Wav, flac, aac, mp3, CDs, SACDs, downloads – which to choose? Here's a solution...
There’s a lot of talk around the audiophile forums, and indeed on the Gramophone one, about computer-stored and physical audio formats. Should one be ripping discs as .wav, .flac, .aac, .mp3, buying CDs or SACDs, downloading files at CD quality, or even searching for internet sites offering even higher resolutions?
Or is it better to hope that the Blu-ray format will expand its audio-only offering, making high-quality discs able to be played even on relatively inexpensive hardware? After all, £100 will buy you a very decent BD player these days.
The solution, as I discovered when compiling this month’s round-up of the best-sounding releases for my monthly Super Audio Corner in the magazine, is already here – and it comes from one of the smaller labels.
I’m a big admirer of Norwegian label 2L, and listening to its “Kind” recording I started delving deeper into what this two-disc package had to offer. On the surface, you have LPCM stereo and DTS-HD 5.0-channel, both at 192kHz/24-bit, on the Blu-ray disc, plus a hybrid CD/SACD disc in the same package.
However, with your Blu-ray player connected to a home network, you can also download the entire contents of the disc from the internet, in a choice of high-resolution 192kHz/24-bit or 96kHz/24-bit FLAC, CD-quality WAV or (for portable players) MP3.
Using a home computer on the same network, you can access your Blu-ray player via a web browser and, using proprietary mShuttle technology provided on the disc, download the additional content to your home computer.
This can then be stored for later playback, or indeed copied to a portable MP3 player or an iPod or similar device.
In other words, it has just about every format anyone could ever want, all in one package, for home listening, playing in the car or copying to a handheld player or phone.
Now why can’t all releases be like that?
(See the March issue of Gramophone, on sale now, for more audio articles and reviews)
Andrew Everard, Audio Editor of Gramophone since November 1999, read English at Queens' College, Cambridge a very long time ago, and was a member of the Westminster Abbey Special Choir even further back in the mists of time. He has worked on What Hi-Fi? Sound and Vision, High Fidelity, Audiophile and Home Cinema magazines, as well as contributing a monthly column to Japanese title HiVi.