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jazzfan
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When hi-rez is not hi-rez

About a week ago JIMV and I both commented on a post by adamparker1regarding some new releases by HDTracks in this thread: http://forum.stereophile.com/content/hdtracks-wmg-releases

Since that time the thread has been moved several times and is now buried in the Manufacturers' Showcase section of the forum. However the concerns raised by both Jim and myself have not been addressed and perhaps by starting a new thread here in the General Rants 'n' Raves section proper attention will be given to this important issue.

So I will ask once again. When will Stereophile investigate the issues being raised by many audiophiles that several of the sites that sell high resolution digital audio downloads, often at a very premium price, are selling either upsampled CD quality recordings or recordings with severe dynamic range compression or both?

JIMV
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Well said

The issue is complicated in that there is little/no evidence that the sellers are knowingly selling such faux Hi-Rez...the practice seems to come from the folk doing the remastering.

When folk say (as they sometimes do on forums dedicated to computer or Hi-Rez Audio) that they cannot hear any significant difference, could they not be simply speaking of such upsampled kludge being sold as Hi-Rez?

 

I believe the industry needs a standard....

As an aside (and edit) I have also read that HD Tracks IS and has been testing product since January and has deleted a good number of titles as a result. They claim all their current offering are Hi-Rez. That said, some buyers still disagree and some post sale tests seem to support the skepticism.

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What I read as well

Somewhere, likely in Stereophil, I read a reply from the guys at HD who explained that the record company in question said that they supplied an upsampled cd rez file by mistake. Since then, HD tracks has done more to police the people who supply the files. There was no question that the McCartney files I recently downloaded from HDtracks were high rez, you could hear it, and they beat my original American pressing in some ways.

The problem with HDtracks is that too much of my money wants to go there. 8)

Trey

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Take a look at this thread on the issue

There seems to be a LOT of disagreement if the measurements made by buyers reveal real H-Rez mastering or simply upsampled 16/44...

http://www.computeraudiophile.com/content/Scandal-Brewing-High-Resolutio...

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Another thread with a lot of info...

http://www.computeraudiophile.com/content/HD-music-fft-atlas-reference-t...

I believe there are too many folk doing too many tests for there not to be a problem. To me the question is, how big is the problem and how can one fix it.

JoeE SP9
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Who?

So who can we buy from and be assured that we're getting what we pay for?

JIMV
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These folk for one
jazzfan
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Deaf Ears

Okay so almost 2 weeks have gone by and still not even a beep from anyone at Stereophile regarding this important issue.

for those of you not up to speed on file based high end audio let me make a simple analogy which help to show the seriousness of this issue.

Let's say that one of the companies that sells high quality, heavy weight virgin vinyl for a rather hefty price (more than $30 an LP) was found to using inferior vinyl, nth generation master tapes or worn out stampers. Do you think that Stereophile would sit by quietly or would they raise holy hell in trying to discover exactly what was going on?

Well selling "high resolution" downloads for hefty prices that are not really high resolution is equally offensive and these vendors need to be exposed so that more unsuspecting audiophiles are not taken in by these scams, if they are in fact scams. I, for one, would like to know if there really were honest mistakes and what measures are being taken to ensure that we audiophiles are getting what we pay for. Is that really too much to ask?

JIMV
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If...

If Stereophile is going to cover computer music, they should note the biggest issue of the moment.

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RE: Deaf Ears

"The issue is complicated in that there is little/no evidence that the sellers are knowingly selling such faux Hi-Rez...the practice seems to come from the folk doing the remastering."

I don't think that recriminations are either useful or particularly germane to the issue.  IOW, pointing fingers doesn't help. Now that the widespread practice of supplying/selling bogus hi-rez recordings is known, it's up to the sellers, who may or may not be supplying these pricy downloads in good faith, to get busy and start weeding the wheat from the chaff. In an article in the June Hi-Fi News and Record Review, from GB, both HDTRacks and Linn spokespersons said that they were aware of the problem and will be replacing the bogus tracks with the real thing and that they will gladly replace all upsampled low-res recordings with the real thing as they become available at no additional cost to the customer. No one commented, however, on whose at fault, or what they are doing about being duped themselves (if indeed they were duped). Let's encourage the industry clean this mess up quickly, give them the benefit of the doubt, and then get on with business.

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The folk doing the remastering...

are employed by the folk doing the selling and duping.  The practice has been going on for several years.  It's all documented if you care to search.

 

RG

jazzfan
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sad

The issue isn't about whether or not the vendors make good on their "mistakes" but rather why there are mistakes in the first place. The technology to test whether or not a given file is actually high resolution is widely available plus the ability to test for dynamic range compression is also widely available. The vendors selling fake and/or highly compressed high resolution files can be easily exposed and many of them have been exposed.

I ask yet again: Why is Stereophile silent on this subject?

John Atkinson
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Re: Stereophile's Silence

jazzfan wrote:

The issue isn't about whether or not the vendors make good on their "mistakes" but rather why there are mistakes in the first place. The technology to test whether or not a given file is actually high resolution is widely available plus the ability to test for dynamic range compression is also widely available. The vendors selling fake and/or highly compressed high resolution files can be easily exposed and many of them have been exposed.

I ask yet again: Why is Stereophile silent on this subject?

Things are not so simple as you make out, Jazzfan.

First, while HDTracks did unwittingly make available so-called hi-rez files that were actually CD quality - Herbie Hancock's The Joni Letters, for example - this was because they had been supplied mislabeled source material. They withdrew the titles as soon as they found out and replaced them with true hi-rez files. They now inspect every master they are sent, using Bruce Brown at Puget Sound for PCM and Bob Ludwig for DSD.

Second, many of the hi-rez files available are sourced from analog tapes. While these will not have as high a resolution as digital 24/96 or 24/192 files, they will still have, overall, a higher quality than CD.

Third, some have been complaining that 176.4k transfers from SACD masters have no more HF content than 88.2kHz transfers. These people are being misled by the presence of HF noise in the original DSD file that needs to be filtered in either case. Spectral analysis is not so unambiguous in this case as you might think.

Fourth, I have found some discrepancies in Refence Recordings 176.4kHz files. I  have queried Keith Johnson about this. However, I have yet to get an answer. When I do I will write about it.

Fifth, Stereophile has written much on the subject of recordings being sold with excessive dynamic range compression. This is a property of the original master file and can't be undone in the transfer to hi-rez digital.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

jazzfan
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Thanks

Thak you JA for that clear and concise answer. I really do appreciate that you are top of the situation even though the print magazine may lag a bit behind.

As for the dynamic range compression I don't believe that the answer is as simple as you suggest. In many cases the compression "is a property of the original master file and can't be undone in the transfer to hi-rez digital" and when that is the case I fully understand how the vendor's hands are tied. However in many other cases the dynamic range compression is not part of the original master and has been added in during the latest round of remastering. For example almost all of the high resolution material originally recorded in analog, e.g. the 1960's Rolling Stones releases.

Perhaps the answer is for HDTracks and other sellers of high resolution downloads to post the dynamic range of their offerings so that the buyer can then decide if these recordings are worth the extra money.

JIMV
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For me

I just want them to tell me at what rate the original mastering was...16/44.1, 24/96, analogue tape, etc....I do not believe upsampled CD is Hi-Rez...

jazzfan
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What is so difficult?
JIMV wrote:

I just want them to tell me at what rate the original mastering was...16/44.1, 24/96, analogue tape, etc....I do not believe upsampled CD is Hi-Rez...

 

You're quite right - an upsampled CD is not hi-rez. Nor can any recording or digital to analog conversion that is made at standard CD bit depth and sampling rates, i.e. 16 bit and 44.1 kHz, ever be magically turned into a hi-rez recording.

Since I'm not a recording engineer I don't know if any of the full digital recordings made in the early years of the CD were made using greater bit depth and/or higher sampling rates than 16 bit and 44.1 kHz. However if they were recorded at 16 bit and 44.1 kHz then that is the highest resolution they will ever have. In other words, these recordings will never be hi-rez.

On the other hand any full analog recording and any digital recording made using greater bit depth and/or higher sampling rates than 16 bit and 44.1 kHz, e.g. 24 bit and 96 kHz, can be made available as a true hi-rez recording. In the case of an analog recording the digital to analog conversion must be made using true high resolution bit depths and sampling rates.

Now what I don't understand is why is this too difficult for the Chesky brothers over at HDTracks to understand.

RGibran
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Preserve the Front End

It’s not so clear when you have a dog in the fight…

Hd Tracks was supplied some mislabeled source material, but you keep sweeping under the rug the _fact_ that when discovered by the buying public that many tracks had been merely upsampled, their engineer representative publicly lied numerous times about having _never_ upsampled any material, only to admit several months later on a forum that the first thing he does when discovering a track is not high res is to upsample it because in his opinion it just sounds better that way.

It is only_ after_ this fiasco of several years ago that HDTracks started checking all submitted material and claimed they would start the long process of going back and checking the existing material, utilizing the same engineer who took it upon himself to do the upsampling.  Upsampled material is still being discovered, by the buying public.

This engineer now claims 40 to 50 percent of all material supplied to him ( usually sacd) by the record companies is in fact _not_ high res.

Where is your coverage of that?

RG

jazzfan
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Stirring the pot
RGibran wrote:

It’s not so clear when you have a dog in the fight…

RG,

Don't you really mean when you have an ADVERTISER in the fight…?

I can see the hair standing on JA's head.

On a related note, I also get upset when I hear advertisements on one of the local news radio stations for products or services which are quite clearly scams. For example ones for debt relief, wrinkle fade creams, auto repair warranties to name but a few. In essence I have no problem with the station running these ads but I do have a problem with a news station that runs these kinds of scam ads and then NEVER does as news story about how big a ripoff these scams are. Freedom of the press?

Stereophile's tacit acceptance of the bad behavior of vendors selling less than high resolution material at inflated prices only serves to enhance my view that Stereophile serves the industry first and its readership second.

RGibran
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Avoid and Downplay

Seems to be the policy.

The integrity of the the front end must be preserved as it drives the industry.  Vinyl must be kept alive, even hyped as a thriving market.  Tables sell Pre’s sell….  Hi res digital  must be kept alive.  Players and Dac’s of increasing resolving capability fuel the market. 

To cover perhaps_THE_ issue of the day would be biting the hand that feeds you.  If audiophiles were to find the practice of upsampled or just plain repackaged cd quality material is and has been widespread for years by the record companies and now the download sites, well one can only imagine the negative impact it could or would have on the industry, and the periodicals that report on such, not to mention speaking engagements by industry professionals on the need for High Res!

Lastly, what a cheap shot at one of the greatest engineer’s who has been making standard CD’s sound better than most hi res material for the last 30 years.

RG

Poor Audiophile
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Cheap shot?

Are you referring to this? "Fourth, I have found some discrepancies in Refence Recordings 176.4kHz files. I  have queried Keith Johnson about this. However, I have yet to get an answer. When I do I will write about it." Is that a cheap shot? How so?

BTW, I love the new options here including spell check!!!!

RGibran
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I'll spell it out for ya...

This thread is about the unscrupulous business practices of the Chesky brothers (HDTracks) and Bruce Brown (Puget Sound).

IMHO, whenever queried on the subject this editor has downplayed the truth and tried to divert attention away from the offenders.  

IMHO, his casting a cloud of unfounded doubt upon their competitor and one of the world’s greatest and most respected engineers is further proof of evasive tactics and a cheap shot.

As always, YMMV

RG

John Atkinson
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Cheap Shot?

Quote:
IMHO, his casting a cloud of unfounded doubt upon their competitor and one of the world’s greatest and most respected engineers is further proof of evasive tactics and a cheap shot.

It is not unfounded. Some Reference Recordings 176.4kHz files appear to have a brickwall filter with a cutoff at 44.1kHz, suggesting that these files were originally sampled at 88.2kHz and upsampled. I have contacted Keith Johnson about this and wairtig for a response.

Regarding Bruce Brown, can you give a link to the forum posting where he is supposed to have admitted that he upsamples CD-quality files, please. TIA.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

JIMV
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I cannot speak to the last

But...this would make a heck of a topic for the magazine soon...rasing the issue, explaining it, and then trying to get ones arms around the scope of the problem...I have bought a few dozen individual Hi-Rez tracks from small operations but none of this was from anything like a well known ban or a classic band.

RGibran
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Curious why you haven't

bothered to check some of HDTracks files in light of all the complaints from customers which finally forced them to remove hundreds of files?

Please don't put words in my mouth.  I never said Bruce Brown admitted he upsamples "CD-quality" files.

Here is the link to the thread at the Slimdevices Forum.

http://forums.slimdevices.com/showthread.php?t=74688

The discussion of this topic begins around page 26 post #258

Posts contain links to threads on other forums concerning the same topic if you care to take the time to read them and construct a time line regarding who knew what and when.

In specific answer to your question see my post on page 28, post number #276

RG

 

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Re: Curious. . .

Quote:
Curious why you haven't bothered to check some of HDTracks files in light of all the complaints from customers which finally forced them to remove hundreds of files?

The HDTracks files I have appear either to be true hi-rez files or sourced from analog masters. The exception I did find was the original release of the Joni Letters, which HD Tracks quickly pulled. I don't have any of the BIS releases that were upsampled 24/44.1k.

Quote:
Please don't put words in my mouth.  I never said Bruce Brown admitted he upsamples "CD-quality" files.

Okay. I had understood that that was what you were discussing, the upsampling of CD masters for release as ersatz hi-rez files.

Quote:
Here is the link to the thread at the Slimdevices Forum.

http://forums.slimdevices.com/showthread.php?t=74688

The discussion of this topic begins around page 26 post #258

Thank you. I read both this thread and the ones linked to. This is what I found from Bruce Brown:

"A lot of material in the past was recorded at "only" 24/44.1 during the beginning of digital. Unfortunately most of the time, that's the only record we have of that performance. It's not a scam. If that's the only copy of a performance, the first thing I do is upsample before I do any processing."

Here is he is referring to upsampling the original file in his Pyramix workstation to 352.8kHz PCM (DXD) before he does any processing. This is  so that the processing is done with the minimal introduction of mathematical spuriae.

Bruce also wrote:

"Going to a base of 44.1 always sounds better than a base of 48k at any rate.... period."

This appeared to be taken by some as an admission of guilt, but in context, Bruce is clearly discussing the conversion of DSD files to PCM and the problems with the two sample rate families, one based on 44.1kHz and the other on 48kHz. As DSD is based on a 44.1kHz-related clock, conversion of DSD to a 48k-related clock, ie, 96kHz, 192kHz, and 384kHz, is suboptimal.

So while there is a lot of smoke in these threads - and a lot of the usual male-ego posturing - there is not much in the way of fire.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

Reed
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They sound better, so I do care why

I have purchased several albums from HD Tracks.  EVERY time I have purchased a sample rate of 88.2 or above, it has sounded better than what I burned from CD.

I really could not care why.

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Really?

If I am paying a premium for a Hi-Rez file, I want it to be more than simply upsampled...I can upsample. I have no need to pay a premium for that. I agree with others who are asking for some sort of a standard and something from the sellers that guarantee the file sold is as it is advertised. No tweaking of a 16/44.1 file is Hi-Rez regardless of how much marketing might want it to be.

It might be brilliantly recorded, spectacualry mastered, and sound amazing BUT, it is not Hi-Rez and should not be sold as such.

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Hi Rez is almost a

Hi Rez is almost a meaningless term unfortunately. There is no standard for what it means or what the process was to get the recording there.  In an ideal world they would modify the SPARS code to reflect exactly what you were getting but that isn't going to happen.

All you can say is "recorded at such and such bit/sampling rate" which not all labels do.

You can say "re-mastered at such bit/sampling rate" which not all labels do.

You can say "up-sampled to bit/sampling rate" which not all lables do.

It is frustrating.  I have bunch of 96/24 discs that I really enjoy and wish the 96/24 items I have downloaded would be at this quality but for me, most the time they are not.  I've bought a lot of stuff off of HDTracks for download and haven't run into any problems so far with something being labeled something it wasn't.  In my mind however what really determines the end result is the whole recording mastering chain of events which is why getting this info in the SPARS code would be ideal.  I have had really great experiences with many JVC XRCD2 discs and they're just redbook but they're proof that the whole process is important. Because some of them sound better than "high resolution" files that I have purchased.

JIMV
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I found a Billie Holiday

Album from the 40's...or even perhaps the 30's, beind sold as 24/96....on a Hi-Rez site....That is as honest as paying a premium for a Colorized version of Casablanca.

jazzfan
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Not Quite
JIMV wrote:

Album from the 40's...or even perhaps the 30's, beind sold as 24/96....on a Hi-Rez site....That is as honest as paying a premium for a Colorized version of Casablanca.

Jim,

That's not quite correct. Any Billie Holiday recording from any year would have been an analog recording. A high resolution digital version of her recording would be where the original analog recording is converted to digital using a greater bit rate (24 bit or higher) and a higher sampling rate (88.2 kHz or higher), so technically such a digital file would be considered high resolution.

However this would be an example of the recording itself being the limiting factor as far as audio quality is concerned. For a recording made during Billie Holiday's lifetime perhaps standard CD resolution (16 bit/44.1 kHz) is good enough and that would be for the buyer to decide. On the other hand, if one did to chose to buy a high resolution version of a Billie Holiday recording than at the very least it should a true high resolution file and not something upsampled from a lower resolution digital file.

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Is that not like...

Colorizing movies or turning mono recordings into 'stereo'?  Is it not trying to change very primitive masters into far more serious Hi-Rez...If so...how? If not, how is it different?

jazzfan
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Kinda
JIMV wrote:

Colorizing movies or turning mono recordings into 'stereo'?  Is it not trying to change very primitive masters into far more serious Hi-Rez...If so...how? If not, how is it different?

Jim,

Making a high resolution digital file from an old analog recording would be analogous to making a 1080i black & white Blu-ray of an old black & white movie, not colorizing the movie. Making a new hi-rez digital file from an older analog recording does not change the sound, the hi-rez digital transfer is merely attempting to capture as much of the sound as possible from the original recording.

As I stated earlier in cases like the above the sonic limitations would from the original analog recording and producing a hi-rez digital version will not and can not make the recording sound any better, therefore it would up to the buyer decide if the hi-rez was worthwhile.

Another useful analogy would be trying to make a hi-rez version of a digital recording originally made at CD resolution which would be analogous to trying to make a 1080i blu-ray of an old TV show shot at standard video resolution (480p). All the upsampling in the world is not going to change the fact that information is just not there.

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analog to hirez

Hey Jim, I rip my vinyl to digital at 24/96, well, most of the records have enough info to go this high, not all of them. The analog tapes and even records contain lots and lots of information. Using higher rex sampling to capture that info results in a hirez snapshot and file of the master tape or analog source.

You can tell the difference between my good records ripped at 24/96 and 16/44 quite easily, even from another room. I cannot imagine how good the files would sound if I was ripping the master tape! In the early days of digital, the sources were sampled too low, some of those older recordings are really killer. Making a higher sampled digital file of data rich material does make it a highrez file in my book. Or am I missing an important part of your argument?

 

Trey

Drtrey3
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Well put Jazzfan

But you will harm your rep for rants with that kind of post!  wink

Trey

JIMV
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Still Drtrey3

The copy cannot ever be better than the original...I would not call your effort Hi-Rez but simply remastered...or upsampled.

That does not mean the result is not good, or even great, just that it is not a Hi-Rez master.

I simply hope the industry will come up with terms that mean the same thing to everyone so we know what we are getting.

 

jazzfan
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A better word for....
JIMV wrote:

The copy cannot ever be better than the original...I would not call your effort Hi-Rez but simply remastered...or upsampled.

That does not mean the result is not good, or even great, just that it is not a Hi-Rez master.

I simply hope the industry will come up with terms that mean the same thing to everyone so we know what we are getting.

Producing a high resolution digital file from an analog master by digitally converting the analog master using higher sampling rates and with greater bit depth is not the same thing as upsampling a standard resolution (by "standard resolution I mean red book CD resolution, i.e. 16 bit/44.1 kHz) digital file.

That said I kind of understand what you are trying to say. Perhaps the industry should come up a way to differentiate between an upsampled standard resolution digital file (whether that digital file is sourced from a digital or an analog recording) and a true high resolution digital file that was either digitally recorded at high resolution bit depth and sample rates (24 bits or greater and 88.2 kHz or higher) or converted from an analog master using high resolution bit depth and sample rates(24 bits or greater and 88.2 kHz or higher).

And again I repeat that whether or not one may feel that older analog recordings benefit from, i.e. sound better, high resolution digital remastering is up to the individual, but in any case if one is paying a premium for high resolution files then those pricey files damn well better be true high resolution and not some upsampled garbage.

JIMV
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As far as I am concerned.

Hi-Rez means the original recording was made at better than CD data rates....Not that it was 'improved' from that basic rate or analogue recording.

Drtrey3
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Jim, I concur

given your definition of hirez to a point. But the problem with cd resolution is that it is not high enough to capture the info on the old analog tapes. CDs were downsampled! My rips are certainly not upsampled, they are simply sampled. I also agree that I am not interested in paying for upsampled digital files. But original higher rez recordings of analog masters really rock! The recent McCartney stuff over at HDtracks is a wonderful example of that. Analog original, obviously, but high res capture.

At least that is what I think!

Have a great weekend.

Trey

JIMV
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You have the diescription...

Analogue Original/Hi-Rez capture and one might want to have the year of the analogue master as well.

jazzfan
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Works for me
JIMV wrote:

Analogue Original/Hi-Rez capture and one might want to have the year of the analogue master as well.

By golly I think he's got it!

"Analogue Original/Hi-Rez capture" works for analog recordings.

"High Resolution Digital recording" would work for an original digital recording.

Now how do we get the music industry to adopt such a simple solution?

Drtrey3
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Yep

works for me. Well done sir!

Trey

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