Hi-rez downloads, any good?

I recently read an interview with David Chesky of HDtracks. He commented on complaints that some downloads were of poor quality by basically saying, that's what the artist wanted released. It was an artistic decision that he can't change and he can't tell the labels what to do. OK. But, he made the comment in regard to Nevermind by Nirvana. People had complained when they received the download that is was further compressed. I have the original CD and it has good dynamics as Cobain obviously wanted a loud/soft contrast in the recording. So, Cobains been dead for years. Obviously he didn't demand that his recording be further compressed. Chesky has a good reputation as an audiophile who cares about sound quality but this "excuse" doesn't seem to ring true. What's your opinion on hi-rez downloads adn their sound quality or lack thereof?
I believe HDtracks contributes to a type of "misdirection" that is
prevalent in the world of high resolution audio. When Mr. Chesky
advertises downloads that are merely upsampled standard resolution
recordings as high resolution, it's a real shame and he knows full well what
he's doing. He's going for the short term profit and his message is
"caveat emptor" to folks like you and me.

While this practice may be legal, it's completely shortsighted and hurts the
hi-res "cause." Slapping a "hi-res" label on a poor
recording is certainly anyone's right, but it won't result in repeat customers
or fire anyone up about these new formats. I recently downloaded a dozen
or so hi-res recordings and only three of them were worth recommending to
friends (my standard for whether something's good)

And that's not all; what about the prices? I know very few people, even
among my audiophile buddies, who feel that paying twice the price of a CD
for a downloaded music file they can't re-sell is a "fair deal." It's
especially annoying when you consider that the CD comes in a package
with liner notes, pictures and had to be physically shipped. What is it about
a download that justifies the doubled price? I've never heard a credible
justification for the elevated price of hi- res downloads. They are, in point of
fact, cheaper to produce and sell than CDs or vinyl. At least with a cd or a
record, you can recoup your investment by selling the physical object to
someone else.

If there is ANY hope for DSD or any other version of hi-res to truly take
hold, those who distribute it need to deliver what they promise at a fair
price. Otherwise, most of us will just stick with the incredible, affordable
sound of Redbook played through the increasingly better digital gear like
the PWD II.

If you can't get a sound fanatic like me fired up about hi-res, then there's
something wrong at company headquarters. My ears are fine and I've
heard good hi-res recordings; there's just way too little worth bothering with
at this point. Call me when you've got a hi-res version of Beck's Sea
Change that blows my gold Mo-Fi disc out of the water. The "hi-
res" version on HDtracks sure doesn't do it.

Sorry to be grumpy but IMHO, some of the trickery involved in marketing hi-
res audio is just as bad as the slight of hand produced by the Flat Earth
Society who claim that hi-res recordings are no better than Redbook.
Speaking of compression, check out this great video on the recent
treatment of Nine Inch Nails' Hesitation Marks.

Vhiner, great post!
Here's my take on hi-rez material.

First, I've heard Redbook CDs that are simply incredible. Unfortunately, the format is rarely used to its full advantage, particularly with the loudness wars still raging at full tilt.

Second, I've heard some excellent hi-rez material. But I've also experimented by doing my own resamples of hi-rez to Redbook and comparing the two back-to-back and level-matched. The difference, for me, is extremely subtle. (Often the profound differences people hear are due to differing masters.)

My conclusion is that I just can't get too excited about paying extra for a new format when record companies aren't even remotely close to making full use of the CD format.
Totally agree. Redbook is audiophile in every sense of the word, when done well. To compete, hi res downloads should be a fraction of their current price.
Vhiner and Mlsstl,
Very well said and true!
If taken to its "full" potential the high Rez format can be all that is promised, the problem, it seldom is.Too much marketing hype that isn't backed up by the product. Well produced Redbook played on high quality digital equipment can sound simply excellent. Hi Rez will remain a relatively small niche if an effort isn't made to produce a consistently good recording standard and offer honest pricing. People will just take a pass and ignore it by and large. When this segment gets its act together I'll become more interested and spend the money. As for now, Redbook is just fine sounding , plentiful and cheap.
Like cd's(Ex Anything by Patricia Barber compared to just about any other cd)reel to reel tapes and vinyl if their mastered nicely they will sound good. You have to evaluate each or at least ask questions on the audio forums to get an idea,most users will give you an honest opinion.
High res downloads from HDTracks are hit and miss at the moment. High res can definitely sound better than cd, but there's no reason why we can't enjoy cds until the high res situation gets sorted out.

I hope that the major music groups, along with many independents, realize that there is a market for higher sound quality downloads that would be worth their while to supply.
Neil Young's new PONO format and player are supposed to end all of our arguments and put all the FLAC hi-rez debates to bed.
After selling my Goldmund Studio TT in 1983 when I was brainwashed with CD Mania, like so many other guys,I purchased a VPI Scout 1.1 last month, and I am listening to MUSIC that sounds better than I ever thought was possible.

Try it...

Mike S
New Jersey USA
One more comment concerning vinyl. Years ago I found that when I did my own conversions of my LPs and open reels to digital, the results sounded just like the original. I couldn't tell the difference. Over the course of the past 10 or 11 years, I've probably converted about 2,000 records & tapes to digital.

My conclusion? The primary reason that most CDs sound different from LPs is simple. When making a LP, the studio masters are processed differently than when making a CD. That difference doesn't exist on the material I've handled myself.

I'm really glad you pointed this out. Analog to digital converters may be set
to take off soon because of precisely what you say. HDtracks would be
better off doing this with many recordings. I hope they consider getting the
rights to do it...but i wonder whether they care enough to try.