Is HDtracks really selling you Hi-Rez music?

I just purchased Santana Abraxas in 176KHz 24 bit resolution from HDTracks that has just been released this week. It was uploaded in AIFF format.

I purchased the 1998 remastered CD which I uploaded in AIFF format in ITunes for comparison and what a disappointment the HDTracks download was. I could not hear any difference between the 2 versions. Seems that the original master tape was not of great quality to start with. I had the same experience with Beach House 'Bloom' hi-rez download for which I previously purchased the CD version as well.

On the other hand I downloaded great hi-Rez albums from HDTracks which were like having the original master under hand. A good example is Kenny Burrell's 'Midnigth Blue' hi-Rez download that just kills the remastered CD version.

It would be great if HDTracks would publish purchaser's review of their downloads like This would avoid audiophiles paying top dollars for poor quality downloads. I am really annoyed and feel I was screwed by HDTracks! Any similar experiments?
I sent them an email asking them why they don't let us write reviews - and why they don't let us purchase individual songs. Thus far I've gotten ZERO response.

I imagine it comes down to their bottom line - and both would potentially hurt that.

HDTracks has the potential to be great; key word -- potential.
HDTracks has been known to distribute re-sampled tunes that offer no benefit over the original plain old Redbook copy.

I have a copy of Abraxas on CD that was done using SuperBit Mastering and it sounds very good.

You might want to seek out the SuperBit version. There is also a DVD-A version, which I have, and it sounds terrific, too....

This is an ongoing problem with HD Tracks. Quality control is an issue. I don't think they state anywhere that the recordings are all newly remastered by HD Tracks, remastered by the recording artist or companty, or just upsampled.

But I think HD Tracks should make this clear when they advertise new material. I would be more confident and tempted to make purchases.

However, remastering, upsampling, etc, are all limited to how well the recording was done in the first place. Quality varies dramatically from artist and recording studio dramatically no matter what the format be it LP, 45,
8 track, cassette, CD, SACD, Bluray, DVD Audio, DSD, or download. The magic is in the recording studio, not the format.
The reviews I've read on hi-rez downloads and/or HDtracks specifically is each recording is hit or miss. Meaning, just like everything, some are good some aren't. It's another way to get you to buy something you already have, not saying that sometimes the sound won't be better.
HDTracks doesn't remaster anything. They simply post files which they have obtained from the record labels. However, they do stand by their product. They recently posted a 24 bit 176k version of Time Out by the Dave Brubeck Quartet, which I purchased. It sounded very different than what I was accustomed to. I was evidently not alone, because HDTracks received a number of complaints, which resulted in their getting a replacement file from the label, and the replacement file made all the difference in the world. Moreover, they offered a 20% discount on my next purchase as compensation for the inconvenience.
i've had this happen a couple of times but only recently. first couple of years at HDT were great. ran up some large tabs and everything purchased sounded much better then the redbook version. maybe i was lucky with my selections but every download blew me away (even more so if burned to dvd in WAV imho).

it's become hit or miss for me but only during the last year or so. downloading much less no-a-days. agree with sgr. there needs to be some kind of disclosure/explanation on what was done to make it "hi-res". i think we're all in agreement that a turd can't be polished enough to be seen as attractive. the same would apply to music and the original cut.

not so sure allowing an audition would help? least not for me. even with decent pc sounds like crap. would highly doubt being able to make a good call using my pc.

I have not been able to find a good recording of Santana Abraxas, ever! The HD tracks version may be hi-rez but that might not mean much with this recording.
Any time I have bought something from HD Tracks that was not up to my standards I asked for and received a refund. You do need to decide right away if the download sucks or not.

The buyer has a right to expect that they are purchasing music that lives up to the marketing that is provided on the website. When it does not, let them know about it.

Pay by credit card. If they give you any "SHIT", just dispute the charge. Problem solved. If you don't get what you paid for (misrepresentation), don't you usually get a refund???? When enough people show their dis-pleasure HD Tracks will up their game and do a better job.
Has anyone else noticed HD Tracks high rez to be louder than Redbook? I noticed it with Fleetwood Mac Rumors and verified my hunch with an spl meter. The high rez version is 3 dB louder than cd. There are folks in the forums who swear that ALL high rez versions are significant improvements over Redbook. I wonder if loudness is winning them over.
Not speaking about HD Tracks specifically, but with any medium, CD, hi-rez digital, vinyl or tape - the end product delivered to the user will always be dependant on the quality of the original master tape used and the care in converting the master to the product that reaches your hands. At their best, all of the aforementioned formats can deliver wonderful sound, but things aren't always at their best, as you have found out. It's often been said that a system can never be better than its source. This is usually applied to the record player or CD player, but in reality, the quality of the music (record, file, whatever) will determine the quality of the sound.
Dollysowner - I agree that HDTracks does not do their own remastering and they do not simply up convert CDs. The company that provides the files to HDTracks may up convert, but HDTracks does not do it themselves. And, I think we are seeing less and less of that.

What i would like to see is for HDTracks to provide information on each album as to the history of how it was made. Is is the SACD version converted to 88/24? Or was it a remaster and if so, did they go back to the master tapes? Etc. They mostly seem to just take what the record companies give them without suitable explanations. If you buy a new vinyl or a new CD they usually tout the lineage if it was redone. Unfortunately, HDTracks does not typically provide that information. Doing so would make me much more likely to buy, especially on the older albums.
Can SACD be converted to a PCM file?
Markalarsen - yes, Audirvana converts it to 24/88 PCM if you don't have a DSD-capable DAC.

It sounds VERY good.
J River also converts DSD to PCM. The trick is to get a DSD file from a SACD, which is doable but not easy.
I sent a first e-mail to HDtracks about a week ago to complain about the quality of the Santana album without any reply. I have sent them a second e-mail requesting an answer on my first e-mail. Got a reply asking to send them back my first question....

So their official answer is that HDtracks is just a reseller, they do not remaster any records and perform no over sampling.

They offered no excuses, no credit on future purchases, etc. They take absolutely no responsibility in the quality of the product they sell. This is so ironic for a company that bases all of its advertising on improving the audio quality of Red Book CDs when selling you their supposedly hi-Rez version.
I did send a follow-up e-mail asking for a refund which HDtracks has accepted. So this is the end of the story, but I would have preferred that they offer me a refund on the first occasion.
Dasign, is your point that HDtracks sold you a HiRez file that was actually not a HiRez file, or that you couldn't hear the difference between the HiRez file and other copies of the music you already own?

You bring up a good point that requires clarification. The uploaded file is really a 176kHz/24 bit format. The problem is that there are no difference in audio quality between it and the Santana Abraxas 1998 remastered 44kHz 16 bit CD version. I really was expecting to get a copy of the master recording of Abraxas. To me, it sounded like I purchased the CD version again, it was that bad!

I have purchased a few good 176kHz/24 bit hi-rez titles at HDT (Kenny Burrell's 'Midnigth Blue',Chesky Record 'The World's Greatest Audiophile Vocal Recordings', Milton Cardonia's 'Cambucha') that really sound fabulous.

I have also purchased hi-rez 176kHz/24 bit albums that were really disappointing like Rush 'Clockwork Angels', Bloom's 'The Hours', Deftones 'Koy No Yokan'. So my batting average is about .500 on HDT hi-rez titles.

So my whole point here is when you advertise a product on the base of improved audio quality, at that your customer segment is the audiophile community, it is truly disapointing to receive such a lame excuse that HDT is not responsible for audio quality of the product it sells, just because it does not process/manipulate in any way the product being purchased. If so, they should put a disclaimer that goes like this:

'We resell audio files purchased from recording labels for which we cannot guarranty the master recording quality they used during the hi-rez file construction. There is no implicit warranty on the audio quality of any album downloaded from HDT, but you may get lucky once in a while.'

If you are a product reseller, you have the responsibility to support the claims of your product advertising strategy. Why would you sell a 88kHz/24 bit and 176kHz/24 bit version of an album when there are NO audio improvement at all?

This brings a question of how HDT performs its quality control on data files they purchase from the major label record companies. IMHO they should verify if there is any audio quality improvements between the latest CD version of the 'classic' album available (typically a remastered version)and decide if the audio quality improvement justifies the release of a hi-rez version.

I can assure you that HDT has privileged sales/profit arguments over the quality of the product when releasing Santana Abraxas hi-rez versions. Truly disappointing. I hope they get the stick from music reviewers in audiophile magazines.
I am having trouble downloading files from HD Tracks for a couple of weeks now, they know there is an issue but instead of apologizing they barely respond. I have to send emails more than once. This is poor customer service; I can understand having issues but they should have the decency to apologize and even possibly offer a discount on a future order. So right now I am trying to make purchases and cannot. Unfortunately there are not many alternative but that may be ending soon.
JP2108, As Rlwainwright commented on, the Super Bit remastered CD of Abraxas is excellent. Don't know if you play vinyl, but if you do avoid spending the buckos for the Mobile Fidelity remaster, it was a huge disappoint, a lot of compression, squashed dynamics, poor bass. Most of the Mobile Fidelity LP's I have are great but this one.......not so much.
They sell hi res formats for sure, which means that the format is capable of hi res. The actual resolution of the actual content will almost certainly vary. Just like not all CDs or even LPs are equally detailed. You'll pay a premium nonetheless, so be cautious. ALso, hi res files that are not fully realized add a lot of processing overhead that may also be a negative depending on how well your gear is able to handle that. So you can see that hi res files have potential but are not a panacea yet these days. Someday, maybe....
My early experience w/HDT was the old Carly Simon standard Your so Vain. My early understanding was "here is a better copy" .. and for those that had the album know it totally over saturates at the high point of the song. My error in ASS U ME-ing! I now own a "totally same" bad recording now in a hi-def file.

Upon bringing to HDT attention they did credit me (after some berating), adding "your file has been notated, dont ask again" (my paraph)

Fast forward, now after 4-5 hundred of dollars in down loads I sense the frustration many have espoused in earlier posts, I cant make a good buying decision because of lack of good info on HDT part.

I am totally dissatisfied w/my latest Sheffield Drum/Track record download .. it is 2-3 orders of magnitude SUBstandard (dynamics/slam, heft of bass, presence) to the Sheffield Lab CD. I was hoping to have a convenient way to carry it along for demo's .. NOT worth the $$ from HDT