For everyone looking for (more) resources on high-res music...I know the debate rages on, with a lot of people pointing to the article on xiph.org about "why high res doesn't matter", and in a lot of cases, sure, it is likely true. The heavy-handed compression that occurs as part of the "loudness wars" has resulted in a lot of people paying large premiums for these "HD downloads" and not getting their moneys worth. For that matter, here are some things I have found are helpful.
If you come across a "high resolution" download, check and see if the DR rating has been posted on the DR Database
. There is a free plug-in for foobar2000 that can be utilized to measure the dynamic range of a particular audio file, and "in general" a higher DR number is considered better, as it means there is not as much compression to make the track sound LOUDER. But for certain types of music, that compression may have been a decision made on purpose! Several people love the Daft Punk Random Access Memories album, and that is no all-star when it comes to the DR rating.
As a good example, check out Green Day's American Idiot album, which is available for download from HD Tracks. The DR of the original album is abysmal, rated as a 5 overall (link
). The HDTracks version, on the other hand, is rated at DR9 (link
). To this day, one of my favorite downloads I have purchased. Part of the positive increase in DR, I believe, is that Green Day actually recorded/mastered this (and future albums) at 24/96 resolution, so there's no fake "upsampling" or other monkey business to artificially create the 24/96 file without actually adding anything. On a personal note, this album begs to be turned up on my F12s, and never seems to run out of steam- can't say that for most of my rock albums!
As a bad example, Megadeth recently released several of their "megahit" albums on HD Tracks, and the results were...errr, well...subpar. Their 1992 album Countdown to Extinction has a rating of DR11 (link
) and I own the MFSL CD reissue, which is slightly "worse" by DR standards
, but I actually like it a little better in most regards over the original CD. Then came along the stinker HDTracks 24/96 download, which actually has a WORSE DR rating
than the already mutilated remixed and remastered
version of the album.
I know those are a lot of links, but a lot of times if you can wait, you can compare the DR rating of an "HDTracks" download and see if it offers (any) benefit over the original CD. Another great resource is the forums over at Computer Audiophile, specifically their "Audiophile Downloads" and "Music Analysis- Objective and Subjective" subforums. You'll usually find a discussion each week about new HDTracks releases, with members offering up DR ratings and more advanced (spectrogram) analysis to determine whether or not a release is "true HD" or some sort of bad upsampling masquerading as HD.
Besides HDTracks, if you are a classical music aficionado, there are several high-res download sites out there. One I frequent is eclassical.com. You can actually buy "segments" of classical pieces if you wish so you don't have to buy a whole album. I have bought a few downloads that are "only" 24 bit/44.1kHz (compared to CD 16 bit/44.1kHz) but the recording technique is so superior that you might hear "new things" from an "old favorite." I really enjoy the Beethoven Piano Concertos Nos 4/5 and a Mozart Clarinet Concerto/Quintet download from that site.
If you are curious about high res and want to just "try" it out, HDTracks has a "sampler" download available of a few tracks, and also check out the record label 2L. I believe they have test files available at many resolutions available for free download that you can stick on a flash drive and play through your system if it has the proper USB capabilities.
I know the debate will rage on about whether or not high res music offers any benefit, and I am far from qualified to debate it at all. What I do believe though, is if any sort of "high res release" is accompanied by a better recording/capturing/remastering technique, that can make an even greater difference in my enjoyment of the music beyond the superficial x bits/xxx kHz sampling rate statistics.