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Reference Recordings 16-Bit Downloads


Axiom05
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Does anyone know exactly how these files were obtained? The files that I am referring to are only available as 16/44.1 downloads and were originally released as HDCD-encoded CD's. I also believe that they were originally recorded at 20-bit resolution. Are the downloads newly derived from the original 20-bit masters or are they basically rips of the CD's and still contain the HDCD-encoding?

Auralic Aries G2, Ayre QX-5 Twenty, Ayre KX-5 Twenty, Ayre VX-5 Twenty, Revel Ultima Studio2, Iconoclast speaker cables & interconnects, RealTraps acoustic treatments, Sonore opticalModule (X2)

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It would be great to know the real story on downloads of previously released HDCD CDs - are they just offering up the already encoded CD master or is there no HDCD encoding? The whole "lack of provenance" thing is a big issue with the current distribution chain for music downloads. It has made me very cautious about spending the bucks on D/Ls. Currently in the process of ripping my 4000 CDs (been buying since the start in 1982!) till this mess gets straightened out.

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I've always assumed that they were CD rips, and avoided them because I didn't want to deal with HDCD encoding. Why would RR go back to the hi-rez masters and make new 16/44 versions for download without releasing hi-rez versions at the same time?

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This does seem fishy to me. There aren't a tremendous number of CD/disc players these days that decode HDCD - and there are even fewer software programs/streamers/computer setups that do it. For this reason, IMHO Reference Recordings could at least have the courtesy to run their rips through HDCD decoding software, which would result in 24-bit, 44.1kHz files, which would actually be 20-bit, with the final four bits padded with zeros for compatibility (since few if any players can play 20-bit files).

 

This would take them very little time, use very little extra bandwidth for the downloads, and give consumers files that can still be played on iPods, iPhones, and other phones and portable devices with no problem (since every modern device I'm aware of can handle at least 24/48 resolution, even if in some cases it gets downsampled to 16-bit during playback as with Apple's Airplay).

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I've always assumed that they were CD rips, and avoided them because I didn't want to deal with HDCD encoding. Why would RR go back to the hi-rez masters and make new 16/44 versions for download without releasing hi-rez versions at the same time?

 

I have no idea, that's why I asked the question. So much of what RR does makes no sense to me from a business perspective. It looks like these HDCD CD releases were recorded in 24-bit but I am at a complete loss why higher resolutions were never made available. If they are just the HDCD-encoded Redbook files, it would be nice to have this stated upfront.

Auralic Aries G2, Ayre QX-5 Twenty, Ayre KX-5 Twenty, Ayre VX-5 Twenty, Revel Ultima Studio2, Iconoclast speaker cables & interconnects, RealTraps acoustic treatments, Sonore opticalModule (X2)

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At least this is a question that should be easy to resolve. I'd be willing to bet up to twice the price of a download that it is in fact HDCD-encoded. If I'm the one doing the testing, then I'd pick an album, burn it to CD and play it on a HDCD-supporting CD player, then try to find a Windows machine on which I could run decoding software.

 

I would be surprised if RR had any more involvement in the HDTracks versions of these albums than negotiating a general licensing agreement. It would reasonably be HDTracks who should have done the courtesy of decoding the HDCD for us, but that would involve an attention to detail on matters of file format and provenance that we have not seen from them.

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I just took a look at the HDTracks catalogue of RR downloads. A quick perusal shows the many of the 44/16 downloads are from the pre HDCD era. Except for a few that were converted to 176/24 later on, they would be 44/16 only in digital, in addition to analogue. However there are also quite a few that are available as HDCD CD's from Reference directly. Not clear what the master was recorded at, but those should be at least 20 bits or from the analogue tape converted to HDCD by the Pacific Microsonics Models One or Two that KOJ and Pflash Pflaumer developed.

 

Looks like most of the more recent 176/24 masters are available in 176/24, although there are some 176/24 master recordings that are only available in lower resolution downloads from HDT (like the Percy Grainger Lincolnshire Posey and Respighi Belkis albums). I have both of those in 176/24 bought directly from Reference in their HRx series, but they are only available as 88/24 or 44/16 downloads from HDT.

 

Keith Johnson started releasing HDCD encoded CD's in the early-mid 1990's. Before that point Keith used his focused gap tape recorder for analogue recordings (most of which were released in vinyl and CD by converted to ADD CD's). He then did parallel recordings in analogue tape and digital. I believe those were released as vinyl and DDD CD's. In the early mid 90's he started doing HDCD which led to the development of the Pacific Microsonics Model One and then Model Two. PM was eventually sold to MS, but there are still around 150 or so machines. The Model Two (of which I own one) can do up to 192/24 and Keith uses it for his recordings making 176/24 masters. Both Model One and Two do HDCD encoding and decoding and those machines were developed so that others interested in producing HDCD could have a machine to do it. If a file is HDCD encoded then a special light turns on in the Model Two (and One) indicating HDCD encoding.

 

Catalog and Track Listing

 

If you look at the RR CD catalogue, you will see that CD's released before around 1992 (up to about CD-50) are not HDCD.

 

I have all of the RR recordings that Keith did in vinyl from analogue tape masters (until they ended in the the mid '90's). I also have all but one or two of the more recent vinyl releases, mastered by Paul Stubblebine from digital masters (I believe all of those were 176/24 masters), and almost all of the RR HRx series of 176/24 master discs. I even have all of the Tape Project master dubs that Paul Stubblebine did of Reference Recordings analogue releases from the original master tapes.

 

Larry

Analog-VPIClas3,3DArm,LyraSkala+MiyajimaZeromono,Herron VTPH2APhono,2AmpexATR-102+MerrillTridentMaster TapePreamp  Dig Rip-Pyramix,IzotopeRX3Adv,MykerinosCard,PacificMicrosonicsModel2; Dig Play-Lampi Pacific, mch NADAC, Roon-HQPlayer,Oppo105  Electronics-DoshiPre,CJ MET1mchPre,Cary2A3monoamps Speakers-AvantgardeDuosLR,3SolosC,LR,RR

Other-2x512EngineerMarutaniSymmetrical Power+Cables Music-15KRecs(90%classical),1.7KR2Rtapes,1.5KCD's,500SACDs,50TBripped files

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So much of what RR does makes no sense to me from a business perspective.

 

Are we talking about HDtracks downloads? Then they might be responsible for the choice of the format, and they just did a CD rip.

 

HDtracks has been offering SACD rips in the past (24/88 downloads of albums recorded in 24/44 or 24/96 and available on SACD), some without the knowledge of the original label (BIS). It doesn't seem that the technical side of their offerings is always coordinated with the label that grants the license on the music.

Claude

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Are we talking about HDtracks downloads? Then they might be responsible for the choice of the format, and they just did a CD rip.

 

This is not clear. I know that some of these same recordings are also available for download at Presto Classical and only at the 16/44.1 resolution. Again, there are no details on how the files were prepared but I doubt that Presto would rip there own files to sell. They likely sourced these from a distributor or the label directly. I have not searched all of the download sites to see what is available.

Auralic Aries G2, Ayre QX-5 Twenty, Ayre KX-5 Twenty, Ayre VX-5 Twenty, Revel Ultima Studio2, Iconoclast speaker cables & interconnects, RealTraps acoustic treatments, Sonore opticalModule (X2)

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However there are also quite a few that are available as HDCD CD's from Reference directly. Not clear what the master was recorded at, but those should be at least 20 bits or from the analogue tape converted to HDCD by the Pacific Microsonics Models One or Two that KOJ and Pflash Pflaumer developed.

 

These are the ones that I am referring to: originally released as HDCD-encoded CD's and now available as 16/44.1 downloads. The front of the CD booklet states that they are 24-bit recordings. I have several of these recordings on CD which I have ripped. I no longer have the ability to decode HDCD and the rips just don't sound as good as they should: increased background noise, restricted dynamics. I would love to have a higher resolution format for these and I suspect that a "straight" 16/44.1 file would even sound better than the non-decoded HDCD rip. I find it strange that these particular recordings have not been made available in higher resolution format. Even stranger is how hard it is to find out what it is that is being sold.

Auralic Aries G2, Ayre QX-5 Twenty, Ayre KX-5 Twenty, Ayre VX-5 Twenty, Revel Ultima Studio2, Iconoclast speaker cables & interconnects, RealTraps acoustic treatments, Sonore opticalModule (X2)

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These are the ones that I am referring to: originally released as HDCD-encoded CD's and now available as 16/44.1 downloads. The front of the CD booklet states that they are 24-bit recordings. I have several of these recordings on CD which I have ripped. I no longer have the ability to decode HDCD and the rips just don't sound as good as they should: increased background noise, restricted dynamics. I would love to have a higher resolution format for these and I suspect that a "straight" 16/44.1 file would even sound better than the non-decoded HDCD rip. I find it strange that these particular recordings have not been made available in higher resolution format. Even stranger is how hard it is to find out what it is that is being sold.

 

If you haven't checked at the RR website, they do have 30 of original master files available in their HRx series. They are all 176/24 and on disc, which you can download to your computer. A few were derived from analogue tape, but most are the digital master recordings that KOJ did. They are $30 each (down from $45 which I paid), and are the real masters. Not sure whether the those albums that HDT offers as downloads at 176/24 are identical, but I would guess they are. However there are many HRx albums are not available as HDT 176/24 downloads. Of course these are all 24 bit and not HDCD. The HDCD CD's that RR has released of these albums are derived from these masters.

 

Reference Recordings HRx Order

 

Larry

Analog-VPIClas3,3DArm,LyraSkala+MiyajimaZeromono,Herron VTPH2APhono,2AmpexATR-102+MerrillTridentMaster TapePreamp  Dig Rip-Pyramix,IzotopeRX3Adv,MykerinosCard,PacificMicrosonicsModel2; Dig Play-Lampi Pacific, mch NADAC, Roon-HQPlayer,Oppo105  Electronics-DoshiPre,CJ MET1mchPre,Cary2A3monoamps Speakers-AvantgardeDuosLR,3SolosC,LR,RR

Other-2x512EngineerMarutaniSymmetrical Power+Cables Music-15KRecs(90%classical),1.7KR2Rtapes,1.5KCD's,500SACDs,50TBripped files

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These are the ones that I am referring to: originally released as HDCD-encoded CD's and now available as 16/44.1 downloads. The front of the CD booklet states that they are 24-bit recordings. I have several of these recordings on CD which I have ripped. I no longer have the ability to decode HDCD and the rips just don't sound as good as they should: increased background noise, restricted dynamics. I would love to have a higher resolution format for these and I suspect that a "straight" 16/44.1 file would even sound better than the non-decoded HDCD rip. I find it strange that these particular recordings have not been made available in higher resolution format. Even stranger is how hard it is to find out what it is that is being sold.

 

There is an HDCD decoder for Foobar. It will work on wav files that have been ripped. You could go that route and save the digital output so you will have a file that is already decoded and ready for play.

And always keep in mind: Cognitive biases, like seeing optical illusions are a sign of a normally functioning brain. We all have them, it’s nothing to be ashamed about, but it is something that affects our objective evaluation of reality. 

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