Where do you get high quality audio files

tycobb73

Member
Messages
1,428
It seems to me streaming services like Pandora and Google music sound like crap. Does anyone else feel this way? So what do you use? I'd rather not buy albums or cds but ifor I must to get quality...if you play some sort of files what are you playing them through, as far as the player itself. All my stuff is from the 90s and as I listen to more and more mp3s and streaming sites the more dissatisfied I become but love the convenience.
 
M

Member 995

I mostly buy cds if I want digital, but I have bought from hdtracks, bandcamp, and direct from labels that sell higher resolution.
 

dB

Member
Messages
4,114
I just signed up for a month of Tidal premium, and have been using Spotify for the past few weeks. I opened up two windows side by side on my laptop and queued up the same track on both, and bounced back and forth. There are definitely differences...but I'm honestly not sure which one I prefer. It's definitely not the night and day difference that I was hoping to hear.

I think Tidal probably does sound objectively 'better', as the sound seems a little fuller and the background blacker, with a little more separation between instruments. Oddly, to me, something about Spotify seems more engaging and exciting, whereas Tidal had a more relaxed feel. Spotify is a louder presentation, which I think is because it's a little less defined than Tidal...it's sort of cacophonous (in a good way) which gives the presence some energy.

I'll try HD tracks next, as well as spend more time with Tidal. Based on what I heard so far, I'm not inclined to spend $20/month for Tidal premium.
 

dconeill

Member
Messages
1,678
It seems to me streaming services like Pandora and Google music sound like crap. Does anyone else feel this way? So what do you use? I'd rather not buy albums or cds but ifor I must to get quality...if you play some sort of files what are you playing them through, as far as the player itself. All my stuff is from the 90s and as I listen to more and more mp3s and streaming sites the more dissatisfied I become but love the convenience.
Sure, lots of people feel this way. There's an entire universe of better-sounding music files available. But like anything else, there are upsides and downsides.

There's lots to learn about. A place to start is with an introduction to high-quality audio files.

You'll have to have hardware that supports high-quality audio files, as well. An iPod and its successors won't do it. Most smartphones won't either. Players that support high-quality audio are a bit pricey, too. See, for example, head-fi.org. Similarly, cheap, crummy earbuds can't deliver much in the way of high quality sound - you'll want to spend more money on good headphones, and head-fi talks about those too.

A fairly low-cost place to start (one among many) might be with a FiiO X3 2nd generation player (about $170), Sennheiser PX-100II foldable headphones (about $60), and software as needed for your computer, like MusicMonkey, to help manage the files and to give you ripping capability. AudioEngine makes a good-quality DAC - the D1 - that takes over from your computer's low-quality audio components, and costs under $200. These are by no means the best available; but they don't require that you sell your children into bondage either.

As far as media sources, here are a few, look for FLAC format (among others, see links above):
HDtracks
Acousice Sounds
CD Baby
rips of CDs
and see this article from CNet. Do a Google search for "high-quality audio files" and prepare to spend some time sifting through sites that might or might not offer the kind of music you're looking for.
 

skhan007

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
9,625
Sure, lots of people feel this way. There's an entire universe of better-sounding music files available. But like anything else, there are upsides and downsides.

There's lots to learn about. A place to start is with an introduction to high-quality audio files.

You'll have to have hardware that supports high-quality audio files, as well. An iPod and its successors won't do it. Most smartphones won't either. Players that support high-quality audio are a bit pricey, too. See, for example, head-fi.org. Similarly, cheap, crummy earbuds can't deliver much in the way of high quality sound - you'll want to spend more money on good headphones, and head-fi talks about those too.

A fairly low-cost place to start (one among many) might be with a FiiO X3 2nd generation player (about $170), Sennheiser PX-100II foldable headphones (about $60), and software as needed for your computer, like MusicMonkey, to help manage the files and to give you ripping capability. AudioEngine makes a good-quality DAC - the D1 - that takes over from your computer's low-quality audio components, and costs under $200. These are by no means the best available; but they don't require that you sell your children into bondage either.

As far as media sources, here are a few, look for FLAC format (among others, see links above):
HDtracks
Acousice Sounds
CD Baby
rips of CDs
and see this article from CNet. Do a Google search for "high-quality audio files" and prepare to spend some time sifting through sites that might or might not offer the kind of music you're looking for.
Question- If I download a CD in a lossless format (ALAC or FLAC) to my computer and transfer that album to my iPod, you're saying the iPod won't be able to play that album in the better format? Curious about this because I'm just getting into hi-fi topics such as this. I downloaded a CD yesterday as lossless to my Mac and then transferred it to my iPod and it sounds great. Does this mean I'm only hearing it at 320kbps vs. 1000kbps, as it's listed on my computer?

My other thought is to have my laptop with the hi-res audio saved and listen through my good quality DAC into my Sennheiser cans.
 

dconeill

Member
Messages
1,678
Question- If I download a CD in a lossless format (ALAC or FLAC) to my computer and transfer that album to my iPod, you're saying the iPod won't be able to play that album in the better format? Curious about this because I'm just getting into hi-fi topics such as this. I downloaded a CD yesterday as lossless to my Mac and then transferred it to my iPod and it sounds great. Does this mean I'm only hearing it at 320kbps vs. 1000kbps, as it's listed on my computer?

My other thought is to have my laptop with the hi-res audio saved and listen through my good quality DAC into my Sennheiser cans.
My understanding is that Apple doesn't support FLAC (I don't use many Apple products myself, so I looked it up). Apple does, however, support Apple Lossless, also known as ALAC. Since you can convert one lossless format to another with no loss of quality, you can acquire FLAC files, convert them to Apple Lossless, and use those on Apple devices. You can't play the FLAC files as FLAC on Apple, though, as I understand it.

There's a utility called XLD that will perform the conversion. So if you find a music file that you want that's available only in FLAC or only in Apple Lossless, but you want it in the other lossless format, just convert the file.

I can't speak to what happened to your file. Some software automatically changes the file format on transfer to a format the target player supports. If you happened to acquire your file as Apple Lossless and transferred it to the iPod, that works.
 

skhan007

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
9,625
My understanding is that Apple doesn't support FLAC (I don't use many Apple products myself, so I looked it up). Apple does, however, support Apple Lossless, also known as ALAC. Since you can convert one lossless format to another with no loss of quality, you can acquire FLAC files, convert them to Apple Lossless, and use those on Apple devices. You can't play the FLAC files as FLAC on Apple, though, as I understand it.

There's a utility called XLD that will perform the conversion. So if you find a music file that you want that's available only in FLAC or only in Apple Lossless, but you want it in the other lossless format, just convert the file.

I can't speak to what happened to your file. Some software automatically changes the file format on transfer to a format the target player supports. If you happened to acquire your file as Apple Lossless and transferred it to the iPod, that works.
Maybe I wasn't clear with my question. You stated "You'll have to have hardware that supports high-quality audio files, as well. An iPod and its successors won't do it."

If I transfer an ALAC album from my Mac to my iPod, will it play it back in ALAC on the iPod? That's what I thought I was listening to when I did this yesterday. Your quote implies that an iPod can't play lossless audio. Just trying to see if that's what you're saying.
 
M

Member 995

Maybe I wasn't clear with my question. You stated "You'll have to have hardware that supports high-quality audio files, as well. An iPod and its successors won't do it."

If I transfer an ALAC album from my Mac to my iPod, will it play it back in ALAC on the iPod? That's what I thought I was listening to when I did this yesterday. Your quote implies that an iPod can't play lossless audio. Just trying to see if that's what you're saying.
An iPod can play some (but not all) lossless audio. CD quality is no problem. What it can't do is the higher resolution files that are sometimes available. High sampling rates and bit depths aren't always supported. For example, I have some Peter Gabriel downloads that are 96 kHz, 24 bit. They won't play on my iPod.
 

dconeill

Member
Messages
1,678
Maybe I wasn't clear with my question. You stated "You'll have to have hardware that supports high-quality audio files, as well. An iPod and its successors won't do it."

If I transfer an ALAC album from my Mac to my iPod, will it play it back in ALAC on the iPod? That's what I thought I was listening to when I did this yesterday. Your quote implies that an iPod can't play lossless audio. Just trying to see if that's what you're saying.
No, not quite. I said, "Apple does support Apple Lossless ...", by which I meant that you can play Apple Lossless/ALAC files on your Apple device.

In your post, message #6 in this thread, you said you "downloaded a CD ... as lossless ...", but you didn't specify whether you'd downloaded ALAC or FLAC; that's why I mentioned converting one lossless format to another. I regret that my response wasn't clearer.
 

dconeill

Member
Messages
1,678
One other thing - in my original reply I said that "... An iPod and its successors won't do it ...". That was meant to include the entire signal chain, from reading the data file through sending voltage to the headphones and finally the headphone's audio output. An audio player's being able to read a high-quality data format is necessary but not sufficient for that player to sound good.

In my effete corn-sniffer, er, cork-sniffer opinion the amplification components in Apple products (or PCs or garden-variety portable audio players either, for that matter) aren't really up to the task - one needs better hardware, which is currently available "at a price". Hence external DACs, high-dollar audio players, and expensive headphones.
 

m_b

Member
Messages
181
I don't like the idea of relying on a streaming service, and generally don't like to be tied to any kind of subscription service. There are two ways I get my files, either through a dedicated vendor (in my case Qobuz, digital7, HDTracks or sometimes direct from an artist's website if FLAC is offered), or from CDs which I rip with DBPoweramp. I've found DBPoweramp to be the best program for that purpose (on PC, that is - more choices for those types of programs on Apple systems, I think). It's a modest investment of about $25 and is straightforward to use. The nice thing about it, as it appears you have an existing CD collection, is you can digitize that collection to a high quality format, and it will sound a lot better than mp3s, believe me.

When buying from a vendor, I now like to download in uncompressed format if possible, and then compress to FLAC with DBPoweramp. Qobuz has several format options. Once I compared a file downloaded as FLAC from them, to a file downloaded in WAV, then compressed to FLAC using DBPoweramp, and found the latter sounded better. Why do you not want to buy CDs? I've been sort of going back to CDs because the same album is sometimes significantly cheaper on CD than from a digital music vendor's site, as much as 30% cheaper. I have very few hi-res files. One album sounded like crap, likely because the recording was bad initially. I have one which sounds amazing, Kenny Burrell's Midnight Blue, but the original recording was excellent.

As to playback equipment, I haven't invested much in that area, i.e. updated my stereo system, partly because I don't have much opportunity to listen to music at home, but probably will eventually. I do most of my listening on the go. In the meantime, I use an Xperia Z3c phone (bought initially because of its superior - at the time - onboard DAC) and some RHA 750 headphones. An Audioquest Dragonfly Black has since replaced the phone's amp/DAC. It's a modest but good sounding setup. To be able to get such a nice sound quality on the go was a revelation and still feels like a luxury to me.
 
Last edited:

tycobb73

Member
Messages
1,428
I don't like the idea of relying on a streaming service, and generally don't like to be tied to any kind of subscription service. There are two ways I get my files, either through a dedicated vendor (in my case Qobuz, digital7, HDTracks or sometimes direct from an artist's website if FLAC is offered), or from CDs which I rip with DBPoweramp. I've found DBPoweramp to be the best program for that purpose (on PC, that is - more choices for those types of programs on Apple systems, I think). It's a modest investment of about $25 and is straightforward to use. The nice thing about it, as it appears you have an existing CD collection, is you can digitize that collection to a high quality format, and it will sound a lot better than mp3s, believe me.

When buying from a vendor, I now like to download in uncompressed format if possible, and then compress to FLAC with DBPoweramp. Qobuz has several format options. Once I compared a file downloaded as FLAC from them, to a file downloaded in WAV, then compressed to FLAC using DBPoweramp, and found the latter sounded better. Why do you not want to buy CDs? I've been sort of going back to CDs because the same album is sometimes significantly cheaper on CD than from a digital music vendor's site, as much as 30% cheaper. I have very few hi-res files. One album sounded like crap, likely because the recording was bad initially. I have one which sounds amazing, Kenny Burrell's Midnight Blue, but the original recording was excellent.

As to playback equipment, I haven't invested much in that area, i.e. updated my stereo system, partly because I don't have much opportunity to listen to music at home, but probably will eventually. I do most of my listening on the go. In the meantime, I use an Xperia Z3c phone (bought initially because of its superior - at the time - onboard DAC) and some RHA 750 headphones. An Audioquest Dragonfly Black has since replaced the phone's amp/DAC. It's a modest but good sounding setup. To be able to get such a nice sound quality on the go was a revelation and still feels like a luxury to me.
The reason I don't want CD's is mostly related to my blindness.

1. I can't just drive somewhere and pick up a CD.
2. All the artwork associated with the CD is lost on me.
3. I can read the names with my very poor vison easier on phone aps than I can the CD cases.
4. I burned all my cd's and sold them years ago but then the burned files got lost
5. My collection is/was so vast that if I can find a high quality streaming service I could pay for it for years before it would approach the cost of replacing all my music files, let alone buying new music.
6 I tend towards the minimalist side of things and don't like clutter so I'd rather not store CD's I will never touch after ripping them.
7. I don't like the pause that comes with switching between CD's.

I'm in a unique situation I know.
 
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guitarjazz

Gold Supporting Member
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21,860
An iPod can play some (but not all) lossless audio. CD quality is no problem. What it can't do is the higher resolution files that are sometimes available. High sampling rates and bit depths aren't always supported. For example, I have some Peter Gabriel downloads that are 96 kHz, 24 bit. They won't play on my iPod.
You can connect a FiiO E9 to your iPod, via USB and play higher bit and sample rates.
 

guitarjazz

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
21,860
I don't like the idea of relying on a streaming service, and generally don't like to be tied to any kind of subscription service. There are two ways I get my files, either through a dedicated vendor (in my case Qobuz, digital7, HDTracks or sometimes direct from an artist's website if FLAC is offered), or from CDs which I rip with DBPoweramp. I've found DBPoweramp to be the best program for that purpose (on PC, that is - more choices for those types of programs on Apple systems, I think). It's a modest investment of about $25 and is straightforward to use. The nice thing about it, as it appears you have an existing CD collection, is you can digitize that collection to a high quality format, and it will sound a lot better than mp3s, believe me.

When buying from a vendor, I now like to download in uncompressed format if possible, and then compress to FLAC with DBPoweramp. Qobuz has several format options. Once I compared a file downloaded as FLAC from them, to a file downloaded in WAV, then compressed to FLAC using DBPoweramp, and found the latter sounded better. Why do you not want to buy CDs? I've been sort of going back to CDs because the same album is sometimes significantly cheaper on CD than from a digital music vendor's site, as much as 30% cheaper. I have very few hi-res files. One album sounded like crap, likely because the recording was bad initially. I have one which sounds amazing, Kenny Burrell's Midnight Blue, but the original recording was excellent.

As to playback equipment, I haven't invested much in that area, i.e. updated my stereo system, partly because I don't have much opportunity to listen to music at home, but probably will eventually. I do most of my listening on the go. In the meantime, I use an Xperia Z3c phone (bought initially because of its superior - at the time - onboard DAC) and some RHA 750 headphones. An Audioquest Dragonfly Black has since replaced the phone's amp/DAC. It's a modest but good sounding setup. To be able to get such a nice sound quality on the go was a revelation and still feels like a luxury to me.
I don't rely on a streaming service but I do take advantage of a couple. I have enough vinyl, tape, and CDs to keep me going for years but the streaming services are vast.
 

guitarjazz

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
21,860
Mine won't sync files if the bit rate or depth is too high.
With the E9?
The Flac Player app shows the file bit rate/sample rate and also shows the hardware settings. With the E9 the hardware rate goes to 24/96 on the iPhone. Truth be told it's prob easier to use one of the stand alone FiiO players, which sound incredible.
 
M

Member 995

I mean that iTunes won't let me copy files onto the iPod if the sampling rate or bit depth is too high.
 

guitarjazz

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
21,860
I mean that iTunes won't let me copy files onto the iPod if the sampling rate or bit depth is too high.
With Flac Player you load the files via the iTunes application but they aren't played by the iTunes application. You can definitely load 24/96 Flac files.
With the iTunes application itself I think you can load higher bit rate files if they are WAV format. I'll test that out and get back.
 




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