The best high-resolution audio and music downloads

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Taking advantage of premium audio formats has never been an easy task, leaving hungry connoisseurs in the dust. While pristine high-res music has been available for quite some time now (with incremental improvements in codecs and processing), the audio hardware has lagged behind.

In one look

Although more and more high-end stereo receivers and even cell phones have appeared with top-notch digital-to-analog converters on board, there remains the big problem of finding reputable media to get lossless music, a debacle leaving many pious listeners. Primarily, the problem stems from a lack of digital recordings at the high sample rates and bit depth (from 48kHz / 24bit and above) needed to produce crystal clear sound quality.

Subscriptions

If you are looking to stream music in the best possible quality, now you have a few solid options. The first is the Tidal music service. Despite its quirks, Tidal allows subscribers to stream in quality up to 24-bit / 96kHz, which is among the highest resolutions of the mainstream streaming service. Best of all, many modern receivers have network connections, making it easy to associate a Tidal account with your hi-fi setup.

The second is the newcomer, Qobuz. Qobuz has actually been around for a while, but its US subscription plans are new to the audio market. With a lossless CD quality level and two high resolution 24bit / 96kHz levels, this definitely gives Tidal good value for money.

Then there’s Amazon, the company hosting its own HD tier for Amazon Music. Available at no additional cost on top of a standard Amazon Music subscription, you’ll get “millions” of 24-bit / 192kHz tracks, in addition to over 50 million in lossless CD quality. Oddly enough, Amazon doesn’t offer these tracks in its music store, despite being the most popular online retailer for selling individual downloads.

A newcomer to the lossless audio game is Apple Music. For the price of a standard Apple Music subscription ($ 10 / month), Apple added Dolby Atmos Music and lossless audio files up to 24-bit / 192kHz to the company’s huge streaming library.

If you are looking for new material and want to own the music forever – rather than “renting” it monthly – you still have options. There are plenty of online stores that offer loads of music to add to your catalog if you know where to find it, and once this article is complete you definitely will. Read ahead what we think are some of the best music download sites to satisfy your high resolution audio fix.

File formats: WMA / WAV, AIFF, FLAC, ALAC
Highest resolution: 24 bits / 192 kHz

True Mac Daddy (or is that Daddy Mac?) Online stores, HDtracks has one of the largest collections of high-resolution pop, rock, classical and jazz music on the web. David Chesky, renowned composer, musician and producer, co-founded and chairs the site, and continues to develop its catalog.

Virtually all of the files on the site are available in multiple formats, with resolution rates reaching the highest standards in the industry, although many are only available in CD quality. Here you’ll find plenty of your favorite artists, from Bob Dylan to Bob Marley, Rush to Marvin Gaye, as well as top-notch tracks from The Beatles. If you’re looking to quickly amass a large, high-res audio collection, this is a great place to start.

A screenshot of Qobuz in 2020.

File formats: WAV, WMA, AIFF, ALAC, FLAC, MP3, WMA, AAC
Highest resolution: 24 bits / 192 kHz

Remember we mentioned that Qobuz was one of the two options for streaming music in high resolution? Well, this is also a place where you can buy it and download it too. Qobuz operates its own high resolution music store, with a wide selection of genres – from pop / rock to classical and well in between. While it doesn’t offer as many high-resolution file formats as some of the other stores, it’s the obvious choice to buy your music if you’re a Qobuz Sublime Plus streaming subscriber.

With a subscription – the privileges of which can be yours for an annual payment of $ 250 – you have access to over 50 million tracks in lossless CD quality (16-bit / 44.1 kHz), with a small fraction of those. available in high resolution. . To be clear, the easier-to-swallow $ 15 Studio Premier monthly plan (there’s a free month available to try) pays a similar payout, but with Sublime Plus you’ll get a preferential price on downloads, often saving up to ‘at five dollars per album. If you buy a lot of high-res music, that discount alone might justify the cost.

A screenshot of Acoustic Sounds in 2020.

File formats: FLAC, ALAC, DSD
Highest resolution: 24 bits / 192 kHz

Acoustic Sounds is more than its title suggests. This site has a host of pop and rock selections from familiar artists that are sure to stop that all-too-common HD feeling you wandered into a soundtrack to a Sundance movie. You’ll find big names like Norah Jones, Aerosmith, Steely Dan, Depeche Mode, and Eric Clapton, along with other indie stuff like The Civil Wars.

There’s even a nice sprinkle of funk and bluegrass in the mix, along with choice selections from many other popular genres, all offered in high-res DSD, ALAC, and FLAC files. If you want to strengthen your selection of quality radio hits and classic recordings, this site should be on your shortlist.

Chandos home page

File formats: WMA, WAV, AIFF, ALAC, FLAC, FLAC 5.1 surround studio
Highest resolution: 24 bits / 96 kHz

Formerly known as Classical Shop, and now known as Chandos (along with the Classic Shop), this store hosts music from over 200 labels and has a massive collection of classical and jazz tracks numbering over a million. There are also 80,000 (!) New claimed tracks added every month in other musical genres such as pop and rock, although many are offered with only CD quality as the highest resolution. A multitude of subgenres in the classical and jazz realm are also available in the high resolution studio masters.

Unfortunately, since Chandos took over, the useful search tools for sorting by format are now gone. Still, this is a huge database of instrumental mastery with totally affordable tracks.

Atma Classic

File formats: FLAC, CD
Highest resolution: 24 bits / 96 kHz

While not as comprehensive as The Classical Shop, this 15-year-old French-Canadian site has a great selection, good organization, and even a cool catalog section with pages that flip like a virtual book. The site is home to hundreds of tracks and can easily be browsed by composer, artist, or genre, although we also like to browse the curated album collections. Atma makes it easy to consult all the albums highlighting the piano, for example. There’s even a moderate list of exclusive releases that you won’t find anywhere else. Perhaps best of all, the prices are very competitive, ranging between $ 13 and $ 15 per album.

Blue Coast Music / Downloads Now!

File formats: WAV, DSD, FLAC
Highest resolution: 24 bits / 192 kHz

For those looking for something a little more eclectic and under the radar, Blue Coast Records has a nice selection of indie rock and pop hits, many of which have been recorded by the label. Users get a few free downloads when they sign up, and more selections are available on the sister site under the exciting title, Downloads NOW! These sites aren’t the prettiest on the web, but they do have cool live music from artists that you are unlikely to find elsewhere. With an annual subscription of $ 50, you can enjoy 15% off any purchase and a few dozen PRIME tracks, which were recorded directly in DSD256 format by the Grammy-nominated artist (and founder of Blue Coast) Cookie Marenco.

A screenshot of Pristine Classical in 2020.

File formats: FLAC, CD
Highest resolution: 24 bits / 48 kHz

Pristine Classical offers a wide selection of music that offers a serious breath of the recording past, with many selections taken from recordings dating back to the early 1940s, as well as occasional additions from early jazz and blues scenes. All of the tracks have been meticulously remastered, although they will cost you a pretty penny in some cases.

Speaking of which, Pristine offers a streaming branch with over 10,000 tracks from thousands of composers and artists, and 1,000 of them are exclusive. Collectors and connoisseurs may also be interested in the Pristine collection. The company delivers a 2TB hard drive to your door with all of Pristine’s recordings. It’s worth $ 1,300 right now, so this route is primarily for the very avid enthusiast.

Unfortunately, the best resolution available from Pristine is in the lower end of the 24-bit / 48kHz spectrum, but if you want to hear the music your grandparents (or great-grandparents) went to see live, this is is one of the best ways.

Niche music sites

Stephane Goss Emmanuel
Stephane Goss Emmanuel Apple

The above sites are just a few of our favorites for grabbing the most quality choices for your precious online time. However, there are plenty more to choose from, and we’ve listed more of the more notable ones below. All of the sites on this extensive list offer HD audio files, but some are hosted outside of the United States, which may impact your ability to purchase the music you desire. With so much to choose from, however, you shouldn’t have too many problems.

Analekta Records: Classic
Boston Symphony Orchestra: Local performances of the Boston Symphony and Boston Pops orchestras, etc.
Cédille Records: Music from the Chicago Classical Recordings Foundation
Chain classics: Classic
Gubemusic: Classical, jazz, world
High definition tape transfers: Classical, jazz
Melba Recordings: Classical performances of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
Naim Audio: Indie rock, classical, folk, pop
Sound link: Classical, ensemble works, pop covers

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