Written by 5:19 am Audiophile Music

Two HDTracks Winners

Steven Stone looks at two excellent and reasonably-priced new releases from HDTracks…


A couple of weeks back I wrote about how I would not be attending a Nickel Creek’s summer concert due to the venue. About a week later I received my pre-order CD copy of their new CD, A Dotted Line. It’s a wonderful album, full of the sort of subtle ear-stretching tunes that each of the three members have been creating while pursuing their solo careers.

AR-hdtracks1b.jpgAfter about a week of daily airplay, I received the latest email blast from HDTracks, and there, much to my delight, was a 96/24 AIFF version of A Dotted Line. I got it, naturally, eager to hear if the 96/24 version offered any sonic advantages over the CD.

But before I discuss sonic issues, or lack of them, I’d like to devote some time to pricing. HDTracks has often been accused of pricing their releases too high, but in the case of A Dotted Line, the HDTracks 96/24 version was only slightly more expensive than the pre-order CD! The CD cost me $13 plus $3.81 for shipping for a total cost of $16.81. HD Tracks charged $17.98 for the download. For slightly more than a buck extra I could have gotten the 96/24 music files the very same day that my pre-order copy arrived. Also the HDTracks came with a PDF of all the cover art. If I wanted a PDF from the CD I’d have to scan it myself. All in all, I consider the HDTracks 96/24 version of the album a better value – so much for the criticisms of “rip-off” pricing…

Sonically, the 96/24 version of A Dotted Line sounds better than the CD. The higher resolution files have slightly better inner detail and are definitely easier to “listen into” than the CD. Many of the subtle and not so subtle effects and EQ choices on the record make more musical sense and are better articulated on the higher resolution copy.

]]>AR-hdtracks2c.jpgAnother new release that’s available via HDTracks at a higher resolution than the CD version is the Anthology of songs written by Jackson Browne titled Looking Into You: A Tribute to Jackson Browne on Music Road Records. For $24.98 you get 23 96/24 tracks performed by Don Henley, Bonnie Raitt, Indigo Girls, Jimmy LaFave, Lyle Lovett, Ben Harper, Eliza Gilkyson, Kevin Welch, Lucinda Williams, Karla Bonoff, Mark Cohn, Sara and Sean Watkins, Brice Springsteen, Shawn Colvin, Bruce Hornsby, and Joan Osborne. I could get the CD version via Amazon for $17.98 plus $3.99 shipping, but again, for less than $2 difference, I prefer to own the higher resolution version.

AR-hdtracks3d.jpgAlthough not as musically far-reaching or experimental as the Nonesuch Joni Mitchell Anthology – A Tribute to Joni Mitchell, which is worth purchasing if only for the superb opening track by Sufjan Stevens “A Free Man In Paris,” Looking Into You is a strong anthology that holds together well, without a single clunker among the 23 cuts. Sonically, Looking Into You sounds fine, demonstrating the current state-of-the-art in commercial pop recording. My favorite cuts include Joan Osborne’s pensive rendition of “Late for the Sky,” Sara and Sean Watkins’ “You Bright Baby Blues,” and Ben Harper’s “Jamaica Say You Will,” which sounds like it was taken from a live concert recording.

So there you have it – two fine, appropriately priced, high-resolution versions of two albums that I think will prove to be among the must-have albums for 2014. And what are you waiting for? You could be downloading and listening to them in the length of time it took to read this article…

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