High Definition Audio

HD Tracks

High Definition Audio

Having successfully set up a very high quality bit perfect PC -> DAC system that is capable of 24/96 playback thanks to the Quad 99CDP2's digital input and the onboard Realtek's digital output, it was only a matter of time before I took the plunge into 24bit audio primarily out of curiousity as to whether there was any significant improvement over standard 16/44.1 CD playback.

Having been very impressed with the quality of 24bit Bluray True HD and DTS-Master soundtracks such as Gladiator and Avatar, it was inevitable that at some stage 24bit audio would be added to my collection of 16bit FLAC and MP3 currently residing on my hard drive. Now I have to say at this stage, I have been more than happy with the quality of both CD ripped FLAC files and MP3 files derived from my CD collection using Exact Audio Copy and the Lame MP3 encoder set at 192kbps variable (I also have a growing number of Amazon purchased 256kbps MP3's which sound very good especially some the very recent remastered albums available on their site).

Having researched 24/96 FLAC downloads, there seemed to be only a handful of sites offering such a service and HDtracks (www.hdtracks.com) seemed to be one of the most popular with sites like Linn Records only offering a limited range of non-mainstream artists. HDtracks looked very encouraging especially now that Verve Records have been on board since April and offering some very interesting downloads from their extensive back catalogue all done to a very high quality using original analogue master tapes and eqipment (vintage Studer 820 tape machines) to produce true audiophile 24/96 digital files.

This tempted me to download three albums which were all priced under $18, which is very good value when you consider what is on offer. The albums downloaded were Diana Krall's 2009 Quiet Nights, John Coltrane's Love Supreme and Night Train by the Oscar Peterson Trio. All three albums sounded superb and with Diana Krall's Quite Nights, I was able make A-B comparisons with a CD copy which was very useful. The first thing to note about the HDtrack downloads is that they sound quiet in comparison to modern CDs which I assume is because modern CDs are mastered to make optimum use of CD's limited headroom. However even after about 30 seconds listening of Quiet Nights, it is very apparent that there is a level of detail and realism that the CD just cannot reproduce which impressed me immensley and got me searching the internet for other high definition formats which led in the direction of DVD audio and the Dual Disc format more about which will follow in later posts.

One word of warning about HDtracks and something that completely passed me by when I first signed up is that the HD download service is only available to USA residents even though it is technically possible to download the files in other countries (something I never realised nor was informed about during the download process). This apparently means that technically I am not licensed to listen to the files outside of the USA under the digital millenium act or whatever it is and I guess that applies to some CDs I have imported from the Amazon.com in the States before, even though I have paid good money for them. The sooner HDtracks can sort this out the better as there are really some gems available from their site especially if like me you have a bit of liking of Jazz.

This entry was posted on Tuesday June 1st, 2010 at 9:00 AM and is filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response.

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