Jump to content

Hi Rez is it really Hi Resolution

Recommended Posts

I read an interesting email from Itrax today where Mark is on about getting proper disclosure around the source of a recording.  If we are going to pay more for  a high resolution recording we should expect value for money and honesty.  I have purchased some downloads that don't sound any better than my cd so I stopped buying downloads where I have the CD doubling up isn't worth the extra outlay.  I have copied the post below;


Does anybody have a standout recording in Hi-res and where did you get it? It would be great get a thread going.



Real HD-Audio mwaldrep@aixrecords.com via cp20.com 
5:57 AM (16 hours ago)
to me
Who's Responsible?


My recent experience with Qobuz and their offering of standard definition files in high-resolution bit buckets brings up a few more issues. I noticed on their website that they offer a warranty, a sort of "Studio Masters Guarantee". You can see the messaging all over the site...with many if not the majority of their albums are labeled as "Masters Studio Quality Guarantee" (interesting how the words are reversed in this phrase, when everything else is a "Studio Master").

When you go to the page that explains the warranty, you get the following (through Google translate and lightly edited by me):

"Qobuz Studio Masters - The sound as it was recorded in the studio, delivered in its entirety. No compression. No concession. A file as supplied by the record label without any reprocessing. Albums at sample rates of 24 bits, with sample rates up to 192 kHz, each clearly indicated. Qobuz Quality Guarantee: one specific to Qobuz Studio Masters program for even more quality and safety of purchase. A wide selection of albums Qobuz Studio Masters already has the label "Studio Masters Quality Guarantee." A team is dedicated to Qobuz Studio Masters albums. They check and test each source album one by one before the sale. Signal analysis, real-time monitoring, verification are part of routine checks. After these checks, the label "Studio Masters Quality Guarantee" is assigned to the album. Advantages - You can be sure of the sincerity of the products that are available. You can be sure of the quality of your purchase, and sustainability. You get a personalized after-sales service by mail and telephone as needed. In case of defective problem file*, your purchase is exchanged double value *. All download as Qobuz Studio Masters are compatible with the main players on the market.**

* Qobuz guarantees the quality of all releases with the designation Album Studio Masters Quality Guarantee. If you find any technical fault or sound compression on one of these albums, Qobuz will reimburse you 2 times the amount of your purchase as a gift certificate that can be used on any site within 3 months of receipt of the check.

** Windows Media Player, iTunes, Foobar, VLC, Real Player, QuickTime...the Iphone, Ipod, Ipad are nevertheless blocked files less than or equal to 24 bits / 48 kHz quality, except use a special application."

If you are a customer of Qobuz, you might feel all warm and secure in the knowledge that there are professional engineers checking each track. As an audio engineer that actually did some checking myself (of the very first files that I downloaded), I'm dismayed that both projects were standard definition and didn't actually benefit from the super high sampling rate.

So who's responsible? The providers of the source files are the ones making the recordings and we assume they're doing the very best that they can to supply the best possible versions of their products. But as the case of the Psalmus recording clearly showed, they decided to record in DSD, rolled off the DSD induced high frequency noise AND then offered to Qobuz a 192 kHz/24-bit PCM soundfile. Shouldn't the engineers that are doing the checking at Qobuz have questioned the specifications and claims about the recording? I think they should. Just what are they doing?

At first blush, the warranty is a marketing ploy and nothing more. I would have to download and verify a lot more files to determine whether the Norah Jones album or any others are real high-resolution audio files. But I don't want to spend any money on more downloads from Qobuz.

It all comes down to the term "Studio Master", the one that Michael Lavorgna over at AudioStream thinks is the best choice to identifying the fidelity of a digital download. The folks at Qobuz (and other sites) are comfortable with accepting standard resolution files and offering them up as "Studio Masters" and charging more for them...even if they're not really living up the new higher quality standards. Are they being untruthful? No. They accepted the files from Psalmus Records. They accepted that they were done correctly and they offered them as being legitimate 192 kHz PCM files when they weren't. Their response? It's not our fault...we marketed the files, "supplied by the record label without any reprocessing."

There are no standards or accepted definitions for "Studio Masters". And it's pretty clear to me that the Guarantee or Warranty offered by the site means absolutely nothing when it comes to actually posting files for downloads. Does anyone really think that Qobuz would give me double credit for the cost of the questionable files (if I had paid for them) after I pointed out that the files were not really 192 kHz worthy?

If I wanted the best version of the Psalmus recording, I would simply go out and download or purchase a CD version of it. There is no advantage to buying it from Qobuz. No big surprise.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have been encouraging Mark to get serious with this mission. He assures me he already is. Good to see his most recent posturing. Let's hope something comes of it.


I think the products on iTrax/Aix are excellent.


The best way to beat your CD versions (assuming serious modern music) is to go multichannel.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I recently made Qobuz aware that several Classical recordings on their site from the BIS label, sold as 24-96 Studio Masters, were actually recorded in 24/44.1, but upsampled to DSD and sold also as Hybrid CD/SACD by BIS.  BIS confirmed to me that at the time the recordings were made, they didn't even have 24-96 or higher recording capability (today they do). At the time (8-9 years ago), they said their customer base was more interested in having a 5.1 surround SACD than it was worried about the SACD being upsampled from 24/44.1. BIS never claimed the original recording was in DSD. And just so you know,I bought  the 24/44.1 "master" download of one of the recordings in question that BIS now sells and it sounds fantastic.


Anyway, Qobuz didn't respond to me other than to ask how I knew the source was 24/44.1. I made BIS aware of the situation and BIS also officially informed them that the source was 24/44.1. Apparently, Qobuz was given  24-96 downsamples of the DSD files (themselves upsampled from 24/44.1) from one of the distributors of BIS. BIS itself was totally unaware of the transaction and said they hadn't licensed any material to Qobuz. (Don't ask me how this works legally).


No one actually knows where the Qobuz "studio master" came from b/c Qobuz never directly responded to me or BIS with any information.


Anyway, the recordings still appeared with the 24-96 label at Qobuz after this. But as of today that at least one of the recordings is off their site entirely. It still appears that other recordings that couldn't possibly be a 24-96 "studio master" files are still labeled as such at Qobuz, even after they were informed that 24-96 recordings from BIS only exist after a specific date. Some even appear to be from original recordings in CD quality only.


So much for their guarantee. Qobuz might have originally had good intentions, but they aren't doing the homework to back up their "guarantee", and aren't removing the "studio master" label from files even when they have been informed that the files can't possibly be "studio masters". A simple check of the e-Classical web store (BIS download store) would have shown them which titles are listed as recorded in 24/96 and which in 24/44.1. e-Classical clearly labels the original recording format and bitrate of all their downloads.


So for all hi-res downloads, caveat emptor.

Edited by firedog
  • Like 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites


  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.

  • Create New...
To Top