How good will downloadable audio have to become before you're interested in buying it?

So far, the audio quality of downloadable music has been almost as good as AM radio. How far does it have to go before you'll want to pay for a download?

How good will downloadable audio have to become before you're interested in buying it?
It's good enough already.
2% (5 votes)
Better than MP3.
4% (9 votes)
CD quality, minimum.
44% (113 votes)
DVD-A or SACD level.
22% (56 votes)
It will never be better than analog!
3% (8 votes)
I don't care about downloads
25% (63 votes)
Total votes: 254

Albee Tross's picture

I have more than enough CDs to keep me busy without fretting over the hotest download going. When Beethoven releases a new symphony I might consider it.

Rodney Gold's picture

With increased bandwidth and cheaper storage, the format will be irrelevant. One will have the option of storing info as one wishes: DSD, PCM (24/192 to 16/44) , MP3, etc. It will be the consumer's choice. At present , well-ripped and 128kbs-encoded music is pretty good, considering that it's "free"

Martin Bruczkowski's picture

At my current Internet connection speed it would take me well over 24 hours to download the 650MB of data contained on one CD. In the last 10 years my CPU speed has increased 40 times (from 16MHz to 650MHz), but my download speed only five times (from 9600 to 50,000bps). Even if I had a 128k ISDN line at home, it would still take me over 12 hours to download a CD, and the line charges would probably be higher than the cost of the same CD in a music store. Okay, compress it with some lossless protocol until it squeaks

Myron C.'s picture

The quality of downloaded music will probably never reach CD quality for the foreseeable future, let alone analog quality. To most audiophiles and collectors of music, there is something intrinsically wrong about downloaded music. Although it lets you pick and choose, it is not in the interests of the artists, musicians, or individuals who will spend a lifetime amassing a personal vinyl and CD collection. It would be better for the music industry to reduce the prices of recorded music formats already existing! Downloaded music will appeal to people brought up with computers and all-in-one sound systems, both of which produce execrable sound quality. They are welcome to them!

Teresa Goodwin's picture

When you download music, you get no cover art, no notes, no names of the musicians or what they play. All you get is the music. Right now, the quality is about the same as mass-duplicated cassettes, but with dropouts. I supose that if it was SACD quality, and with a way to download artwork and other info, I might consider it.

al marcy's picture


Sami Rifat's picture

I guess it depends on the price. There is also a hassle factor in it for me. If I download true CD quality (which is still not as good as analog), I still have to burn it to disc in order for it to be useful to me. This costs me time and, therefore, money. I guess I would pay for CD-quality downloads only if they were substantially cheaper than store-bought CDs, in order to compensate for the added hassle.

Chris S.'s picture

It will be a cold day in Purgatory before I will pay for downloaded music. Even if I could download analog- (or nearly so) quality sound, I would be forever afraid that my computer might crash, leaving me with nothing to listen to. Computers are too unreliable for me to depend on as a source for my music. And I am speaking as a network engineer, so I know computers as well as anybody.

David S.  Dodd,'s picture

It would certainly have to be CD quality minimum

Graeme N.'s picture

I want a product I can keep, that looks good and sounds good. I don't mind doing it mail-order online or shopping for it, but it's a pain to download it. Previews at a lower quality, yes, but I want the music on vinyl or CD, or better.

Willis Greenstreet's picture

Is this a web page for music people or is it for equipment/technology freaks?

DC in ABQ's picture

If it's not AT LEAST as good as CD, what's the point of acquiring it at all? I didn't put many kilobucks into my sound system only to play junk on it. And with downloads you don't get any booklets, notes, etc. As I'm not looking to cheat the performers out of the profits they deserve, I'll just trundle to my local music store.

James's picture

Browsing through downloaded music on a computer doesn't provide the same tactile experience as browsing through a room full of carefully archived albums. While it's easy to recall specific moments realating to concrete album purchases, it's less likely that someone will say, "I clearly remember the day I downloaded this album."

Mickey's picture

I don't do pay-per-view; why would I try pay-per-listen? Offer me something sensual that I can take home to share with the Missus (smooth hardwood cabinets, heavy cables, cool aluminum faceplates, prismatic compact discs, vinyl with gatefold covers). Downloads are for people who like 25-cent movies.

Rob Damm's picture

I like the process of buying the physical disc, reading the packaging, and adding it to my collection. I have no interest in simply downloading data. My life is not spent sitting in front of a PC. I actually LIKE getting in my car, driving to the record store, and purchasing a new CD. I'm not sure why people seem bent on eliminating all possibilty of interaction with other people and physical objects in general. It really annoys the heck out of me, because I really believe that 99.9999% of average music buyers are not interested in forgoing that warm, fuzzy trip to the record store. I love stopping at a shop on my way home from work on Friday and picking up a few new discs for the weekend. I'm sure the vast majority agrees with me, and that I'm not just some hopeless Luddite.

Adam's picture

Not too fond of the idea right now; it needs a LOT of improvement!

Casey's picture

Just as I don't buy VHS copies on the street because of their inferiority to the real thing, I won't download music that's not going to be a pleasure to listen to.

Ken Kirkpatrick's picture

It would have to be SACD quality, and I would want it to download in less than a few minutes, stored on a disc, with pictures, and printable cover art. I think this will happen within 5 to 7 years, but I will still prefer the used LP store.

Herv's picture

I really don't care about downloads. After trying and finding that the sound is not listenable even when I write it on my PC, I uninstalled it. Anyway, I by far prefer to hold the genuine thing in my hands

Walt Thompson's picture

While quality is important, what is just as important is the ability to download only the cuts I want. How often have you bought a CD with one or two good cuts on it and 10 or 12 cuts that aren't worth the polycarbonate they're inscribed on?

Dan Landen's picture

For free it's okay as it is, but if I have to pay then it better be premium quality!

Michael Chernay's picture

Downloadable music has a long way to go to be at the level of CDs as a music medium. Right now when you download music, you are limited to listening to it at your PC and it isn't of very high quality. On the other hand, CDs are highly portable, better quality, and are cheaper when the time is taken into account. Right now, most downladable music is taken from CD and transferred into a different file format. It would be better if the music were taken directly from high-quality studio masters to a high-compression, high-definition format (e.g., 24/192 with a lossless compression scheme). So for downloadable music to become a viable alternative, the ways it is produced and stored would have to be changed..

lord_coz's picture

It had better be pretty damn good if I am going to spend money on a downloadable format. It will be a cold day in hell when I buy something that should be free!!

Geno's picture

I would be willing to pay up to a buck for an MP3 copy of a CD, to audition it. The record companies are missing out on a major source of revenue by not providing MP3 versions of their CDs for audition. I would accept only CD quality minimum for an actual keeper.

Chad's picture

I can't stand MP3s, except for previewing music I might buy. CD quality is acceptable and DVD-A is better, but I will NEVER buy anything in an SACD-like format because I just couldn't sacrifice the benefits that my external DSP and DAC provide. Uncompressed PCM formats only, please!

Bernard Gilson's picture

If it's not at least as good as CD, what is the point?

TP's picture

I don't have time to sit at home downloading stuff. I'd rather go out and buy the CD and own it right now.

Robert Aksland's picture

I demand CD quality, but as 256Kbps MP3 has been proved to be as good as CD quality, it is good enough for me.

Dave W.'s picture

FM radio is still the place to discover new music. Current-technology streaming audio is not listenable.

Anonymous's picture

But that will never happen.