Beyond iTunes

For the past decade my friends and clients have constantly asked me the same question. Will internet music downloads ever sound as good as my CD and vinyl collection? I am happy to report that i can now recommend downloaded music files as a true high fidelity source for serious listeners.

hes-ralphThe simple explanation is based on the difference in sound quality between MP3 music down loads, which are heavily compressed, versus lossless downloads, that have little or no compression.

Compression is the mortal enemy of the serious music lover. It reduces the dynamic range and frequency bandwidth of music files. Why use compression you ask? It is used because it makes music downloads faster and the files take up less space on your ipod or computer hard drive.

If you are willing to invest in a hard drive for your computer with some serious storage capacity and a high quality digital to analog convertor, you can download lossless music files. You will be rewarded by the magnificent sound quality that has been missing in your life since the digital music revolution took place.

The following are some recommended sites to purchase lossless music downloads:

LINN RECORDS: www.linnrecords.com

Linn offers a large variety of artists and music genres. Linn is a Scottish company that manufactures high performance audio components. Linn records is a well respected music label and recording facility that features a few well known artists and some that are more eclectic. Linn has been offering audiophile grade vinyl pressings and SACD recordings for many years. So it is no surprise that they have been leading the way in lossless music downloads as well.

record-2GIMELL RECORDS: www.gimell.com

If you are interested in Medieval and Renaissance period music, this site is for you. They offer a wide variety of music download standards. Anything from heavily compressed MP3 to the most incredible Studio Master Pro 5.1. For those of us who listen to our music downloads on a modern day Dolby Digital surround system, the Studio Master Pro 5.1 is particularly desirable.

DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON: www.deutschegrammophon.com

Many vinyl collectors will remember the vast catalog of classical music that Deutsche offered over 40 years ago. Most of those vinyl pressings are now available for FLAC lossless downloads. FLAC files can be converted to Apple lossless for those that own Mac computers.

HD TRACKS: www.hdtracks.com

This is a great site. They feature a Blue Note Store, A Rolling Stones Store, and a store dedicated to 96khz/24 bit downloads. Audiophiles will particularly love this one. HD Track also offers older classics like Bob Marley, Legend and the Beach Boys, Pet Sounds, and the latest releases as well.

recordBLEEP: www.bleep.com

This site is great for Rock music aficionados. They offer MP3 downloads and lossless as well.

ECLASSCIAL: www.eclassical.com

If classical music is your thing and Deutsche Grammophon didn’t float your boat, then this site will. You can purchase individual tracks and everything from MP3 to 96khz/24 bit is available. By the way, all MP3 downloads are not created equal. 320 kbs is much more acceptable sounding than 128kbs. 320 kbs takes up more space, but the sound quality makes this trade off well worth it.

ITUNES: 128 kbs downloads. Nuff said!

There are several more music download sites that I have not listed. But now that you are armed with my list, your computer hard drive better be prepared for a serious workout. And don’t forget the quality of the interface between your computer and your music system is most important. A DAC with USB inputs and analog audio outputs is a critical ingredient in this audio recipe.