CD vs HDTracks vs Streaming - how to manage music purchases in the digital age.

Discussion in 'Computer Audiophile: Software, Configs, Tools' started by Changeling, Apr 10, 2017.

  1. Changeling

    Changeling Tube Slut

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    The title of the thread might be misleading. Sound quality an album of different digital versions comes from mix and mastering in my book. Some are done well, some less so. That remains the one crucial aspect of digital music for me. It seems less important how it's being delivered and at what bitrate/sampling rate (from CD quality and above).

    I'm not too interested in the process of ripping music from CD. It takes time that I don't have and is somewhat cumbersome. I've been sort of stuck doing it because a lot of certain masterings of albums I've bought are not available on any of the streaming services nor for download. I've worked through my list and there's about 35-40 of them left for me to track down and purchase and I guess it'll be complete in a year or two. This excludes box sets that I want just because it relates to my somewhat obsessive historical safe-keeping - mostly Mosaic box sets.

    It seems to me that the remaining albums in my project to build my jazz collection to what I've always wanted it to be, is readily available on HDTracks and the various streaming services available.

    I'm curious of how others have gone about digital music purchases. Have you stuck with CD's to make sure you have a physical backup including artwork, or have you taken the step to fully embrace downloads including artwork and by doing so at least "owning" the music in some aspect, or have you perhaps decided to go with streaming and the occasional purchase to cover for those albums that aren't available?

    The cost of each album is of less importance. I purchase a bit here and a bit there, and I don't care if it's $5 or $15. I have time to build the collection and I'm in no hurry. But the cost of streaming is quite attractive if I compare it with what I usually spend on music per month (physical format + downloads).

    If I've somehow missed a thread like this in here, I'm sorry. This is quite the egocentric thread that might not contribute much to the much valuable content on this forum. I apologize if that's how it comes across...
     
  2. Torq

    Torq Money can't buy class

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    I use streaming for convenience and discovery, as well as for listening to anything digital at work (so I don't have to maintain another copy of my library there).

    As a general preference I don't buy CDs if there's an equivalent Red Book download available. I've already got thousands of the things and they are a pain in the arse to store. As it is I've stuck them all in folders and tossed the cases, but it's still a significant amount of space. And having ripped them all I never play the actual CDs anymore.

    So, today, for new purchases, as long as the music is available for download at Red Book standards (or better), I'll generally just buy the download version. It's quicker, simpler, ensures decent quality artwork, and I don't have to tag anything. The exceptions are when either there isn't at least a proper 16/44.1 download (or better) available, or the download is significantly more expensive than the CD (it's not uncommon for even 16/44.1 material to be 50% more expensive than the physical disc.)

    For the most part I stick with Red Book quality downloads. I will only purchase "hi res" content if I know enough about the master to make that worthwhile - this is quite rare. I've been burned enough with getting things that were supposedly "hi res" and were actually either simple up-sampled Red Book or, in a couple of cases, needle drops that were clearly not done by someone paying attention (and if I want a vinyl rip I'll buy the bloody LP and do the drop myself).

    The notion of having the CDs, or any physical media, around for backup purposes amuses me a bit. It's FAR easier for me to back up my library in file-form than it is to re-rip all my CDs. And I can't have multiple off-site copies of the CD stuff ... so since I'm doing that with the ripped versions anyway, the CDs remain because they are legally required to and for no other reason. The small stack of hard-discs required amounts to about the same storage as 16 CDs in their cases.

    At this point I am trying to limit my physical music media to vinyl.

    --

    I've even gone down the same path with movies - which is a different kettle of fish because nowhere that I'm aware of sells downloadable copies that match their disc-based versions for quality. But, I'm a lot less sensitive to video quality than I am audio quality, so as long as I don't have to store more physical media I'm more than happy to buy the 6 GB download and watch that over the 50 GB Blu-Ray copy.
     
  3. msommers

    msommers High on Epipens

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    Depends. When I'm at work I normally listen to Tidal. When we're just wanting background music it's Tidal or my library. The library is a combination of downloads and CD/DVD/Blu-ray rips.

    I find HDTracks can sound hit or miss. Various downloads I've tried on some albums sound thinner and more 'tingy' than their CD rip/Redbook counterpart.
     
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  4. Torq

    Torq Money can't buy class

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    Assuming a secure-rip, that'd be down to being different masters then - which is always a risk - even when comparing physical copies.
     
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  5. Changeling

    Changeling Tube Slut

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    I'm not saying I purchase CD's for backup purposes of music only - since I haven't gotten around to scanning all artwork yet, quite alot of the music I've ripped lacks artwork. So backup purposes may not be the right word here. I can see myself keep buying CD's if there's no good artwork provided with the download.
    The problem is of course that if I don't scan the artwork, I never get around to pick it out of the folder while listening, as opposed to viewing digital artwork...
     
  6. Torq

    Torq Money can't buy class

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    Do you find you're buying a lot of stuff for which you cannot find suitable existing scans/files via Google?

    Or are you talking about artwork beyond just the album cover?

    Listening via Roon takes care of this in 99.99% of cases for me anyway ... and typically has access to many of the variations of artwork for any given album I have in my library, without me having to lift a finger.

    Maybe I'm odd ... the album artwork typically only serves me as a way to visually identify the album before I start it playing - I can't say I look at it while listening.
     
  7. Changeling

    Changeling Tube Slut

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    Ah, yes. Complete artwork as in cover, inlay and booklet.
     
  8. Psalmanazar

    Psalmanazar Friend

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    I buy CDs as I want something physical for my money, the remastered version of most things sound worse, I want to read the liner notes and lyrics, and I can rip them. HDtracks is stupid and steaming sucks. I buy stuff on Bandcamp as I can get the digital download and the CD mailed to me for a couple more dollars. Then if the album sucks or becomes aggravating I can sell the CD.
     
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  9. Azteca

    Azteca Friend

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    I buy a good number of CDs as well. Sometimes I'll spring for a hi-res download but that often includes a liner notes PDF (especially with classical labels). If it doesn't, I am very unlikely to purchase. If it's a hi-res conversion from DSD I'll just buy the SACD and rip it myself.

    I'm big on scanning as well if there is no PDF. Roon has made it so much easier to view these comfortably while I listen.

    Of course, sometimes an album is just an album and I don't need to know al the minutiae or I get a screaming deal on a download. And Bandcamp is fantastic for directly supporting smaller artists who may not be able to afford getting CDs pressed.

    HDTracks and their complete lack of lineage info are infuriating. First thing I do when I acquire a download >44.1kHz is drop it into Spek. An incredible number of "hi res" downloads cut off at 21 or 22kHz. Some have unfiltered DSD noise. It is not as convenient to check bit-depth but plenty are 16bits with 8 empty ones tacked on, I'm sure. Again, classical labels are great as they often include the exact recording setup, from microphones to recorder to mixer to file type, and I can make an informed decision about what merits a hi-res purchase.
     
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  10. Psalmanazar

    Psalmanazar Friend

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    I don't use HD tracks at all as I don't like new classical recordings that much as the performances are sterile, the recordings are sterile, everything reeks of ProTools fuckery, and since modern "classical" is dead (there isn't really underground "modern classical" even if it has inspired other genres) so there's not much new to listen to, I can usually find some a decent master even if muddy, screechy, or noisy of some cool old performance from the 50s-early 90s that sounds way more interesting and passionate to me than a bunch of sterile recordings of performance art rather than music. The recordings got sterile before the performances too.
     
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  11. cizx.6

    cizx.6 Just couldn't stay away...

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    I buy CDs since what.cd went down... plus for 20+ years prior to using it.
    I have bought stuff from HDTracks, but stopped when I needed to re-download something and couldn't, and they told me that if I wanted to DL the album again, I'd have to buy it again. Fuck that business model, fuck that company, and fuck their bullshit content.

    I'd buy everything in digital if I could find lossless redbook... but I'll never pay for compressed files.
     
  12. Azteca

    Azteca Friend

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    I mean, that's a huge generalization. Yes, lots of boring "audiophile" type music out there. But also great performances. People haven't stopped writing music either. But if you aren't moved by it that is cool too. Further discussion can go in the classical thread.

    @cizx.6 That is truly some nonsense. Downloads are great and have their place. But this lack of true "ownership" sucks. Your drive crashes and you are screwed. Yes, backups are important, of course, but ultimately you can't count on the company that sold you those files still existing. Or in 10 years when you don't care about that album and delete it, who is going to find it again? They won't find it in the used bin of their local store or on Discogs. They might find it somewhere on the internet, on a private BT tracker or Usenet. But they might not.

    I don't wish to steer us too far into the philosophical part of this. Just making observations.
     
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  13. SineDave

    SineDave Friend

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    I'm a streamer at work, but when at home it's almost always CD rips. I also really enjoy Blu-ray concerts.

    I'm not a big fan of the current state of downloads. Some of the best music I have is bootleg wav/aiff stuff from friends who are artists. That's real music.
     
  14. cizx.6

    cizx.6 Just couldn't stay away...

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    Yeah, I agree with all of that. That's why I won't pay for Tidal. I'm not going to pay $240 a year for a subscription. That's about 20 CDs. I don't buy that many in a year, but if I did, I'd have them for as long as I took care of them.

    I'm basically resigned to protecting my data myself. I have just under 2TB of music. A 2TB external HDD costs about $60-80 USD. I can back up everything to a couple of those and keep them different places for emergencies... I don't, but I could. Right now, it's just on a NAS and backed up to a single external drive in the same closet. I really need to bring a copy to my parents house or something.
     
  15. take

    take Friend

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    I've yet to be impressed by the way anything high res sounds. I've only been perfectly satisfied with the files, just like I would be with redbook, and in worse cases, I've been disappointed to see ringing throughout the track in ultrasonic frequencies that must be the result of some kind of error somewhere in the production chain. I'd rather not be feeding that to my equipment, and even if ultrasonic content does subtly influence our emotions, I doubt that digitally created artifacts would produce a positive effect.

    I'm a big fan of having the actual files. I feel it sounds better or equal to, and never sounds worse, than lossless streaming. Plus I don't have to deal with Tidal's awful interface and shoving Beyonce, Jay-Z, and other pop acts down my throat. If a lossless download is available for purchase, I'll grab that, but for some reason it seldom is, or it's more expensive than the CD for some bizarre reason. In that case, I'll order the CD or the vinyl. If I get the vinyl, I won't feel bad about pirating the digital copy, since I paid for the music already and vinyl only comes distributed with lossy files, if it has them included at all.

    I really do hope Spotify adds lossless soon. I miss the discovery aspects of it. It just doesn't sound very good on good gear in its current state.

    Also, I'm really with everyone that says they like to look at the liner notes and full album artwork. Even if it's in CD form and tiny compared to the blown-up vinyl versions, it still makes me connect more with the music and the artist. And, like others have said, it's good to have something physical. Must be something in our monkey brains that makes us covet things in that way.
     
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  16. pedalhead

    pedalhead Friend

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    I used to have tons of CDs gathered over 20+ years, ripped them to disk and sold or donated them to charity. For the past few years I've been mostly buying downloads, with the occasional CD purchase if that's the only way to get something. However, it quickly became a soulless experience, turning music listening into a fast food type experience. I also found myself really missing the tactility of the physical media & the connection it provides to the work & the artist.

    So, like many (if the statistics are true), I've jumped back on the vinyl bandwagon many years after selling my old turntable rig, and I'm very glad to have done so. I guess for me enjoying music is about more than just the music. The added benefit of a tangible physical item is more important than I realised. Go figure.
     
  17. trung225

    trung225 Almost "Made"

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    I began collecting CD around 7 years ago, but I stopped buying more when my collection rose up to more than one thousand CD. It's pain of *** to store, organize them, and the space they take is too much. Right now I acquire new music only through purchasing digital downloads, with only very few exception.

    For me, there are many advantages of digital downloads. Firstly, I can easily store, backup. I have 4TB-HDD to store all of them, and one amazon drive account (with unlimited space for 70€ per year) to backup. Secondly, now (2017) new releases are usually available for digital download at least two weeks sooner than for CD, and I hate waiting. Among my new purchase, most of them are HighRes. I know there are endless debate about HiRes vs redbook. I don't know about other genre, but for Classical, at least recently, when I compared my HiRes content with redbook content, which I downloaded via torrent later only for test, HiRes is usually a bit better in terms of soundstage. This kind of improvement can be unnecessary for many people, but for me it's worth the extra money. I only purchase new CD when the content is not available for download, for example from some labels like Testament.

    I don't like streaming, as I prefer owning something to renting them. But they (Tidal, spotify) are great for discovery new content, and I am using them that way.
     
  18. cizx.6

    cizx.6 Just couldn't stay away...

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    Where are you guys buying lossless redbook format music? I can only find lossy everywhere but Bandcamp.
     
  19. trung225

    trung225 Almost "Made"

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    So many legit site out there offer lossless redbook format music: qobuz.com, prestoclassical.co.uk, tracks.technics.com,
     
  20. cizx.6

    cizx.6 Just couldn't stay away...

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    I meant in the civilized parts of the world... or formerly civilized. Those don't work in the US.
     

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