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 Posted:   May 4, 2021 - 1:48 PM   
 By:   Saul Pincus   (Member)

Interested folks...

Some of us have positively acknowledged the appearance of CD (or better) quality downloads now available from Qobuz, 7Digital or other platforms. This trend didn't start and won't stop with a thread devoted to the discussion of these products on the FSM Board, so this is not an advocacy thread per se.

But now that such official releases are becoming a little more numerous (not only through Intrada, but thanks to Varese and Quartet as well as many Morricone and other Italian composers though EMI, CAM and GDM),

I thought it might be a good place to discuss them, as a resource for all who care.

There can be a lot to discuss...

 
 Posted:   May 4, 2021 - 6:23 PM   
 By:   Saul Pincus   (Member)

I'll be first:

A 24bit/44.1kHz version of Silvestri's expanded BACK TO THE FUTURE just showed up on 7Digital:

https://ca.7digital.com/artist/alan-silvestri/release/back-to-the-future-original-motion-picture-soundtrack-expanded-edition-4872420

(The bit rate's a higher 24, but the sample rate matches my Intrada CD version.)

---

For Bond fans, also released today: LIVE AND LET DIE (the original album). I believe this is the first I've ever seen a 24-bit/192kHz version of a classic Bond score:

https://ca.7digital.com/artist/various-artists/release/live-and-let-die-original-motion-picture-soundtrack-5335134

Granted, it's not the expanded version, and it's not a John Barry score – but it's still one of my favourite non-Barry scores. Makes me wonder if 24/192 Barrys might follow?

 
 Posted:   May 5, 2021 - 12:12 AM   
 By:   Stephen Woolston   (Member)

Saul, some original Barry-Bond albums are up in 192/24 or 96/24 at HD tracks.

Goldfinger:
https://www.hdtracks.com/#/album/5dfce93185fa3ffce572753c

OHMSS:
https://www.hdtracks.com/#/album/5e663ac272a38c794f787382

You Only Live Twice:
https://www.hdtracks.com/#/album/5e9716cd28f1a4e5d5cb2399

From Russia With Love:
https://www.hdtracks.com/#/album/5df1458e0bee25c09bc1654d

Diamonds Are Forever
https://www.hdtracks.com/#/album/5dfc7a0b85fa3ffce5723f56

All just original album programs though, not expanded editions.

Cheers

 
 Posted:   May 5, 2021 - 12:31 AM   
 By:   BornOfAJackal   (Member)

I've downloaded a classical title or two, as well as Walt Disney Records' 192kHz/24-bit versions of the soundtracks to Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back. I couldn't be happier. And all these files transfer without incident to the hi-res music player on my phone.

 
 
 Posted:   May 5, 2021 - 12:46 AM   
 By:   Thor   (Member)

Makes no difference to me. I have chronic tinnitus in my left ear, and can't really hear the difference between a high quality mp3 and a CD anymore.

 
 
 Posted:   May 5, 2021 - 1:12 AM   
 By:   Jurassic T. Park   (Member)

If this is the direction the labels are going, it's a good topic to discuss.

The problem I have is that it's really hard to trust random labels. I've never heard of Qobuz, 7Digital, or HDtracks. If they weren't the label that did the research, archiving, remastering then I can't really trust that what they're presenting is properly remastered without additional processing.

Same goes for labels like Disney who can't even get their Legacy Collection to be error-free. I find it hard to believe that any of Star Wars is being properly presented. Read Chris Malone's amazing "Recording The Star Wars Saga" and ask yourself if Disney has really taken any serious steps to properly remaster or re-transfer any of Star Wars.

And how do we know that this is the final transfer from the original elements? What if everything is re-transferred in the future for even better resolution?

The point here is that it's about trust and reputation and right now a layperson like me wouldn't trust anyone outside of LaLaLand, Intrada, Varese and maybe Quartet, to be handling film scores, simply because they have a publicly-visible reputation of doing the hard work to bring us score releases.

Part of that trust and reputation could also come from standardization, but that doesn't exist yet.

Back to the Future is 24bit/44.1kHz
James Bond is 24bit/192kHz OR 24bit/96kHz

Why aren't they consistent? Why does James Bond give you two quality options when doing so communicates that your brand's value isn't delivering the best quality and that it doesn't understand the customer-base (like if it's about price, why not also offer "16-bit" or "Budget MP3"?) Why are they releasing the super old releases instead of the expanded releases? Why do some labels release digital booklets and others don't?

This reminds me of the early days of DVD when they'd still offer Pan-and-scan versions as well as "letterboxed", and MGM got into a lawsuit because they were cropping their pan-and-scan movies and selling them as "widescreen".

Until there is a universally-accepted standardization and transparency over who has the rights to release music, what kind of remastering has been done, and if the best possible transfer has been made with no possibility of anything better - I don't see why anyone should, at this time, support any label that just seems to be trying to make an opportunistic quick buck off of "high-res" digital downloads.

 
 Posted:   May 5, 2021 - 1:33 AM   
 By:   Stephen Woolston   (Member)

Does it matter if they're not consistent, as long as everything is a minimum of 48KHz-20bit or better?

To be honest, I'd pick 96KHz-24bit over 192KHz-24bit anyway, because there is no way on heaven or earth that I will be able to tell a quality different between the two, and I don't have infinite hard disc space.

Both are already cater for hearing abilities way, way more sensitive than mine, or indeed any human being's.

Most people wouldn't be able to hear a quality difference between 48KHz-20bit and 192KHz-24bit.

In fact, let's be real, most people wouldn't be able to hear a quality difference between 44.1KHz-16bit (CD) and 192KHz-24bit.

However, because I know the high end of the audible frequency range gets crunched at 44.1KHz-16bit (even if I can't "hear" it), things would have to be a minimum of 48KHz-20bit, preferably better, for me to consider them "hi-def".

I agree in storing master elements at the highest resolutions possible, and professionals working with 192KHz-24bit, but for home audio enjoyment, as long as it's a minimum of 48KHz-20bit or better, preferably 96KHz-24bit, that's always going to be better than my ability to hear a quality difference.

And that's how it should be. My philosophy about "audiophile" is my ears should be the limiting factor, not the format or my equipment.

In terms of format, 48KHz-20bit probably achieves that and 96KHz-24bit certainly will.

Then it's just a matter of my equipment.

Cheers

 
 Posted:   May 5, 2021 - 4:27 AM   
 By:   Nicolai P. Zwar   (Member)

It took me a while to warm up to music on digital files, because in the early days, files were mostly lossy, players performed poorly, some were even tied to DRM, meaning you could only play it on certain devices with certain players. I never listen to music on my computer (my laptop only has tinny build in speakers, I don't have it connected to any sound system), so playing a file just with program XYZ was never an option.

But nowadays, since all of this is out of the way, I'm "all in". :-)

I bought a number of download releases, CD Quality or better, from various outlets, mostly Qobuz (which gets the files from the labels), but also directly from labels such as Hyperion.

Just recently I bought some from BSX (a bit more trouble, as they sell their lossless/high-res files as WAV, which I then convert to ALAC in order to integrate it into my collection. That requires additional tagging).

My CD collection is also converted to ALAC, so my own CDs and downloads are "one" collection by now.

I think the step labels such as Quartet and Intrada and Varèse go is logical, because digital files are a much more efficient way to distribute music than CDs, which cost a fortune to ship overseas. I'm also pretty much out of shelf space, so while I still buy CDs now and then, I expect that to become less and less, and welcome the switch to have the music available for (lossless or higher) streaming and download.



Downloads are great way to keep the music practically forever "in print", as there is not inventory to house.

 
 Posted:   May 5, 2021 - 4:32 AM   
 By:   Nicolai P. Zwar   (Member)


And that's how it should be. My philosophy about "audiophile" is my ears should be the limiting factor, not the format or my equipment.


Well, to me it's not just my ears... I mean, my ears -- fortunately -- are still very good (according to my latest checkup), but even if they get worse with age, I would not compromise the quality of the files. I mean, just because at a certain age higher frequencies cannot be heard as good as before anymore would definitely not enough reason for me to all of a sudden switch from ALAC/FLAC to MP3. I would still maintain my collection the way I have so far.

Also, I am not always listening to music alone, my wife is also there, guests... and I got two dogs. Heck, my dogs actually confirm that my speakers can play frequencies I cannot actually hear myself anymore. :-D

 
 Posted:   May 5, 2021 - 7:23 AM   
 By:   Saul Pincus   (Member)

Saul, some original Barry-Bond albums are up in 192/24 or 96/24 at HD tracks.

Goldfinger:
https://www.hdtracks.com/#/album/5dfce93185fa3ffce572753c

OHMSS:
https://www.hdtracks.com/#/album/5e663ac272a38c794f787382

You Only Live Twice:
https://www.hdtracks.com/#/album/5e9716cd28f1a4e5d5cb2399

From Russia With Love:
https://www.hdtracks.com/#/album/5df1458e0bee25c09bc1654d

Diamonds Are Forever
https://www.hdtracks.com/#/album/5dfc7a0b85fa3ffce5723f56

All just original album programs though, not expanded editions.

Cheers


Thanks Stephen!

 
 Posted:   May 5, 2021 - 8:00 AM   
 By:   Saul Pincus   (Member)

If this is the direction the labels are going, it's a good topic to discuss.

The problem I have is that it's really hard to trust random labels. I've never heard of Qobuz, 7Digital, or HDtracks. If they weren't the label that did the research, archiving, remastering then I can't really trust that what they're presenting is properly remastered without additional processing.


Qobuz, 7Digital, HDtracks are aggregators, and they're not new. They simply post what they receive, whether that comes from indie artists, major labels, or boutique labels like Intrada. This is how digital music has worked for decades.

Same goes for labels like Disney who can't even get their Legacy Collection to be error-free. I find it hard to believe that any of Star Wars is being properly presented. Read Chris Malone's amazing "Recording The Star Wars Saga" and ask yourself if Disney has really taken any serious steps to properly remaster or re-transfer any of Star Wars.

This is a discussion that goes back decades on this board, JTP!

And how do we know that this is the final transfer from the original elements? What if everything is re-transferred in the future for even better resolution?

The point here is that it's about trust and reputation and right now a layperson like me wouldn't trust anyone outside of LaLaLand, Intrada, Varese and maybe Quartet, to be handling film scores, simply because they have a publicly-visible reputation of doing the hard work to bring us score releases.


It's a legit question, and one I'm sure all of us ponder before we click.

The problem is a little like the legal question of chain-of-title in content creation. To sell a screenplay, or a film, to a distributor, said distributor requires a legal document illustrating all contributors to that idea since its inception. If it was just me, then that's easy. But what if I'm the 3rd owner of that material, or the seventh? You can sort that out, but then there's the question of the idea's development over the course of its ownership. How exactly has it changed? There's often no record of those changes, only the documents themselves.

Restorationists such as Mike Matessino and Chris Malone face this question in audio terms daily.

Part of that trust and reputation could also come from standardization, but that doesn't exist yet.

Back to the Future is 24bit/44.1kHz
James Bond is 24bit/192kHz OR 24bit/96kHz

Why aren't they consistent? Why does James Bond give you two quality options when doing so communicates that your brand's value isn't delivering the best quality and that it doesn't understand the customer-base (like if it's about price, why not also offer "16-bit" or "Budget MP3"?) Why are they releasing the super old releases instead of the expanded releases? Why do some labels release digital booklets and others don't?


Because I think they're still figuring out the market – which continues to evolve. It used to be just about audiophiles, but it's growing into something much more lucrative. As non-vinyl physical media becomes harder and harder to find, it's becoming simply about access at something approaching that CD quality. And yes, it's a sort of shell game.

 
 Posted:   May 5, 2021 - 8:05 AM   
 By:   NSBulk   (Member)

The problem I have is that it's really hard to trust random labels. I've never heard of Qobuz, 7Digital, or HDtracks. If they weren't the label that did the research, archiving, remastering then I can't really trust that what they're presenting is properly remastered without additional processing.

Those companies are retailers, not labels. They distribute what the labels provide them.

I subscribe to Qobuz and have been happy with the service.

 
 Posted:   May 5, 2021 - 9:13 AM   
 By:   thx99   (Member)

Those companies are retailers, not labels. They distribute what the labels provide them.

And in a number of cases I've experienced personally, while the digital offerings from these sites may be labeled as "hi-res" (e.g., 24-bit, 192 kHz), the audio content within those offerings are not TRUE "hi-res". I had a run-in with HDTracks over this issue with both a purchase and with a free demonstration album they were offering at the time. I even provided evidence. They gave me a refund for the purchase, but they were also quick to take a multi-pronged approach in their defense, seemingly covering all their bases: (1) "there's nothing wrong with the audio files"; (2) "if there is something wrong, it's essentially the content provider's fault or a fault of your playback"; and (3) "maybe hi-res audio isn't for you".

Needless to say, I didn't take too kindly to their reactions (save for the refund), but IMO, these services should do their due diligence and confirm the validity of their offerings. If they indicate that something has a sampling rate of 96 kHz, ensure that it's a true 96 kHz transfer of the content and not an upsample of a CD master (44.1 kHz). Or if something is offered at "CD quality" but the resulting downloaded WAV/lossless files are clearly sourced from lossy compressed source files (e.g., MP3), then that offering should be pulled from their site until such time that it's corrected.

Otherwise, it all borders on being a false advertising IMO.

 
 Posted:   May 5, 2021 - 9:35 AM   
 By:   NSBulk   (Member)

Those companies are retailers, not labels. They distribute what the labels provide them.

And in a number of cases I've experienced personally, while the digital offerings from these sites may be labeled as "hi-res" (e.g., 24-bit, 192 kHz), the audio content within those offerings are not TRUE "hi-res". I had a run-in with HDTracks over this issue with both a purchase and with a free demonstration album they were offering at the time. I even provided evidence. They gave me a refund for the purchase, but they were also quick to take a multi-pronged approach in their defense, seemingly covering all their bases: (1) "there's nothing wrong with the audio files"; (2) "if there is something wrong, it's essentially the content provider's fault or a fault of your playback"; and (3) "maybe hi-res audio isn't for you".

Needless to say, I didn't take too kindly to their reactions (save for the refund), but IMO, these services should do their due diligence and confirm the validity of their offerings. If they indicate that something has a sampling rate of 96 kHz, ensure that it's a true 96 kHz transfer of the content and not an upsample of a CD master (44.1 kHz). Or if something is offered at "CD quality" but the resulting downloaded WAV/lossless files are clearly sourced from lossy compressed source files (e.g., MP3), then that offering should be pulled from their site until such time that it's corrected.

Otherwise, it all borders on being a false advertising IMO.


You wouldn't blame Amazon or Best Buy for a lousy Blu-ray transfer, would you? You'd be unhappy with the company that produced the disc. It's the same thing here. These retailers are at the mercy of the content providers.

 
 Posted:   May 5, 2021 - 9:44 AM   
 By:   richsto   (Member)

If they are marketing and reselling these as “high resolution” files then they have an obligation to check their sources before selling as such.

 
 
 Posted:   May 5, 2021 - 9:56 AM   
 By:   Octoberman   (Member)

In particular, passing lossy audio off in a lossless format is an especially egregious sin to me.
A pox on the loins of all purveyors of such.

 
 
 Posted:   May 5, 2021 - 10:03 AM   
 By:   Jurassic T. Park   (Member)

You wouldn't blame Amazon or Best Buy for a lousy Blu-ray transfer, would you? You'd be unhappy with the company that produced the disc. It's the same thing here. These retailers are at the mercy of the content providers.


Well this is where transparency is important because there's nothing to tell me as a potential customer that these are retailers.

Take Back to the Future from 7Digital as an example - nowhere on their site does it mention where these elements came from, how they were mastered, etc. It doesn't even mention having come from Intrada (which I'm only guessing).

If I go to Intrada's site, they don't mention anything about 7Digital or a redirect to "buy Hi-Res from one of our certified retailers".

That kind of certification and connection to an actual LABEL would be a key point of introducing standardization and trust into the process.

Movies are different because the market HAS settled on a standard: "Blu-Ray". The market expectation is that you will be getting a high-quality 1080p image or 4K if your "Blu-Ray" is clearly labeled "4K".

Also, studios claim ownership of movies way more distinctly than they do over scores because the movie IS their product (the score is just a PART of that product). So when there is backlash against a Blu-Ray release like with Star Wars, the blame is pushed onto the studio. Same with the example where MGM was in a lawsuit over their scam DVDs.

It all comes down to transparency, trust, and visibility. Most people know what Amazon is. Most people do not know what 7Digital is. If I buy from Amazon, I can trust that they are selling me the original movie that the studio has sanctioned.

But from 7Digital, with the lack of information, I have no reason to assume that anything they're selling is legit quality (except for the word of people here on this forum).

 
 Posted:   May 5, 2021 - 10:19 AM   
 By:   Nicolai P. Zwar   (Member)

If they are marketing and reselling these as “high resolution” files then they have an obligation to check their sources before selling as such.

Well, the labels have to ensure also that they provide the content they claim to provide.

No one expects the retailer to open the plastic wrapper of every jewel case to check if there is REALLY a CD inside, they trust the labels that there is a disc inside.
And they cannot check every file they get for what's inside either. It's millions of music files and a constantly shifting offerings, no way.

 
 Posted:   May 5, 2021 - 10:53 AM   
 By:   Saul Pincus   (Member)

Funny, and I made the presumption we might actually talk about the music here!

Yes, there are transparency issues in this market – but that was true with the first few decades on CD. The only indicator of source material then was pretty vague – just AAD and ADD, which mean little because while they told you (presumably correctly) the production chain for given release, they didn't really tell you the generation of the analog source, whether the source was an LP master (with limiting baked in), etc.

And yes, there are dubious "labels" who've placed less-than-stellar product with these aggregators... but that was also very true on CD and LP. Boots and grey-market releases were common.

Some labels, such as Deutsche Grammophon, are very transparent not only about their internal process but also the damns they give about making sure the quality is delivered to their audience. Yes, it would be great to hear more from others about their level of commitment to this. But I'd be surprised if labels like Universal France, for example, were lying about whether their 16/44.1 digital albums are actually sourced from 16/44.1 sources (or greater) – since those that run it are keen enthusiasts, just like Neil, Mike, Chris, and others.

Now... back to the music? wink

 
 
 Posted:   May 5, 2021 - 11:01 AM   
 By:   Jurassic T. Park   (Member)

This thread arrived at the same time Yavar was soliciting questions on the topic of challenges with 24-bit digital releases for his upcoming Goldsmith podcast, so I thought it was related. Guess I misunderstood!

 
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