Experiences of purchasing downloads

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Experiences of purchasing downloads

Reading again Andrew's piece in the January magazine, downloading has a long way to go yet as far as this listener is concerned, with one exception. Firstly I have to say any download for me must sound identical to the CD so no MP3 or low bit rate downloads (I'm also not yet into higher rates than CD as my present DAC operates at the CD rate of 16bit 44.1kHz and none of the items I've purchased were in any case available at higher rates). The only site I've used with any success is the Chandos Classical Shop. It's easy to find one's way around, has a good selection of independent labels and I think all of Chandos's recordings including those no longer available on CD. To actually make the download the site told me I would need to download the Java programme which I did quickly and easily from the Chandos site. The downloaded music then appeared in my Windows Media Player and was therefore easily  accessed and played. Even on the Chandos site though there were recordings I would have purchased but didn't because they were only MP3s.

I then thought I'd look at the other major independent Hyperion. Here I got hopelessly bogged down in trying to follow their download instructions. It made some comment about incompatibility with the Windows Media player. I gave up; black mark Hyperion. The Naxos site has a good selection of recordings but little at CD rate so that's out. I could find no way to get EMI issues. As to Universal  after going from pillar to post and site to site I finally managed to register and purchase a Decca recording. When I found it in my computer and tried to play it however  the computer said "the selected file has an extension (flac) not recognized by Windows media player" and wouldn't play it so several pounds down the drain there.

If Chandos can produce a site that is easy to navigate and make downloads from why cannot others? I am astonished that EMI & Universal cannot operate something similarly straightforward. If downloading is the future either people are easily satisfied with poor quality sound or else I'm missing something.

 

RE: Experiences of purchasing downloads

It's the former, 33lp, I'm afraid. People, the declining economic situation almost everywhere, convenience versus anything else that requires a bit more effort and concentration (and more money, of course) contributes to the downturn of the once unique listening experience and the unusual pleasure of collecting.

Unfortunately, there is no shortcut to happiness...Good stuff (high quality CDs or SACDs) cost a lot, great sound equipment costs a (small or big) fortune, listening room should be large enough, properly prepared and arranged and some more.

Anyhow, that's the way it was and that's the way it is going to be for some time, till, eventually, companies and labels order that collecting is over. Then, for me and quite a few others listening experience will be over...We'll see..

Parla

RE: Experiences of purchasing downloads

In defence of Hyperion, I have downloaded a number of titles from their site   and have found it perfectly simple to do. I am not a fan of downloading generally and much prefer CD and vinyl carriers, but I found the Hyperion site easy to navigate my way around and simple to select and download my chosen recordings. I am by no means a computer expert [far from it] but had no problems with their site.

Sound quality in FLAC was first class as well.

RE: Experiences of purchasing downloads

Hi 33lp: you can download media monkey free and this will play FLAC files, so please don't think your Hyperion download is money wasted.

RE: Experiences of purchasing downloads

Audacity is also free and will convert flac to wav for you.

P

RE: Experiences of purchasing downloads

parla wrote:

Unfortunately, there is no shortcut to happiness...Good stuff (high quality CDs or SACDs) cost a lot, great sound equipment costs a (small or big) fortune, listening room should be large enough, properly prepared and arranged and some more.

Nonsense. CDs cost peanuts these days, which is why I've not so far considered downloads, though I realise that this situation (or indeed the very availability of CDs) isn't going to last. Great, or expensive, sound equipment isn't necessary, especially when, as with me and the vast majority of people, you don't have a dedicated "listening room".

RE: Experiences of purchasing downloads

 

 

Yet another parla-ysed thread.

 

Yawn.

RE: Experiences of purchasing downloads

guillaume wrote:

 

Nonsense. CDs cost peanuts these days, which is why I've not so far considered downloads, though I realise that this situation (or indeed the very availability of CDs) isn't going to last. Great, or expensive, sound equipment isn't necessary, especially when, as with me and the vast majority of people, you don't have a dedicated "listening room".

Not exactly peanuts, but relatively cheaper CDs, yes, as it's market-driven.  Companies know that downloads will take an increasing share of the market - for convenience at one end of the market (primarily) and quality at the other.

Sound equipment doesn't have to be ridiculously expensive but it does have to be good to do the job.  Poor systems aren't listened to after a while.  A good system demands attention, broadens listening experience and thus increases sales from whichever medium.  That has been my experience anyway.

Good modern sound systems are designed for domestic situations not dedicated listening rooms.  (See Linn's speaker philosophy for instance.)  But the other side of that coin is that the system needs to be good enough to handle ordinary domestic listening environments. 

Investing in the best sound system you can afford, after very careful auditioning and selection, is vital to do justice to the high quality of discs or downloads now available.

Vic.

RE: Experiences of purchasing downloads

The 'quality of sound' is an all too often aired subect here. Not everyone can afford Linn gear or SACD's or overpriced FLAC files. Yet we get the odd posts about historical recordings and how greater they are than modern interpretations but, surely, there's a compromise with sound quality there but do the historical fans care? I'm assuming they're listening to the essence of the music and good for them.

This is a forum about MUSIC. I'd rather listen to an mp3 of something than not listen to it. 

I do have to say, though, how can it be more expensive to provide a FLAC file than an mp3 when storage is so cheap? It's just another way for labels to increase margin.

 

Pause for thought.

RE: Experiences of purchasing downloads

I don't know which new releases cost "peanuts", Guillaume, but I found all new releases (not recycled material) at about 15 Euros and some SACDs at 18-20!

Good (not ridiculously expensive, as Vic said) sound equipment and a specific room for listening music make a huge difference in the whole experience of comprehending and enjoying Classical Music. This, so far, cannot be replaced by any downloads.

However, everyone can suit himself.

Parla

RE: Experiences of purchasing downloads

Although I've been converted by the convenience and sound quality of the world of lossless streaming of my own 'ripped' CDs (and also by high-quality internet radio) I have only ever downloaded two albums which I might otherwise have purchased in their CD versions. I had no quibbles about sound quality, but am probably too stuck in old habits to be able to get over the sensation of not actually owning anything physical which I can pick up and handle. 

And Atonal is quite right about historical recordings. Probably a good 25% of my discs are of historical vintage, almost exclusively opera and singers and their obvious sonic limitations are something that one easily gets over or 'listens through'.

JKH

RE: Experiences of purchasing downloads

I would much rather purchase a download that a cheaply re-packaged reissue with attrocious art work that tries to replicate the DG Originals look. For instance EMI seem to have flooded the market in the last 12 months with very cheaply repackaged opera sets. They are about all you can buy in HMV these days.

Ted 

RE: Experiences of purchasing downloads

Atonal wrote

The 'quality of sound' is an all too often aired subect here. Not everyone can afford Linn gear or SACD's or overpriced FLAC files. Yet we get the odd posts about historical recordings and how greater they are than modern interpretations but, surely, there's a compromise with sound quality there but do the historical fans care? I'm assuming they're listening to the essence of the music and good for them.

This is a forum about MUSIC.

I have a significant number of 78 transfers on CD, mostly piano, and if well done have no problem listening to them - see my comments on the 78s or digital downloads post. When it comes to modern recordings however I see little point in listening to them in other than the best possible format. If an item is available as a CD or a lossless download which should sound  identical to the CD I can see little point in listening to it as a 320kbps MP3 or worse.

When it comes to equipment we all have our own ideas and preferences within our budgets and of course room acoustics.

Thanks to those who suggested how to try and access my "unplayable" download. I'm not greatly enamoured at cluttering up my computer with more programs and really do think the industry must offer a simple common system with all downloads at uncompressed CD rate or better if it is to make any progress, at least as far as this listener is concerned.

RE: Experiences of purchasing downloads

VicJayL wrote:

guillaume wrote:

 

Nonsense. CDs cost peanuts these days, which is why I've not so far considered downloads, though I realise that this situation (or indeed the very availability of CDs) isn't going to last. Great, or expensive, sound equipment isn't necessary, especially when, as with me and the vast majority of people, you don't have a dedicated "listening room".

Not exactly peanuts, but relatively cheaper CDs, yes, as it's market-driven.  Companies know that downloads will take an increasing share of the market - for convenience at one end of the market (primarily) and quality at the other.

Sound equipment doesn't have to be ridiculously expensive but it does have to be good to do the job.  Poor systems aren't listened to after a while.  A good system demands attention, broadens listening experience and thus increases sales from whichever medium.  That has been my experience anyway.

Good modern sound systems are designed for domestic situations not dedicated listening rooms.  (See Linn's speaker philosophy for instance.)  But the other side of that coin is that the system needs to be good enough to handle ordinary domestic listening environments. 

Investing in the best sound system you can afford, after very careful auditioning and selection, is vital to do justice to the high quality of discs or downloads now available.

Vic.

Vic, I can't remember when I last paid in double figures for a CD (whether in pounds, euros or dollars) or even a double CD. The only reason I don't buy a lot more CDs than I do (perhaps 50-60 per year) is lack of the necessary listening time to do them justice. Cost has long ceased to be a factor.  

As for expensive sound systems, the whole concept is alien to me. I have a Sony micro system - i.e. CD player, radio and cassette player - which cost me about £250 a few years ago. This gives as good an approximation of concert hall sound (and I go to quite a few live concerts) as is possible in my small appartment, especially considering I have near neighbours. You say that poor systems are no longer listened to after a while. Evidently then mine, though cheap, isn't poor.

RE: Experiences of purchasing downloads

Atonal wrote:

the verge of imploding in on its own procratinating wobble. The majors have been too slow to pave the way with quality downloads, preferring to squeeze every last buck out of CD promotion, while allowing computer/internet programmers to confuse the situation with creating multiple platforms and file types. 

Sorry Atonal and 33lp, I don't really agree with this. Apart from Apple, most other (all other?) download retailers have standardised their formats as mp3 and/or flac, and the other lossy/lossless formats have largely been forgotten. The fact that flac doesn't play on Windows Media player is because of Microsoft's policy and not because of the music industry. Media players like VLC media player are cross platform programs designed to play anything and bypass the antics of Apple and Microsoft. If you can clutter your machine with downloads then you can surely add another media player.   

Ted

RE: Experiences of purchasing downloads

guillaume wrote:

 

As for expensive sound systems, the whole concept is alien to me. I have a Sony micro system - i.e. CD player, radio and cassette player - which cost me about £250 a few years ago. This gives as good an approximation of concert hall sound (and I go to quite a few live concerts) as is possible in my small appartment, especially considering I have near neighbours. You say that poor systems are no longer listened to after a while. Evidently then mine, though cheap, isn't poor.

Well, Guillaume, as perception is everything, you are in a very happy position with your current system, so fair play to you.   I guess the majority here are similarly content with their assess to music, which is great.

What constitutes an expensive system is relative though.  I guess most believe it begins somewhere higher than they have currently spent.   I feel that I have waited half a lifetime to hear music reproduced to the quality I now enjoy, and often wonder how it could be better (although I know of course that it could, if funds allowed).  

The law of diminishing returns operates sharply in this field, but the gains are real and significant, enhancing the listening experience into subtle yet profound areas.  The decay of a note on a cello, the interaction within a string section of the orchestra, the acoustics of a recording arena, the distortion-free delivery of extreme highs and lows at near concert hall volumes.   I don't need them, but I certainly appreciate what they bring to the experience. 

But it's all relative, so each to his/her own, I say.

Vic.

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