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  • Downloads and Deception

    Something has been kicking around for awhile now and I've seen virtually no discussion of the topic. I will state up front that I have no information as to how prevalent a practice the following is.

    It has come to light some time ago that some digital download files that are marketed as "High Resolution" are in fact upsampled 44.1 files. This practice seems to be more the work of the marketing departments of the major music companies to avoid the trouble and expense of pulling tapes and remastering at 96/24 and higher. I do not believe the reputable online resellers are active participants in this behavior. It would appear resellers are victims of this deception as well. I consider this as least as egregious as mastering an LP from a 44.1 copy rather than the original analog master, or in the case of a digital recording, the highest true bit rate.

    The statement "sourced from the master tape" is a meaningless in and of itself. It is ALL sourced from the original master tape. But what is the chain from that master tape to the final file. That upsampled from 41 or 48 to 96 or 192 file is "sourced from the master tape" and indicates nothing about the quality of the final file.

    British press, as far as I know were the first to publicize the practice and provide spectrographic analysis and comparison as proof of the practice. The 20 kHz cutoff was obvious. And then reporting of the practice dried up.

    A few other issues. There is no ownership of a download, rather it is an end users license with very limited rights. One may sell a record, tape, CD or SACD while legally one may not do so with a download. And yet the download may cost more than physical media. And one must wonder a bit if big brother has gotten past the embarrassment of getting caught with his spyware in the cookie jar the first time around and is at it again.

    Originally I was not an early adopter of downloaded digital files because the technology was so fast moving a target that obsolescence was guaranteed the day hardware was purchased. Recently that trend may be slowing with products that are upgrade capable via software.

    But I still am not an adopter given the price of a download, given the lack of provenance and given the deceptive practices of the music industry, I'll continue to stick to physical media. Besides, there is something satisfying about a big old album cover. Can't roll a fatty on a file.
    Last edited by Rust; 02-25-2016, 04:04 PM.

  • #2
    I have also mostly stayed out of the Hi-Rez market. Mostly because I don't see the value proposition in duplicating what I already have. Yes provenance comes into it a bit but as we have seen with recent LP releases it can also be an issue with them.

    What no one has really explained is the cost structure for downloads. I go into conversations about it with the preconception that difference in storage cost is negligible. So my next question is what was the original recording resolution? and what's the difference in processing for each file? My assumption here is that any editing will be done on a first generation copy at the original recording resolution, then after completion of editing the file is batched to the appropriate resolution for storage and distribution.

    From this I can't seem to untangle a cost difference on the technical side, and you could make a case that it's more expensive to do the lower rez versions as they need to be downsampled but I am guessing that's a trivial cost.

    Seems to me it comes down to perceived quality and possibly licensing if there is some licensing issue that makes low rez version cost less. I stand willing to be educated.

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    • #3
      Posters at SH Forums and Computer Audiophile frequently either post spectrograms or verbally report their findings on many hi-res downloads. The overwhelming majority are true hi-res. Interestingly, Pono and hiresaudio.com (in Germany) have rejected some albums provided by labels, saying they are not "true hi-res". What makes this especially interesting is that they goofed on the first 3 Deep Purple albums, whcih were in fact true hi-res transfers of analog master tapes that just had very little musical information above about 16 kHz; they have since corrected that mistake and put them up for sale, but it's definitely a situation that people are paying attention to.

      Another question that arises, though, is a recording originally done at 16/44.1, or perhaps 24/44.1 or 24/48, which is then dubbed to analog tape as part of the mastering process, then has more analog processing done (e.g., EQ or compression), and then is retransferred to digital at 24/96 or even 24/192. This is true of a number of re-released Rush and Stevie Wonder albums from the '80's and '90's.
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      • #4
        As far as pricing, I'm pretty well convinced that the retailers at least (and possibly the labels) assume that each purchased download actually finds its way to several end-users, either sharing with friends or through small music-buying "clubs" formed for just this purpose.
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        • #5
          Happy to hear the problem seems to be limited in scope.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by rbbert View Post
            Posters at SH Forums and Computer Audiophile frequently either post spectrograms or verbally report their findings on many hi-res downloads. The overwhelming majority are true hi-res. Interestingly, Pono and hiresaudio.com (in Germany) have rejected some albums provided by labels, saying they are not "true hi-res". What makes this especially interesting is that they goofed on the first 3 Deep Purple albums, whcih were in fact true hi-res transfers of analog master tapes that just had very little musical information above about 16 kHz; they have since corrected that mistake and put them up for sale, but it's definitely a situation that people are paying attention to.

            Another question that arises, though, is a recording originally done at 16/44.1, or perhaps 24/44.1 or 24/48, which is then dubbed to analog tape as part of the mastering process, then has more analog processing done (e.g., EQ or compression), and then is retransferred to digital at 24/96 or even 24/192. This is true of a number of re-released Rush and Stevie Wonder albums from the '80's and '90's.
            Transferring to tape at the beginning of the audio era wasn't that rare and was done to "warm" up the recording. Check out Rickie Lee Jones' second album Pirates where the producer say the digital was so icy that they had to transfer to tape. Still sounds icy to me.

            Jim Anderson, the producer and engineer for all (almost all?) of the Patricia Barber recordings always takes the digital recording and then works in the analog domain. Then wasn't there a new company touting its process of transferring to tape and then going to DSD from the tape?
            Myles B. Astor, PhD, Administrator
            Senior Editor, Positive-Feedback.com
            ________________________________________

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            -VPI Vanquish direct-drive turntable
            -VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy dual pivot tonearm, VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy gimballed and SAT LM-12 arm
            -Lyra Atlas SL Lambda, Fuuga, vdh Colibri Master Signature, MutechHayabusa, MOFI Master Tracker, Sumiko Songbird cartridges
            -Technics RS1506 with Flux Magnetic heads, Doshi V3.0 tape stage (balanced)
            -Assorted cables including Transparent XL Gen. 5, Skogrand, Viero, Kubala-Sosna, Audience Au24SX, Genesis Advanced Technologies and Ensemble Power Cords
            -Accessories including Stillpoint Aperture panels, Cathedral Sound panels, Furutech NCF Nano AC receptacles; Silver Circle Tchaik 6 PLC, Symposium ISIS and SRA Craz racks, Audiodharma Cable Cooker, Symposium Ultra and assorted SRA platforms.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Rust View Post
              Something has been kicking around for awhile now and I've seen virtually no discussion of the topic. I will state up front that I have no information as to how prevalent a practice the following is.

              It has come to light some time ago that some digital download files that are marketed as "High Resolution" are in fact upsampled 44.1 files. This practice seems to be more the work of the marketing departments of the major music companies to avoid the trouble and expense of pulling tapes and remastering at 96/24 and higher. I do not believe the reputable online resellers are active participants in this behavior. It would appear resellers are victims of this deception as well. I consider this as least as egregious as mastering an LP from a 44.1 copy rather than the original analog master, or in the case of a digital recording, the highest true bit rate.
              I think you hit the nail on the head. Never in their worst nightmare did say HDtracks expect the record labels would send them crap. But they maybe should have been. Take for instance when Chesky started reissuing the RCA Living Stereo recordings in the late '80s on LP. One of the mastering engineers turned to David and said why don't you just make a digital copy and put in on LP. No one would know the difference. What a neanderthal! But that's the label's attitude and it's only gotten worse.

              The statement "sourced from the master tape" is a meaningless in and of itself. It is ALL sourced from the original master tape. But what is the chain from that master tape to the final file. That upsampled from 41 or 48 to 96 or 192 file is "sourced from the master tape" and indicates nothing about the quality of the final file.
              Just like on CSI: Miami. What was the chain of custody? There are basically only a few companies that still do (>99% of the time) all analog reissues:

              Analogue Productions
              Music Matters Jazz
              ORG Music (in most cases)
              Now OOP Classic Records
              Audio Nautes

              Others that you need to check--and that's not always easy--include:

              Audio Fidelity
              Speakers Corner
              Pure Pleasure

              One label that I am disappointed with is Reference Recordings reissuing their old analog recording in digital on LP.

              Others forget it.

              But the other question that needs to be asked is did they actually use the master tape? Or a safety? Or as I pointed out in my Mercury thread, whether they used the working master or the mix down tape? Problem is over the years, many masters have disappeared, been damaged or destroyed, etc. And given their age, labels just don't want to give their tapes out to any Joe mastering engineers. In fact, they'd rather make a digital copy and just send that out to the people wanting to do the reissue. Then we could even talk about the tape machine they used for the transfer. Then of course the digital gear but it is my impression--and perhaps Bruce B who does a lot of transfers can comment--this part has gotten a lot better.

              British press, as far as I know were the first to publicize the practice and provide spectrographic analysis and comparison as proof of the practice. The 20 kHz cutoff was obvious. And then reporting of the practice dried up.

              A few other issues. There is no ownership of a download, rather it is an end users license with very limited rights. One may sell a record, tape, CD or SACD while legally one may not do so with a download. And yet the download may cost more than physical media. And one must wonder a bit if big brother has gotten past the embarrassment of getting caught with his spyware in the cookie jar the first time around and is at it again.

              Originally I was not an early adopter of downloaded digital files because the technology was so fast moving a target that obsolescence was guaranteed the day hardware was purchased. Recently that trend may be slowing with products that are upgrade capable via software.

              But I still am not an adopter given the price of a download, given the lack of provenance and given the deceptive practices of the music industry, I'll continue to stick to physical media. Besides, there is something satisfying about a big old album cover. Can't roll a fatty on a file.
              Of course, the record label's biggest fear--and rightly so--is piracy. And since they regard the high-res files as the ultimate and equal to the master in sound, the fear of piracy is increased 10X. And there's more piracy going on than we always know about. Buddies sharing files is peanuts say to what might go on in Russia or China where there is little respect for copyright laws.

              MQA is supposed to afford that provenance too.

              Myles B. Astor, PhD, Administrator
              Senior Editor, Positive-Feedback.com
              ________________________________________

              -Magico S5 Mk.2 speakers with SPod feet
              -Goldmund Telos 280 stereo amp
              -Goldmund Mimesis 37S Nextgen preamplifier
              -Doshi V3.0 phonostage
              -VPI Vanquish direct-drive turntable
              -VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy dual pivot tonearm, VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy gimballed and SAT LM-12 arm
              -Lyra Atlas SL Lambda, Fuuga, vdh Colibri Master Signature, MutechHayabusa, MOFI Master Tracker, Sumiko Songbird cartridges
              -Technics RS1506 with Flux Magnetic heads, Doshi V3.0 tape stage (balanced)
              -Assorted cables including Transparent XL Gen. 5, Skogrand, Viero, Kubala-Sosna, Audience Au24SX, Genesis Advanced Technologies and Ensemble Power Cords
              -Accessories including Stillpoint Aperture panels, Cathedral Sound panels, Furutech NCF Nano AC receptacles; Silver Circle Tchaik 6 PLC, Symposium ISIS and SRA Craz racks, Audiodharma Cable Cooker, Symposium Ultra and assorted SRA platforms.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by MylesBAstor View Post

                Transferring to tape at the beginning of the audio era wasn't that rare and was done to "warm" up the recording. Check out Rickie Lee Jones' second album Pirates where the producer say the digital was so icy that they had to transfer to tape. Still sounds icy to me.

                Jim Anderson, the producer and engineer for all (almost all?) of the Patricia Barber recordings always takes the digital recording and then works in the analog domain. Then wasn't there a new company touting its process of transferring to tape and then going to DSD from the tape?
                I didn't mean it was a bad idea, only that it is a reasonable question; can something originally recorded at 16/44.1 be legitimately advertised as "hi-res" just because it has been transferred to analog tape and then redigitized at (for example) 24/96, like the mid-80's Stevie Wonder albums?
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                REL S3
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                • #9
                  Of course, the record label's biggest fear--and rightly so--is piracy. And since they regard the high-res files as the ultimate and equal to the master in sound, the fear of piracy is increased 10X. And there's more piracy going on than we always know about. Buddies sharing files is peanuts say to what might go on in Russia or China where there is little respect for copyright laws.
                  The conversion of the record companies from to analog to digital is both convoluted and a cautionary tale.

                  Piracy. The record companies are author of their own misery. They gladly seized the technology which promised to both drastically lower production costs and raise profits. To insure this they rapidly removed other formats from the market. Cash flow was generated by rereleasing what they already owned for library replacement and only putting out new releases on the new format under their exclusive control freezing out many small labels. An LP used to run about $4 while a new CD ran about $12. The record companies claimed that prices would fall in line with what LP prices had been once the costs of converting formats was amortized, guess that hasn't happened yet. Piracy in the US started with improvements in home computers which we have all heard about but the industrial scale piracy was just getting started in China and third world countries when the record companies started selling CD production equipment there to bolster their bottom line further.

                  About this time the enormous cash flow in the record business led to more and more mergers and takeovers. In inverse proportion fewer and fewer releases of new music of worth consideration were occurring. At the same time cash flow from library replacement dried to a trickle.

                  This ended leaving two mega-corporations controlling about 90% of the entire entertainment industry apparently with no clue as to how to bring new music worth consideration to market. The next sacred cash cow seems to be subscription streaming, which gives an artist about one ten thousandth of a cent per play or some such ridiculous number. I think I saw one artist got something like $34 for a million plays or something.

                  Some artists are self producing cassettes and LPs for themselves because they get a couple of bucks per sale. And since a recording can be produced in a basement at home, it's could get to the point where the large entertainment companies become less and less relevant. Could be interesting times ahead.
                  Last edited by Rust; 02-26-2016, 12:18 AM. Reason: Reason for edit, about half my post disappeared upon posting.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by rbbert View Post

                    I didn't mean it was a bad idea, only that it is a reasonable question; can something originally recorded at 16/44.1 be legitimately advertised as "hi-res" just because it has been transferred to analog tape and then redigitized at (for example) 24/96, like the mid-80's Stevie Wonder albums?

                    Not in my book.
                    Myles B. Astor, PhD, Administrator
                    Senior Editor, Positive-Feedback.com
                    ________________________________________

                    -Magico S5 Mk.2 speakers with SPod feet
                    -Goldmund Telos 280 stereo amp
                    -Goldmund Mimesis 37S Nextgen preamplifier
                    -Doshi V3.0 phonostage
                    -VPI Vanquish direct-drive turntable
                    -VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy dual pivot tonearm, VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy gimballed and SAT LM-12 arm
                    -Lyra Atlas SL Lambda, Fuuga, vdh Colibri Master Signature, MutechHayabusa, MOFI Master Tracker, Sumiko Songbird cartridges
                    -Technics RS1506 with Flux Magnetic heads, Doshi V3.0 tape stage (balanced)
                    -Assorted cables including Transparent XL Gen. 5, Skogrand, Viero, Kubala-Sosna, Audience Au24SX, Genesis Advanced Technologies and Ensemble Power Cords
                    -Accessories including Stillpoint Aperture panels, Cathedral Sound panels, Furutech NCF Nano AC receptacles; Silver Circle Tchaik 6 PLC, Symposium ISIS and SRA Craz racks, Audiodharma Cable Cooker, Symposium Ultra and assorted SRA platforms.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Rust View Post

                      The conversion of the record companies from to analog to digital is both convoluted and a cautionary tale.

                      Piracy. The record companies are author of their own misery. They gladly seized the technology which promised to both drastically lower production costs and raise profits. To insure this they rapidly removed other formats from the market. Cash flow was generated by rereleasing what they already owned for library replacement and only putting out new releases on the new format under their exclusive control freezing out many small labels. An LP used to run about $4 while a new CD ran about $12. The record companies claimed that prices would fall in line with what LP prices had been once the costs of converting formats was amortized, guess that hasn't happened yet. Piracy in the US started with improvements in home computers which we have all heard about but the industrial scale piracy was just getting started in China and third world countries when the record companies started selling CD production equipment there to bolster their bottom line further.

                      About this time the enormous cash flow in the record business led to more and more mergers and takeovers. In inverse proportion fewer and fewer releases of new music of worth consideration were occurring. At the same time cash flow from library replacement dried to a trickle.

                      This ended leaving two mega-corporations controlling about 90% of the entire entertainment industry apparently with no clue as to how to bring new music worth consideration to market. The next sacred cash cow seems to be subscription streaming, which gives an artist about one ten thousandth of a cent per play or some such ridiculous number. I think I saw one artist got something like $34 for a million plays or something.

                      Some artists are self producing cassettes and LPs for themselves because they get a couple of bucks per sale. And since a recording can be produced in a basement at home, it's could get to the point where the large entertainment companies become less and less relevant. Could be interesting times ahead.

                      Don't you think Napster changed the music world? For better and worse?

                      I think also the labels lived on each improvement being another step forward in mass marketing and getting music out to more and more people and hence more profit? And where do they go now? Streaming? And like you say, it's always the artist who gets screwed. It is criminal what they pay artists from streaming music. But it is like that in so many areas now. Take writers for example. There was a recent lawsuit about the rights and payment for using their material that had been initially published in print form now on the internet. Most writers have been screwed too.

                      40's discs-->reel to reel-->LP-->CD-->music downloads

                      And we know about Hit Maker and Autotune and all that stuff. Nothing gets released unless it passes Hitmaker. Have we become a society of robots with no room for individuality? Gone are the days in the late '50s and '60s for instance where there was practically a recording studio on every block in Manhattan.

                      And if I could add, part of the issue is cash flow. Distributors and stores are allowed up to a year to pay for product. What does that do to the bottom line cash flow for small music labels? They can't afford to wait that long to get paid. In fact, Harmonia Mundi got killed by this new practice a few years back. And one of the middle men put a lot of companies out of business including the old MOFO label because they went bankrupt and left without paying the music companies what was owed. Ergo a small company like MOFI folded. Now luckily it's back and stronger under Jim Davis' leadership.
                      Myles B. Astor, PhD, Administrator
                      Senior Editor, Positive-Feedback.com
                      ________________________________________

                      -Magico S5 Mk.2 speakers with SPod feet
                      -Goldmund Telos 280 stereo amp
                      -Goldmund Mimesis 37S Nextgen preamplifier
                      -Doshi V3.0 phonostage
                      -VPI Vanquish direct-drive turntable
                      -VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy dual pivot tonearm, VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy gimballed and SAT LM-12 arm
                      -Lyra Atlas SL Lambda, Fuuga, vdh Colibri Master Signature, MutechHayabusa, MOFI Master Tracker, Sumiko Songbird cartridges
                      -Technics RS1506 with Flux Magnetic heads, Doshi V3.0 tape stage (balanced)
                      -Assorted cables including Transparent XL Gen. 5, Skogrand, Viero, Kubala-Sosna, Audience Au24SX, Genesis Advanced Technologies and Ensemble Power Cords
                      -Accessories including Stillpoint Aperture panels, Cathedral Sound panels, Furutech NCF Nano AC receptacles; Silver Circle Tchaik 6 PLC, Symposium ISIS and SRA Craz racks, Audiodharma Cable Cooker, Symposium Ultra and assorted SRA platforms.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by MylesBAstor View Post


                        Not in my book.
                        You might mention that to Chad Kassem; I know Acoustic Sounds was the first retailer selling those albums
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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by rbbert View Post

                          You might mention that to Chad Kassem; I know Acoustic Sounds was the first retailer selling those albums

                          Does his selling the albums represent an endorsement? Chad sells a lot of stuff because there is demand. He is first and foremost a business person. Not everyone is as picky as we are.

                          You don't see that practice going on for the reissues he does. The only albums that he didn't take from the masters that come to mind--and that is only in part because the masters were in such bad shape--were some of the new Beach Boy releases.
                          Myles B. Astor, PhD, Administrator
                          Senior Editor, Positive-Feedback.com
                          ________________________________________

                          -Magico S5 Mk.2 speakers with SPod feet
                          -Goldmund Telos 280 stereo amp
                          -Goldmund Mimesis 37S Nextgen preamplifier
                          -Doshi V3.0 phonostage
                          -VPI Vanquish direct-drive turntable
                          -VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy dual pivot tonearm, VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy gimballed and SAT LM-12 arm
                          -Lyra Atlas SL Lambda, Fuuga, vdh Colibri Master Signature, MutechHayabusa, MOFI Master Tracker, Sumiko Songbird cartridges
                          -Technics RS1506 with Flux Magnetic heads, Doshi V3.0 tape stage (balanced)
                          -Assorted cables including Transparent XL Gen. 5, Skogrand, Viero, Kubala-Sosna, Audience Au24SX, Genesis Advanced Technologies and Ensemble Power Cords
                          -Accessories including Stillpoint Aperture panels, Cathedral Sound panels, Furutech NCF Nano AC receptacles; Silver Circle Tchaik 6 PLC, Symposium ISIS and SRA Craz racks, Audiodharma Cable Cooker, Symposium Ultra and assorted SRA platforms.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Rust View Post
                            (...) A few other issues. There is no ownership of a download, rather it is an end users license with very limited rights. One may sell a record, tape, CD or SACD while legally one may not do so with a download. And yet the download may cost more than physical media. And one must wonder a bit if big brother has gotten past the embarrassment of getting caught with his spyware in the cookie jar the first time around and is at it again. (...)
                            Are you saying that the license to listen to a recording will not be transmitted to our heirs?
                            My opinions rely on listening mainly to acoustical, non amplified music. I do not care about electronic music or listening to rock at stadium levels, but I enjoy Mahler and Shostakovitch.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Don't you think Napster changed the music world? For better and worse?
                              Improvements in personal computers and bandwidth resulted in peer to peer file sharing.The record companies went into convulsions over the practice, which seemed like a deliberate thumb in the eye to the record companies. The unforeseen consequence? Peer to peer file sharing led to the concept of streaming. Better, a huge library with fingertip access albeit at an inferior bit rate. That may change if it is deemed profitable. Worse? The marginalization of the artists and the failure to develop new material.

                              Gone are the days in the late '50s and '60s for instance where there was practically a recording studio on every block in Manhattan.
                              At the same time the development of digital technology allows a sudio in any basement or garage. It seems to be a growing trend. No, it isn't tape but it is better than nothing and it is the only option available in all too many cases. The problem is still profitable access to distribution. Controlled by the record industry, and yes the streaming services are part and parcel of that industry.

                              Are you saying that the license to listen to a recording will not be transmitted to our heirs?
                              In a legal sense that may be true depending on how the end use license is written.
                              Last edited by Rust; 02-26-2016, 10:11 PM.

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