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U.S. Album Sales Down, Digital Sales Up

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As this site says, the future of [hi-end] audio is on disk, not disc.



LOS ANGELES (AP) -- U.S. album sales plunged 9.5 percent last year from 2006, continuing a downward trend for the recording industry, despite a 45 percent surge in the sale of digital tracks, according to figures released Thursday.

A total of 500.5 million albums sold as CDs, cassettes, LPs and other formats were purchased last year, down 15 percent from 2006's unit total, said Nielsen SoundScan, which tracks point-of-purchase sales.

The shortfall in album sales drops to 9.5 percent when sales of digital singles are counted as 10-track equivalent albums. About 844.2 million digital tracks sold in 2007, compared to 588.2 million in 2006, and digital album sales accounting for 10 percent of total album purchases.


Complete story from wired.com


Founder of Audiophile Style | My Audio Systems

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.. would be that when they say "Digital (music) Sales Up", they meant digital music at a minimum of 16 bit / 44.1 KHz. We have a lot of work to do to convince people that they really want to do better than lossy compression formats. Things really seem to be heating up though, and I am so glad for that.


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I was just talking about this with some co-workers. One was saying he didn't use the Itunes store because the music was 128k, and he was lamenting the fact that when he started ripping his CDs he did so at 128k. Another fellow asked what the difference was.


We have a lot of people coming to music devices who are just picking up on what their friends do. Guiding them toward better quality will be an uphill walk, I think, but perhaps not so bad as I think. More companies are bringing out 256k music with no DRM.


I have not yet tried downloading high-resolution files. Not sure how long it will take, and if it will be better than buying CDs.


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.... in the audio world, many people who like or even love music really aren't educated to just how good it can sound if things are done properly. Therefore, without some guidance, many of them will unwittingly settle for much less than they can actually afford. Have you ever seen folks just JAMMING and having a great time listening to a beat-box that is horribly distorting the sound - so bad that you are sure the speakers are blown? I think you might be right in thinking that it won't be so bad as you think to lead people to 'the truth': after all, they love the music right? When it sounds demonstrably better, how much more will they love it?


Now, on the subject of high-resolution files for download ( "I have not yet tried downloading high-resolution files." ) - you must have overlooked the *super double secret* free link that Chris put up on this site a while back, so I will put it here again. Suffice it to say that it won't take too long to get the files, they are free (though just segments of bigger musical works) and that you will have a pretty darn good idea of what kind of thing is possible in the future - even as I type, actually... -after listening to them.


They are FLAC files, and the first time I d/l them, I used MAX on my Mac to convert them to AIF files ( 24/96 ) so that I could play them in iTunes. They sounded so good to me that these samples are still there in my library. I can play back the FLAC files without conversion using VLC, now that I have found out about that program (there are other prgs. too.)


Here is the link: http://01688cb.netsolhost.com/samplerdownload/


Please do try them.


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Hey markr & LC - I'll be checking out the new Reference Recordings 24 bit / 176 KHz high resolution music in the next couple weeks. They are offering it as wav files on DVD for now, but soon will offer it over the web as downloadable files. I certainly don't believe that just because the number is higher (24/176 v. 24/96) that it will sound better, but based on the past material I have purchased from RR the quality should be fabulous. I did talk to the RR guys at CES about this HRx music offering and they discussed a PCI card for PCs that outputs AES/EBU that is the card they highly recommend. I will report more on this later.


Founder of Audiophile Style | My Audio Systems

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While it is really quite true that 16 bit / 44.1 KHz digital audio is technically capable of capturing the essence of what the human ear can hear from the point of view of the numbers that audiophiles like to brag about - the specs of their systems, the reality is that when the switch was begun to digital audio (CD's), the execution of the engineers and equipment was really quite 'spotty'. There are so many variables involved in getting analog sound over to digital sound. The knowledge base of the people involved, and the experience level of the engineers was very small as compared to now. For me at least, things really didn't turn out so well for a very long time. Not to say that there weren't some real jewels created right from the start. - Since the early days, things have really gotten better from the point of view of the audio quality of the standard CD. Getting 'tha dang thing' to sound right in the confines of 16/44.1 is still a tight fit IMO though ...


What I am getting at here, is that huge portions of at least the early CD catalogs really sounded horrible when compared to the vinyl or mag tape originals. This is why you have seen so many re-issues and re-mastered releases on the market in recent years.


To my ear, where the "Higher Numbers" come into play is when you want to be able to hear more than the specifications have ever reflected: the 'soul' of the music, as I think of it and experience it. These 54 year old (OMG!) ears still are more likely to 'smile' when listening to the original vinyl release of say, Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon (there are many other titles in this category), than when listening to the original release of the CD of the same title. I don't even like the CD re-masters of this same title as much I do the original vinyl. SURE the CD pops and clicks ..... not at all ... in comparison. But something that is there on the vinyl is still missing to my ear in the available digital copies. I should mention here that I have a point of reference for this observation: I saw PF perform Dark Side, and most of the Meddle album, live back in the day in Austin TX. It was done in 'quad' sound and I sat RIGHT next to the mixing board in the middle of the auditorium. Priceless.


I don't have the time to describe what this potential audio difference I've been ranting about here IS in technical terms, but what I can easily, and I believe accurately, convey is that when "Higher Numbers" are used - for example when I record artists, or when I listen to high resolution digital - my ears 'smile'. Having 24 bit / 96 KHz audio available to me - it has been nearly 10 years now - began my formation of this opinion. Chris is right: having 'higher numbers' available is just gravy.


... the guy with the smiling ears and challenged checking account ... 8^)


PS: CA readers - I'm d/l the Linn Audio - Super Audio Surround Sampler 3, the Studio Master FLAC version, as I type. The $13.50 price tag was too small to resist, dang it. I'll post up some impressions here when I am able.


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.... err ... Chris, weren't you supposed to be *working* when you posted this? 8^P


First Linn Master FLAC d/l Impression: 1.12 Gb d/l (56+ minutes of 24/96 audio) took about 270 minutes on cable broadband! Take a nap or two. Better yet, back up your music library HD's!


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