What are the Audiophile sites that you are referring to?
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I made the transition to "all digital" a few years ago. Back in the day, I felt that tape hiss and record noise detracted from the musical experience and DACs have become so good, digital (to me) is not "harsh" sounding.
I have a hard time when I compare 44.1/16 files to even 192/24 files, when the latter has sounded "better" to me, I have found that they have been "remastered", so it's not an "apples to apples" comparison.
For most of my music I purchase CDs from Amazon, record them as 44.1/16 AIFF files in iTunes and sync them to my music server.
I've had the same experience, that the digital websites charge WAY more for 44.1/16 downloads than Amazon charges for the same music on CD.
IMO, Digital music is the only way to go. I often wondered its merits before switching to digital streaming last year. Now I can't imagine paying $30-$40 for remastered CD's or LP's.
I see OP point, both elusive disc and music direct sites have ongoing sales offering 10% off overpriced CD/LP's.
My days of impulse purchases of new vinyl are pretty much over, but not only for the expense. I have had far to many disappointments with new DDA recordings. It seems to me that music recorded and mastered digitally rarely benefits with a transfer to vinyl without extensive dedicated remastering for that medium. In many cases vinyl production would seem to be an afterthought and remastering evidently non-existent. Just a way to make a quick buck on the "new" trend. I've many instances where an LP will come with a free CD copy which sounds significantly better than the LP.
If it isn't AAA, I have come to the point where I will not purchase new LPs unless there is at least one credible review from someone who's judgement I value.
For my part, I will take exception to the OP's statement regarding Music Matters. Everything I have purchased from them I have found sonically superlative and, IMO, well worth the extra cost. My two cents. YMMV.
I agree with you ! , but the cost is a significant difference.
So when it is one of my favorite recordings I do feel it
is worth it.
Let me say it's MoFis which I have buying since the late 70's
are the most inconsistent of all labels and when they started
to do CDs they were the worst of the worst. I have recently
purchased a few MoFi vinyl's and have been disappointed
and some were highly reviewed for sound quality by you
know who. (The vinyl crusader of the human race).
Hint.............. he writes for Stereophile
I stopped buying record reissues, period. Originals in excellent condition are often more expensive but worth it, I simply buy less.
Every Japanese original or reissue CD I have with the exception of one sounds better than any other. That exception is Mo-Fi Inner Mounting Flame by Mahavishnu Orchestra which sounds best. I believe the discs were made in Japan too, though.