be all bull sh^t. I hate when I read about how engineers are recording for the general public so it sounds good on their crappy ear buds or while driving in the car. Eff em I say. If you want to listen to your music on crap , cool , doesn't mean you have to change a good quality recording. I find that to be a full load of bull.
    I have worked in front of bands and been in many over my years of being a musician. If I was a recording artist and found out my stuff was being mixed anything then exactly how I wanted it , I would fire everyone who decided that was a good idea and go to a recording studio that is going to record what I play , nothing more nothing less in the best possible quality.

    Remember Noah's Ark? I'd like to build another one but this time ship out all the crap in our country. Give me my effin music exactly how it was written. Why is that so effin hard?
    Sam goes with players , disc's , files , etc. Stop effin with it and just give to everyone pure. Then we the people can screw it up all we want or not.

    I'm testing some files from HD tracks right now and I found a few that sound the same as the CD version. And one that I was questioning if it sounded as good or not. Some of the cuts I have sound amazing and thats what I want and expect.
    Last edited by nap; 11-20-2012 at 06:23 AM. Reason: Language !
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  6. #36

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    Think you're missing my point on this one. Let's assume that this is well mixed audio, and that the 24-bit PCM is the purest mix you can lay hands on of this Zeppelin reunion. But the BluRay 24/48 PCM must be exactly the same versions as the 24/48 PCM that HDTracks are selling. Yet it's physical media. It's manufactured. It's packaged. It's warehoused. It's transported. It's unit-shipped to me. By definition it is a much more expensive means of distributing 16 of these 24/48 PCM songs. Not to mention that the BluRay contains a 24-bit 5.1 PCM mix, as well as a 24-bit DTS-HD version. There is absolutely no way to justify the download version costing more than the disc. It's one thing to charge more for 24-bit downloads than the cd version costs, you can make the argument that the higher resolution is worth more. But in this case these are both the same hi rez formats. It's just highway robbery.
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  7. #37

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    I understand where you are coming from but....You can drive to a conveinience for a 20oz bottle of soda or drive and extra mile and get a 2liter for the same price
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  8. #38

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    Quote Originally Posted by scottyboy76 View Post
    question, Would it be out of reach financially, for an artist, group of artists, businesspeople, or whomever, to put together their own recording operation, with an eye( or more appropriately, an ear) towards quality recordings.

    It seems in atlanta, every third or fourth shooting is in some rundown building where some shmoeput together a rap recording studio, maybe thats a whole different ball of wax.

    Im totally ignorant of the technical aspects of all this, im really asking.
    Producing a quality recording probably isn't the issue. The issue is marketing and selling that recording.
    Good music, a good source, and good power can make SDA's sing. Tubes make them dance.

  9. #39

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    Quote Originally Posted by txcoastal1 View Post
    I understand where you are coming from but....You can drive to a conveinience for a 20oz bottle of soda or drive and extra mile and get a 2liter for the same price
    Yes, but your logic is a bit flawed. What you're saying is true in the case of brick and mortar. The small convenience store has a higher unit cost than the big supermarket. They'll pay more rent per square foot of floor space. They'll pay higher wholesale costs because they're dealing in much smaller quantities. And they need to generate a higher profit margin because they have much lower volumes.

    The internet is the great equalizer. Or it's supposed to be. To the consumer this is the difference between one web site and another. For the business of legal digital downloads to grow and succeed, there needs to be a value proposition. When I buy an album on iTunes, it costs $9.99. When I buy the same cd it's $13 or $14 for a new release.

    If HDTracks were interested in causing the demand for high rez audio to blossom, they would be selling this material for a lot less money, in the hopes that more and more people would start to buy it. But that's not what they're doing. They're just out there trying to rip off the .5% of music listeners who actually care about how things sound.
    Good music, a good source, and good power can make SDA's sing. Tubes make them dance.

  10. #40

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    ^^^But Amazon is the grocery store and HDTracks is the small conglomerate with at the current time less demand, and we don't know what HDTracks startup overhead costs.
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  11. #41

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    Nah, I don't buy it. They're gouging. Plain and simple.
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  12. #42

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    Quote Originally Posted by nspindel View Post
    How on earth can they justify charging MORE for the 24-bit download than it costs to buy the bluray audio disk with the same 24-bit audio, plus the 5.1 mix? This is a like for like comparison. Downloaded files of the exact same audio should be priced substantially less than purchasing physical media. Otherwise there is no value proposition. Amazon is charging $18.99 for the disc, but in the pre-order I paid $15.99. That's 20% less than what hdtracks is charging for the download. Atrocious.

    Did you try asking them? It seems like a good question.

  13. #43

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    Not yet.
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  14. #44
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    IMO, the safest bets on HDTracks are Chesky Records recordings. You have to be okay with listening to an unknown (or relatively) artist, but I have yet to be disappointed in the SQ.

    I don't have personal experience, but have heard good things about iTrax.com, which I believe is owned by AIX Records, or Mark Waldrep owns both... I also recently signed up for B&Ws Society of Sound which has a new, Hi-Rez album to download every month. I would hope those are vetted as they are being highlighted.

  15. #45
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    Here is an article on iTrax that was posted today:

    HD download debacle! by Mark Waldrep

    Recently, I was alerted to an article published in HiFi News & Record Review, a British audiophile publication that claims to be "the longest serving and most prestigious hi-fi and music magazine in the world". It was written by Keith Howard, an acquaintance of mine from some years back, and entitled, "HD download debacle". The subtext reads, "High sample-rate music downloads are not all they seem". I couldn't agree more and was quite pleased that the publisher of a major magazine on audio has the wherewithal to take the high ground on this issue. My compliments to editor Paul Miller and HFN. Everything that Keith discovered during his investigation maps perfectly with my own research and reporting. The world of HD digital music retailing is not everything that we would like to expect.

    I'd like to share a few of the items that Keith included in his report. I think readers will find this very illuminating. Here's his opening paragraph: "When audiophiles buy a hi-res music download, most do so on trust. If they've paid a premium for a 24-bit/88.2, 24/96, 24/176.4 of 24/192 download, they reasonably expect that the enhanced bandwidth offered by the higher sampling rate will be fully exploited, inasmuch as the source material allows. But our investigations show that this trust is sometimes misplaced, and those price premiums are being asked for audio files in which the signal bandwidth has been curtailed."

    First, he points out that this is not a new situation. At the introduction of high-resolution or high definition audio formats back in 2000, Paul Miller published an article exposing many of the early DVD-Audio productions as lacking substantial improvements over CDs. The SACD and DVD-Audio formats were specially designed to, "demonstrate the audible superiority of 96 kHz/192 kHz recordings over CD's 44.1/16-bit format [but, in fact] actually sounded worse." My contention has always been that a standard definition recording from the past placed in a container that exceeds its fidelity standards remains a standard definition recording. We might be getting the best possible rendition of that older track but it is not the same thing as having a new recording done with live musicians at 96 kHz/24-bits. And it shouldn't be marketed as such.

    Keith's first example of "ham-fisted" upsampling came from High Definition Tape Transfers, which to me is an oxymoron of the most blatant type. Every analog tape recording is standard definition (limited dynamic range and frequency response) thus transferring it to an HD bucket is pointless…unless the company juices the frequency response somehow. There are a couple of very informative graphs showing the "butterfly" effect of this sort of audio foolery. HDTT remade the files and sent them to all of their customers that had purchased the version on steroids.

    The next part of the discussion in the article focuses on HDtracks.com, the company headed by David and Norman Chesky. Keith writes, "has never, to my knowledge, released anything so crass (as the HDTT folks) but is has sold, and at the time of writing continues to sell, files which do not have as wide a bandwidth as you might reasonably expect from their sampling rate."

    He continues by pointing out, "as an example that's been on sale for a long time is the 24/96 download Peter Frampton's Frampton Comes Alive, the spectrum of which clearly shows the presence of steep low-pass filter just above 20 kHz." The track, he concludes, "this track has been upsampled." To be fair, Mike Lawson of HDtracks did re-label the Frampton title as 48/24 and it is as good as you will ever get from an analog sourced original. My argument is that it should be labeled accurately from the outset. Anything that goes back to the days of analog tape shouldn't be "upsampled" and sold for a premium price.

    In a subsequent paragraph, Keith goes on, "HDtracks removed John Coltrane's Lush Life when this was exposed as being filtered. The spectrum of "Like Someone in Love" appears to have been low-pass filtered twice, probably indicating that it was upsampled from 44.1 kHz to 96 kHz. In contrast, the Frampton download remains available at the time of writing this and, moreover is not an isolated case - in fact it has some notable company among HDtracks' classical titles." He downloaded a couple of classical tracks that are available on the HDtracks site and found that they too, were subjected to "steep low-pass filtering just above 20 kHz."

    And it gets worse when you think that customers can spend an additional $10 for the 176.4 kHz versions. Keith's conclusion, "the $10 premium for the 176.4 version buys you, effectively, nothing."

    The article also targets Linn's high resolution downloads as suffering from the same manipulations. Linn promises to pay closer attention to the quality of their source, the rigor of their procedures and to do a spectral analysis of all new content. Why wasn't this done previously?

    The end of the article doesn't instill a lot of confidence in the press and websites that report on our industry, "Unfortunately the hi-fi press - which ought to be taking a leading role - has mostly sat on its hands: hi-res recordings are routinely reviewed without any attempt to confirm their provenance. Web sites that review hi-res recordings are arguably even worse since their coverage typically outstrips that of the hi-fi magazine but their reviews again include no objective assessment of the signal bandwidth supplied. Online audio forums fill the gap to some extent, but aren't to be relied on, in this matter or any other. For instance, in an Audio Circle forum discussing HDtracks' Rolling Stones downloads, ted_b, described as a Facilitator, wrote, 'Spectrum analysis shows lots of energy way above 30 k for these Stones 176.4 k rips, and not just noise-shaping' - which clearly flies in the face of our own results".

    I believe that it's time for digital music retailers, high definition record companies and the press (both printed and online) to adopt an open and honest approach to high definition music recordings. The more information that consumers have the better it will be for everyone…the high-end segment of the business will improve and music lovers will know what is possible with real high definition tracks.

  16. #46

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    Interesting read, and I fully agree with this, which was my exact premise when I originally started this thread. But this is off topic with respect to my latest gripe with them. One can only assume (I haven't laid hands on the bluray just yet) that the hi rez version of the Led Zeppelin reunion is "true" hi rez, not some upsampled, filtered nonsense. Let's give them the benefit of the doubt and assume this is the real deal, as we have no reason to suspect otherwise.

    The question is, why should an HDTracks download cost more than the BluRay? That just makes zero sense, and ruins the entire value proposition behind buying digital downloads.
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  17. #47

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    nspindel

    Excellent topic and well researched by you and others. Frank Zappa got so pissed at the record companies messin with his music that he started his own recording company. It can be done.

    I suggest that we look and know the recording engineer on any CD we like for excellence in recording and dynamic range. We can also try to buy other recordings by this engineer. Just an idea.

  18. #48

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    The iTrax quote above has actually been there for a long time.

    Part of what's being pushed there is the idea that if the original source is analog, that you can't have as good resolution as being originally recorded in hi-rez digital. That idea is too me pretty questionable!

    HDTracks simply has had labels give them something to sell that wasn't all that. I think it has caused them to get into looking into the quality. But it's not as simple as being able to look at some meta-data or looking at a spectral display to see what's there. Quality isn't necessarily guaranteed by bandwidth and it's not easy to tell what digital manipulations have occured.

    Consider that a band and it's studio technicians do have control over what they do and how they produce their music. If part of their 'artistry" is to have a loud slashing guitar, then it's going to be heavily processed to get it to sound like that. And many groups "sound" is all from post production processing? When heard in high rez, why would you expect to not hear the grunge of artifacts from how the music was treated?

    That to me is the difference in some material at hi-rez. It doesn't get better because the format has more bits to describe the sound...it gets worse because you can hear the results better than before! The format or where you purchase it is rarely at fault. Not that we shouldn't watch for quality and complain when it's nasty. Not that we shouldn't "shop" for the best price and quality sources.

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  19. #49

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    Again, the debate I'm trying to provoke here is not about upsampling or compression or anything along those lines. If I've got a BluRay with 24-bit PCM and HDTracks are selling the identical 24-PCM, is there any justification for the downloads to cost more than the physical media?
    Good music, a good source, and good power can make SDA's sing. Tubes make them dance.

  20. #50

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    In short, no. I cannot see how HDtracks can justify their pricing.

  21. #51
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    I think that because they were one of the first and most popular hi-rez sites to the market, they set the price when there wasn't much competition. I bought from them when they were one of the only options for good, hi-rez content and iTunes was still offering its original very low-rez content. The assumption then was that this is the price to pay for this quality and format, but the current market seems to be showing otherwise.

  22. #52

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    is there any justification for the downloads to cost more than the physical media?

    That's the question to ask hdtracks.

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    One could argue that you're paying for convenience of downloading the content and the freedom to do with it what you want.

    I'm perfectly fine paying an extra couple bucks for the digital download if its the same quality, because I can make copies and play it on multiple computers and portable devices, I can't easily do that with the physical copy.

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    Rdio dot com

    $9.99 a month and you listen as much as you want. You never need to buy CDs or Hi-Rez tracks again.

    I do like to buy every once in while a really good SACD but lately I just don't have the time to sit on my chair and just listen to music, I'm usually just running around the house working on 20 different things so spooling music has been working great.
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    Rdio is fine for what it is, but not even close in quality to a hi Rez recording

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    Not. Even. Close.

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    Quote Originally Posted by AsSiMiLaTeD View Post
    One could argue that you're paying for convenience of downloading the content and the freedom to do with it what you want.
    That is a good point. I had forgotten about how the record companies fought tooth and nail over preventing even MP3 files from being downloaded since they were so easy to copy. Apple spent a lot of effort getting DRM free low-res files for iTunes. To be able to buy and copy high-res files without any DRM is actually kind of amazing when you think about it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by AsSiMiLaTeD View Post
    One could argue that you're paying for convenience of downloading the content and the freedom to do with it what you want.

    I'm perfectly fine paying an extra couple bucks for the digital download if its the same quality, because I can make copies and play it on multiple computers and portable devices, I can't easily do that with the physical copy.
    Bingo! This is exactly why you pay more to download, but it would also be nice if we knew what we were getting. If we were getting the same quality as the blu-ray it would (for some) be worth the extra money.
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    Yeah HDTracks is really hit or miss. I typically try to do some reading around on any purchases I plan on making there beforehand, buy what's good and skip the rest.
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    Given the choice between a blu ray audio disc which I can not (legally anyway) rip and a digital download that I can copy to any of my devices and play in any room in my house at, say, $15 and $20 respectively I'll fladly pay the extra $5 for the digital download.

    I would do the same for a CD. If iTunes would sell lossless CD quality versions of their music I'd be all over that, and would gladly pay an extra couple bucks per CD for that convenience. As it stands, they sell compressed garbage and haven't seen a dime of my money.
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    Magnepan 1.6QR fronts, POlk R15 surrounds, Pioneer SC-25, Parasound Halo A23, Oppo BDP-105, Panasonic TC-P60ZT60, Sony PS3, Apple TV

    Bedroom System
    Polk Blackstone TL3, Polk PSWi225 Wireless Sub, HK 3490 Integrated, Oppo BDP-103, Sharp Aquos 32" TV, Apple TV

    Office Rig
    27" iMac w/Amarra, AudioQuest Dragonfly 1.2, Focal XS Book, Schiit Valhalla, Cypher Labs Theorem 720, Philips Fidelio X1, Sennheiser HD600, HiFiMan HE-500, B&W P7, LG 47LM7600, Sony PS3, Apple TV

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