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Audiophile quality download files please

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Initial post: 5 Oct 2009 23:24:41 BDT
zargb5 says:
mp3 is great for when you are working at your pc or on the move, in the car, travelling. But it sounds terrible on a decent hi fi set up. It really does show the sound limitations of the format, the cracks really do show up. Some sites are now offering a choice of quality from mp3 to aac and up to FLAC standard (full quality cd sound)
mp3 = 128 tp 256 kbps
FLAC =approx 700 + kbps
cd =1411 kbps
A lot of smaller artists can't really afford to press cds and get the artwork done. They are lucky to break even. Full quality files may cost more but are much better sound quality please give us the choice. Anything below 320 kbps sounds horrible on decent equipment. Even 320 is only 20% cd quality and it shows.

Posted on 6 Oct 2009 20:18:38 BDT
tokyo steve says:
Thanks for this. I didn't know any of this! Slightly miffed about all the 320kbps MP3 files i've bought over the last couple of years now! Grrr. Where can you purchase these higher quality files??

Posted on 6 Oct 2009 20:36:39 BDT
I just buy the CD and download it in Apple Lossless. That way you keep the quality at 700bps and above. These days DCs are so cheap, especially on Amazon used or ebay, you can get the CD for just a few quid.

Posted on 7 Oct 2009 12:44:04 BDT
Britzone says:
Musicians who upload their music to Amazon mp3 via Tunecore do so at 1411kbps. The mp3s are reduced to 256kbps but there is also the option for a CD on demand service where the 1411 kbps files can be purchased in CD format. I'm sure if offers this service yet, but it is available on, so in time I hope all the Amazon sites adopt it.

Posted on 7 Oct 2009 15:36:56 BDT
I don't think the infrastructure needed to provide lossless quality for every single album in the Amazon library (storage, bandwidth, transmission times, site re-coding, marketing etc) is worth it, seeing as 'audiophiles,' whether they like it or not, are a small minority of customers.

Posted on 7 Oct 2009 22:02:09 BDT
The Crusader says:
The artists put a lot of effort into creating their music (usually!) - listening to it in MP3 format doesn't give a full representation of their skill and ability. It's only fair to hear the full file.

In reply to an earlier post on 7 Oct 2009 22:49:39 BDT
zargb5 says:
I agree that compared to the vast majority of casual listeners "audiophiles " are a minority. Also the infrastructure is there for full bandwidth. It is a shame that a lot of music lovers have to go to torrent sites which are often highly illegal to get FLAC files rather than highly compressed low quality files AND have to pay for the privalege.

I think and believe the listener should pay for their music so as to sustain the artist. The legal sites don't really offer quality so people go looking for it elsewhere. Its not just that people want something for nothing.

I listen to a lot of jazz amongst many other musics and these guys don't sell a lot of units. So downloading and paying for their music helps them big time because it reduces the cost of production of having to press cds and do artwork and other manufacturing costs. Some of the bigger fish have offer a choice of quality of downloads from 256 to AAC to full FLAC. (Bill Frisell, Martin Taylor do and Frank Gambale will shortly do so)

The leader at the moment is a site called HD which has made deals with a lot of independant labels like ECM, chandos, Delos, ASV, Alligator, Favored Nations etc etc to offer a choice from 256 to full FLAC. A minority of sites are beginning to follow suite.

OK you pay a bit more and it takes longer to download, but it sure sounds a whole lot better and its still cheaper than buying the cd.

It is amazing that the technology to obtain music has moved forward so quickly and is so accessible, but that the sound quality has taken a huge step backwards at the same time.

An artist (or one worth his/her salt) spends a great deal of effort recording, producing and mastering the music only to have it trashed by massive compression at the delivery end. What they record is NOT what we hear. At least with FLAC you are getting closer to that ideal of the artists vision. Hell would you deliberately wear dirty sunglasses to look at the mona lisa? its the same thing if you think about it.

We are being offered as industry standard low quality sound because the businesses who are offering it want the best profit plain and simple. To offer better quality means it will cost them more. I'm willing to pay that extra for quality and by paying it sustains the artist creating the music. If we don't you can kiss recorded music goodbye.

Its a shame that the majority are so easily satisfied with poor quality sound which is merely adequate at best.

mp3 on any half decent system sounds tinny, flat, unexciting, 2 dimensional, lacks detail and ambiance (the space the music was recorded in) and the bass suffers and the high end rolls off.
The same recording at full 1411 kbps or close is a whole different ball game. You get what the artist hears as well.

Posted on 7 Oct 2009 23:04:38 BDT
M. trembath says:
being old, and past `it`, I still use 33rpm vinyls and a Thorens deck with solid teak surround speakers. MP3=I don`t think so!
I hear Judy Collins and others as I heard them live in concert. PROGRESS_humbug.

Posted on 8 Oct 2009 11:03:40 BDT
Last edited by the author on 8 Oct 2009 11:04:39 BDT
Britzone says:
I am surprised that I have not yet found a website or other kind of outlet which offers a service where we can choose individual tracks from various artists and have them put onto a decent quality CD. Many people might like one or two tracks from an album and so choose to download these as opposed to buying the full CD. Many artists would benefit from such a "pic'n'mix" service and I'm sure customers would appreciate it too. It would also allow for the higher quality sound to be preserved.

In reply to an earlier post on 8 Oct 2009 11:25:06 BDT
T. Izard says:
Depending on your musical tastes there are actaully loads of sites that allow individual tracks to be brought from an album, the only one's I know of are for predominantly dance music, these are, and Worth checking out if this music style is your bag.

As for the 'Audiophile' discussion, most people dont have the equipment in their houses / car to tell the diffence between full CD quality and an MP3 at 320kps (or if they do a lot dont have it set-up / configured corrrectly anyway), so dont worry to much. It would be a nice option to have to be able to choose your download quality though, but again it all has to be stored somewhere by the seller....

Posted on 8 Oct 2009 17:42:30 BDT
Last edited by the author on 8 Oct 2009 17:44:20 BDT
Paul says:
You've hit the nail on the head.

This is the very reason why I don't download MP3s.

I too have been disillusioned by the (lack of) quality with MP3s, which is particularly noticeable when played through decent hi-fi kit. It reminds me somewhat of listening to music recorded on C90 cassette tapes. The mid-range sounds 'mushy', the top-end distorted and the bass boomy. The overall sound is lifeless and lacks dynamics.

When you consider that CD technology is now nearly 25 years old, it seems surprising that music technology has actually gone backwards by 35 years.

Personally, I see MP3 as a cynical stepping stone for the record companies. As average broadband speeds increase over the next few years, record companies will start increasing the bit-rates which MP3 are encoded at and start re-releasing MP3s as 'Super MP3' or equivalent. This is a ploy to sell the public music at a higher quality than 192kbps (but still noticeably lower than 1411kbps CD-standard, certainly in the short-term) for more money than it charges now. Perhaps they'll initially give the option of 192kbps recordings at 69p and 768kbps recordings at 99p ???

Having seen the way that record companies work over the course of my lifetime, I'm not exactly very trusting of their intentions. Any fan of just about any successful act (and some not-so-successful) will know that a CD is released, followed by a Deluxe-2CD or Special Edition, followed by a Collector's Edition, followed by an Omnibus Edition, followed by a box set. And that's just the start... Imagine for a moment that you are a fan of U2 - you'll have seen The Joshua Tree originally released as vinyl, cassette tape & CD. This was accompanied by a promo 7" box set. Later we saw it re-released as MP3, a remastered CD, a Collector's 2-CD edition and box set. What next? A 6-CD box set of the album with just about anything they can find on the cuttings room floor along with DVD/Blu-Ray footage from the period??

Call me cynical but this is what I've come to expect from the record companies. They bleed people dry, then do it again, and again, and again.

Posted on 10 Oct 2009 19:34:47 BDT
Last edited by the author on 12 Oct 2009 22:32:09 BDT offer King Crimson concerts as mp3 and as Flac files. I have bought 8 concerts as Flac files and they sound simply splendid through a real hifi, easily as good as any cds I have heard.

Posted on 12 Oct 2009 13:30:08 BDT
Dave S-B says:
Now that disk storage is getting cheaper and cheaper, there's no excuse for not offering standard quality music - make no mistake here, it is "standard" quality sound i.e. CD-quality. MP3s and other formats which alter the sound to get the file size down are "low" quality sound. I'm a musician and producer and the actual digital files we, as a media industry, produce are many many more times accurate than even what you get on a CD. Blueray gives us a bit more accuracy, but it's still nowhere near what we hear on the original recording.

The idea that most "normal" people can't tell the difference between an MP3 and a CD-quality file is, I think, based on the fact that most people don't compare - how many times have you put a CD on, then listened to the same track as an MP3? I do that sometimes to people - just "normal" people ;) and so far everyone could hear the difference straight away. They might not have been able to say what the difference was, but they could hear it. Low-end gets mushy, high-end disappears. From a psychological perspective, that means it sounds less exciting, less dynamic. It also tends to make everyone turn the volume up, in an attempt to make it sound more exciting - which works for a bit until your ears get used to it and then you have to turn it up again!

Lossless formats, like FLAC, which compress the file without altering the audio give you the best of both worlds - a smaller file size (ok, not as small as MP3) and audio at normal quality. I'd always buy lossless if I had the choice...

In reply to an earlier post on 13 Oct 2009 21:36:57 BDT
M. Lawrence says:
If you want to play good quality downloads on a hifi you could do a lot worse than the new dacmagic by CA. I use one on my hifi that is supposed to pick up all the faults on compressed music, cost £0000s.. sounds great

Posted on 19 Oct 2009 12:37:05 BDT
M. K. Padden says:
There is a service available for buying/downloading legal full WAV files it is supposedly for DJs/Radio stations. Suprisingly it's called MobileDJDownloads. Quick downloading as well.

Posted on 19 Oct 2009 20:34:28 BDT
Lynn Monk says:
As both a recording musician and the owner of a unique kind of Indie label. I think I provide the best of both Worlds for my artists and our customers. Many of the things people have mentioned here, I already provide in my online record store, such as downloadable music in three file qualities... A standard 128Kbps MP3, a CD quality 44.1 FLAC file, and a Studio Quality 24bit 96Khz FLAC file. The latter being a download of around 130mb per song. All our albums are also available as individual tracks, and commercial users of music can also purchase usage licenses without having to apply seperately for permissions to use the music commercially. You can also hear the whole song before you buy (in 40Kbps mono), instead of the 30 second clip that other stores preview.

Posted on 20 Oct 2009 00:02:37 BDT
This is just miserable nonsense. I'm an "audiophile" - I have a pro sound card in my PC and Stax headphones. I used to have a Linn LP12 (you know who you are if you know what one of those is). MP3s sound just fine thanks.

Posted on 27 Oct 2009 14:35:19 GMT
D. Ford says:
At last sanity in Justin Keery's post. I'm astonished at how good MP3 files conpressed to 256kbps do sound through what I think is real hi-fi. They don't sound good great if taken from the headphone sockets of portable players, laptops or PC's but that's a function of the d/a conversion and amplification in the device not of the potential sound quality of the file. Take the MP3 file from a digital output on the player/computer and put it through a separate DAC (such as Project's USB one) into an amplfier and then listen.

Bear in mind too that most popular CD's are heavily compressed and a tiny fraction of their potential dyamic range is used in order that you can hear what should have been the quiet bits over the noise of the car, so they sound louder and more noticeable on the radio, etc. and much of their potential quality is thus wasted.

I remain basically a vinyl junkie and i probaly would pay more for less compressed files but MP3 sounds a whole lot better than it has any right to given the level of compression if you give it a chance and don't play it through 10 pence d/a conversion, amplifier and volume control chip included in the playback device. Give it a fighting chance before you damn it.

Posted on 27 Oct 2009 15:10:14 GMT
Martin says:
MP3s: It is what it is, throw-away-music..! Most people listen to a track for a little while and then never listen to it again. Yes we all want quality and it should be the best possible, but to what point. This argument has been used for vinyl Vs CDs and then what speaker type, what wattage, what type of amplifier etc, etc, etc...
To me the answer seems clear, if you don't like the quality, don't buy it.

In reply to an earlier post on 31 Oct 2009 01:53:22 GMT
D says:
there is absolutely nothing wrong with 320kbps. i have a modded iPod, expensive headphones and an even more expensive amplifier, and can't tell the difference up to Apple lossless. 320 is still pretty high. try for yourself!

Posted on 31 Oct 2009 11:01:00 GMT
Last edited by the author on 31 Oct 2009 13:57:29 GMT
MC Zaptone says:
Start with a decent home hi-fi, well thats weird because most people these days don't possess one. It's incredible that nobody seems willing to spend 800 quid or so (by comparison [average wage/outgoings] they are much cheaper than 30 years ago when everybody owned one, and yet many people are willing to spend £100 -200 for a crappy mp3 player, these people swear to me they love music, yeah right. The power of advertising, no doubt....and before I get the...'some people can't afford it' ...nonsense - they can afford a computer, so why not proper musical equipment? It took me and my mates an average of 2 years saving and an evening job to get our first proper system, if you love it, you will do it. Why do people want everything right now, even if it means huge compromises in quality.

I don't buy into the 'audiophile' myth, It's just a label thrown at people who enjoy the same quality that used to be taken for granted only now the major labels have made inferior quality music so much the norm, that anyone with half a decent ear is marginalised for caring. Whereas it should be noted that by this reasoning that makes the average person an Audiophobe, or at worst, complacent bods who get more of a thrill from technology than music. Or maybe they have never had the opportunity to hear how different and wonderful their collection could sound, poor sods.

If you are sensible enough to have saved and invested in a decent set-up my advise would be to try Linnmusic downloads (studio monitor quality 24 bit 96KHz - even 5:1 if you like) and most importantly a decent USB compatible DAC through which you can even stream Spotify etc.

The trouble here is some people will always tell you that Mp3's sound good, they can't tell the difference etc. etc. because people have to defend their choices even when the have been duped. The same types that tell you their HD ready LCD TV's look so much better than their old CRT one and of course it's true - it looks so much better......until it's turned on!

In reply to an earlier post on 1 Nov 2009 12:21:56 GMT
Philco says:
One of the reasons I still buy CDs - particularly of the music/artists I really like - is because of concerns over the quality of mp3s. I do, however, download mp3s as well, and have made a personal decision to balance storage needs and quality by saving my mp3s at 192 kbps. Music, and how we enjoy it, is a personal thing, so how or what equipment you choose to listen to it on is your business. So while MC Williams thinks the rest of us are daft for not spending several hundred pounds on 'decent' hi-fis, we might think the same of him for spending such ridiculous amounts on equipment that doesn't balance out the other aspects of music enjoyment nowadays e.g try dragging your 'decent' £800 equipment on the train, or your stack of CDs/ vinyl on holiday with you. It isn't just down to advertising, its also down to personal choice.

Having said all that, I nevertheless feel that mp3 albums for £6.99 when you can get the same CD album for a similar price or less is, indeed, a rip off. Again, I have made the personal choice to purchase mp3 albums on offer - £3 or less as a trade-off...

Posted on 1 Nov 2009 14:44:48 GMT
L. Camacho says:

1. MP3 files encoded with high bitrate are almost impossible to distinguish from a lossless source (aka transparent encoding). Amazon MP3 files are encoded with LAME using the -V1 switch and Joint Stereo. That means a VBR encoding of around 225 kbps and well done channel coupling (because the files that I got were all encoded with a recent version of LAME, that means well done mid-side stereo coupling).
If I had the original lossless files and encoded them for myself I would use the exact same settings, I think that whoever is in charge of the MP3 department in Amazon is a very competent person(s) and is doing a very good job.

Quoting from the hydrogenaudio wiki:

"High quality: HiFi, home or quiet listening

-V0 (~245 kbps), -V1 (~225 kbps), -V2 (~190 kbps) or -V3 (~175 kbps) are recommended. These settings will normally produce transparent encoding (transparent = most people can't distinguish the MP3 from the original in an ABX blind test). Audible differences between these presets exist, but are rare."


2. Lossless files, like FLAC, are not of much use other than archiving. I would use them to ensure that in the future, when/if the MP3 format fades away I can encode my music in whatever new format would be the mainstream at that time or use then as it is. The only advantage of lossless is that it's future proof, the audible differences to a well encoded MP3 are almost none.

3. That said I wish that Amazon would indeed offer lossless music to buy, nothing wrong with having that option. Other (true, much smaller) stores do it, so would be nice to have it here as well.

4. I also wish they would offer their services to countries outside UK, France and Germany :-( and this is much more important than having "audiophile" quality lossless files.

Posted on 3 Nov 2009 13:32:26 GMT
Smokin-Buck says:
I stick with vinyl and recording at 48KHz 16Bit for my Sony Walkman. These can then be played back on decent hi-fi sounding better than CD. The extra 4000 samples a second (48KHz - 44KHz [cd quality]) more than CD quality is very noticable to my ears & most who have listened.

MP3s were 1st used when download/internet was still using 56K modem. Now all/most of us are on broadband, these excesssivly compressed/butchered files are redundant.

Posted on 4 Nov 2009 00:10:02 GMT
One option is to see if the artist you like has their music available on Bandcamp. This site allows indie artists to upload theri tracks in original formats (yes, it takes ages but the end result is worth it!). The site then encodes the tracks in various formats, the minimum being 320kbps MP3 with options for FLAC, Apple Lossless, Ogg Vornis etc.
To see an example visit
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Discussion in:  mp3 discussion forum
Participants:  175
Total posts:  723
Initial post:  5 Oct 2009
Latest post:  2 Apr 2014

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